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April 28, 2011 / A10 Clinical Solutions, Inc.

Guest Blog: Grandpa Ollie, I Remember You……

Guest blogger Courtney McAlpin is A10’s Business Development Specialist and shares a touching account of her own experience with a disease that wreaks devastating havoc on families.

The last time I remember seeing my Grandpa Ollie was when he was lying in a nursing home bed.   I was a young girl, and I remember getting the heebie-jeebies walking around the cold, sterile nursing room halls.  We stepped into his room to see him, and I remember my smiling and cheerful family of five crowding around his aluminum hospital bed.  We said hello, and my grandpa looked back with a confused look on his face.  I then remember my dad leaning over to touch his arm, and saying, “Dad, it’s me.”

My grandpa didn’t say anything back; he just scrunched up his brow, stared at my father and then turned his head away. My grandpa was very sick, and I was told he had Dementia.

Before this disease got ahold of Grandpa Ollie, I remember picking pecans from the grand pecan tree in the back yard, and his showing my sisters and me how to crack them to get the soft, nutty pecans out to eat.  I also remember his birthdays, as we sat around to watch him open his presents.  Because he grew up during the Great Depression, he never wasted anything!  He would use a pocket knife to open his gifts and would gently fold and save each piece of wrapping paper to reuse at a later date.

He passed away in 1998 when I was just 15 years old. The Dementia robbed all 11 grandchildren of our Grandpa to laugh with, to look at old pictures with; and it robbed us of our Grandpa to tell us more stories of his days on the farm. These 11 grandchildren have grown up now, and have children of our own; it makes me wonder what my Grandpa would think of all of his GREAT-Grandchildren.  I imagine how fun it would be, to squeeze all of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren into his old, tiny, four-bedroom, one-bath house that was sold years ago, after he passed away and after they say my Grandma died of a broken heart.

Cognitive diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s rob families of so much. They rob memories, they rob time, and they rob futures.  The families that stand by their loved ones begin to live for the moments of clarity. And they cling onto hope that there will be a cure.  There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease; however, Alzheimer’s medications can temporarily slow the worsening of symptoms and improve the quality of life for both those with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.

My Grandpa’s memories will now live on through his children, and the stories they tell their children. Luckily, he lived until he was 82, and had a long, full life. He was a proud member of “The Greatest Generation,” a term coined by journalist Tom Brokaw to describe the generation that grew up during the Great Depression.  Grandpa also fought in World War II in the Army artillery division. 

Scientists continue diligent research to find a cure for Dementia and Alzheimer’s.  And while the research continues to be done, I can’t help but wonder every time one of my parents forgets something, or misplaces their car keys, if they, too, are at risk, and what the future holds for them. 

I am thrilled to work for a company that is helping to drive one of the world’s most important longitudinal Aging and Dementia studies through Duke University and the University of Michigan.  There was no cure or prevention to save my Grandpa from years lost, and memories that simply disappeared, but there could be a cure soon for your Grandpa.  Or for you. 

There are now an estimated 24 million people living with some form of dementia. Without a major medical breakthrough in the fight against dementia, this number could jump to as many as 84 million who have age-related memory loss by the year 2040. (www.Disabled-World.com)

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