When I saw The Notebook for the very first time, I wept like a little baby that enjoyed hearing its own cries. And, no, this was not due to the charming love story that every girl falls in love with, at least, in the beginning...
It was due to one particular scene that gets to me every time, perhaps because it became all too real to me several years ago. When the elderly version of Alli, played by the wonderful Gena Rowlands, begins dancing with her late, great love Noah in the nursing home, she is suddenly overcome by an all encompassing fear and confusion.
Goodbye to Reality:
This utter loss of reality is due to another evil spell brought on by Alzheimers Disease that has begun to take over her life. Every time I see this, I cannot help but feel for all the people that actually have to experience this horrendous disease. Among the millions, my grandmother was one of the victims that spent the last fourteen years of her life being broken down by its terrible side effects.
She, like all, was undeserving. Luckily, I was old enough (around 7 years of age) when she was diagnosed with Alzheimers to still remember who the real Marcia Brewer was.
Simply put, she was like an angel from Heaven; she never said a curse word and always made everyone around her laugh and smile. I could only dream to be as sweet as she was.
Marcia Ann Brewer
But, the creepy part of the whole situation was that Alzheimers took her over completely and turned her into an entirely different person.
Saying Goodbye Twice
To me, all too soon after diagnosis, my grandmother had already passed. The woman that sat in front of me was someone that I loved, but someone that I did not know. Not only did she no longer know me, but I no longer knew her, either.
Quite a sad ordeal if you let it take any space in your mind at all, yet the hardest part was definitely not for me. Her husband, my grandfather, shared the greatest burden of all of us.
My Grandfather, who I used to call Grandad, was quite the hero to me. He took care of my sick grandmother for years on end and never complained once. I am in awe of his strength, still to this day, years after he, himself, has already passed. To watch your wife slowly turn into someone else and forget who you are is a larger struggle than I have ever had to face. Yet, it is all too common for many people across the world today.
The Truth of Alzheimers Disease:
To put this all into real terms, today, over 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimers Disease, including an estimated 200,000 that have yet to even reach the age of 65 yet. Even more shocking, by 2050, up to 16 million are expected to have the disease, as predicted by the Alzheimers Association (“A Future Without,”2013). However, it is vital to note that this disease affects much more than just the respective victims of Alzheimers Disease.
As I stated in the case with my grandfather, the caregiver is often the one hit the hardest by the after-effects of this ugly illness. In fact, 60 percent of Alzheimers and Dementia caregivers rate the emotional stress level of caregiving as high or very high. Within this group, over one-third report symptoms of depression.
In other words, Houston, we have a problem.
So, what are we doing to resolve it? I do not know about you, but it obviously runs in my blood, and probably many of yours as well. This may be sad to think about, but it is necessary for us to take action now and find out what is in our hands and what we simply cannot control.
After all, even if Alzheimer’s does not "run in your blood”, the direct costs of caring for those with Alzheimer’s to American society in 2013 will total an estimated $203 billion.
Specifically, that is $142 billion in costs to Medicare and Medicaid. Unless something is done, Alzheimer’s will cost an estimated $1.2 trillion (in today’s dollars) in the year 2050. Costs to Medicare and Medicaid will increase over 500 percent.
Now, that statistic is not so easy to ignore, is it?
Therefore, there are 3 main things that you can do right now to make a difference:
1. Research to find out more about Alzheimers Disease in order to enlighten yourself and others. To get started, here are a few examples of great resources:
2. Donate to the Alzheimers Association to increase the speed at which research is accomplished so that better drugs can be created for this currently incurable disease. To do so, please visit the following:
3. Lastly, read below to learn how my grandmother was still able to speak to me even after her death.
The Last Messages:
While looking through some of my grandmother’s old things, I came across a very well-worn Bible of hers. The Bible was literally overflowing with notes of hers that explained some significance to her, in some way. Whether you are a Christian or not at all, this was extremely exciting for me to learn of my grandmother’s personal thoughts years after I had the pleasure of speaking to the real her that I missed so incredibly much.
Here are just a few of my favorite quotes she spelled out for us to read.
"Any woman who is married to a man who thinks he is smarter than his wife is surely married to some smart woman."
"Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its worries and sorrows, but it helps only to empty today of its strength."
"He who loves money shall never have enough. The foolishness of thinking that wealth brings happiness…"
So, if you could get anything out of this little story that I have shared with you, at all, please let it be that you understand how quickly time is fleeting…that this urgency should give you less time to waste worrying about yourself and more seeking out your purpose in this life and what you can do to make life a little better for others.
To me, there is really no other way to live. If my grandmother taught me anything, it is to make the most out of what we have and to make your life not about yourself, but to give it a greater purpose.
If you are wondering where to start, why not a make a difference in something that virtually affects all of us already? After all, 'tis the season to be thinking of others.
A future without alzheimer's. (2013, October 28). Retrieved from http://www.alz.org/research/overview.asp
The notebook [Television series episode]. (2012). South Carolina: Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0332280/