Remind Me Who You Are
Imagine regressing back to an age where your thoughts were supposed to be filled with zen and peace. Well, Alzheimer’s patients don’t need to imagine that reality since they already live it. Throughout the many years of my life, I have heard, felt, and seen how Dementia can ruin one’s entire existence in an instant, but what is Dementia? Think of it as the umbrella that has all memory impairing diseases falling under it. Anywhere from Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, and Parkinson's Disease, you can find all of these in the same category under Dementia. More commonly, more than half of people diagnosed with Dementia usually have Alzheimer’s as it is the most commonly occurring type and has a major hold over one's motor, speech, and functioning abilities. As I have seen this first hand, I want to shine light on the fact that if you have a family member with a chronic disease, you are allowed to feel their pain too.
Retracing back, it seems like just yesterday when during my first few years of elementary school, my grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s that immediately took hold of him and his ability to act as a proper adult and senior. This meant that if he did not have someone to look after or monitor him, he could have become a danger to himself or any surrounding forces. After receiving his diagnosis, we were forced to sell his car which he loved dearly, and instead, treat him like a child who we could not let out of our sight. One of the scarier memories I have of my grandfather's condition in the early 2010s was when he took off out of his home, unannounced, and began to walk in the outside world—alone. Luckily, we were able to track him down and found him walking on the side of a bridge hours after he had left his house. This was when my family and I understood that we needed to take action quickly to ensure his proper safety. After living with his wife in the same home for almost fifty years, my grandfather was sent to a nursing home in order to receive proper care. This was a type of care my family and I could not offer him. Alzheimer’s is a disease that has the power to strip away the humanity and etiquette that every human has been raised with all their lives. It makes the old turn into young children who can no longer eat, drink, or live independently.
I will say that although having him in a nursing home relieved some of the stress that he was now in a safe place, it was hard to be apart from him. My grandfather shared a very special bond with not only myself, but also my older brothers. Every time he came to our house, we would receive lead pencils, bags of candy (specifically M&M’S), and handouts of cash that made me think I could buy any Barbie I wanted.
Later in 2013, my grandfather passed away due to his condition, and it was extremely challenging at first, but with time things got a little better. However, about three years later we found out that my grandma also had Alzheimer’s. Dealing with news of my grandma’s diagnosis was yet another challenge that came my family’s way. We decided to have her move in with us, but only a year later, we knew she was better off at a nursing home where she too would receive the proper care that we were not trained to give her. In the year that my grandma lived with my family, we became close and even though she was not 100% there all the time (mentally), I knew she enjoyed being with my siblings and me. On top of everything and the fact that COVID-19 cases are so high in Los Angeles, I have seen my grandmother only once in the last year. When you have people around you who are sick and have chronic diseases, there is only hope that you will be able to get extra time with them. My hope is that I will be able to see and hug my grandmother again without having to have a face shield and mask separate us. As for advice to any others who may not be able to see the people they love, I encourage you to stay strong and have faith that things will get better.