Life, Love and Alzheimer’s

african-american-mother-and-adult-daughter-relaxing-in-park-1This can’t be happening! No, not again! I would have to say the summer of 2015 has not been kind to my family. It’s been almost a dream ─ something like a whirlwind. A bad dream that I could not wake myself out of. I close my eyes at yet again some unexpected news, just to open them again to my horrific reality. I thought the worse was over. I thought we had weathered the worst of the storm. I was wrong.

This past June, and then again in August, my maternal and paternal grandmothers both lost their battle to Alzheimer’s. It was devastating. In a span of two months, two of the most important women in my life succumbed to this deadly, incurable disease. Gradually, our family watched how Alzheimer’s disease drastically transformed each of their personalities, disconnecting them both from the world and lives as they knew it to be. From decreasing decision-making skills; growing confusion; losing track of dates and time; and the diminishing capacity to understand or even recognize family members; to dealing with bouts of violence, it was devastating. Our family was in pain.

My sadness quickly turned into fear ─ fear that Alzheimer’s was hereditary. I began self-diagnosing myself, believing that every forgetful moment was a sure sign that I would someday be diagnosed with this deadly disease. I even considered scheduling an appointment with my doctor to see if I had the same “symptoms” and “traits” that my grandmothers exhibited in the beginning of their disease. I was convinced that I carried the Alzheimer’s “gene.”

Deciding to stop living in fear, I took action by educating myself about the truth behind Alzheimer’s. I learned:

• Smoking increases the risk of cognitive decline. Quitting smoking can reduce that risk to levels comparable to those who have not smoked. • Challenge and activate your mind. Play games that make you think strategically. Challenging your mind may have short and long-term benefits for your brain. • Not getting enough sleep due to conditions like insomnia or sleep apnea may result in problems with memory and thinking. • Engage in regular exercise that elevates your heart rate and increases blood flow to the brain and body. • Eat a healthy and balanced diet that is higher in vegetables and fruit to help reduce the risk of cognitive decline. • Recent studies link a history of depression with increased risk of cognitive decline. Take care of your mental health.

I realized that my loving and inspiring grandmothers would not accept me living in fear. I can hear them telling me to, “Get up, and do something about it.” In November, I decided to take action and become involved. I signed up for the Go Purple for Alzheimer’s challenge, a campaign inspired by the Alzheimer’s Association whose purpose is to support those facing Alzheimer’s. I am committed to raising awareness and realize the end of Alzheimer’s begins with all of us. Although incurable, by learning the facts, we can help change the numbers, raise awareness and inspire action. I choose to continue the fight for my grandmothers and help end Alzheimer’s.

To become involved in the “Go Purple for Alzheimer’s challenge, click here.

BlogLeah HuntComment