The month of November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness month. For me the fight against Alzheimer’s Disease is very personal.
My granddad passed away Oct. 2,
Looking back, I have very few memories of my Granddad in those last 10 years. My Grandma did her best to shield us from the brutal reality of this terrible disease.
I went to visit them for a weekend a few years before he died. I rang the bell at the front door and my Granddad answered. “Get in this house!”, he said with his boyish grin.
My Grandma was mortified. It turns out, he had no clue who I was. He just opened the door and let a stranger into his home. I don’t think the tragedy of Dementia hit me until that moment.
This was the man that recounted stories from his childhood, remembering the names of pets and work animals. A deacon and church builder. A veteran of WWII who told me stories of his B29 The Tiny Fanny (so named because they were always “a little behind” the action). This man who would make me popcorn, sneak me candy, and slip me $20 every time I visited had no idea who I was.
My Granddad as I remember him with my beautiful Grandma, many years before Alzheimer’s ripped through our family.
That was the last time I saw him before he died.
I will always regret that I didn’t have the courage to face this disease. I will always regret that I wasn’t there more for my Grandma as she single-handedly and without complaint took care of my Granddad for all those years.
Fast forward to today and I am now a caregiver for my mother-in-law with Alzheimer’s Disease. When I began this role in 2014, I sought support and help through the Alzheimer’s Association. I went to the support group meetings, read their pamphlets, attended their lectures. But, nothing could prepare me for the day-to-day toll of being a caregiver.
My in-laws before Alzheimer’s
I was amazed at how much I didn’t know about Alzheimer’s Disease. It’s so much more than memory loss. It’s slowly losing bits of what makes you, you. It’s looking in the mirror and not recognizing the face staring back at you. It’s the children you gave birth to becoming strangers. It’s the world around you becoming less familiar and a whole lot scarier. It’s not being able to distinguish dreams from reality. It’s the people around you getting frustrated,
So what can you do?
Pray for those suffering from this disease. Pray for their caregivers. Pray for the family that has to watch their loved one become less and less of the person they know and love. Pray for those who have lost someone they love to Alzheimer’s disease.
Support the research being done by the Alzheimer’s Association. Support caregivers by offering your time, whether it’s giving them an afternoon off or providing a listening ear to vent their frustrations. Support those suffering from the disease by treating them normally and with dignity.
Learn all you can about Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia. It is currently estimated that more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s Disease (Alzheimer’s Association). Learn as much as you can from your loved ones so you can keep memories alive. Learn how you can become involved in the fight against Alzheimer’s Disease