Tuesday, October 25, 2011
‘A life like Mr Magoo’ : Talking to Dr. John Starr.
Dr. Starr’s image to describe the experience of AD was Mr. Magoo. He described the extraordinary way in which a person with AD can (he stressed, not always, but often) go through life in benign obliviousness to the extreme amount of work going on around them to keep things ticking over. The shopping has been done. The clothes have been washed. The bills have been paid. It’s like, he said, the way Mr. Magoo can drive through town with his eyes closed, be picked up by cranes, dodged by vans, hurled around by ramps and rollercoasters and remain completely, happily, unaware of the danger he’s in!
This unawareness, though sometimes a blessing for the person with dementia, can be one of the hardest things for carers to deal with, as no matter how many manholes they cover, or ACME high voltage cables they cut, there is never any respite and no real recognition of the efforts they go to.
Dr. Starr’s outlook was optimistic. He described the idea of wellbeing as split into two types, ‘living well’ (the greek ‘eudomia’) and ‘living contentedly’ (the Greek 'atoraxia'). People with AD were, as a rule, if not experiencing the first, then largely experiencing the second. It is much more often the people who care for the person with AD, or the person visiting, who is aware of the disease.
If Dr. Starr could address one public misconception he would eradicate the phrase ‘Dementia Sufferer’ and insist on ‘Person with dementia’ (a distinction already enforced in all literature about any illness). The distinction is crucial as a matter of maintaining, for the carer as much as the person with the disease, a sense of personhood. They are person first, and someone with AD very much second.