Close to Home
By: Michelle Remold
It’s was fifteen years ago when my grandfather was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. At the time he was diagnosed, it was both a frightening and challenging experience for our family. My mom talks about the many sleepless nights wondering what was going to happen to my grandpa as the disease progressed and trying to find the resources to help our family cope with the disease and find the care he now needed. There is also the memory of realizing that we could no longer care for my father at home. I remember commenting to my parents that I was, as it seemed to me, the only student with only one grandparent at school for Grandparents Day when my grandpa could no longer attend and I didn’t understand why. However, growing up I remember feeling like I was the only kid in school with a grandparent who had Alzheimer’s and looking back my mom stated that she remembers feeling like we were alone with having a loved one with the disease.
As the years went by, we all came to realize that we were not the only family coping with a loved one with Alzheimer’s. In fact, as time went by we realized that Alzheimer’s was “closer to home” than you think. Grandparents of my friends were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. My parent’s coworkers had family and friends that were affected by either Alzheimer’s or dementia. People that we saw every Sunday at church services were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. One of the most important resources that we discovered was a support network of other families with the disease. It made it a lot easier to cope with what was going on with my grandpa when we were able to talk with others that were experiencing the same thing. There was a support group at the local senior center that also helped us to learn more about Alzheimer’s and how it affects families. Through that organization, we discovered a wonderful group of volunteers that were willing to sit with my grandpa to give my grandma a break to get needed errands done.
It seems to me that one of the best things that came out of the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is having other people to talk to about it. I still have people that have recently had a parent, relative, or friend diagnosed that will share their experiences with me and tell me how nice it is to talk to someone that understands. While everyone’s experience is different, it seems that discussing Alzheimer’s or dementia is much easier knowing that the person you are talking to has gone or is going through similar things. While a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia can feel lonely, it helps to remember there are others around to support you.
Michelle graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with her Bachelor of Arts in Gerontology: Social Sciences and a minor in Family Studies. She is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Aging Studies and Nursing Home Administration from Minnesota State University Mankato.