On The Longest Day, I will be fundraising for the Alzheimer's Association doing something I love, baton twirling. I have worked hard to get the word out by making announcements at schools, handing out flyers and posting advertisements in my local newspaper, encouraging boys and girls age 6 and older to participate. Alzheimer’s disease is a rapidly-growing epidemic, and I think that kids need to understand what Alzheimer’s really is.
Nearly 11 years ago, my great-grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Years ago, my great-grandma burned herself in a cooking fire, and that was when my family decided to move her closer to home where she would have her medication supervised and meals made for her every day. Over the course of 11 years, we have slowly seen her go from knowing exactly who we are to having no idea whatsoever. If I tell her who I am, it seems to register for a few seconds, but then she forgets again.
Like many families living with Alzheimer’s, we have to look at the lighthearted side of things. My great-grandma will still laugh and make jokes. More recently, I reminded her that I was her great-granddaughter. She responded by saying “Well, aren’t you lucky.” She sure hasn’t lost her sense of humor.
Good moments come with the bad. She asks the same questions over and over again. Since I was about 10, she has been asking me the same questions, like if I was dating yet, or when I’m going to have kids. I listen and I spend time with her even when I can’t answer those questions for her. I twirl baton for her and the other residents at nursing home and my younger sister plays piano. We will eat a meal with her and give her attention, and it makes us happy to see that she enjoys communicating with us, even if it’s over a simple meal. I like to think that when we leave the nursing home and say goodbye by name that maybe, just maybe she remembers us. She probably doesn’t, but that I love that she says “I love you” back.
A few years back, we wrapped up an ottoman as a gift for her with a big bow, but she never took it off. Every day she looked at that ottoman with the bow still on, it was like she was getting a brand new gift. It was funny and sweet, just like her. Every day with her is still a gift.
About the Author: Sophia Aguirre has worked closely with the East Central Iowa chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. She is Miss River City's Outstanding Teen 2014 and serves as a hostess at chapter events in crown and sash, speaking about young advocacy and how she has been affected by Alzheimer’s disease. She will be competing for the title of Miss Iowa's Outstanding Teen 2014 with the help of her platform, "Remember Me: Raising Awareness of Alzheimer’s Disease.”