Autonomy: What Does It Mean For Alzheimer’s Patients by Dean Hart Alzheimer’s Research

According to the Alzheimer’s Association 1 in 9 adults age 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s Disease. These individuals are more than part of a statistic, they deserve a sense of independence. Autonomy is the dedication to legacy, the tenacious part of our personalities that motivate us to prevail in difficult times. It is a right to live that can never be taken away, no matter what the diagnosis is. Autonomy is pivotal for preserving legacy and maintaining quality of life for individuals living with Alzehiemer’s Disease. Dean Hart Alzheimer’s Research expands on the concept of autonomy in his medical journal, expressing that in order to ensure the rights of patients with Alzhemier’s Disease, they must sustain autonomy. 

Securing Autonomy 

Patients are provided with ADs and RADs which allow them to secure their sense of autonomy through honoring their previous determined medical directives. ADs and RADs give patients the best opportunity for maintaining their legacy by assisting them in governing their care. Caregivers must respect the wants of the individual to help all stakeholders make decisions with moral legitimacy. For these individuals, their loved ones must not only base decisions on who they have become, but who they were prior to diagnosis. Dean Hart Alzheimer’s Research summarizes this idea by explaining personhoods, which is bringing together the ‘person of the moment’ with the ‘person of the lifetime.’ Personhood shapes personal legacy which will persist into the future, even after death with autonomy navigating the difficult journey. 

The Importance of Documentation

By allowing patients to document their wishes prior to significant cognitive impairment, autonomy can be intact and their wishes can be honored. These documents can outline business plans, charitable donations, or other important pieces of what made up the individual’s legacy. Patients experience a decline in cognitive abilities and memory, which makes it that much more crucial to accurately document their plans and wishes as soon as possible during early diagnosis. In this medical journal it is also noted that patients benefit from having protection of their private philosophies and personal values. In addition to encouraging self-governance for patients, It is the responsibility of their caregivers and loved ones to help them conserve patients dignity by remembering their legacy and honoring their decisions prior to cognitive loss. Dean Hart encapsulates this concept by writing, “autonomy of the person of the lifetime deserves equal or more weight than a decision-making third party when the person of the moment lacks capacity to make a healthcare decision.”

Closing Statement 

One of the greatest aspects of life is personal freedom, the freedom to make choices that determine our unique futures. Alzheimer’s Disease hinders people’s ability to always make these choices that dictate their future, enforcing the importance of increasing autonomy to benefit these patients’ daily lives. Individual beliefs, bodily integrity, and autonomy must all be respected throughout the course of this disease. While there is currently no cure for Alzhemier’s Disease, research has provided patients and loved ones with hope for the future. In closing, autonomy in Alzehiemr’s patients is the right of freedom, the immeasurable value of independence, and the power of self-determination. 




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