My memories of my grandmother, or "Nanny" as we called her, are filled with playing with buttons, making Campbell's tomato soup, walking the two blocks from my parent's home to her home, or stopping there on my way home from school. She had a parakeet named Peetie, and made the best tapioca pudding. She and my "Pop" lived within four blocks of each of their four children in northeastern NJ. I had eight cousins that all lived within walking distance. We were a very close family! Every Sunday was family time. We'd have dinners together and watch The Mickey Mouse Club at my cousin's, because they had a color television. Remember how they would start the shows with the peacock with the colored paintbrush tail?
Nan was the glue of the family... until she could be no longer.
My earliest memory that something was wrong with Nanny happened one day when we were in the bathroom together. I think I was around ten years old. She looked in the mirror, pointed at her own reflection and said, "Who is that? Who's that looking at me?" There were many, many red flags as I look back on that time. Nan became a wanderer after Pop moved her two miles away from everyone (she could no longer keep up with the house). Every day she would walk the two miles to our
home and she'd say, "Why did that man take me there? I don't live there." That man? That was her husband of more than 50 years. Nan finally found herself in a nursing home, after being lost and walking the streets of NYC for two days. If only we had understood what she was going through!
This was in the very early 1970's. There wasn't much known about Alzheimer's or dementia then, eventhough it had been identified by Alois Alzheimer in 1906, more than sixty years earlier. The one thing that held true then holds true still today... you didn't talk about it. Back then, if someone was forgetful, it was just part of getting older. Today, some aspects of being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease are similar to receiving a cancer or AIDS diagnosis twenty year ago. People were
afraid to see a doctor or to tell family and friends about their diagnosis for fear of lack of understanding, loss of their job, or of being shunned. As we learned with the advocacy for AIDS and education about the disease, or all the funding that was done for cancer research, the more we learn, understand and empathize with the person dealing with the disease, the better quality of life they have! And, more answers and cures are found!
This is the 21st Century. As a community we know we can accomplish more with support, understanding, and knowledge. That is the goal of Dementia Training for Life. THE number one complaint that I heard from families in assisted living was, "the medical community doesn't understand, or know about this disease". So, we now launch into a new world, and a new business. We aim to help advocate for those yet to be diagnosed, as well as those who have been diagnosed but are yet to get the support and care they need. Our goal is to help families and professionals provide each individual with the best quality of life we can, as research continues to search for a cure.