#EndAlzheimers: ‘I Lost Two Grandparents to this Horrible Disease’

The world turned purple today in honor of #EndAlzheimers, an awareness campaign currently trending on Twitter. People were urged to wear the color and post to social media in support of research organizations attempting to better understand (and eventually cure) the disease.

Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease that slowly eats away certain brain functions. Sufferers may eventually lose the ability to speak or understand language. Gradually, bodily functions shut down, eventually resulting in death.

I spoke to a young woman in Memphis, Tennessee about her experiences with Alzheimer’s. Both her grandmother and great grandmother died of complications relating to the disease.

‘Her personality was unmatched.’

She shared her story with me via Twitter, under the handle @WhitWozniczka. I first asked her to describe her grandmother’s personality before she was afflicted with the disease.

‘At a year she was bedridden. At two years she was gone.’

I then inquired when she recognized the first signs of illness.

“That was the first red flag for us.” She adds.

One of the first Alzheimer’s symptoms to present itself is sudden short-term memory loss. Mental and bodily degeneration follows soon afterward.

The average life expectancy of someone diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is just six years, but many don’t survive their third.

She then spoke about her great grandmother, who she describes being particularly close to.

“My great grandmother was quite different.” She said. “Hers didn’t set in until she was about 70-something.”

“She was as sassy as the day was long”

“She used to sew all of my clothes. She sold Pecan Pralines. She was from New Orleans and she was as sassy as the day was long.

Every morning she left her room once in her PJ’S to get coffee. Came back out in full clothing. Hair, makeup. Shoes to match.

She could make a shoe round a corner and knock you out. She would sing and dance with me. She loved to sing and dance. She drove from Memphis to pick me up from North Carolina because I wanted her too. I was 4. I spent every day with her.”

I asked her how her great grandmother’s diagnosis affected her.

“Always know that they love you, even when they can’t remember your name.”

For families and friends of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, she had this advice:

I want to take the time to thank @WhitWozniczka for the frank and heartfelt conversation.

We asked The Alzheimer’s Association what we can do to #EndAlzheimers. They responded via Twitter.

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