Today’s ThinkKit prompt:
If you could make a # (hashtag) take off…what would it be? What conversation do you want to have with the world? Who are the five people you’d want to hear from first…or last? Is your trending topic personal? Political? Lyrical? Or just random?
It was like a joke when I was little. We would go visit my grandma in New Jersey and she’d ask us the same three questions over and over. “How’s the weather? Who’s getting married? Who’s having babies?”
Those three questions would cycle over and over. As a kid, I thought this was hilarious. I didn’t realize this was the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s Disease. I didn’t understand that my grandma fed her dog multiple times per day simply because she didn’t remember feeding her. The poor cocker spaniel looked like a stuffed sausage as it waddled around the house. And when the dog eventually died, my grandpa just got another cocker spaniel that looked the same and pretended nothing had happened instead of telling her over and over again that this was a new dog.
I didn’t learn about this horrible and paralyzing disease until I was older. While my grandpa was still alive, he would contact doctors around the world and get experimental (and possibly illegal) medications shipped to him that he would have my grandma take, hoping to slow down the progression of the disease.
Did you know that every 67 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s?
While is started slowly, Alzheimer’s eventually took over my grandma’s life. After awhile, she could no longer drive. When my grandpa passed away, a live-in nurse was hired to stay with my grandma and help her with every day tasks such as grocery shopping and even getting dressed. I think my grandpa’s funeral might have been the time when the gravity of Alzheimer’s really hit me. Sitting at his funeral, my grandma asked almost every 15 minutes where we were and whose funeral we were attending. It was heartbreaking. It was also around that time that my grandma no longer remembered me.
My grandma Fay is the only grandparent I still have, but in some ways it’s like I don’t have any grandparents left. She has no idea who I am, we can’t talk or communicate like a grandmother and granddaughter do. Would it be easier if my grandma had a physical ailment instead of Alzheimer’s? It seems like having your body fail you is easier to accept than having your mind betray you.
Sorry to be a Debbie Downer, but here are some facts for you. Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. There are approximately 500,000 people dying each year because they have Alzheimer’s. And something scary for women to think about: almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women.
Did you know that there still isn’t a cure for Alzheimer’s? There are treatments that can possibly slow down the disease, but there isn’t a cure. We will never get my grandma back, but instead she will continue to slowly drift away from us. I always say that my biggest fear is death by drowning, but I think that my biggest fear is getting Alzheimer’s. How frustrating and debilitating. I never want to forget the people I love or the life I live.
If I had the chance to make a hashtag take off, I would promote #EndALZ to help find a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease.
“as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor / decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain, / to a little fishing village where there are no phones.” -Forgetfulness by Billy Collins