What a Mason Expert Is Saying about … Alzheimer’s Patients and Quality of Life

Posted: July 11, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Lori Jennings

Jeanne Sorrell
Jeanne Sorrell
Creative Services photo

Although people with Alzheimer’s live with a chronic, degenerative disease, Jeanne Sorrell, professor in the College of Health and Human Services, is passionate about educating health care providers that finding ways to enhance quality of life for patients and families living with Alzheimer’s is paramount.

“Too many people think that once someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, their quality of life steadily declines,” Sorrell says. “However, in my research, I’ve actually found that people with Alzheimer’s still find a certain joy in life that stems from their ability to rebuild their connections – essentially transforming the relationships they had in their lives before the disease took hold.”

Sorrell added that patients who are able to find value in life despite their cognitive loss appear to more easily come to terms with living with the disease. These patients also benefit from supportive family members and caregivers who work with them on maintaining close connections.

To help those with Alzheimer’s maintain a relatively high quality of life, Sorrell recommends that family caregivers identify meaningful daily activities that they can do together, but to also be prepared for the time when they will have to assume more of the responsibility for certain life tasks, such as preparing meals or balancing a checkbook together. In addition, she advocates that both the patient and family member be involved in an Alzheimer’s support group to better prepare them for the inevitable stages of the disease.

“With advances in modern medicine, we are extending the lives of individuals with Alzheimer’s,” said Sorrell. “The situation is more hopeful now than it ever has been, and it’s clear that health care providers and family members can play a key role in helping their loved ones afflicted with the disease remain functional for as long as possible.”

Sorrell’s primary nursing background is in adult health. In her doctoral program, she focused on curriculum design, ethics and writing. She has received a university Teaching Excellence Award and the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia Outstanding Faculty in Virginia Award.

At George Mason, Sorrell has served as coordinator of the Advanced Clinical Nursing Program, coordinator of the PhD in Nursing Program and associate dean of Academic Programs and Research. She also produced an award-winning educational video and a docudrama based on her Alzheimer’s research.

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