Uncover the Truth About Alzheimer’s: What You Need to Know

When the Skinny Ms. team decided to participate in Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month, we didn’t need to go far to find people who’d been personally affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

Skinny Ms. Social Media Specialist Jennifer Hanford’s father-in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 10 years ago. Since then, Jennifer’s family has watched a man who loved to dance, golf, and dote on his grandsons deteriorate.

My husband still talks to him on the phone weekly, even though most of the time my father-in-law doesn’t remember him, or, when he does, forgets he has a wife and children. He forgets he’s a grandfather as well.

Jennifer’s father-in-law can no longer care for himself and spends his days in an adult daycare program. He’ll likely require full-time nursing care in the near future.

Alzheimer’s is about more than memory loss.

Anyone who’s experienced the heartbreak of Alzheimer’s firsthand understands this condition is about so much more than forgetting where you put the car keys. It’s a progressive, fatal form of dementia that is not a normal part of aging.

People with late-stage Alzheimer’s lose the ability to connect or hold conversations with others. They may also lose awareness of recent experiences and surroundings, exhibit personality changes, and require extensive help with the activities of daily living.

Alzheimer’s is a family disease.

When Skinny Ms. Co-founder Gale Compton’s grandfather was diagnosed, she says her grandmother felt guilty about placing him in a nursing home–a necessity because he’d started to wander away from home and place himself in danger.

Gale recalls the first time she, along with her young daughter, traveled to visit her grandfather after his diagnosis. She was shocked to find him strapped in a wheelchair, soaked in urine. Gale says, “I was angry the staff had allowed him to get so wet and seemed to make excuses for what I considered ‘incompetence.'” The visit continued after staffers cleaned him.

My daughter was around six at the time. Grandpa gently patted her on the face and handed her a piece of Juicy Fruit chewing gum. That’s what he had always done with me as a child. I couldn’t understand how he somehow knew she was a child but couldn’t talk or say my name.

Gale’s grandfather passed away within a year of the visit. She says, “I miss Grandpa and his gentle soul. Alzheimer’s may have robbed him of his memory but spared him his sweet and gentle nature.”

Likewise, Jennifer focuses her memories on a time before Alzheimer’s stole her father-in-law from the family. “I focus on the good times we all had…before dementia took over his life. We have a lot of pictures and plenty of good memories.”

Alzheimer’s Resources

Alzheimer’s disease cannot be prevented, but you can support your brain’s health and reduce the risk of cognitive decline by adopting healthy lifestyle habits, including regular exercise. Learn more at ALZ.org, where you’ll discover facts and resources as well as links to local organizations and Alzheimer’s community activities.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Alzheimer’s Association. The opinions and text are all mine.

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Amy Wagner

Amy is a writer specializing in health & wellness, business, and entrepreneurship. She's a long-time martial arts teacher who has earned a 4th degree black belt in tae kwon do. When Amy's not writing or kicking, she's wrangling sons, reading fiction, or crushing on BBC actors.

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