National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month and National Caregiver Month

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia among older people. Often, the changes that occur in the brain during Alzheimer’s disease are linked with other forms of dementia, such as vascular dementia. The following is a personal tribute in honor of National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month and National Caregiver Month.

My aunt has vascular dementia and she doesn’t even remember who I am! It’s really weird to watch her interact with her friends. She sounds like herself and even though both her hands are disfigured from the two strokes that put her there, she basically still looks like herself; but she really isn’t the same. When I visited her for the first time since the strokes, she first thought I was my mom; then she got confused and uncomfortable when I tried to explain who I was. I decided it was best to let it alone realizing that it was futile to make her know the truth. I tried to be strong but I soon became overwhelmed; the tears streamed down my face and my body racked with convulsions despite my weak attempt to stifle them. She didn’t even notice that I was crying and I was sitting right next to her! Her nurse explained that she would most likely forget that I was there five seconds after I left, and as I looked back at her on my way out, I noticed that this seemed to be the case.

Having a family member with vascular dementia can be nerve-racking and it’s so difficult to accept that this person will never remember who you are. This person with whom you’ve spent many summers; that had you over for sleepovers as a child; that made you oatmeal whenever you visited and had you bring your own pillow on the walk over to her place from your own, all eight blocks of it! The only consolation is that there are places and people who can accommodate and make them happy in their present state of mind. She’s been through some ups and downs; on a liquid diet for the past year because she couldn’t hold down anything solid. She went from a size extra-large to size medium and can no longer walk; but still, even confined to a wheelchair, she’s a great Bingo player, the most popular (as usual) and has the best bed space in the place thanks to her loving and devoted husband. My aunt is an amazing woman.

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