You may have heard in the news or on the radio that September is World Alzheimer's Month. And while most months are dedicated to one thing or another these days, Alzheimer's Disease is a cause that is near and dear to my heart. It's a disease that slowly erodes brain function, and today 1 in 3 seniors has Alzheimer's or another form of dementia at the end of their life. Because Alzheimer's patients slowly lose their memories and their ability to do basic tasks, it is a disease that affects an individual's family and caregivers, and with over 5 million Americans suffering from Alzheimer's today the impact is astronomical.
But I'm not a medical professional. I don't have the ins and outs of why Alzheimer's does what it does to its patients. And I told you that I have a story about Alzheimer's that has made awareness, prevention and treatment important to me: my Grandma had Alzheimer's.
I've always been close with my family (in case you couldn't tell) and my grandma, Esther, and I were especially close. I was always Grandma's girl, as she often said, and the two of us had wonderful adventures that mostly involved shopping, lunch or time spent in a kitchen or garden. So when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's toward the end of my high school career, this disease that had only been a vague notion started to have a great impact on me. I watched my Grandma's memory slowly disappear, and the woman who sewed brilliantly, was an incredible cook and baker, and a social butterfly began to lose all of those things. Names started to slip away, she began to botch recipes that she'd made for years and the time we spent together was different, though her laugh and her smile were still there. She relied more and more on her family, and especially my mom and grandfather, as the disease progressed. I can say with complete certainty that Alzheimer's is a disease that impacts a metaphorical village, and it can take that whole village to care for a person. When the disease was much farther along, the Alzheimer's took away far more than just her memory and was a far more complicated situation than asking why she couldn't remember. After fighting hard against Alzheimer's, we lost my grandma just over two years ago. I'm not above admitting I'm angry with the disease and that I miss her fiercely at holidays, family get-togethers or anytime I sit down at her sewing machine in my spare room.
Watching my grandma suffer from this debilitating illness was heartbreaking, but there are families around the world experiencing now the same thing that my family did then. A cure for Alzheimer's is not in the near medical future, but we can raise awareness about treatment and prevention. If you feel dedicated to the cause, there are Alzheimer's Walks around the country listed at www.alz.org, along with most of the facts I referenced here. Of course, you could always wear purple for a day here and there this month. I will definitely sport some purple throughout September. It does seem fitting that wearing purple is for Alzheimer's Awareness - it was my grandma's favorite color, after all.