A retired physician and writer, David Hilfiker, 60, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, a brain disorder, in September 2012. Having written three books over the years, Hilfiker took to blogging and documenting readers about his Alzheimer’s from his home in Washington D.C., 10 months ago
Known to be a devastating disease, Alzheimer’s affects nearly 5.1 million people in the United States with noted diagnoses’ starting as early as 30. Thus far, doctors and researchers have not been able to find the means to reverse the diagnoses, which slowly declines the person’s ability to maintain a normal memory. As the diagnoses progresses, other problems such as speech, thinking skills, and ability to perform simple tasks become visible.
After having received his own diagnoses, Hilfiker’s writing interests and abilities began to dwindle. But he discovered that writing about his Alzheimer’s was a much simpler task. Perhaps not on the same level as your average blogger, but that’s why Hilfiker is given assistance from a close friend who is able to edit his postings.
“I don’t quite look upon what I’m doing as helping people,” he said. “It’s more about trying to live responsibly in an interconnected world.”
Hilfiker is known to his many close friends and family as doing just that.
Having founded Joseph’s House in 1990, a center specifically for homeless individuals suffering of AIDS, Hilfiker worked closely with these impoverished people for many years. Now – blogging about his Alzhemier’s from Washington D.C. – he’s helping to heighten the awareness and stigma surrounding this disease.
Diagnosed individuals and their caretakers often discover the difficulties in public and medical settings to be a frustrating one. Often, the myths surrounding this disorder can affect the overall care given to them. Doctors make the mistake of using sedatives to calm an agitated sufferer, which can end up worsening the situation. Likewise, people can often associate stubbornness with their lack of ability to perform a task, some even going as far as labeling them crazy.
Hilfiker helps those to understand this better through his thoughts on his blog, and by even meeting with fellow Alzheimer’s sufferers himself.
He spends most of his time doing this, while also responding to reader’s e-mails about their struggles and those caring for them.
Studies point to online blogging as a favorable tool in being able to cope and process one’s struggles. It helps inspire and connect a community of supporters around the world.
“The fact that other people’s experience mirrors mine is really quite reassuring,” says Hilfiker.
It’s rare to see something as complex as dementia being documented online, not only because of the older generations lack of computer skills, but also because of the symptoms that can affect one’s use online.
Nevertheless, this Washington man is committed to getting the word out through his blog in hopes to show others that there is more to learn about Alzheimer’s overall. “One of the things I’ve learned is you have to listen to [people] – you have to believe people’s stories,” he said.
Written by Annie Elizabeth Martin