The Impacts on a Family

When one thinks about the impact on Alzheimer’s, they think that they only lose one person from their life. It my situation, that was not the case.

Ten years ago, I was living a perfectly happy life when I received the news that my father’s sister was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. At first, I didn’t understand what that meant, I thought a pill could make everything better, that she will be okay. When I was fourteen, my aunt and grandpa came from Texas to visit since we never see them. As fourteen, one would think I had a better understanding of the disease but I saw no difference in my aunt compared to a healthy human being. Later that year, my parents divorced. No big deal, right? 50% of marriages end up in a divorce. However, since the divorce, my relationship with my father began to disintegrate. After I was able to comprehend that my parents were not going to be together anymore, my dad decides to move to Texas to help my aunt while she is battling a terrible disease. Great for him, he is helping his sister and spend as much time as he can with her. I was able to visit them both on Thanksgiving when I was sixteen, this is when I began to see her become effected.

During the Thanksgiving trip, my dad, aunt, and I would go to a lake and relax. One day I was sitting underneath a tree, observing my aunt as she wondered off by herself. Her walking was off, every five steps she would have to regain her balance. After getting side-tracked by her stride, I began to notice that she was approaching a family having a picnic. I walked quickly to retrieve her and when I got her, she told me they had a nice family. It made me sad, a woman who was once a brilliant stenographer is now confused with life. Later on in the day, we went to see a movie, Larry Crowne. In a movie scene, Tom Hanks was riding a bike and my aunt leaned over to me and said, “He must have gotten tired of running so much that he got a bike.” I laughed so hard; oh my sweet, innocent aunt. She was struggling, she knew something was wrong with her but didn’t know what it was; she was trapped in her mind. At the end of the trip, I had one tough of a good-bye. Who knows the next time I would see her and how much Alzheimer’s would have taken over.

The next time I was able to visit my dad and Aunt was Christmas when I was seventeen. I knew the relationship between my Dad and I would continue to decrease, but who knew in that amount of time she would have such a decline in her health? Other family members would have to help my aunt use the bathroom, sit down, and eat food, every day activities. She spoke less and when she did, she had a spacey look on her face and couldn’t make eye contact. When she didn’t speak, she would watch everyone talking and I could tell she was questioning what was being said. My dad would have to introduce himself first when we would visit her at my uncle’s house. After he would introduce himself, I would say that I am his daughter. Last year she still knew who I was by looking at me, now I had to remind her. There was not much time left for my aunt to enjoy life until she was hospitalized, and when she was, I lost two family members.

My dad has spent the last few years spending time in Texas, building relationships with new people and continuing to reconnect with family. During that time, I would receive less and less phone calls, text messages, anything that would keep a long distant relationship connected. Once my aunt was in the hospital, he was devastated. I would receive a picture on my phone of her laying in a bed, with her mouth wide open, not looking at the camera, and my dad standing right next to her. It was heart-breaking actually, to see once a beautiful women be overtaken by Alzheimer’s and my dad that I barely talked to standing right next to her. At eighteen, my aunt passed away and my father was now an authoritative figure that I used to know.

Alzheimer’s does not only impact the one who was unfortunate enough to receive the disease, it effects the family members and families. It could bring the family closer to each other, knowing that something so awful could happen at any second and want to cherish time together. Or in my case, it could ruin relationships. The importance of understanding Alzheimer’s at any age is tremendous, becoming aware of what is going through one’s mind and how to help could save relationships, teaches how to cope, and provide assistance for one who is less educated.