Grampa John & Alzheimer’s

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Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the US. But there are ways to learn more about this devastating disease.

Meet my younger sisters and Grampa John. The year was 1977 -1978. That was the winter that my grandparents came at Thanksgiving and stayed until Valentine’s Day. They lived in Minnesota, and it was their opportunity to leave the frozen tundra for a season.

It rained almost every day they were here.

This was obviously one of those dry days. Grampa John took my sisters out for a walk. Please note the Hamburglar stickers on Jamie’s baby carriage and the old cars in the background. Love the vintage!

Grampa John was my dad’s stepfather and my only grandfather.

Dad’s dad, Willis, died when the kids were quite young. A few years later, my grandmother married Clarence Johnson, and eventually became Gramma John.

My mom’s dad died when I was five, just a few months before this photo was taken. I didn’t really know him. But, I knew Grampa John for about 16 years.

A long marriage until Alzheimers….

I think Gramma and Grampa John really loved each other. She already had eight children when he joined the scene. That’s a big undertaking to become stepfather to eight children, aged 8 to 18. Brave man!

They never had “joint children.” Their marriage lasted for over 35 years, ending when Grampa John died of the complications of Alzheimers.

He was already showing signs when he strolled my baby sister through the neighborhood. It was a sad time that followed, when he forgot things, became disoriented, and experienced drastic behavior changes.

I don’t remember a lot of it. I was just a kid. But, I remember thinking that this was what it was to grow old.

Until my childhood pastor was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s when he was in his 40’s. Then I just became fearful of antiperspirant.

What I’ve learned since then, is that Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging, but a form of dementia. The Banner Alzheimer’s Institute recently provided me with more information about the disease. I must confess that even though Alzheimer’s hits pretty close to home, I was ignorant of a lot of these points or things that families should know.

Consider these statistics about Alzheimer’s

  • Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia and is not a normal part of aging.
  • Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S. and the only one of the top 10 causes of death that cannot currently be prevented, treated or cured.
  • 5.4 million Americans are affected by Alzheimer’s. Someone is diagnosed every 6.9 seconds

In light of these points, chances are you and I know several people who may become affected by Alzheimer’s. Since it cannot currently be cured, it’s a serious thing to think about. I found this info-graphic particularly interesting in learning more about the disease.

The Alzheimer’s Prevention Registry was created to:

  • Keep enrollees informed of latest news and advocacy to drive focus on Alzheimer’s
  • Provide an unprecedented resource of potential study participants for prevention research
  • Offer valuable resources of simple, easy to understand news in partnership with AlzForum

It’s free to sign up. Enrollees must be 18 years of age or older. Basic contact and demographic info as well as a few yes/no questions about your experience with Alzheimer’s (optional as to how much you want to divulge) is requested. Your privacy is protected. The info you provide will be used to deliver to you relevant news and, if you choose, to connect you regarding potential research studies.

Somedays I’m just stunned about the vast information that we don’t yet know about the world we live in. Here’s an opportunity to participate in learning more about a deadly disease.

Do you have a personal connection with Alzheimer’s Disease?

Dis­clo­sure: This post is part of a spon­sored cam­paign for the Ban­ner Alzheimer’s Insti­tute Ini­tia­tive and The Moth­er­hood. All facts, statistics, and medical data above are provided by the Ban­ner Alzheimer’s Insti­tute. All opin­ions are my own.

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  1. Jessica, glad you shared this information. Good to see you have some good memories of your Grampa John before Alzheimer’s made that less possible.

    I’m currently working with my mom on managing things as she has dementia – not necessarily Alzheimer’s. Important to note, the frustrating thing about this is that the only formal form of diagnosis is very painful – a spinal tap. And there isn’t much help if you know for sure. So it’s not clear how useful a firm diagnosis is.

    With my mother it’s been an ongoing process of trying to help her maintain as much independence and responsibility as possible, while filling in the gaps that keep appearing.

    Two important insights: Stress makes a big difference. Whenever she’s more tired or stressed, her symptoms get worse. We recently helped her move into a simpler apartment and that’s helping.

    Also, exercise is tremendous in helping the brain fight back. Particularly, research shows that strength/resistance exercise is far more effective than endurance exercise. I’ve written about some of this here:

    I’m glad you’re sharing information about this important issue.

  2. My husbands grandfather and grandmother both suffered from Alzheimer’s and it was tough! It’s a daily struggle for everyone involved. We have been watching the research for years assuming that because of the hereditary nature it will most likely effect his dad, and possibly even my husband. Thanks for highlighting this disease today.

