Browsed by
Tag: Youth

‘We have so much to learn from our grandparents’: A teen’s perspective on Alzheimer’s

‘We have so much to learn from our grandparents’: A teen’s perspective on Alzheimer’s

Marilyn Lemay loved the outdoors and would spend every waking moment there. Inherently creative, she crafted, embroidered, quilted and painted everything in sight. If you stand still for more than a moment, her 17-year-old granddaughter Deborah jokes, Marilyn just might paint you.

Some of that changed eight years ago, when Marilyn was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Deborah’s grandfather Ron moved from their beloved Elliot Lake home to be closer to Deborah’s mother and family. Managing Marilyn’s care himself wasn’t an option. He knew he would need to rely on a close family network.

Marilyn Lemay
Marilyn and Ron Lemay

Deborah loves being closer to her grandmother. She still goes to her with questions about nature and for advice about life. While Marilyn’s memory isn’t what it used to be, she still has a wealth of knowledge to share. And the two of them have joined an inter-generational choir started by the Alzheimer Society London and Middlesex.

“About 15 to 20 high school students get together with seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease and we sing old, war-time songs,” says Deborah. Marilyn loves this choir. It reminds her of her childhood when her mother and aunts would sing and dance in her home.

Deborah loves hanging out with her grandmother, whether they’re walking, having tea parties, or watching episodes of I Love Lucy. There’s so much hope, wisdom, and joy in her grandmother, and Deborah wishes more young people could see that. The chance to connect across generations, to learn from each other and spend valuable time together, is really important.

When Deborah describes her grandparents, her voice lights up: her grandfather is still so in love with her grandmother, even though they met at 13 (63 years ago!). Ron takes Marilyn out on dates, will dance with her whenever music comes on, and the two of them tease each other still. Marilyn is still Marilyn, in other words, and she still lives with deep joy.

Family support systems are an integral part of living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. And those systems themselves need support with resources, groups, and hope for a cure. Please donate to the Alzheimer Society, so that families like Deborah’s have more time to walk, and sing and laugh. Because it’s not just their disease. It’s ours too. #InItforAlz

DONATE


NOUS AVONS TELLEMENT DE CHOSES À APPRENDRE DE NOS GRANDS-PARENTS : PERSPECTIVE D’UNE ADO SUR L’ALZHEIMER

deborah-dravis
Marilyn Lemay adorait la vie en plein air et passait le plus clair de son temps à l’extérieur. D’une nature créative, elle faisait de l’artisanat, de la broderie, des courtepointes et peignait tout ce qu’elle voyait. Si vous restiez juste un moment sans bouger, elle vous prenait comme modèle pour peindre, raconte en riant sa petite-fille Deborah, 17 ans.

Il y a huit ans, la maladie d’Alzheimer a été diagnostiquée à Marilyn et les choses ont changé. Les grands-parents de Deborah ont quitté leur domicile du lac Elliot, qu’ils aimaient tant, pour être plus près de la mère de Deborah et de la famille. Le grand-père ne pouvait prendre soin de Marylin par lui-même et il savait qu’il pouvait compter sur le réseau tissé serré de ses proches.

Deborah adore être à proximité de sa grand-mère. Elle lui pose plein de questions sur la nature et lui demande des conseils de vie. Même si la mémoire de Marilyn n’est plus ce qu’elle était, elle possède toujours de précieuses connaissances à transmettre. Deborah et sa grand-mère font maintenant partie d’une chorale intergénérationnelle mise sur pied par la Société Alzheimer de London et Middlesex.

« Environ 15 à 20 élèves du secondaire se réunissent avec les personnes âgées atteintes de la maladie d’Alzheimer et nous chantons de vieilles chansons du temps de la guerre », poursuit Deborah. Marilyn adore faire partie de ce chœur. Cela lui rappelle son enfance lorsque sa mère et ses tantes chantaient et dansaient à la maison.

Deborah aime beaucoup passer du temps avec sa grand-mère, que ce soit pour faire une promenade, prendre le thé ou regarder des épisodes de « I Love Lucy ». Sa grand-mère est tellement pleine d’espoir, de sagesse et de joie, et Deborah souhaiterait que plus de jeunes puissent profiter de son expérience de vie. La possibilité d’établir des liens entre les générations, d’apprendre les uns des autres et de passer de précieux moments ensemble est vraiment importante.

Lorsque Deborah décrit ses grands-parents, sa voix s’illumine : son grand-père est toujours amoureux de sa grand-mère, même s’ils se sont rencontrés à l’âge de 13 ans (il y a 63 ans de cela!). Il invite Marilyn à sortir, danse avec elle au son de la musique, et les deux adorent toujours se taquiner. En d’autres mots, Marilyn est toujours Marilyn, et elle continue de vivre le cœur rempli de joie.

Le réseau de soutien familial fait partie intégrante de la vie avec la maladie d’Alzheimer ou avec une autre maladie cognitive. Mais il faut appuyer ce réseau avec des ressources, des groupes d’entraide et l’espoir de guérison. Pour aider les familles comme celle de Deborah à disposer de plus de temps pour faire des promenades, chanter et rire, nous vous invitons à faire un don à la Société Alzheimer. Parce que ces maladies ne concernent pas seulement les personnes atteintes, elles nous concernent tous. #TousContreAlz.

Explaining dementia to kids

Explaining dementia to kids

My mom was diagnosed with young onset dementia shortly after my son was born in 2005. My daughter had just turned two.  It was not a surprise as mom had been showing signs, but it was heartbreaking – she was only 62.

Despite the disease, my kids were still able to connect with their Nana in many ways. They shared simple activities like colouring, singing, blowing bubbles or picking flowers. In fact, I found that having young children around really helped bring on some happy times. The kids were always so accepting. They didn’t care if she wore her pajamas outside. It taught me to relax more and have fun.

