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He is very frail. I worry if I hug him too hard I will break a bone. He slouches slightly in his chair and has a belt wrapped around his small stomach to hold him in place. When I touch his hand it feels like an ice tray. Most of the time he sits and stares at my family, lost in the trappings of his mind. Every once and a while he will utter a couple of words that seem to make sense, or at least we try to make sense of them.
“I have to go now.”
The words are glimpses into his fragmented brain. We continue to talk to him in hopes that things will click in his brain.
My grandpa has Alzheimer’s disease.
It is easy to forget the person he used to be. He played the violin in the Seattle Symphony and loved music and math. He was the top accountant for Vons. Numbers were his thing. They were the last to go. Sometimes we set up a desk in front of him with a phone and a notepad in hopes that it might trigger a memory of his work.
He was diagnosed five years ago and has since slowly declined since. We started to worry when he would forget simple things like how to get home after taking the same walk on the beach he took everyday for years. Eventually we had to take away his license and he would exclaim over and over again “she (my grandma) took away my license! I have never had a ticket. I have never been in an accident!”
He could not understand that we feared he might drive far away and forget how to get home. Finally, we decided to put him in the nursing home he is in now. It is a small brown house down the street from where my grandma lives. The first night he was there he tried to escape by climbing over the fence in the backyard. He began to decline physically to the point where he could not stand on his own anymore and spends his days in his wheelchair or in bed.
He forgot me slowly but steadily. At first he could not remember my name. Then he started to confuse me with my mother (his daughter). Now he simply does not know who I am. I stare into his eyes silently saying “remember me, please remember me.” It is hard seeing him decline mentally and physically, but it is hardest to watch him forget his loved ones. The people who were once most important to him are now strangers.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association around 5.3 million Americans had Alzheimer’s disease in 2013.
Alzheimer’s disease is hard. How can you help? Come out and participate in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Orange County by the Alzheimer’s Association. The walk is held on Nov. 7 in Huntington Beach on and Anaheim on Nov. 14.