Alzheimer’s and the Disappearance of Self-Image

  • The New York Times ran a story on Tuesday, October 24, 2006, titled “Self-Portraits Chronicle a Descent Into Alzheimer’s,” and written by Denise Grady.

    This excellent story brought back a talk I heard last summer. A noted neurologist/Alzheimer’s specialist described a similar situation, where they asked an artist to illustrate the phases of how he saw himself as he slid further into his disease. It was extremely educational – and frightening.

    It’s well worth your time to check out this article and the information on the artist’s display, for those of you who live in the area.

    It’s easy, when you see these drawings, to understand why an Alzheimer’s afflicted person can think a stranger is in the room, when they look in a mirror. They don’t see what they look like – they see what their brain tells them is there. A clear image of themselves disappears and a distorted image gradually reappears.
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    Their brain no longer recognizes their physical self as they are. Their self-image is rubbed out, if you will. This makes me think of how none of us truly sees ourselves as others see us. Alzheimer’s presents a horrifying extreme of this human condition.

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Published On: October 27, 2006