I am going to go off topic today to discuss an issue very near and dear to my heart. Tomorrow is coined “The Longest Day” in the Alzheimer’s community. This day honors the 44 million people living with dementia, their caregivers and their families. Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and the only cause of death among the top 10 in the United States that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed. Every 67 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s.
Sadly I became more aware about this horrifying disease when my grandfather was diagnosed with it many years ago. To say that this disease is not only extremely frustrating and cruel but unfair would be an understatement. My grandfather was an extremely fit man who until the disease progressed along too far walked several miles a day, rode his bike to pay his taxes, and did yard work. For all his physical strength he had, he was mentally sharp as well. An avid reader who read the newspaper daily and did the puzzles within them, declined to the point of being unable to balance the checkbook let alone read an article. It is devastating to see someone deteriorate and change so dramatically. Alzheimer’s disease changes not only the physical and mental capabilities but also the person’s personality. For the loving and supportive family members who are left behind it is at times hard to see or even admit.
In early stages of the disease, people may experience personality changes such as irritability, anxiety or depression. In later stages, other symptoms may occur, including sleep disturbances; agitation (physical or verbal outbursts); delusions (firmly held belief in things that are not real); or hallucinations (seeing, hearing or feeling things that are not there).
What the disease robs from the person, it also robs from the surrounding family members and loved ones. As you slowly become a stranger to that person you have known all your life it becomes increasingly hard to bear. It saddens me to think how my grandfather really never got to know my precious Liam and Ava. They were robbed of a great-grandfather much too young.
In honor of my loving and wonderful grandfather, David Adley Hague, I ask you all to just become more aware of Alzheimer’s and the many faces it has.