The last visit I had with my grandfather, my Pop-o, he had no idea who I was. I live in Arizona, and my family (mostly) lives in Michigan. I was not around for a majority of the progression of his Alzheimer’s Disease.
Even though Pop-o was in the late stages of the disease, the visit was relatively upbeat, as my grandma and aunt (who were with him every day) enthusiastically encouraged him to greet my husband and me. I don’t know if it was because of their enthusiasm, but he seemed to know that I belonged to him, even if he did not specifically remember who I was. He gave me a hug and held my hand part of the time I was there. Every few minutes, he would look at my husband and introduce himself.
As we left, I gave him a big hug, and he smiled at me and kissed my hands. I cried the entire way back to the car because I knew it was probably the last time I would see him. I was so grateful I had gotten the chance to come home for a visit.
His journey with the disease was filled with many painful moments and stories from his caregivers. When I remember his last few years, I try to think of the sweet moments, like how he always still loved to listen to Detroit Tiger baseball games on the radio with my grandma and how he would listen and grin when my dad came to his residential center and played piano in the recreation room.
Despite these happy moments during this time, there is one conclusion I have after my family’s experience with Alzheimer’s Disease: it is awful. Both for those suffering from the disease and their loved ones.
November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Caregiver Month, and I wanted to take the opportunity to share my family’s story. It is a big reason why I am so grateful to work for Banner Health, which is dedicated to finding an end to the disease through the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute. Researchers at the Institute are also conducting groundbreaking studies on Alzheimer’s prevention, so that maybe future generations of my family will not have to suffer through the disease.
For the amazing caregivers out there, I encourage you to take advantage of support groups out there, so you can be encouraged by others in the same situation. If you live in the Phoenix area, BAI has several support groups not only for caregivers, but for family members of those with the disease, including adult children.
Finally, I hope that all of you, in honor of National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, will take a few moments to sign up for the Alzheimer’s Prevention Registry at www.endalznow.org. As a member, you will receive monthly updates on the latest in Alzheimer’s research, along with information on clinical trials that need participants.
If we all work together to educate ourselves about this disease and participate in finding a treatment, maybe our generation will be the one that always recognizes their grandchildren when they come to visit.