The disease mentioned above has had a significant impact on my life for a very long time. My grandfather was first diagnosed with it along with Parkinson’s disease and the early onset of dimentia in early 2007, almost nine years ago. Back then when I was a younger man, these words meant nothing to me. They were just a different way of saying my grandfather was sick. It is only in the last four years I’ve begun to understand what Alzheimer’s disease is and how it affects elderly citizens and families alike.
At the time when my grandfather was first diagnosed it was the responsibility of my grandmother to take care of him and look after his needs, but due to my grandmothers chronic emphysema, she wasn’t able to perform this duty. My aunties and uncle banded together and formed a ‘rota’ of sorts to take turns in looking after my grandfather. Even the grand kids helped for a while.
But my grandfathers illnesses progressed further and we could no longer look after him ourselves. To provide my grandfather with the care he needed we would have had to devote ourselves to him full time, which is not humanly possible. However, we learned of a government scheme in which people with the likes of Alzheimer’s disease could apply to receive funding, which would in turn pay for full time care in a nursing home. This took many letters to various counsellors and two years before we were granted approval for the scheme. Now, my grandfather is in one of the best nursing homes in Ireland, most importantly his needs are met by professionals.
The point of this anecdote is to give you an idea of what my experience with Alzheimer’s disease was like. However, it doesn’t mention the hours my family and I had to sacrifice in the beginning, nor does it mention the lack of awareness around the disease or the lack of information available to us, it was by pure chance we learned of the scheme, which was nicknamed by our family as ‘operation miracle’. For privacy reasons, I dare not go into detail about my grandfathers own loss of dignity and the fact that this disease has left him as a husk, a shell of the man he was once.
We constantly see advertisements on the television and in media related to cancer, and in no way am I saying that one is more noteworthy than the other, both illnesses have their demons. What I am saying is that there is a disrespectful lack of media interest in Alzheimer’s disease and mental health in general. As a practitioner of creative media, I’ve tried to include this disease in the projects I submit. Having done a short movie about Alzheimer’s which can be viewed here. It feels as if the media would rather pretend this horrible thing doesn’t exist rather than make people aware of its impact on Irish families. God knows this disease nearly destroyed us.
Even if no one you know suffers with Alzheimer’s disease or any other related illness; please be aware that it exists and that there are people out there, who weren’t as lucky as us, who have to fight multiple battles everyday to care for the ones they love most. It is without a doubt one of the most evil diseases on this planet.
The featured image is taken from eurostemcell.org, it shows how stem cells may be used to treat Alzheimer’s disease.