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Alzheimer’s: My Experience

Sunday morning I watched Seth Rogen’s address as an Alzheimer’s activist before the United States Congress. He testified before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health & Human Services and it was incredibly heart wrenching to hear him describe his personal experience in dealing with his wife’s mother’s Alzheimer’s. What was more difficult, however, was to acknowledge that my family and myself had all undergone the same experience with my great aunt, Minnie. Unfortunately, Minnie passed away a year ago last January.

When I watched Seth Rogen’s testimony I felt a thick lump in my throat and I began grieving for a woman I truly missed.

Over night, my aunt went from being a regular church-going, happy woman who lived alone to forgetting how to dress herself. She began to need help being bathe and fed. The once fiercely independent woman became almost like a child.

My senior year of high school Minnie began only saying a few phrases until finally she couldn’t speak at all. Eventually, her infectious smile gave way to a more vacant face and she no longer looked like she was present.

I watched her daughter take care of her until the doctors told her that her mother needed to be put into a nursing home. She struggled with the decision, feeling immense guilt that she could no longer take care of my aunt on her own. I saw my own mother—who looked at Minnie as a second mom—struggle as well. When Minnie passed away it felt as though I had lost a grandparent.

Unfortunately, as Seth Rogen notes, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s and there is no way to prevent it. It has taken away a remarkable woman from all of our lives. The only thing Alzheimer’s gave us was a stronger family unity, although I wish that was never the reason we all became closer.

I guess the reason why I decided to write this piece is that I know others are in or have been in similar circumstances. I often found it difficult to talk about because I did not even understand the disease and I know many others do not. Our society has many misconceptions of Alzheimer’s like it simply makes you forget who you are. But it does much, much more.

I also wanted to give myself a chance to grieve. Although I’m happy my aunt is in a better place, I still miss her and I still hate how much it has torn up the hearts of those around me. I tried for a long time to push the thought of it out of my head but the truth is that I miss my aunt and I wish she were still around.

So, I just want to let anyone who is struggling with a family member who has Alzheimer’s, you’re not alone. It can be incredibly frustrating and personally hurt when someone you love doesn’t recognize who you are or acts differently towards you. But if there is one thing my aunt would want me to remember, or anyone else to remember, is that no matter what, it’s going to be okay. 

Photobucket: medillononthehill.com, theatlantic.com

Adventurer. Writer.
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