Thursday, June 21, 2007

Dementia and Jewish Holocaust Survivors (Audio)

Dementia refers to a group of conditions that gradually destroy brain cells and lead to mental decline. Many conditions can cause dementia, but Alzheimer’s (Ahlz-high-merz) disease is the leading cause. Most people who have the disease are over sixty-five, with eighty being the average age of diagnosis. There is no cure for patients with dementia, and they need complete care eventually.

Survivors of the Holocaust, in which six million Jews were killed, experience special challenges with dementia. At eighty-two years old, Fred Festinger is one of sixty-five Holocaust survivors at the Los Angeles Jewish Home for the Aging. He can still recall being brought to a Nazi concentration camp at the age of sixteen. His main goal in life then was to reach the age of twenty. Two months after he turned twenty, he was liberated.

Like numerous survivors, Fred’s liberation was only a physical one. Because many of the survivors’ trauma was never treated through therapy or medication, they still suffer with flashbacks and nightmares. Dementia has resulted in even less control for them over anxiety symptoms caused by blurred realties of the past and present. You can listen to more about Fred’s life in this podcast at the NPR Web site.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
"Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes”
Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog

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