  3. I have married friends who both had Alzheimers. It was sad because she took care of him faithfully and then she began to develop it too and was scared because she knew what was coming.

  4. My paternal grandfather died of complications from Alzheimers in his early 80’s. My maternal grandmother is suffering from dementia and my mother had to put her in a care home because she started to wander and put on the stove so it was a safety risk. It is sad to see them go through this and hopefully soon they will be able to prevent alzheimers. Clare

  5. I work as an RN at a local senior care facility and we have a few residents that struggle with dementia and also a few with Alzheimer’s. It is a sad, scary disease and sadly, it chases families away from their loved ones.

  6. Thank you for sharing this information. My maternal grandmother died from complications with Alzheimers when I was 21. Now 12 years later my mother is exhibiting more signs. It’s such a terrible disease and so hard to watch your loved ones go through it. We know that it has affected the last 4 generations of women in the family. I just pray for my mother’s sake, my daughter’s sake and even my own that a cure will be found soon.

  7. Hi Jessica,
    Thank you for your post on this horrible disease, my father is suffering from it and it is horrible to watch him decline. It runs in the family his mother and sister both suffered from it also. So it scares me a little that I could possibly end up with it one day or my children.

  8. Thanks for sharing. Both of my grandmothers had Alzheimer’s – one suffered during the time when they thought she was just “going crazy”. I am thankful for research that has brought more awareness and information about this sad disease.

  9. Alzheimer’s is such a scary and selfish disease. It robs those we love of the precious memories of our lives together and it robs us of watching them grow old gracefully. My grandmother (dad’s side) had it for many years, the majority of which were unofficially diagnosed. I realized she “probably” had Alzheimers when I was 16. My uncle had brought her to our house (a 2+hour trip) and she thought that he had driven across town. Then she told me “Sweetie, I know we’ve just met, but may I sit beside you at dinner?” I’m certain she never realized she was at our house. Watching the disease take her away from us was heartbreaking as she had been such an active lady. She eventually got so ill she was placed in a hospice care facility and I was not able to see her before she passed, but in a way, I’m ok with that because she had deteriorated so much.

    I want to learn more about this illness as my dad’s oldest sister also had it and has since passed away. Having this in my family makes me want to learn all I can and I pray one day a cure is found.

  10. My dad was diagnosed with EO Alzheimer’s about 7 years ago. He is now 68. His mom also had it. She lived to be 72. Yep, this hits close to home!

  11. A great work of fiction that describes a woman’s journey w/ alzheimers is called “Still Alice” by Lisa Genova. Highly highly recommend! It’s written by a PhD who did tons of research….. It gave me such perspective on what it would be like to slowly get worse and worse…and to have good memory days and bad memory days.. And more understanding about what the family goes through.

  12. A few years ago, I worked as a care coordinator for families of people with disabilities through our local senior center. Where I live, in Alaska, and in many other areas of the country, the support systems for people with dementias is poorly developed because these formally capable adults are physically able to do things like get dressed or fix food or take medications. The systems that supports older adults and disabled adults doesn’t always take into consideration whether someone has the memory or cognitive ability to complete those tasks, even if they have the physical ability. Someone may be able to open a medicine bottle and take a pill, but if they can’t remember the right time to do so, it’s a dangerous skill. This is a huge gap in our social welfare system that is filled by family members, church volunteers, and caring neighbors. Every family I have met who has a loved one with a dementia has appreciated the support of others to help their family member be safe and healthy. If this touches close to home, and you have the time, please reach out to help a family with meals, transportation, supervision, an ear, or a shoulder.

  13. Thank you for sharing this information. My grandfather has Alzheimer’s and to say that the disease pisses me off is putting it lightly. Excuse my language. But I just get so angry when I think of how it has stolen my grandfather from us. My kids will never know him for the funny, caring, strong, independent, wonderful man that he was and it just breaks my heart. I thank you again for sharing this information. Hopefully one day they will figure out how to stop this monster.

  14. Thanks for sharing your story with us and for the useful information. My parents had six children, and my mother was a SAHM, but became a legal guardian (angel) to numerous relatives and friends who were many years her senior. We were drug along on visits, or to help rake leaves, mow grass, pull weeds, etc. After awhile even us kids recognized the symptoms of what we now know as Alzheimers. Because we learned this at a young age, I believe it gave us a new appreciation of our elders mindsets and to really appreciate all those stories told to us before they were long forgotten. I love love love the photo you shared. Thanks again for the reminder and the info!

  15. Thanks for sharing your personal story – the facts are indeed sobering and it’s so important people hear about the Registry!