Type 1 diabetes sucks. It’s a chronic illness that is incredibly demanding, both mentally and physically. But it’s got nothing on Alzheimer’s disease.
I know this from experience because I watched my grandmother (and her sister) suffer through it.
I don’t have many memories of my grammy pre-Alzheimer’s, but by all accounts, she was an amazing woman. She raised six children alongside her loving husband. She was an active member of her community, working as a secretary for the Department of Public Works, a teller for the local bank, and a clerk at the neighboring city’s hospital. She was devoted to the local church and played the organ for it, and enjoyed singing. By the time she passed, she had eleven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Alzheimer’s will never take away the contributions she made to the lives of her family, friends, and community, but it took away her ability to tell me stories, firsthand, about these experiences.
It took away her independence.
It took away her mind.
It took away her life.
Some facts about Alzheimer’s: It is the most common cause of dementia. It is a degenerative disease of the brain characterized by many symptoms, such as memory, language, problem-solving, and other cognitive skills. The most mundane activities, like walking or swallowing, cannot be performed by an individual in the final stages of the disease. As a result, they require 24/7 care until succumbing to the devastating disease.¹
In 2018, nearly 6 million Americans of all ages are living with Alzheimer’s. Every 65 seconds, another person in the United States develops the disease.²
I knew my grandmother when she was in the more severe stages of Alzheimer’s, and it was not easy to watch her experience them. It was even harder to watch how it affected her husband and children.
I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, just as I wouldn’t with diabetes.
This November marks nine years since my grammy passed away. She is missed every single day, but one way that my family celebrates her life and fights back against Alzheimer’s is by participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. On September 15th, we’ll be partaking in our (sixth, I believe) Walk as Team Mary’s Little Lambs – a team name inspired by Grammy’s first name. I like to think that it’d make her smile.
The Walk is an emotional event for us in general, but especially when we hold up pinwheel flowers that represent our promise to remember, honor, care, and fight for those living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. Imagine how powerful it is to see the colorful pinwheels lifted into the air, with each color having a distinct meaning:
- Blue for a Walker who has Alzheimer’s/dementia
- Yellow for a Walker who supports or cares for someone with Alzheimer’s/dementia
- Purple for a Walker who has lost someone to Alzheimer’s/dementia
- Orange for a Walker who supports the cause and the Alzheimer’s Association vision of a world without Alzheimer’s
Just like with diabetes, imagine how incredible it’d be if one day, there was a white flower lifted into the air: a flower that would signify a cure.
If my grandmother’s story moved you, or if you want to show support for someone you know affected by Alzheimer’s/the cause, please consider donating to the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. You can use this link here, or click on the widget in the right sidebar of my blog – it’s the very first one listed. All donations advance the care, support, and research efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association. Thank you in advance, and thank you for taking the time to read this deeply personal blog post.
For more information on Alzheimer’s disease, visit www.alz.org. I recommend reviewing the report on their website, 2018 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, to learn the most up-to-date statistics on the disease.
¹¯² Alzheimer’s Association, 2018