‘We have so much to learn from our grandparents’: A teen’s perspective on Alzheimer’s
Marilyn Dravis loved the outdoors and would spend every waking moment there. Inherently creative, she crafted, embroidered, quilted and painted everything in sight. If you stand still for more than a moment, her 17-year- old granddaughter Deborah jokes, Marilyn just might paint you.
Some of that changed eight years ago, when Marilyn was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Deborah’s grandfather moved from their beloved Elliot Lake home to be closer to Deborah’s mother and family. Managing Marilyn’s care himself wasn’t an option. He knew he would need to rely on a close family network.
Deborah loves being closer to her grandmother. She still goes to her with questions about nature and for advice about life. While Marilyn’s memory isn’t what it used to be, she still has a wealth of knowledge to share. And the two of them have joined an inter-generational choir started by the Alzheimer Society London and Middlesex. “About 15 to 20 high school students get together with seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease and we sing old, war-time songs,” says Deborah. Marilyn loves this choir. It reminds her of her childhood when her mother and aunts would sing and dance in her home.
Deborah loves hanging out with her grandmother, whether they’re walking, having tea parties, or watching episodes of I Love Lucy. There’s so much hope, wisdom, and joy in her grandmother, and Deborah wishes more young people could see that. The chance to connect across generations, to learn from each other and spend valuable time together, is really important.
When Deborah describes her grandparents, her voice lights up: her grandfather is still so in love with her grandmother, even though they met at 13 (63 years ago!). He takes Marilyn out on dates, will dance with her whenever music comes on, and the two of them tease each other still. Marilyn is still Marilyn, in other words, and she still lives with deep joy.
Family support systems are an integral part of living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. And those systems themselves need support with resources, groups, and hope for a cure. Please donate to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, so that families like Deborah’s have more time to walk, and sing and laugh. Because it’s not just their disease. It’s ours too. #InItforAlz