There were certainly moments when they felt unsure around their Nana. Often the changes kids witness from these diseases can be very scary. But by talking openly about dementia as a sickness in the brain, and by spending time with their Nana often, my kids felt more comfortable and were able to give her much love and support.NanasGarden_Cover

My positive experience motivated me to look at developing more ways to help bring children into the dementia experience.  I decided creating a picture book could help kids understand and in so doing, encourage their involvement.

But how could I explain it to kids? It was a walk through my mom’s beautiful garden with my daughter that inspired the answer. After the walk, my daughter and I spoke about brain disease and she made the connection between how the growing weeds in the garden were like the disease growing in the brain. We talked about the weeds hiding the flowers like the disease hides the person; but they’re still there. It seemed simple yet understandable. Following my mom’s passing in 2010, I started writing and illustrating Weeds in Nana’s Garden using this concept.  My painted scenes drew heavily from my mom’s actual garden.

I also decided to extend the reach of this effort by self-publishing the work and donating $1 from the sale of each book to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, an organization that supported me greatly during my mom’s illness.

The book tells the story of the bond between a grand-daughter and her Nana within a magical garden. It is filled with expressive images and things to find that engage the reader.  Candid yet approachable, it covers the different stages of dementia diseases while also celebrating the strength of the heart.  After the story, a Question and Answer section is included that was developed with input from kids.  For more information, visit http://weedsinnanasgarden.com.

Dementia diseases are not easy. Educating children can help. It can help kids feel more comfortable and valuable. It can help families stay more connected and involved. Plus, opening up the minds of children leads to greater understanding and awareness for all. If this book is able to play a small part in spreading this knowledge, I know my mom would be thrilled!

 

 

KathrynHarrisonCanadian Author / Illustrator Kathryn Harrison holds a compelling blend of science, marketing and art skills. She has a Bachelor of Science degree, an MBA in Marketing, and worked for over a decade as a Communications professional before earning a Fine Art Diploma from the Toronto School of Art. Although she has done much creating during her life, stirred by her personal experience with her mother’s dementia, Kathryn wrote and illustrated this picture book, and was able to layer all her different abilities together.

 

Erica’s story

Erica’s story

I was ten years old when I first noticed the problem. My whole family was attending my brother’s hockey game on a typical Thursday night. My Papa came to every game since I could remember. As we prepared to leave, there was only one person missing, my Papa Joe.

With no sign of him in the arena, we went out into the parking lot to check if he was taking a minute and having a smoke. But to our surprise his car was gone. Confusion ensued because he never left without congratulating my brother on his performance. Luckily, not long after, he came back. He had thought he was meeting us at the house but when he got there remembered the hockey game.

Alzheimer’s is hard on a family. It’s not something you want to admit is happening and is even harder to see someone you love have to go through. In 2009 it struck my family. My Papa Joe was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s as well as lung cancer. Then, in 2013, he moved into a long-term facility.

This was especially hard on my Nana. She didn’t want to admit she couldn’t take care of him full-time and the stress that it brought, with her worrying through the days and nights, was too much. The truth is my Papa couldn’t be left alone. At the long-term care facility he is able to get 24/7 assistance. But still, my Nana takes him his coffee and muffin for breakfast every day and makes sure she’s there when he’s going to sleep.

Over the years, he has had good days where he’s more coherent and then bad days where he shuts himself away. This year, however, his memory has begun to deteriorate rapidly to the point that he is unsure who I am when I walk into the room and he has trouble speaking. But the one thing that never changes is his sense of humour and that’s something I will always cherish. No matter what has happened he can always laugh about it.

That being said, there are still tough times. My Papa loves going for drives and he’s chatty throughout the whole ride. The toughest part is bringing him home, and having the same conversation about where we are taking him. Even though I know it’s coming, it doesn’t make it easier.

Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t have a cure, but there are ways to help reduce the risk. Go out and be socially and physically active. Live a healthy lifestyle and don’t wait until you are older. You can try and prevent it now.

Erica StevensonErica Stevenson

What I learned caring for Grandma

What I learned caring for Grandma

It is difficult to understand Alzheimer’s disease until you are living with someone who has it. For me it was when my Grandma got it. She had lived with us for my entire life, and played a huge role in my upbringing.

First it was the little things, simple tasks that we take for granted, such as preparing a meal. While I could deal with changes like that, the hardest part was accepting that someone who had always protected and cared for me had suddenly become someone I had to take care of.

For a long time, I wanted to ignore her struggles, hoping that if I closed my eyes to the changes happening right in front of me, I could prevent them from happening altogether. But I soon realized that with a progressive disease like Alzheimer’s, change was inevitable. Knowing that her condition would deteriorate gave me the strength to overcome my own fears and help her.

And helping care for her only brought us even closer. Although her behaviour changed, her identity remained and she was still a person like everyone else. While many of her memories were no longer accessible, I could still remember for her. And sometimes, she would remember too.

For many people, a serious disease like Alzheimer’s becomes an emotional fork in the road. You can choose to turn your back on someone or you can choose to embrace them.

It can be far too easy to turn our backs on those who are suffering, particularly for young people, who may consider themselves too far removed from the suffering of the elderly. However, it is important for young people to face the challenge and look on dealing with the disease as part of their own personal road to growth.

Caring for my grandma has helped give me amazing insight into the struggles of those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and I truly hope I can use this knowledge to help others, both the patients themselves, and those who have yet to have any first-hand experience with the disease.

Want to share your story? Contact Ryan MacKellar (rmackellar@alzheimeront.org).

Andrea Shanmugarajah

Volunteer blogger