My grandma’s cognitive decline coincided with my years in graduate school, and it’s a big reason why I chose to pursue a career in designing environments foraging. She lived in a wonderful community that provided her with excellent care– a community my mom agonized over selecting – but it was SO beige. And I would have never described my grandma as an outdoorsy person, but who doesn’t long to go outside when they’re cooped up all day?
I distinctly recall a specific visit with my grandma toward the end of her life. It was a beautiful spring day, and my husband and I wanted to take her out to the (fully enclosed) garden. We had to ask permission, and the door was alarmed. This wasn’t a choice she could make independently, and she didn’t have the verbalization at that point to even ask. But once we got through all the operational and physical hurdles to get outside, we sat there for a few moments… and her demeanor visibly changed. We parked her wheelchair under a tree, where she could feel the dappled sunlight, sense the warm wind, notice the color and texture of the clouds, and smell the flowers planted around. And instead of looking down forlorn, which was her normal posture, she looked up and around. We couldn’t carry a conversation, but I will always cherish those few moments sitting peacefully outside.
I do what I can to push environments for aging forward, but it’s bigger than me, my family, or my work. We need changes in policy, advancements in research, support for caregivers… and that takes a lot of time and money. The people I’ve met through the Alzheimer’s Association – whether fellow walkers, organizers, volunteers, and advocates – are so selfless and giving of their time and talents. Ask me some time about the volunteer support group leader who – without being asked, or asking anything in return – dressed, transported, and accompanied my grandma to my sister’s wedding so my mom could focus on the day instead of caregiver duties.
The Alzheimer’s Association provides invaluable research, education, and advocacy that I hope will move the needle forward to #endalz. Join me as I walk to end Alzheimer’s!
Thank you for helping advance Alzheimer's support, care and research.
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