15: Living Well with Alzheimer’s

15: Living Well with Alzheimer’s

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living with Alzheimer's & Other Dementias

Living Well with Alzheimer’s

The important thing is not how many years in your life but how much life in your years.

~Edward J. Stieglitz

My name is Carmen Cruz and I am seventy-seven years old. Two years ago, I was diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. A few years prior, I noticed that I was forgetting parts of my daily routine, and was tested. To my relief, the results were negative. A year later, I again noticed bouts of forgetfulness, only this time they were more frequent. Again I requested the appropriate tests, and this time, it was confirmed that I had early signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

In my younger years, this disease was virtually unknown — or it at least didn’t carry the same name. In the small pueblos of Puerto Rico where I grew up, persons with these symptoms were called crazy and were institutionalized. Thankfully, times have changed.

Now that I’ve read vast amounts of material on the disease and its progression, my opinion is that the disease itself is a criminal. In a competition with the most unlawful and immoral villain, Alzheimer’s would win because it is a careful, heartless thief. Its only aim is to steal from its victims — their memories, rationality, and thoughts.

Despite Alzheimer’s intention to rob me of my experiences, I have triumphed since my diagnosis. I didn’t take the time to sit, lament, and wait for each stage of the disease to take its toll.

The first thing I did was to accept my reality. I ingested all the information I could find, listened to the doctor’s recommendations, and committed to living them out. I am determined to fight, the opposite of what the disease wants me to do. And with my family’s support, I continue each day living life to the fullest of my abilities.

I’ve bought many books and crosswords, things to stimulate my brain, and I spend hours on end diving into these tasks. Upon being diagnosed, I made it my goal to write the story of my life and I managed to complete this task in one year’s time, accounting for my life from six years old until today. It was an incredible effort; I put my mind to work in overdrive.

Today, I am invested in scrapbooking with hundreds of pictures I have saved over the years. So far, I have made two for my daughter, two for my son, and I am in the process of completing one for myself. My goal is to start my three grandchildren’s scrapbooks when mine is complete, if my mind permits. This is the lifestyle that has helped me deal with Alzheimer’s. I’m fortunate that in my situation, the disease is progressing extremely slowly.

The final stage may be unavoidable, and as human beings, we can only do so much. However, an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is not the time to grieve and miss out on the remaining years of life. In consciously pursuing enjoyable tasks that put your mind to work, you make the most of the life you have, adding faith, exercises, and hope to the mix.

~Carmen Cruz

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