November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. In the United States today more than five million people live with the incurable disease. By 2050 this number is expected to climb to 14 million Americans.
Additionally, Alzheimer’s Disease is the seventh leading cause of death in the country.
Not being able to hold new information and eventually forgetting older information are the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
According to alz.org, the official Alzheimer’s Association Web site, this occurs because brain cells involved in forming new memories are damaged.
Eventually this will lead to confusion, the inability to properly express themselves and not knowing where they are, leading them to wander around aimlessly – one of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s Disease.
I have heard and intently studied all of the facts and statistics about Alzheimer’s Disease and how it can affect not only the family, but more specifically the caregiver of the patient.
I experienced all Alzheimer’s Disease first hand for 11 years. My maternal grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1998 when I was 7 years old.
I do not remember much about my grandfather before this time. All of my memories consist of him living with the disease.
He tended to act like a child, smiling with absolute wonder at everyone and everything in sight.
He always wanted to play games, laugh, tell jokes and ask tons of questions about any little object he found interesting, much like the questions and mannerisms of a young child.
This, to me, was normal of my grandfather.
When I would visit I did not think it was odd when he referred to me as my mom or when he would talk to me as if we were just two kids bored on a school day afternoon wondering how to pass the time.
Wandering away from home at 1 a.m. soon became a normal habit for him as well.
Cruising around in the car late at night looking for him became scarier as time went on, but he almost always greeted us with a smile and that never changing look of confusion.
The average Alzheimer’s patient lives seven to ten years with the disease. My grandfather passed away in February after battling the disease for 11 years.
The most important lesson I have learned from this experience is that I should never take anything or anyone for granted because in only one instant it can forgotten forever.
He has, without ever having realized it, taught me that it is crucial to leave something behind in this world for people in future generations to remember you by.
In recognition of November as Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, many groups and organizations are forming various programs and activities in order to raise money for research.
On Saturday Huntington Beach is holding a Memory Walk and on Sunday there will be a Los Angeles Memory Walk, where many will walk in the hope that they will be able to make a difference in the future of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Angie Marcos, a sophomore journalism major, is LV Life editor of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.