Other Free Encyclopedias » Medicine Encyclopedia » Aging Healthy - Part 1 » Dementia: Ethical Issues - Dementia And Moral Standing, Truth Telling, Autonomy, New Medications, A Natural Dying, The Right To Well-being

Dementia: Ethical Issues - The Right To Well-being

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It is morally imperative to build on the remaining capacities of persons with dementia. The well-being available to people with dementia is obvious to anyone who has watched art or music therapy sessions. In some cases, a person with advanced Alzheimer's disease may still draw a valued symbol, as though through art a sense of self is retained. The abstract expressionist painter Willem de Kooning painted his way through much of his struggle with Alzheimer's disease. Some critics commented that his work, though not what it had been, was nevertheless impressive. Kay Larson, former art critic for New York magazine wrote, "It would be cruel to suggest that de Kooning needed his disease to free himself. Nonetheless, the erosions of Alzheimer's could not eliminate the effects of a lifetime of discipline and love of craft. When infirmity struck, the artist was prepared. If he didn't know what he was doing, maybe it didn't matter—to him. He knew what he loved best, and it sustained him" (Larson, p. 298). DeKooning, like all persons with dementia, retained some strengths and abilities that he was able to capitalize on. It is important to look at what the person with dementia can do, rather than at what he or she cannot do.

In addition to self-expression through the arts, many persons with dementia enjoy the smell and look of fall leaves, or the sounds of birds singing, and they can appreciate the "wonder of it all" through such small gratifications. The losses associated with dementia must be placed within the context of losses associated with aging in general. As horizons of experience narrow, small pleasures in life become more and more important. In dementia care, pleasures and gratifications that are small loom especially large. Many of the better assisted living facilities are single-story campuses with access to rubberized pathways in garden areas surrounded by attractive fencing to prevent wandering off.

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