Cuba: The Country of Alzheimer’s
May 5, 2014
HAVANA TIMES — After watching Away From Her, a touching film about
Alzheimer’s disease, that mysterious and devastating affliction whose
depredations I’ve experienced up close, I can’t help ask myself whether
everything else in life isn’t governed by a similar, fatal destiny.
This-degenerative disease manifests itself as a gradual cognitive
deterioration and a series of behavioral traumas. As neurons die and
different areas of the brain atrophy, we begin to witness the
progressive loss of memory and other mental faculties. In short, an
individual’s personality literally falls apart. The process, which often
lasts years, deprives the patient of will power, paralyzes those who
care for them and sometimes the life of an entire family.
In the film, we see the conflict this represents for a couple that has
lived together for 44 years, how the husband sees his wife (masterfully
played by Julie Christie) become more and more distant, not so much in
the direction of the old people’s home where he visits her on a daily
basis, but towards a mental country to which he has no access.
The husband, who sees his wife shower another patient with attentions,
begins to suspect her amnesia may be a farce staged to punish him for
his affairs of old.
Though Far From Her ends with a moment of lucidity the patient
experiences, it does not offer us a happy ending, but, rather, a kind of
respite in the midst of the character’s downfall. The afflicted husband
had already been forewarned that such moments where random flashbacks
that presaged the final, all-consuming darkness.
The constant references to winter and desolate landscapes in the quiet
ambiance of the comfortable nursing home, overwhelming us with a
portrayal of life’s gradual paralysis, puts us in contact with life’s
final season, the one no one wants to think about – until it arrives.
There are, however, some glimmers of hope – in the persistence of love,
in the patience with which the husband waits for an awakening of the
consciousness that finally unites the lovers, even if it is only a farewell.
Reasons to Not Give Up
Traditional medicine suggests that the causes of Alzheimer haven’t yet
been fully discovered. It suggests – or advances – three main hypotheses
to explain the phenomenon: a deficit of acetylcholine, the accumulation
of amyloid or tau and metabolic traumas.
Other sources conceive the mind as the cause of all illnesses (physical
and psychological) and regard these psychosomatic symptoms as the result
of certain self-destructive mental patterns that are sometimes unconscious.
For Louise Hay, author of the best-selling You Can Heal Your Life,
Alzheimer’s is an expression of a subconscious rejection of life
resulting from profound frustration, fear, and resistance to the
experience of pain. In that flight, consciousness becomes more and more
lethargic by avoiding everything that causes it pain.
An unwillingness to let go of old, accumulated ideas inhibits the
creation of new ones and, since one’s attention becomes increasingly
centered on the past and not on the present, short term memory becomes
deficient and ultimately atrophies, unable to provide us with anything
new or creative.
Two journeys thus begin: one towards the past, towards childhood, as
evidenced by an egotistical and childish behavior, the other towards
death, for which the entire body prepares, accelerating the aging
process. It is as though an entire life cycle became compressed, uniting
two ends of existence.
Alternative medical theories generally meet with great skepticism. In
addition to materialist prejudices or the inertia of tradition, the
immense monopoly of the pharmaceutical industry is responsible for this.
By the looks of it, that fact people who have benefitted from
non-academic methods are trying to divulge their testimonies is of no
importance to this industry.
Louise Hay’s life is a practical example of what she preaches. Using her
methods, she was able to overcome traumas arising from childhood sexual
abuse and uterine cancer without surgery or chemotherapy. Hers is not an
isolated case and there are many recorded examples of cancer cases that
“mysteriously” disappear. Science, unable to rationally explain the
phenomenon, calls it “spontaneous remission.”
For Louise Hay, Jacques Martel and other therapists who are despotically
classified as “New Age”, Alzheimer’s can be reverted with therapies
aimed at self-acceptance and an acceptance of the present. Hay claims
that “the brain is the body’s organizer. Blood is rejoicing. The veins
and arteries are canals where that happiness flows. Negative thinking
produces blockages in the brain.”
The harsh reality faced by elderly people who are unable to run after a
bus, who are displaced by the ferocious new generations, who lack a
wheelchair with which they can be taken to a polyclinic, who cannot even
dream of buying hygiene products such as the extremely expensive
Pampers, can only be understood by those who have experienced it personally.
A friend who visited an old people’s home in Havana’s neighborhood of
Centro Habana was telling me that incontinent patients were sometimes
left naked because of clothing shortages, that that crowd of flaccid and
squalid bodies brought Dante’s Inferno to mind.
The enormous deficiencies of Cuba’s healthcare services for the elderly
include late or simply absent Alzheimer’s diagnoses and specialized
follow-up treatments. Is it so hard to print the literature on the
subject, which people can download from the Internet and circulates
Books such as You Can Heal Your Life, Dictionary of Ailments and others
should be sold at reasonable prices or be made available at the
libraries of clinics and hospitals. Patients should be allowed to lay
their hopes on faith or not while they have the willpower and mental
faculties for such decisions.
Since science hasn’t been able to solve the problem of senile dementia,
why should we refuse to explore the world of the mind, about which we
know so little and in which we are going to exist in any event, as our
existence is in thought.
I don’t know how many people are afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease in
Cuba, but a simple look around me suffices to deduce the number is high
and, sadly, on the rise.
Source: Cuba: The Country of Alzheimer’s – Havana Times.org –