The rattle of a doorknob pierced the night. It was my grandfather, Yeye. As usual, he was disoriented, thought it was time to eat, and being hard of hearing, required loud convincing by my mom to return to bed. Plaque and tangles had accumulated in my grandfather’s brain, and now they spread into our everyday lives.
With my step-grandmother suddenly moving back to Taiwan, my family was completely unprepared to care for a 90-year-old disabled man. There were no funds for professional elder care, so my mom, dad, and I had to quickly adapt to accommodate his needs. After a number of falls, we installed safety equipment into the bathroom, which he shared with me!
My grandfather’s Alzheimer’s disease erased the connection that he and I once shared. When I was younger, Yeye and I used to solve math puzzles together, but now we couldn’t even hold a conversation. As I looked back, I realized he had lived a sedentary senior life. Would a more active lifestyle have led to a different outcome?
I’ve noticed that our American culture glorifies youth but nearly ignores what it means to grow old. So I am developing a mobile app to prepare families for elder care. It will enable users to compare both in-home and outside elder care facilities, provide caretaker support, and promote cognitive health. Brain games will be personalized to exercise memory, like matching the names of family members with their appropriate pictures. I am currently designing a prototype for my app, and I plan to continue building it in college.
Yeye can no longer walk. While the challenges have increased, I have learned to appreciate the different stages of life and return the love and care that my grandfather once gave me. With this in practice, Yeye’s disposition improved and he accepted our home as his. I am determined to sort through the tangles of life. So when I hear the doorknob rattle at night, I know it’s just a reminder for us all to make healthier choices today for a better tomorrow.