The condition of Alzheimer’s disease is considered as an irreversible, chronic and degenerative brain condition derived from the generic condition of dementia. During the terminal phase of the disease, the patient experiences degeneration and disability on language and speech recognition and processing. During this time, the patient communicates with their health care provider through emotional signals. However, emotional responses of the patient also inflict certain physiological harm, such as exhaustion ad apathy; hence, different therapies have been utilized to facilitate emotional communication with lesser effort coming from the patient.
b. Problem and its Background Alzheimer’s disease is a common form of dementia characterized by the pathophysiological decline of intellectual function. According to Balch (2006), Alzheimer’s disease prevails to approximately 4. 5 million individuals in Untied States comprising 10% of America Whites at the age of sixty-five, while the estimated 50% accounts to more the age of eighty-five (p. 193). The hallmark manifestations of Alzheimer’s disease are (a) memory loss (i. e.
short- and long-term), (b) disorientations, (c) impaired abstract reasoning, (d) language deficit and (e) personality and mood alterations (Porth, 2005 p. 1238). Manifestations of Alzheimer’s disease are believed to affect the emotional processing and generic stimuli responses of the patient. Considering the cellular level manifestations of the disease, significant number of plaques or lesions is observed in patients with Alzheimer’s disease or older individuals with decreasing intellectual capacity (Mann, 1996).
As supported by Porth (2005), the number and distribution of lesions appear to have significant relations to the deteriorating intellectual capacities of Alzheimer patients, which include memory and emotional declines (p. 1238). The declining memory tasks of patients with Alzheimer’s disease have failed to demonstrate emotional recognition and processing of information compared to non-emotional information (Welsh, 2006 p. 213). According to Porth (2005), Alzheimer patients have significant concentrations of plaques throughout the neocortex and limbic systems, especially the amygdala, with considerable sparing of the primary sensory cortex (p.
1238). Unfortunately, concentrations in these areas of the brain risk significant damages and malfunctions in the person’s behavioral response, expressions and activities. According to Welsh (2006), the elements of emotions and memories influence the capacity of the individual to recall different series of expressions in the past and re-enact these by expressing emotions; however, if the patient fails to retrieve information from the past, the chances of creating false expressions are likely increased (p.
214). The mechanisms of emotion largely depend upon the (a) cortical systems producing cognitive responses, (b) limbic function for alerting the brainstem for the kind of emotions to be expressed, and (c) the hippocampus center of calculation of endocrine and autonomic emotional responses (Christianson, 1992 p. 49). However, if these areas of the brain are compromised, emotional functions and expressions of the individual are likely to become defective as well.
Emotion is extremely important basis of health care providers in rendering care for Alzheimer patients; since, emotion is the only feasible communication tool available to pass information between provider and patient. c. Significance of the Problem The functions of emotions in caring for patients with Alzheimer’s disease extend from communications to way of assessing the patient’s inner status. Since language comprehensions and cognition are immediately disrupted by the progression of the disease, expressed emotion of the patient becomes the only access point of communing health care delivery with the patient.
The significance of the problem lies in the issue on whether patients with Alzheimer’s disease cannot anymore perceive emotions due to the cognitive damages on their emotional centers. Furthermore, the study provides better and factual understanding on the different relationships existing between the general symptoms of the disease, especially the memory, and the capacity of the patient to express accurate emotions. Understanding these conditions can help health care providers choose from the different alternative procedures the most appropriate interventions that can better elicit emotional responses from their Alzheimer patients.