I remember the day we dropped my grandfather off at his apartment. He stepped out of the car then hesitated. His building was to the left. He turned right and entered the building next door. My mom had me get out of the car to catch him before he got on the elevator of the wrong building. My mother and her brother moved my grandfather into an assisted living facility not long after that incident.
By then, he was trying to enter the apartments of other people and leaving his stove on for hours at a time. We visited him regularly over the next 3 years until he passed away. Always a quiet person, he mistook me on those visits for former friends and siblings from his childhood growing up in Ireland. I enjoyed those conversations because I learned about his youth and his interests – things that he had never shared with me before. I discovered that he also had a sly sense of humor!
Now some 25 years later, I’ve had the opportunity to join an organization that helps people who are managing with Alzheimer’s disease or caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease every day. I really enjoy helping families understand the disease, what to expect and how to plan for the future. I think about how my own family would have benefited from having a professional to talk with about some of the behaviors that my grandfather exhibited.
In my role doing outreach in the community, I enjoy educating people about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and helping them connect in ways that they can have a positive impact whether it is through volunteering or fundraising. It is amazing to me how often I come across people who know little about the disease or have major misconceptions. It is so rewarding when I explain something to them that they realize can make a difference in their lives right away! And there are so many people in the community who have been touched directly or indirectly by the disease who simply want to do something – anything – to help.
I think of my grandfather frequently since starting in this position. I have learned so much in my time with this organization that would have helped me to understand and to communicate better with him as he lived with this disease day to day. There are others in my family now who have the disease and still many more friends and acquaintances who are also navigating their journey with loved ones who have dementia. I enjoy being a resource to them as best I can.
My goal now is to contribute professionally by increasing awareness in the community about the disease, helping folks get connected with our organization for support, and engaging as many people as I can in volunteering and advocating for a better future for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.