As a child, I spent a lot of time with my grandmother when my parents were at work and I always valued our time together. Whether I was helping her bake or she was teaching me new “big” words to use, I was always so excited to visit her.
I was nine years old when my grandmother first began to forget things. She would occasionally leave a pot boiling over on the stove or misplace things. Everyone attributed her forgetfulness to growing older, but it always seemed that they knew it was something else and couldn’t face the reality of my grandmother battling something they couldn’t save her from.
My grandmother, Sylvia, was the foundation of my mom’s family. After my grandfather died, she raised her seven children as a single parent, while maintaining a full-time job. She pushed forward during a time when a lot of people would have felt sorry for themselves, but that was not a part of her character. She always persevered and got things done.
She was the glue that held everything together and seeing her memory fade as Alzheimer’s disease took over was the hardest thing to handle.
She grew to a point where she could no longer recognize people or remember words during a conversation. She would often forget my name and as a child, it made me sad because I didn’t understand what was going on with her. As I grew older and my family explained what she was going through, I honestly didn’t feel any better because I couldn’t do anything to help her become her old self again.
As my grandmother’s condition worsened, I sought out ways to make a difference in high school through volunteering at senior centers or with Alzheimer’s focused nonprofits. I felt that by connecting with others (specifically other teens), I could help other kids cope with the harsh realities and feelings you face when a loved one has Alzheimer’s.
My grandmother always stressed the importance of helping others and I knew that my efforts would have made her proud.
Though my grandmother died during my senior year of high school, I never stopped trying to make a difference in the lives of others.
I recently joined the Alliance team as a Communications Associate because mission-driven work has always been one of my passions. By working with an organization that focuses on issues affecting the aging community, I know the efforts I make will positively impact the lives of others. My role on the Communications team will allow me to inform and inspire those who are seeking to improve the lives of those aging.
The lessons my grandmother taught me live on in the work I do every day and I’m grateful for the time I was able to spend with her.
Breanna Bishop is the Communications Associate for the Alliance for Aging Research. She is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism. Connect with her at [email protected].