Imagine looking in the mirror and becoming terrified when you see a stranger who looks frighteningly old, but it’s actually you. This happens to Alzheimer’s patients every day, and it’s something Bruce Barnet calls the "Stranger in the Mirror" syndrome.
"Most Alzheimer’s patients lose their short-term memories and their self-image is usually one from their youth," explains Mr. Barnet, (a certified caregiver) whose father-in-law succumbed to the disease more than 20 years ago. "When they look in the mirror, they see a stranger and often panic, which causes extreme emotional distress or even a fall and an injury," said Mr. Barnet.
Sometimes the treatment for this is as simple as removing or covering mirrors, but other problems are not as easily resolved and cause heartache for family and caregivers as well as suffering for patients.
I met Mr. Barnet as a result of my recent Newsmax article about my Grandfather’s suicide after his diagnosis of dementia in 1966. That was 52 years ago.
Although we’ve come to understand more about Alzheimer’s, we haven’t gotten much closer to a cure, to which Mr. Barnet’s response is, "Where there is no cure there is care."
Caring for people has become Mr. Barnet’s mission, which started with him using his expertise as a home developer to help Alzheimer patients live more comfortably. "I began working with the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America to design a proper assisted living facility and to understand the real needs of caregivers."
This led to him meeting Mark Warner, an architect and author of "The Complete Guide to Alzheimer’s Proofing Your Home," which Mr. Barnet refers to as "the Bible" for patients and caregivers. Using the book’s concepts as a launching pad, Mr. Barnet went on to create The Alzheimer’s Store, which "goes against the tide and replaces digital products with simple analogue devices that patients can understand."
"Many of our products — our music player in particular — help sufferers remain in control of their environment, which we see as crucial to the struggle, because they too often consider themselves a burden to their families."
According to Dr. Evelyn Granieri, Chief of the Division of Geriatric Medicine and Aging at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital, "Today a person at age 85 has a fifty percent chance of suffering from some type of dementia." While we are not close to any type of medical treatment, Mr. Barnet has developed a wide range of products to help sufferers and their caregivers.
Mr. Barnet’s Memory Picture Phone features photos rather than names and numbers on the speed dial. "These products are inexpensive and don’t require the rewiring of your home and they’re easily transportable if you move."
They also have a simple "door alert" that triggers an alarm worn by a caregiver, notifying them when a patient opens a door. "Wandering is one of the biggest problems that people face with Alzheimer’s patients, and this is a simple product that doesn’t require you to rewire your house," said Mr. Barnet.
I was the host of "Tech Hub," a radio program featuring young entrepreneurs marketing a wide range of apps, many of them invented for nothing more than social frivolity and an opportunity for the creators to reap a financial fortune.
As I grow older and see friends and family suffer from Alzheimer’s, I am truly moved by the altruism of Mr. Barnet and his family, most of whom are involved in this labor of love.
Everyone has an Alzheimer’s story, and we can all do more to help fight this terrible disease.
Rob Taub has enjoyed an eclectic career in film, television, radio, and journalism. He has interviewed everyone from pop stars to presidents and he has written more than 250 articles for People Magazine, FoxNews.com, SI/Cauldron, The Huffington Post, and Thrive Global. Rob is a respected Diabetes Advocate and Obesity Ambassador, writing and speaking regularly about Type 2 diabetes and health. Follow him on Twitter @robmtaub or at www.RobTaub.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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