Today is World Alzheimer’s Day, a day to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
When my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in the late 1980s, no one in my family had ever heard of the disease. Later, as we saw the progression of my father’s disease, we realized that was what my grandfather had when he had to be confined to a mental institution. In the mid-1950s, the medical profession wasn’t knowledgeable about dementia.
After being one of my father’s caregivers, I might be expected to immediately recognize the symptoms of the disease in my husband two decades later. However, the beginning is subtle and the symptoms varied among different patients and even day to day in the same patient. So it took some time for me to suspect the problem.
You can read more about my personal experience with Alzheimer’s in my post for World Alzheimer’s Day 2016. In that same post, you can also watch a video that gives you the experience of dementia through the Virtual Dementia Tour.
My sister was so impacted by her experience helping care for my father that she returned to school to become a social worker. A Certified Dementia Practitioner, she has worked with dementia patients in nursing homes, taught medical professionals and families about Alzheimer’s and dementia, and led dementia support groups. A few years ago, she wrote a short, easy-to-read guide for those beginning the caregiving journey: Help! What Do I Do Now?: Caring for Your Loved One with Alzheimer’s. If you or someone you know is living with or caring for a person with Alzheimer’s or other dementia, you will find the book very helpful.