Alzheimer's and Dementia have been described by a doctor as being "imprisoned in one's own rapidly shrinking brain." When I was younger, I didn't really know what Alzheimer's or Dementia was, I only heard about them here and there and on commercials. These commercials would always show elderly people and would say things like "If you've had a loved one with Alzheimer's and Dementia and took (insert name) Medicine..." or "Living with a loved one with Alzheimer's or Dementia is hard."
What these commercials never said was what it was really like. Never showed those who suffered knowing that they could not remember something. Never showed their loved ones crying in the middle of the night because they were witnessing that struggle, of knowing you can't remember something, or even someone.
For some, their memory goes slowly, something small forgotten here and there. For others, it happens instantaneously. It's hard to know which is harder. For the person who has Alzheimer's, it's harder for them when it goes slowly because they know it's happening to them and they can't stop it. For the family, it's almost worse when it's instantaneous because they wouldn't remember you or where they are. Honestly, it's hard for everyone no matter what.
I was young when one of my family members started showing signs of Alzheimer's/Dementia. She lived at home with her husband for years and they were very good at hiding how much the disease took hold of her. It was about two and a half years ago that she got very sick and went to the hospital, and that is when we found out how far it had actually progressed. When she was released from the hospital, the decision was made to put her into a nursing home that had a specialized unit for patients with Alzheimer's and Dementia.
Like anyone with this disease, she had her good days and her bad days, but in the beginning she could remember some of her family members by name. She didn't alway remember, but she knew who was important to her. Her close bond with her sister meant that she remembered her almost the longest.
But the person she had the strongest bond with was her husband. Even as she continued to decline you could see the love in their eyes when they looked at each other. When he would do something silly she would lean over to us girls in the room and say "He's just so cute!" There were times she wanted to just hold his hand so she knew he was there. Their relationship wasn't perfect all the time (as no real relationship is perfect) but they certainly set my standards high.
They gave me faith that marriage isn't something that can be thrown away. It's something shared between two people that grows as they grow and morphs into different stages as their lives grow in different stages. From newlyweds to having your first kid, your last kid, your first child getting married, your first grandchild, first great grandchild, travel, family reunions, weddings, sickness, injury, funerals, and, sadly, the death of your spouse.
Alzheimer's is real and it's a scary disease. You never know when it could take hold of your brain and how much it will force you to forget. Who knows, maybe soon scientists will find out what causes Alzheimer's. Maybe even find a cure. But for now, I urge everyone to say "I love you" every chance you get. Live your life without fear. Do things that scare you, things you never thought you'd do. Travel the world with your loved one. Be friendly to everyone (you never know what kind of day they're having, it could change their lives). Treat others how you want to be treated. Love to the moon and back a million times. There can never be too much love in the world.
"Be kind to one another." - Ellen DeGeneres