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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at USF chapter.

Growing up I had always looked up to my grandmother; she pulled herself out of many difficult situations such as being a young single mother of three, escaping domestic abuse, and providing for her family on her own. After a lifetime of involvement and interest in women’s rights issues, she found herself wanting to pursue an education in that field—at the age of 60, she received her doctorate in Women’s Studies and Feminist Philosophy and continued her academics by becoming a professor at MSU. My interest in women’s/gender issues stemmed from her passion for it. She played a big role in the Miami women’s rights scene in the ‘70s, and eventually became a big advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, as she had come out as a lesbian in her 50s. In my eyes, she was strong, smart, had perseverance and passion, and was everything I wanted to be when I grew up. She continues to be all these things, except she now does it with Alzheimer’s. 

My grandma’s mental health struggles began about five years ago when she was hit on her driver’s side while turning at an intersection, and from this suffered a concussion which resulted in the beginnings of her memory problems. Soon after, she felt she was not the professor she used to be and quit teaching. 

Since the accident, and as she has aged, her memory problems continued to get worse. She went to see a specialist where she was eventually diagnosed with a memory-targeting disease known as Alzheimer’s. 

As her granddaughter, the best thing I can do is be present and supportive. I call her, I listen, and when she does not want to talk that is okay too. I’m extremely grateful for every conversation I get to have with her, as I have heard it is common for people with this disease to draw back from their loved ones due to some embarrassment that may sometimes come with memory loss. Luckily for me, there is little that my grandma gets embarrassed about, I fully expect her to never stop being as loud and proud as she’s always been. 

In my eyes, this disease has only increased my love and admiration for her. Watching her navigate her emotions, and sometimes hardships, has shown me she is only that much stronger. I think for those who have had experiences or are experiencing having a loved one or someone influential, deal with Alzheimer’s, or a similar disease, it’s okay to be sad— but try to spend as much time as you can with that person, future you will thank you. 

A student at the University of South Florida, majoring in International Studies. She loves long walks on the beach and anything cozy. Student by weekday, barista by weekend– she can sniff out the best specialty coffee shop wherever she is! She loves to write about social activism, lifestyle, and mental health.