Esther Caroline is one of my heroes.
Esther Caroline was Anthony’s wife, Mary and Jamie’s mother, Tom, Bill, John, and my grandmother. She thought we hung the moon and stars and we let her. She was one of our guiding lights.
Esther was an incredible woman who lived a long and incredible life. She lived through the Great Depression and World War II. My grandmother saw the dawning of new decades and a new century. The world around her changed and she was a living source of history.
Esther spoke Polish fluently. She was an amazing cook and baker. I would kill for just one of her cheesecakes. She unapologetically loved her family. Esther was little but fierce. She was my Sophia Petrillo with her sharp, witty tongue bathed in love.
I was lucky to have her for 25 years of my life.
She was the first person I lost. I wish my babies could have met her. I still miss her and grieve for her every single day. But, the truth is, through her battle with Alzheimer’s we lost her in many ways before the March day that she passed away.
She started to slip away in little ways. First, it was the forgotten dates and details. There were moments of confusion. Then there were the heartbreaking moments we all lived through when she forgot us. My heart still breaks when I think back to the time she looked at my grandfather, the love of her life, and asked him who he was. It broke again when she forgot my mom and again when told me she didn’t know me but knew that I was a nice girl because I came to see her.
Alzheimer’s is cruel.
The Alzheimer’s Association defines Alzheimer’s as a “progressive disease, where dementia symptoms gradually worsen over a number of years. In its early stages, memory loss is mild, but with late-stage Alzheimer’s, individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment.”
From my personal experience, I can tell you that it strips people of their mind and dignity. Alzheimer’s gives moments of lucidity and flashes of who someone was before it stole their mind and then it takes them away again. It makes no apologies as it breaks the hearts of loved ones over and over again.
Alzheimer’s is the long goodbye. It shatters the hearts of families affected by it many times before the final and ultimate goodbye.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association in their 2020 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report, more than 5 million Americans aged 65 and up are living with Alzheimer’s Disease. Two-thirds of all cases are in women.
Alzheimer’s Disease is becoming more prevalent as the population ages. It is expected that the number of individuals living with it will triple by the year 2050. Alzheimer’s is currently the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States.
It is important to note, however, that this disease does not just affect the elderly. It is estimated that 200,000 of the diagnosed Alzheimer’s population is considered early-onset and in their 40s or 50s.
Alzheimer’s Disease also affects the families and loved ones of individuals who are afflicted with it too.
It takes a toll on caregivers causing stress, isolation, depression, anger, grief, and even financial hardships. Alzheimer’s Disease also taxes the healthcare system from providers to hospice to the financial cost of care. It is a costly disease in more ways than one.
There currently is no cure.
Researchers are working tirelessly to develop both a better in-depth understanding of the causes and risk factors of Alzheimer’s Disease as well as developing treatments while working towards a cure. The current treatments available can help slow disease progression and provide those afflicted with an increased quality of life.
November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Month.
In 1983 Ronald Reagan designated November as National Alzheimer’s Disease Month. The goal is to spread awareness about the disease and how it impacts individuals, caregivers, and families. The month is also used to highlight resources for support and research information.
Ending Alzheimer’s Disease is a cause that I feel passionate about. I advocate and educate in memory of my grandmother. I do it because I don’t want my children to lose me that way someday.
Most importantly, I do it for her. We weren’t able to save Esther Caroline, but maybe someday, hopefully in my lifetime, we will meet the first Alzheimer’s Disease survivor.
Until then, I will remember for you…