At first glance, Mikaela Louie is not someone you’d associate with Alzheimer’s disease. She was living and working in India when her mother, Irene Japha, was diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer’s at age 57. Mikaela returned home to become Irene’s caregiver.
“When you’re of working age and you’re a caregiver for your parents, it’s a role reversal that you weren’t expecting,” says Mikaela.
When we think of Alzheimer’s and other dementias, it’s easy to think only of memory loss. There’s certainly a correlation, however, as Mikaela and Irene show us, it’s not the whole story.
More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, a disease with many other symptoms besides memory loss. There’s changes in mood/personality, withdrawal from social activities, losing track of the season and more. There may be forgetful moments as we age, but Alzheimer’s memory loss is more than occasionally forgetting someone’s name. Alzheimer’s causes the brain to malfunction and it can affect relationships with long-time friends and family.
Myths about Alzheimer’s have long been regarded as facts, and they’ve shaped the way people face the disease. As an advocate, Mikaela is reshaping those views by creating awareness from Washington state to Washington D.C. It’s a skill she picked up from a familiar source.
“I really inherited this sort of passion from my mom,” says Mikaela. “She was really involved in politics when she was a young person and then even later in life when I was growing up, and I inherited that passion.”
Myths have impacted the way this country handles Alzheimer’s and people’s willingness to look for support. At the Alzheimer’s Association, we constantly work to debunk myths, reduce stigmas and create a world without Alzheimer’s disease. With enough information, research and support, the biggest Alzheimer’s myth will be “there is no cure.”
“I truly believe that when legislators hear people’s stories, it can impact change,” says Mikaela. “They can hear numbers and figures, but until you put a face to a struggle, change doesn’t happen. We make an impact–not only for families living with the disease now–but for the future.”
This blog post was written by Alexander Sokoll of the Alzheimer’s Association, Washington State Chapter