We don’t appreciate our brains enough—at least I never did. That is, until I watched my grandmother’s memory slip away during a long battle with Alzheimer’s. The Grammie I knew and loved for 17 years slowly lost her personality, her brain function, and her knack for always having the right answer. She struggled to recognize my once familiar face. I struggled to recognize the new Grammie Alzheimer’s had given me.
The journey felt simultaneously long and yet far too short. It first began with harmless repeat questions. Later, the inability to feed herself or live independently. In 2018, it was Alzheimer’s that ultimately took her away from me and my family.
I learned a lot of things from watching my grandmother’s battle. First on the list is just how heartbreaking the disease is. In honor of Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, and in honor of my grandmother, I’d like to share a few more lessons learned.
- Your brain is worth preserving and protecting. Start now. Your brain is priceless—to both you and your loved ones. Wear a helmet, challenge your mind with books and games, and live a healthy lifestyle. Your family and friends will thank you.
- Be proactive in your advance care planning. End of life care is filled with many difficult decisions. As you lose the ability to make those decisions for yourself, the heavy responsibility falls on family. Advance care planning is the greatest gift you can offer loved ones. It provides them with peace of mind and confidence that your wishes are being fulfilled. Guides like this one can help start the conversation.
- There are resources available. Dealing with memory loss and declining brain health can be a long, hard journey for all involved. It may entail caregiver burnout, insurmountable grief, legal questions, and more. Search for resources to partner with you on the journey, like Eastern Area Agency on Aging, Alzheimer’s Association, members of our care team, and many more listed here: https://www.alz.org/maine