For those of you close to me, you know that the past year has been really tough for my Grandmother. It’s hard to believe how quickly things progressed but our family’s world changed when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and moved into a memory care facility. While Grandma is not the first person I have known to have suffered from this disease, she is the first person who I have spent a significant amount of time with and seen the symptoms progress. Her disease has heavily impacted my grandfather and parents, completely changing their day-to-day life as they have adapted to this new normal where we wonder each time we go to visit if Grandma will remember who we are.
Wikipedia says the following: “Alzheimer’s disease, also referred to simply as Alzheimer’s, is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that usually starts slowly and worsens over time. It is the cause of 60% to 70% of cases of dementia. The most common early symptom is difficulty in remembering recent events (short-term memory loss). As the disease advances, symptoms can include problems with language, disorientation (including easily getting lost), mood swings, loss of motivation, not managing self-care, and behavioral issues. As a person’s condition declines, they often withdraw from family and society. Gradually, bodily functions are lost, ultimately leading to death. Although the speed of progression can vary, the average life expectancy following diagnosis is three to nine years.”
My parents have been such a model to me during my grandmother’s sickness. They have dropped everything in their personal lives to help my grandmother and grandfather adjust to the impacts of this disease. Despite living in Tampa, my parents frequently fly up to Illinois to visit my grandparents, creating relationships with the nurses to ensure they are kept aware of any changes in symptoms and helping with any unexpected issues that tend to happen when you are in your 80s. Diseases of the mind are difficult to understand and to deal with. I can see my grandfather get frustrated when my grandmother struggles with mundane concepts or forgets where she is or what decade she is living in. While we consider it a “good day” when Grandma can hold a conversation and seems positive, there are no more days where she is completely coherent. Often she ends a rational thought with a completely irrational idea. She sometimes sees things out the window that are not there, or thinks that she did things that she hasn’t done. My family has learned to take these comments in stride, to not correct her but to redirect the conversation. We also spend more time with Grandpa as he is learning how to live alone and despite visiting my Grandma in memory care every day, the conversation is difficult and sad for him.
Alzheimer’s is scary. To me there is nothing more frightening than losing my mind. It is also so trying on family and friends. For the reasons above, I am raising money in support of the upcoming Walk to End Alzheimer’s hosted by Kankakee and Iroquois Counties on Saturday, September 16th, where my grandparents currently live. My parents will be walking the 2.45 miles and my Grandfather will be attending in support as well. All funds raised through Walk to End Alzheimer’s further the care, support, and research efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association.
There are so many efforts worthy of our support, including the most immediate needs in Texas due to Hurricane Harvey, however I ask you to consider making a small donation to help end Alzheimer’s. This disease impacts so many, often receiving little attention due to the stigma on mental illness. I am raising money for my grandmother and for all others who have struggled with Alzheimer’s or have cared for someone diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I have to believe that every donation counts and gets us a little closer to understanding and curing the disease.
Donations can be made here: http://act.alz.org/goto/TheCurlyGirl
Thank you <3