Horton Hears a Who

A person’s a person, no matter how small!  This is Horton’s lament when he tries to get the jungle animals to realize that there is an entire civilization living on a clover.  This classic childhood philosophy book tugs the heartstrings of all professional caregivers and healthcare advocates.  We too are often trying to protect what is often misunderstood.  For Alzheimer’s advocates, Horton’s lament resonates with our own refrain, A person’s a person, no matter what stage!  We see the windows inside that most people fail to see or try to discover.

Horton came to mind this week as I heard of healthcare professionals refuting the need for hearing aids for individuals with dementia. Like Horton, I was shocked and disturbed that my very own tribe was missing the facts about hearing loss and Alzheimer’s. Like Horton, I knew the people in my personal Whoville need to be heard . . . and to hear.

Being Dr. Cate, I went to the research.  Most significantly, more and more research is showing an association between cognitive decline and hearing loss.  This association is being clarified with continued research, but suffice it to say, denying someone assistive devices because of cognitive decline is foolish.  That is a Horton-ism, not an academic result.  No study uses the adjective foolish.

But what the studies do say is that hearing impairment precedes cognitive decline, it is unclear if the hearing loss is an early marker of dementia or a modifiable risk factor.

Research shows that an individual with Alzheimer’s is experiencing brain decline that affects each of his senses.  We know that an individual in the early stages of Alzheimer’s is processing approximately only 1 out of every 4 words. So why would we deny him the ability to hear even the one out of four?

A person’s a person, no matter what stage!

As a Thanatologist, I know that the very last sense to die is auditory.  When the person appears to be vegetative, they can still hear.  As a recreation therapist and palliation provider, I used music to reach beyond the decline and touch the person.  Crossing over has been made gentle due to the impact of hearing.

I know that it is difficult to maintain hearing aids for the individual with dementia.  I too have been on massive laundry searches looking for the discarded item.  I also know that part of the discard is because the batteries are low.  Some form of physical discomfort prompted its removal.  I also know how difficult it is to have an individual with later stage dementia tested and fitted for the device.  Fortunately we have some audiologists willing to make house calls.

Horton heard a Who . . . can you allow the Who’s to hear Horton?

About Cate

Passionate about dementia care and quality of life throughout the last days of life----sums up Cate McCarty, Dr. Cate, Dementia Coach. With close to forty years of long-term care experience in nursing and recreation, a Master's in Thanatology and a PhD in Aging Studies, Dr. Cate seizes every opportunity to translate research into quality of life for individuals with dementia and all of us who have the honor to "rub elbows" with them.
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