An issue that I hold very close to my heart is the suffering known as Alzheimer’s. I call it a suffering instead of a disease as I have seen the pain that it inflicts on the patient as well as family members and friends. Disease seems to be an understatement. I have been associated with Alzheimer’s at a personal level and would like to take this opportunity to share my experience and the impact it has had on my life.
I had heard about Alzheimer’s early on in life through various awareness campaigns and other mediums. However, although I was aware of the symptoms of the disease and how it progresses to extreme dementia, I never felt any significant emotional connection to the disease. This changed when my great grandmother was diagnosed with the disease. Although I was able to spend very little time with her before she passed on, seeing her suffer every day, not being able to remember major parts of her life or recognize those who were closest to her, and the utmost confused state that she constantly found herself in, I was able to understand the degree of suffering that the disease has on those it afflicts.
I also learned that it leaves a lifelong scar on those who spend their time caring for an Alzheimer’s patient. My grandmother, who had to undergo the pain of watching her mother die a painful and heartbroken death, has never been able to fully cope with the loss. However, it was the time she spent with her mother in years leading to her death that were much more painful. Ever since, she has volunteered at a retirement home where she has the opportunity to interact and support elders who are going through the same suffering as her mother did. I believe doing so gives her some relief and liberation, knowing that some good has come from her mother’s ailment.
Through my great grandmother’s illness, my family got to experience the trials and tribulations associated with Alzheimer’s. There is no known cure for the disease although individual symptoms can be controlled, albeit to a limited extent. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in eight older Americans suffer from the disease today, accounting for 5.4 million of the population. Considering the fact that the disease not only leads to the suffering of patients but also has a major impact on the life of family members, the brunt of Alzheimer’s is borne by a large number of people. As such, I believe that there is a pressing not just for awareness, but an improved level of intervention and involvement on the part of the current generation.
On a personal level, I volunteer at the same retirement home where my grandmother works. It is a very fulfilling experience, knowing that I was making a difference in my own small way. I also intend to volunteer with the Alzheimer’s Association’s Texas Chapter should my application be accepted. It will be my way of giving something back to the Austin community and also working towards addressing an issue that is very close to my heart. Through my own work and by participating in the initiatives planned by the association, I hope to improve the living conditions of Alzheimer’s patients as well as provide crucial support to their family and caretakers.