While a major disease usually takes its toll on the victim's family, it can especially take an extra measure on those who are closest to the victim, his or her spouse, or children which is why this groundbreaking work has been so important to caregivers and patients for the last several years.
It's always easy to think you will know how to respond to a disease when it happens to a loved one: you'll step up and automatically do what's right. That's not always the case as Joanna Koenig Coste found when her husband was struck down with a major stroke that left him virtually unable to communicate.
His stroke, which progressively weakened not only his body but his memory, left Coste to care for four small children and, suddenly, a grown person who was, in many ways, now a child.
Coste, a private practitioner and advocate for total family and patient care, developed a system called habitation - a very humanistic approach to caregiving where the patient and caregivers relate in an unconventional way. In brief, Coste has developed a therapy that emphasizes relating patients to their reality. Her family practice also emphasizes bringing the family into the treatment process quickly so that not only do they understand the changes going on with the Alzheimer's patient but so that they can relate to those changes.
Her therapy has been successful in helping patients and caregivers cope with the domestic changes that Alzheimer's patients undergo, often slowly, over the years - sometimes more rapidly. For example, it is known that Alzheimer's patients tend to wander, but what folks don't know is that they tend to wander in a straight line from their residence so if someone is lucky enough to find the line, they will likely find the patient quite quickly.
Then, there's the frustration of the Alzheimer's sufferer losing the ability to drive as they plainly become unsafe. Then, there's the family having to become used to the terrible progression of the disease as the plaques that build up on various neural pathways cause the brain to misfire in many ways. This eventually leads to a sense of paranoia for the patient with the ultimate disability begins to degenerate more and more.
One tries to keep one's sense of perspective about it, but it does make it hard, which is another area that Coste discusses. She helps families, patients and caregivers deal with the inevitable changes that Alzheimer's brings.
Coste's method of treatment is accessible and comprehensive and works at enhancing communication between patients and their caregivers.
Her precedent-shattering work has brought Coste accolades, including being named a "Woman to Watch in the 21st Century" by NBC and a National Hero by Reader's Digest. Her habilitation therapy is one of perhaps the most scalable available so that it can deal with a wide variety of situations and has revolutionized Alzheimer's treatment.
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