Alzheimers robs family of a cherished member

By Aaron Norris
I. J. Samson Junior High
St. John's, Newfoundland

Agnes Norris loves to have someone to talk to. The only problem is most of the time she doesn't know who the visitor is or what they are saying. That's because Agnes has Alzheimer's Disease.

Alzheimer's isn't only tough on Agnes, but also on her caring family. Her son Eric says his own mother doesn't even recognize him anymore.

"I know deep down inside she knows who I am but her mind won't let her. I believe she senses some familiarity but not enough to recognize who I am," says Eric.

About three years ago, Agnes was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Unfortunately many people around her, were forced to experience the slow process of the brain's deterioration. At first many of her loved ones began to notice Agnes forgetting names. She was unable to put the correct name to the face. This did not really mean much to them in the beginning. The reality that those were the first stages of the disease progressing did not yet set in.

As time passed on, Agnes seemed to have some repetition of words and phrases. Eventually she was unable to speak full complete sentences. Soon a reality set in that her family was losing a part of the old woman that they loved and cared for so much. Beverly Norris, daughter in law of Agnes, can really notice the change in Agnes.

"I can always notice some little things changing with Agnes. Certain days she would go upstairs and change her clothes for no reason. I am only now starting to realize that we are losing a person that means so much to us as a family."

Alzheimer's disease, is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain. This dreadful disease was first described by the German neuropathologist Alois Alzheimer, in 1906. This disease affects more than 10 000 people in Canada, according to a survey done in 1991. It is the forth leading cause of death, behind heart disease, cancer and stroke. There is no medical treatment to stop the progression of the disease. Unless a cure is soon found for the disease, it is estimated that the number of people who have Alzheimer's may reach 14 million in the next century. The average life expectancy of people with the disease is between five and ten years, although many patients now survive 15 years or more due to improvements in care and medical treatment.

An Alzheimer's patient goes through many stages to the progression of the disease. In the beginning stages, the person finds it difficult to recall recent events, even words spoken moments before. Eventually, the confusion will set in. Home and family members may seem unfamiliar. Eric can also notice some changes in his mother all of the time.

"It's extremely difficult to watch someone so close to me just fade away like the wind," says Eric, " It really hurts deep down inside."

When the disease progresses far enough, the person no longer recognizes family and friends. Unable to self-fulfill the most basic needs of living, the person becomes totally dependent on others.
To watch somebody so close to you change from an independent, out going person, to a person that cannot communicate, understand or even remember can be devastating to a family. All of Eric's life he has always felt comfort and happiness when he saw the beautiful smile that never left his mother's face. Even to this day, with her mind in a state of confusion, her warm, glowing smile still lights up a room. Although it may be too late for Agnes, increased funding for Alzheimer's research may prevent others from suffering the same pain, that she and her family had to go through together.

Here is a poem that really means a lot to me. It will always remind me of my Grandmother, and the good times that we spent together.

Related Links: