On Monday, we announced our two winners of our very first scholarship contest. College students from across the United States entered in the contest by submitting an essay about one of the topics we provided them. The three essay topics were:
– How has Alzheimer’s or dementia impacted you or your family and how have you been able to cope with it?
– Write about your passion for helping those with Alzheimer’s or dementia and why it means so much to you.
– If you had an unlimited amount of money how would you help those with Alzheimer’s? Would it be through medical research? Support programs for families? Caring for those with the disease? Or something else?
The students’ essays were then posted to AutumnGrove’s social media pages (Facebook, Twitter and Google+) for followers to vote on. Over the past couple of months all of the essays were read, liked and shared and today I would like to congratulate Ashley Ellis and Ashleigh McFarland for winning $1000 each towards their college education! Ashley E. came in first place with a total of 687 social media “votes” was followed by Ashleigh M. with a total of 507 votes. We are excited to be able to help these two young ladies become future Alzheimer’s advocates in the effort to end this terrible disease. So help us give them a hand in creating wonderful essays and wish them luck with their college education. Congrats ladies!
If you didn’t get a chance to read their essays, here they are.
Ashley Ellis – Lincoln University in Pennsylvania
Research Determines the Future of Alzheimer’s Disease
Many people have experienced Alzheimer’s disease with a loved one in these recent years. Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, is a progressive illness that demolishes memory and other vital mental functions. The networks among brain cells degenerate and eventually decease; hence, leading to a gradual decline in memory and other psychological functions. Unfortunately, besides from examining tissues in the brain, there is no method of early testing for Alzheimer’s disease. Some people show symptoms of Alzheimer’s as early as in their 60s. These biological changes have great impact on the daily lives of individuals diagnosed with this disease. At first, the symptoms are mild but in due course they begin to affect the person by decreasing the capability to carry out daily functions. They start having difficulty with language, problem solving and there may rapid changes in mood, from tranquil to anger, without obvious reason.
But why is Alzheimer’s awareness so important? In the United States, more than five million persons suffer from dementia. According to Alzheimer’s disease Association, there is an estimated 4 million Americans have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and about 100,000 die of the disease each year. Research estimates state that the number of Alzheimer’s patients in the United States is expected to triple in the next 20 to 30 years since people are
living longer due to advancement in medical technology for treating other ailments. On the other hand, caring for loved ones affected can present challenges, mostly towards the end of life; so my heart goes out to the families who have been affected and the individuals affected by Alzheimer’s disease. And so if I had the resources I would invest money into caring for those who have already been diagnosed through medicinal treatments or simply being a companion. As the ongoing quest for effective Alzheimer’s disease treatments remains, it is vital that there is effort put into improving the care and comfort people with the disease. This aids in the transition through the stages of the disease. As for the families, support programs would be an effective way to help in adjusting and coping with a loved one who has been diagnosed. Support groups would also provide practical advice and emotional assistance for families. However, majority of my investment of time and money would be in medical research as this would help more people in the future.
Understanding the physiology of this disease should be a constant work in progress since the impairments are observed in individuals all over the globe. The treatments of Alzheimer’s disease that currently exist typically provide patients with some form of symptom improvement for only a short period of time. In this present day, there are no therapies that alter the process or slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. I strongly believe that the only way to ultimately delay, prevent or perhaps cure Alzheimer’s disease in through the investment of time and money into medical research.
Ashleigh McFarland – Missouri Southern State University
Diminishing Mind, Everlasting Love
Imagine waking up in the morning, and not knowing the name of the man you lay beside. Then you show up at a family gathering, and not only do you not recognize anyone in attendance, but you can’t even recall eating a meal thirty minutes ago. Everything is new, and no one is familiar. This is what people with Alzheimer’s disease encounter every day of their lives. Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative disease of the brain that directly effects memory. This hits home to me, because my grandmother has been battling this disease for five years now. Having to watch my Granny Bea’s life being taken over by Alzheimer’s has greatly affected my family and myself physically, mentally, and emotionally.
In the beginning, my granny started forgetting simple things like people’s names, recipes she has used for years, and locations of common restaurants and landmarks. This took a larger toll on her than us, the family. At this stage, she realized she couldn’t remember things and would get upset and just cry because she got so frustrated. She then began to forget people, which was really tough on me. When I would go visit her and she wouldn’t know who I was, it really upset me. It got to where I wouldn’t go visit so I could act like it wasn’t happening. As things progressed, she would forget more and more, and not realize she was forgetting. She now doesn’t remember how to use a phone, how to cook, or even how to bathe herself. Without the help of her husband and daughter that live with her, she wouldn’t be able to go about daily life safely. She often doesn’t remember the names of her own daughters, including the one that lives with her. She refers to her as the woman who lives in my house. A few times, she has gone to go to bed, and won’t lie down because there is a strange man in her bed, her husband. It’s times like this when it begins to set in and affects everyone around them.
A few months back, there was a family emergency, so I offered to keep my grandmother for a couple days. I had no idea what I had gotten myself into, and how bad this disease has become. It has progressed so quickly within the last couple years. The whole time she kept asking who I was and where we were. She had been to my house multiple times and we have lived in the same house my entire life. She would use the bathroom and an hour later ask me to show her to the bathroom, because she had never been here before. Anytime she saw someone eating, she would have to eat another meal, because she didn’t remember her previous one. The most shocking thing to me, is when she would ask for people from her past, like childhood friends or children she would babysit fifty to sixty years ago. Some of these people she would ask for have not been alive for at least twenty-five years. Watching her was like watching a child. You can’t leave her unattended, she tries to get into things she shouldn’t, and she is constantly needing care. The only difference is, she knows how to do things children don’t or can’t, like unlock doors, turn on the oven, or try to leave the house. Every moment is a new moment. She doesn’t remember something she saw or did ten minutes prior. All of these things make it very difficult to watch after my granny, but my love for Granny Bea wouldn’t have it any other way. I want to make her happy and keep her safe.
Caring for Alzheimer’s patients is physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. If you don’t watch out, it will drag you down faster than you realize. My family and I have found the best way to cope with this disease that has taken over her life is to laugh it off and go with it. When she says off the wall things such as, “Has my husband and his other woman come back yet?” we have to just laugh inside. She says so many things that just make you think, “What is going through her head?” And, when she asks for people that are no longer with us, we just go along with it and agree. If we get down about everything she says or doesn’t remember, it will destroy us. We can’t change what is happening, so we have to look at it from the best angle and accept it.
Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease that effects the minds of many loved ones. Seeing this first hand has really made me understand more about this disease. Although we may not understand why or want to believe it’s true, we have to love and care for them. Granny Bea is a great woman; one of the sweetest I know. She deserves the best, and I wouldn’t trade anything for my time with her; even if she doesn’t know who I am.