With over five million Americans currently suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and over twenty-six million worldwide as of 2006, there is a good chance you know someone who is battling this horrific monster.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. It was first described and given its name by Alois Alzheimer, a German psychiatrist and neuropathologist, in 1906. Over 100 years later, there is still no cure and no known cause of the disease. Simply put, dementia is a set of symptoms in which areas of cognition such as memory, attention, language and problem solving are affected. If you know or love someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia related problems, you know it is something all together more horrible than just stating problems with cognitve abilities.
There is hope. The Alzheimer’s Association is sponsoring their annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s. With eight walk sites in Arizona alone, this is a fantastic opportunity for folks to get involved with raising awareness and money for Alzheimer’s support, care and research. Check out the website for more information and to even form your own team to raise money and walk. The Phoenix walk will be Saturday, November 3rd, at Wesley Bolin Plaza in downtown Phoenix.
I am proud to be a part of the team of Crossroads Aziza, which is comprised of 7th and 8th graders from Crossroads School in the Mesa Public Schools District. We have 100% involvement from our class and our first donations were brought in this last Friday. With car washes and a parking lot sale planned in the coming weeks, we hope to raise $100 for each member of the team. With so much negativity seen in education recently, it is amazing to see junior high school kids actively involved and passionate about a good cause.
But I will be walking for a much more personal reason.
About six years ago we went to Las Vegas for Christmas. After a couple of days in Vegas, my grandmother asked me to drive her home, believing we were in Sedona, which is where we had gone for the holidays for several years previously. I told her we were not in Sedona, but much farther away, and it would not be possible to drive her home early. She became irate, and insisted that we were in fact in Sedona and it shouldn’t be any trouble to drive her back to her home in Globe.
And so began the first of many encounters where we knew something wasn’t exactly right.
I heard someone describe Alzheimer’s as someone forgetting who the people they love were. It is that, but it is so much more than that as well.
Alzheimer’s is a gradual and progressive disease. It starts out small, but than it seems to take over – everything. Every aspect of a person’s life is caught up in their inability to see a rational and known world. The simple becomes complicated, friends become enemies, family become strangers and life becomes pretty much impossible.
My grandmother slowly became someone else. A person that was kind became cruel. A person that was fiercely independent became unable to manage. A person that was extraordinary became unbearable. A beautiful person became ugly on the inside.
Alzheimer’s and dementia are horribly cruel jokes played on any of us who have encountered them. It is as much about the people dealing with the disease as the person who is suffering from it. The person we love is still alive, but gone all the same, taken from us as surely as if they had passed in the night.
The Walk to End Alzheimer’s means hope. It means that one day maybe people will not have to suffer such an atrocity, perhaps even you or I. So dust off your walking boots! If 7th and 8th graders can do it, c’mon…