Thursday, October 20, 2011

Lessons Learned from Understanding Her Abuelita's Alzheimer's Disease

In this blog entry from AFA Teens Advisory Board Member Melissa Stepovich, she describes the lessons she has learned as she tries to understand her abuelita's Alzheimer's disease, and the various stages she must go through as the disease progresses.  

Alzheimer’s disease is not only a disease that affects memory, it is a disease that affects different aspects of a person’s life through changes in personality and behavior.  I have seen these changes in my abuelita (grandma), who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2003. 

By being with my abuelita, I have learned several things.  First, I have learned that patience is very important when being in the presence of my abuelita or anyone who has Alzheimer’s disease.  Having patience allows me to deal with whatever mood my abuelita is in that day.      
There are, in general, three stages of Alzheimer’s disease: the mild stage, the moderate stage and the severe stage.  Symptoms of the mild stage include becoming confused in familiar places, taking a longer time than usual to finish regular daily tasks, and minor mood changes.  These symptoms are frequently confused with changes that occur when someone ages. Problems recognizing family and friends, intensified memory loss, and repeating stories or motions are the indications of the moderate stage.  In the severe stage of Alzheimer’s disease, a full-time caregiver is often needed to assist with all daily activities, such as eating, going to the bathroom, and getting dressed.
Unfortunately, my abuelita is in the severe stage of Alzheimer’s disease.  The severe stage requires me to pay close attention to my actions around her. Her mood and personality greatly fluctuate.  A simple smile could make her very happy or it could make her very angry because she thinks you are laughing at her.  
Overall, I have acquired a deeper level of patience and love for my abuelita.  Even though I know she will never be the same, I have learned ways to cherish every moment I have with her.

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