The month of November is most known for the Thanksgiving holiday. However, what many people do not realize is that while they’re getting ready for turkey and family time, others are saddened by the fact that this year just won’t be the same.
November is Alzheimer’s Awareness month and according to the Alzheimer’s Association 2016 Alzheimer’s disease Facts and Figures, more than 5 million Americans are dealing with the disease every day. Of that group, one in three seniors pass away either from Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia. It seems that a lot of people have heard of the disease, but not many know much about it or what happens when a person has it.
Alzheimer’s Awareness month is a great time to learn more about the disease and seek advice to help if you’re ever in this situation. Taking the time to educate yourself and learn ways to interact with people who have it will be beneficial in the long run. Utilizing any classes, seminars or informational meetings on the topic is important.
Rebecca Wilson, of Niles, Mich., has taken care of her mother since she was diagnosed with dementia six years ago, and she agreed that making yourself aware of the disease can only benefit you. “Research. Research the illness, but also your care options,” Wilson said. “I went into it blindly.”
Often, when a loved one is affected by Alzheimer’s, it feels as though that person is gone. “My grandmother having Alzheimer’s has made me a more patient person. Alzheimer’s really took my grandmother away from me,” said Alison VanHoof, a sophomore communications major and public relations minor at Michigan State University. “She passed away about a week ago, but truthfully, I think I lost her about five years ago. Alzheimer’s made my grandmother forget my face and all of our memories together.”
Another good option is talking with others who have loved ones with Alzheimer’s. Chances are, they understand what you’re going through, too.
“It’s very hard to see someone you love change so much because of [Alzheimer’s],” said Derek Roberts of Battle Creek, Mich.
Understanding that your loved ones have no control over what is happening is important to remember when interacting with them.
“Don’t take anything to heart. It’s not their fault that they can’t remember you or certain things,” Roberts said. “Laugh it off with them if they’re humorous about it and don’t make them feel bad for anything. Remember the good times and how they were previous to getting Alzheimer’s. It’s the same person that you loved and knew before; don’t distance yourself [from them], and enjoy any time you can get.”
Advice to someone dealing with a situation like this will vary by person and personal experience, but the theme seems to remain the same: be patient and understanding.
“My advice to people dealing with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s is to try and be as lighthearted as you can,” VanHoof said. “It is so sad to see your loved one forget who you are and all your memories that you shared right in front of your eyes. I always tried to remind myself that even though my grandma couldn’t remember, I still could.”
While preparing for the upcoming holidays, it’s a good idea to slow down, be humble and be thankful for what you have. Cherish your time with loved ones, as it might not always be the same. And if you’re spending the holidays with loved ones who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, be patient and make some lasting memories.
Allie Wilson is a senior professional writing major from Niles, Mich. She currently works in the Writing Center and is an intern for Espresso Book Machine. When her nose isn’t buried in a book, she spends her free time obsessing over Grey’s Anatomy and eating. Wilson aspires to be an editor for a publishing firm that specializes in young adult fiction.