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‘A Viral Video of My Grandparents,’ Robots for the Lonely, and Other May Reads

By | May 31st, 2021

In case you missed them, our editors and contributors round up their most recommended reads from the month of May in Being Patient Reads of the Month.

Newsweek: Emotional Video of Man Reuniting With Wife Living With Alzheimer’s Goes Viral, May 26

My grandparents, Robert and Lauren Barber, have been married for over 62 years. My grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease several years ago and eventually needed to move out of the home to receive care. At the onset of the pandemic, long-term care facilities across the country banned visitors from entering. My grandfather was initially able to visit outside of my grandmother’s window, and this first emotional visit was captured on camera and shared across the world to millions. Months and months passed and visitation regulations remained incredibly stringent. One year later in March of 2021, my family was still fighting for my grandparents to see each other. We attended a rally at the New York State Capitol, advocating for elders in long-term care facilities who have been continually isolated from their loved ones. It really felt as if we might never see my grandmother again. However, recently, my grandfather has been able to visit my grandmother once again. Another viral video captured an intimate moment the two shared this past weekend. It is incredibly evident how happy my grandmother is to be reunited with her love after an arduous 13 months apart. He is the only one who she continues to recognize. –Alicia Barber

The New Yorker: What Robots Can—and Can’t—Do For the Old and Lonely, May 24

In response to the coronavirus lockdown, initiatives delivering robotic pets to socially isolated older adults have sprung up in different states. Writer Katie Engelhart for The New Yorker describes the relationship between robotic pets and their owners, exploring the support and emotional comfort of robot care — but also the ethical concerns raised by critics. Through the lense of robotic pet owners, industry professionals, caseworkers and researchers, Engelhart delves into the benefits and limitations of offering robotic pets as companions and caregivers of sorts. “I told Carolyn that some critics of the robot-pet program thought it was sad and maybe even pathetic to hand out pretend pets to lonely old people, instead of offering human connection or social support,” Engelhart wrote of the 76-year-old woman with a robotic cat named Sylvia Plath. “I asked her if, theoretically, she would give up Sylvia Plath in exchange for membership in a local group, or for a few hours a week of human care. “No!,” she interrupted, before I was finished asking the question. “No. No. No. No dice.”” Nicholas Chan

The Washington Post: As Menopause Approaches, Some Women Suffer ‘Brain Fog’ and Memory Loss. Why?, May 16 

During perimenopause, a hormonal phase of aging that precedes menopause, some women experience “brain fog” and memory lapses. This begs the question: Do hormones affect cognitive decline? In an exploration of new research on this topic by Marlene Cimons in the Washington Post, researcher Pauline Maki, past president of NAMS and professor of psychiatry, psychology and obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, explains, “We need a better understanding of who is vulnerable to persistent menopause-related cognitive changes and why, so that we can personalize strategies for maintaining cognitive health into the postmenopause.” –Queenie Lacaben

The New England Journal of Medicine: Through the Fog, May 20

In this narrative piece, Dr. Ian. R. Ross details his experience when a fellow physician is admitted under his care during an episode of delirium — an acute state of confusion that patients with dementia often experience. Dr. Ross takes readers through his journey of reflection, where “[w]hen the roles of provider and patient are reversed, the once familiar inpatient setting can become a foreign, even hostile, environment.” Throughout the piece, he shares his newfound understanding that delirium “often starts with the loss of dominion over one’s own body inherent in hospitalization,” where the restrictions and intrusions faced by patients have a “cumulative result [of] dehumanization.” He asks himself a sobering question: “How often have I treated patients with delirium without understanding how it was affecting them as people?” At the end, Dr. Ross reminds himself that the patients he sees in these states “are at their most vulnerable even before delirium strips them of what remains of their dignity,” highlighting the need for “finding common ground” with patients in order to add humanity to care and provide patients a “guiding light through the fog.” –Alina Bharwani

The Washington Post: Your Tech Devices Want to Read Your Brain. What Could Go Wrong?, Apr 27

In article for the Washington Post about how tech firms like Neurable, NextMind, Facebook and others are championing brain-controlled gadgets, Dalvin Brown writes that researchers think advances in brain technology might lead to “the next big tech revolution — giving human beings essentially a sixth sense: If you think it, a computer can capture it, display it and even say it aloud. Think of it as tech-boosted telekinesis, enabling you to type with your mind, share your thoughts without speaking or navigate the Internet solely by focusing on where you want to go.” But as Rafael Yuste, director of the Neurotechnology Center at Columbia University warns, “The brain is what makes you human. You are your brain. If technology enters your brain, it’s entering you.” –Alexandra Marvar

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