The Ashland Beacon
The month of June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness month. According to the Alzheimer's Association the entire month is dedicated to informing people about Alzheimer’s and other brain related diseases, their related warnings, quality of life and focused care. Alzheimer’s and brain awareness can be better understood by involving the community in awareness efforts; this helps support individuals and their caregivers in all areas of their life.
Brain Awareness is something that is near and dear to me, as my Granny suffered horribly later in life, with dementia. It seems only fitting that I raise awareness for Dementia this month, in the month of June. Since “June Ramey” was her name. I remember from a young age, I noticed that Granny made notes all the time, so she wouldn’t forget. She always wrote what happened that day on a calendar, so she could remember. She even made herself a checklist for when she left the house such as blowing out candles, making sure the oven was turned off, getting weather appropriate accessories and locking the door. All of these things that regular able minded folks really take for granted.
What is the difference between Alzheimer’s and Dementia, you might ask? Alzheimer’s is a neurological condition that will cause a decline in cognitive reasoning and development. Dementia can be caused by various medical conditions, basically it’s caused by organic damage to the brain and that leads to impairment of cognitive functions.
If you or your loved one is experiencing any of these Alzheimer's warning symptoms, don’t hesitate to contact your primary care provider for a consult. Some of the warning signs are: Boredom and avoiding going out in public, loss of smell, forgetting important dates or events, forgetting names of friends or family, putting things in strange places, forgetting the name of everyday objects and getting lost in familiar places to name a few. Likewise, warning symptoms for Dementia include, but are not limited to: memory disorders, impaired speech, increased irritability, loss of orientation in surrounding space.
As I grew up, I always thought of Granny as just being quirky and forgetful, but as I got older I began to notice odd things that she would do. She often called me twice in the same day without any recollection of speaking to me earlier and just blamed it on being sleepy. One time she called me from a pool store near her apartment complex, because she had gone out to the post office and grocery store and couldn’t figure out how to get home. So, I explained to her how to get back home (because I couldn’t drive yet) and she called me when she got there.
Many years later however, when my dad had open heart surgery and someone had brought her to see him earlier that day before surgery and someone drove her home, she found her keys and drove herself back to the hospital to check on him. It’s amazing what love for your child can do, it can even briefly overcome dementia. She not only drove herself there, but she managed to find the waiting room that I was sitting in. She made it safely home that night, and never got behind the wheel again.
I spoke candidly with my Dad David Barnes about dealing with her diagnosis, “Well, she always recognized me, so I was lucky there. But her memory of current facts was lacking. She would ask about people, and not remember the current state of affairs. Also, she would believe nearly anything. If I told her you (Morgan) had been abducted by aliens, she would just gasp and wonder if you were okay, now. Luckily, she would forget the alien abduction comment quickly. The biggest issue I saw was short-term memory. She would ask something, get an answer, and five minutes later ask the same question. I’d just repeat myself as many times as she asked. Her caregiver would give her simple tasks to do in order to allow her to feel she was contributing. It also gave her structure. For instance, if they did laundry, she knew it was her job to fold the clothes. If she forgot, you could remind her.” Barnes described the hardest part of dealing with Granny’s dementia, “The biggest issue I saw was her tendency to wander off (sometimes in a state of undress). She was easily confused, so structure was essential. Accepting change was difficult and dealing with her delusions was very trying.”
A photo of my Granny’s 80th Birthday with all six of her children present and a few grandchildren circulated my Facebook memories. She battled with loss of memory for so long that it’s hard for me to even remember a time when she wasn’t fighting for her mind to work properly. She was so happy to have all of her family together. I remember I gave her a jar of homemade grape juice jelly and a crocheted scarf that I’d made myself.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s are cruel to endure, robbing people from years of experiencing life with their families and friends. It leaves their caregivers constantly hoping for a day of lucidity, so they can have them back for just a little while. Unfortunately, dementia took my Granny from us, long before she left this world.