My first what I guess you’d call experience with Alzheimer’s disease/dementia was when I was a freshman in high school. I remember exactly where I was when I heard about it – over by the concession stand at my high school’s football field after a half-time band performance. One of my friends at the time, a senior, gave me the news that the father of one of our other friends had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
I knew almost nothing about it, and as my friend explained to me through tears what would happen to this man my family had known for several years and who was the father of two of my closest friends at the time…I couldn’t grasp it. Why and how could such a horrible disease exist?
Then my youth group went on a trip a couple years later to Chicago. We spent some of our time helping out at an adult daycare, something else that was foreign to me because at that point I had four healthy grandparents. There was a little old Hispanic man we spent some time with that had dementia and we saw first-hand what the disease could really be like.
I’m not sure exactly when the diagnosis came for my own grandmother, but she’s had progressing Alzheimer’s disease for the past several years. She’s still OK, but has her good days and her bad days, as with any disease. She’s still stubborn as anything and doesn’t take very kindly to people trying to help – we weasel around and find a way to do it anyway – and though sometimes you have to answer the same question more than once, it’s my Grandma that’s still in there.
I’m grateful that I’ve never had a grandparent in one of those hospices or homes – knock on wood – and the three that I still have are as involved in our lives as they can be. And while Grandma may have Alzheimer’s, she doesn’t have it to the point where she doesn’t recognize the people she loves. The fact that I still get a hug and a kiss and questions about my work when I see her makes me very happy and it’s something I’ve learned not to take for granted, because it’s not always like that with people affected by this disease.
Like I said, she’s still my Grandma. She still says hilarious things, can give as good as she gets it and have you seen the woman dance? Give her a good song – well, any song, really – and she’s up and boogie-ing. Cane and all.
When I got this new job – I guess I can stop calling it new almost six months in – along with the first-day paperwork was a form where you could choose a charity to donate to each month from your paycheck. I chose the Alzheimer’s Association. Because money donated means more research. More research means the possibility of one day being able to prevent this, prolong the onset, or even find a cure.
And that, friends, is what brings us to that asking you for money thing I mentioned up there at the beginning.
For the first year, my family is creating a team for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s that will be held in Louisville Sept. 10. The actual walk itself isn’t a big undertaking – it’s a mile and half, which we could do in our sleep – but from all I’ve heard from people who’ve done it before, its something we should be a part of, not to mention something we want to be a part of. We’re walking in honor of my grandma, of course, but also for the others we’ve known who still deal with or have lost their fight with the disease. My friend’s dad I mentioned earlier? He passed away not too long ago, just about 10 years after we’d found out his diagnosis.
We are looking for other team members if anyone’s interested and if you’re out of town or don’t feel like walking, please consider donating. Click here to see the donation page. It’s for a great cause and if you need a human aspect, well, my grandma is a great lady. I’ll introduce you if you want, and I promise you won’t be sorry. And need I mention the dancing again?
Our team name is “How Many Elephants?” And believe me, as the Walk gets closer you’ll get more on how that name came about.
I’ve never asked you guys for money – on here..I have borrowed money from several of you all before and paid it back ASAP – and I don’t expect you to give to this cause. I just wanted to share the way I’m trying to give back and trying to bring attention to this sad and scary disease I hope none of you ever have to experience in your lives.