International Holocaust Remembrance Day and How Dementia is Affecting its Survivors
Updated: Feb 28
The Holocaust was one of the most horrific events in human history, where millions of people died at the hands of the Nazi regime during World War II. For those who survived, the trauma of the Holocaust has had a lasting impact on their lives.
In recent years, there has been growing concern about the effects of dementia on Holocaust survivors. Dementia is a progressive brain disorder that affects memory, thinking, and behaviour. As Holocaust survivors age, they are at an increased risk of developing dementia.
Living with dementia can be incredibly challenging, especially for Holocaust survivors who have already experienced so much trauma in their lives. The memories of the Holocaust are deeply ingrained in their minds, and as dementia progresses, these memories can become even more vivid and distressing.
One study on the effects of dementia on Holocaust survivors, published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, found that Holocaust survivors with dementia had more severe symptoms and more significant functional impairment than non-Holocaust survivors with dementia.
The study's lead author, Dr Hanna Koss-Chioino, noted that
"Holocaust survivors with dementia may require specialized interventions that take into account their unique history and experiences."
Many Holocaust survivors living with dementia have difficulty separating past and present, causing them to relive the traumatic events of the Holocaust. They may become agitated or confused and have difficulty communicating their needs and feelings.
A qualitative study published in the Journal of Gerontological Social Work found that Holocaust survivors with dementia often struggle with the loss of self and identity, as well as feelings of isolation and loneliness.
The study's lead author, Dr Adi Aran, noted that
"Holocaust survivors with dementia may benefit from interventions that focus on preserving their sense of self and connection to their past."
It is important to note that the effects of dementia on Holocaust survivors can also be exacerbated by other factors such as depression, anxiety and PTSD. These conditions often co-occur with dementia, which leads to a decline in functional abilities, such as bathing, dressing, eating, and toileting.
Healthcare professionals and caregivers need to be aware of the unique needs of Holocaust survivors living with dementia. They should be sensitive to the survivors' past experiences and provide appropriate emotional support.
There is a growing need for specialised programs and services that focus on the unique needs of Holocaust survivors living with dementia. Programs that provide cognitive stimulation and activities that help to preserve memories and identity, such as reminiscing, storytelling, and art therapy, can be especially beneficial.