Tuesday, March 4, 2014

My Reasons to Care

In this entry, 17-year old Aliya Farmanali shares her experience with Alzheimer's disease and her motivation to get involved as a chapter president of AFA Teens in Las Vegas, NV. 

No one in my family has Alzheimer’s disease. That in itself is such a blessing; yet to some, it, therefore, may seem incongruous that I am the president of the AFA Teens Chapter at my school and the Alzheimer’s Awareness Club associated with it. I am sure people wonder, “Why are you involved with the Alzheimer’s cause if you have not been personally affected by the disease?”

But I have. Some of my grandparents’ closest friends have battled the disease, either as individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or as caregivers supporting their loved ones. My parents run a small residential home for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, and I treasure the companionship of the residents I meet there. I have friends whose families have dealt with Alzheimer’s disease, or who are curious to learn more about the disease itself. These are some of my connections to Alzheimer’s disease, and they stimulate me every day to continue to raise awareness of the disease and visualize a world in which there is a cure for Alzheimer’s there.

Every day I am reminded of why I joined the cause. Looking through my emails, I find my inbox filled with emails concerning Alzheimer’s disease (ongoing research, proposed legislation, and caregiving issues, to name a few). I receive magazines in the mail that discuss various aspects of Alzheimer’s disease, and I keep textbooks and novels on my bookshelf that illustrate the effects of the disease through detailed pictures of the brain, sweeping descriptions of potential causes and prevalent symptoms, and heartrending prose in a “third-person limited” point of view that offers a striking view on what life and thoughts might be like for a person with Alzheimer’s disease.

Perhaps the most poignant reminder for me is that more and more frequently, characters in television shows and books are depicted with Alzheimer’s disease. That Alzheimer’s disease is no longer being discussed just in documentaries and nonfiction books, but in fictional works, disturbs me. It disturbs me because its inclusion in storylines emphasizes just how prevalent and how brutal Alzheimer’s disease is. There is, however, a more positive side to this situation as well. The fact that Alzheimer’s is showing up in visual and literary works of many genres illustrates an increased awareness of the disease in the world today. Moreover, I find it inspiring that in some works of science fiction, the future holds a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. And even when the comments regarding Alzheimer’s disease are brief within the plotlines, they focus people’s attention on the disease.

Like cancer and diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease affects millions around the globe. Unlike these two diseases, right now, Alzheimer’s can neither be prevented nor cured. I raise awareness for Alzheimer’s disease because right now, it is my way of being a part of the solution to this problem.