When would you prefer death to life?

Better to die early than get sick

DUSSELDORF. Alzheimer's remains a bugbear, and the horror increases with age. The people who are more relaxed about their fate in old age are evidently in the minority.

At least a representative survey by the German Health Insurance Association (DKV) of almost 2,200 people under the age of 66 suggests this. The data were used for the DKV report "How healthy is Germany living?" collected between March and April 2012.

The majority - 53 percent of German citizens - would rather die earlier than live with Alzheimer's. While only 47 percent of young people under 30 said they did not want to go on living with Alzheimer's, it is 59 percent among those over 45.

Only a quarter of those questioned would like to live longer with Alzheimer's disease, according to a statement from DKV.

Does the media stir up a horror of Alzheimer's?

"What we hear about Alzheimer's in the media are primarily horror stories about people who have lost their personalities and memories," says Professor Bernd Reuschenbach, gerontologist and nursing researcher at the Catholic University of Applied Sciences in Munich.

"These stories are true, but they are only part of the truth." Reuschenbach calls for a more relaxed approach to the disease.

"Alzheimer's patients who receive good support from relatives or caregivers can lead a satisfied and often happy life."

Studies have shown that visiting a close family member, for example, still makes an Alzheimer's patient happy, even if he can no longer recognize the relative.

When caregivers and relatives accept the inner world of the demented person and try to understand, an exchange and togetherness is possible, says Reuschenbach. A prerequisite for this, however, is a good care situation in which carers and relatives can turn to the sick.

"Instead of being afraid of Alzheimer's, we should shape the lives of these people as well as possible and not leave relatives and caregivers alone with their problems," says Reuschenbach.

A quarter would also employ illegal caregivers

Another result of the survey: a good 25 percent of German citizens can easily imagine employing a nurse illegally so that their relatives can be cared for at home.

The scruples disappear with a higher level of education. While 68 percent of secondary school graduates cannot imagine illegal employment, the figure is only 51 percent for people with a high school diploma.

After all, almost 60 percent of the employees would tackle it themselves and can imagine leaving work to care for their relatives, reports the DKV.

At 62 percent, women are slightly more willing to do this than men at 55 percent. The willingness of people with a household income of less than 1500 euros (69 percent) is above average.

Only around a quarter of those surveyed cannot imagine swapping job for care for a certain period of time. (courage)

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