My grandfather suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.
I didn’t choose that word lightly.
We saw him transform, within a year or so, from this bright, engaging, active attorney, to a gaunt, hard-edged, often irritable and, toward the end, an unusually violent person. He seemingly had no clue what he had morphed into. The disease had nearly consumed him.
To minimize what it can do to some people does not paint the true picture. It’s not pretty. It’s hard on the person afflicted by it. In many ways, it’s even harder on those who have to see their loved ones go through the last few days, months, years of their lives a semblance of who they once were.
This is why I have profound respect for those who work tirelessly to rid humanity of this cruel disease. Those like Jessica Langbaum, principal scientist at Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, whose research focuses on early evidence of Alzheimer’s, which may provide some clues to help find a cure.
In a recent blog for The Huffington Post, Langbaum recommended five doable actions anyone interested can take to help fight Alzheimer’s:
- Join the Alzheimer’s Prevention Registry
- Find opportunities to participate in prevention studies
- Volunteer your time
- Thank a caregiver (I think that’s extremely invaluable)
- Live a brain healthy lifestyle
You can also join Banner Alzheimer’s Institute for the last three of the free, year-long Dementia Dialogues webinar series, which has offered invaluable tips to caregivers on how to cope with a loved one dealing with Alzheimer’s.
A third of Americans over the age of 85 are afflicted with the disease, and 1 in 9 of those over the age of 65, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. This is not happening to someone else. Alzheimer’s may well hit someone you love, if it hasn’t already. Being part of the fight and trying to find the solution is my way of trying to beat this disease.
My fondest memories of my grandfather are of him lovingly combing my hair before I rushed off to school. He always wanted me to look impeccable. This is how I choose to remember him, rather than those final days, when he was far from himself. I don’t wish those days on anyone.
This is a fight worth picking up.