Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What if You Forgot Yesterday?

5.2 million people in America are currently living with Alzheimer's Disease. There is currently no cure - this brain disease just progresses until the affected person passes away (either from related health symptoms or another health issue).

Yesterday was an extremely difficult day following an exhausting week. Things have been stressful as Jorge still waits for word on the positions he's interviewed for (I have applied for several jobs, too), and his grandma ("Abuela") has very bad days where it's not really ideal to be in the same room with her.

Alzheimer's makes her aggressive and argumentative. The aggression seems to increase when there is a lot of noise or unfamiliar people (like my girls) surrounding her. I'm constantly trying to find a balance of not being reclusive, yet giving Abuela ample space and peace so as not to create confusion or disturbance to her.

Did you know that there are no treatments or medicines available to stop the progression of Alzheimer's? There are medications only available to treat symptoms. Dementia (a broad term which includes Alzheimer's Disease) can lead to depression, aggression, and agitation.

Eventually, if there are no other health related issues, and an Alzheimer's patient lives through all stages, they will lose their ability to eat or walk, and their organs begin to shut down as their brain continues to become paralyzed by this slow-moving, heartbreaking disease.

When I first moved to Miami ten years ago (before marriage, and before babies), I had the unique opportunity to interact with my husband's grandmother on a daily basis. She has always adored my husband, and she let me know it on a daily basis.

It was through us chatting every day over cups of Cuban coffee that I learned Spanish, learned about her life in Cuba and the life she had after moving to the United States in the early 60's, and just how much she loved her husband, who also had Alzheimer's, and sadly passed away in 2004. If we forget yesterday, or five minutes ago, there are memories that are stamped in our hearts that our diminishing brain could never erase.

I'm not sure why, but she feels comfortable with me. We have great talks, and my heart aches for my husband who is left to enjoy the days that are few and far between when she remembers who he is and why he's here.

One of the biggest things I've learned from Abuela since we've been back is that the moments we have on this Earth are precious, yet fleeting. The ones we hold onto the longest are the ones that made us feel something fierce (good or bad).

More than anything, I've learned that when logic is no longer a barrier, simple, compassionate, human interaction is all we need to show our love to others. We don't need the right words, all the facts, or the smartest, wittiest comments. We just need our hearts.

I never want to forget the things she's shared with me. I never want to forget that the impressionable moments are cemented in our core. I never want to forget that although I make mistakes, I've done a lot of good, and that's what I need to carry with me.

I pray I live to see a day when there is a cure for Alzheimer's Disease so we can remember our yesterdays and savor all of our memories until the end.

If you'd like more information regarding Alzheimer's Disease including warning signs, care, and the most recent studies, please log onto www.alz.org.

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