Soo I reluctantly had a birthday recently and am officially a late twenty-something 😐 At 27, I’m already a solid three years into a full blown quarter-life crisis. I’ve spent too much time thinking about who I am, where I’m going, and what I want. I have set goals and chased dreams. I’ve taken chances, saved all my money, spent all my money, and learned big lessons. Despite some questionable decisions and bumps in the road, I’m proud of and ecstatic for present and future endeavors. I still, however, can’t silence all of my twenty-something anxieties; though older, I’m still afraid.
As much as I like to argue otherwise, 27 fortunately isn’t that old. My fears are justified, perhaps, but they’re trivial; I worry about wrinkles and paying rent. I’m afraid of Ferris wheels and spiders and being late to work. I’m scared to go to a bar and not be asked for ID. Otherwise, I am for the most part blissfully naïve and pretentiously invincible.
I joke around, but not all my fears are narcissistic; after all, I work and immerse myself in a field that treats the demented. I see firsthand the impact that Alzheimer’s has on both its victims and their caregivers, and it’s terrifying. It’s no surprise that the disease was recently found to be the scariest disabling condition in later life. According to those 3,000+ surveyed, it’s more frightening than cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes combined.
It’s not uncommon for those experiencing symptoms of dementia to attempt to deny and conceal them, and understandably so. Who the f would want to admit to people that they have the most feared disease out there?! Imagine the humiliating stigma that accompanies a brain disorder. If sharing a diagnosis resulted in being treated like an incompetent child, I’d keep quiet too. Similarly, those caring for a loved one displaying signs are often quick to conceal as well.. if I can’t bring myself to face or accept that my mom is slipping, how am I supposed to speak of her condition aloud?
What we don’t realize, however, is the damage this denial does. Alzheimer’s is progressive and as of now it can’t be cured, but at least its symptoms can be kept at bay or its progression slowed. Early diagnosis allows for planning and for treatment, both of which nonnos and nonnas should be involved in themselves. With this disease, time is undoubtedly of the essence and unfortunately not on your side.
To add some perspective, those experiencing Alzheimer’s symptoms who are worried about stigma remain undiagnosed for 3½ years. That’s 42 months! 42 months that could have been spent delaying advancement, deferring effects, and planning for the future. Especially frightening is the fact that when we as caregivers are concerned of stigma, the delay is even more severe: a nonno remains undiagnosed for an average of 6 years.. 72 f’ing months.
These are serious and unnecessary setbacks. I understand this disease is scary; I witness it every single day. It can be not only confusing, but absolutely heartbreaking and discouraging. It requires the biggest adjustment you’ll likely ever have to make in your lifetime. I beg you, though, be honest. Be open about what you’re seeing or experiencing. Be accepting and empathetic, not shameful. Show compassion and truly mean it. The disease itself is daunting enough – seeking support shouldn’t be.