As time passes, we can all only hope we age as well as Elijah Wood and other celebrities. Growing old is a scary prospect. It's a stark reminder of your mortality. But it doesn't have to be all negative. With age comes wisdom, and although your body may not be what it once was, your mind and thought process get better over time.
Don't be afraid of aging, because old people rule. Human minds are extraordinarily complex and we don't fully understand them yet. But we do know that experience helps them grow, so while youth may be treasured, having lived a while longer should be appreciated even more.
Sadly, your mind can be taken away from you as you get older, as well. This is why Alzheimer's Disease is so terrifying. This terrible affliction affects an estimated 5.5 million people in America alone.
It's hard to fully grasp the effects of Alzheimer's disease until you've seen it first hand. Recently, Reddit user wuillermania shared a post that tragically illustrates what it can do to a person. This image shows the progression of the disease in her mother through her crocheting.
You can see how her abilities quickly deteriorated over time. The Reddit user left a comment, detailing her and her mother's story.
"I've often explained watching my mom succumb to this illness as watching her unravel. When I came across the crocheting she did in the early stages of Alzheimer's, it made me realize how fitting that actually was."
She also went into detail of when the disease took hold of her mom and how quickly her mind went.
"These squares represent her progression over the course of a year or two fairly early on in the disease (she suffers from early onset and was diagnosed at age 54; I was 22). I don't remember exactly when she stopped being able to crochet for good. She made squares for a while, then the circles, then the little pieces of crochet, until she got to the point where she just carried around the needles and yarn in her purse (which was otherwise empty since she couldn't really hold on to valuables anymore)."
She also spoke on how resilient the body can be even when the mind has become so ill.
"To the amazement of many, including her doctors, she has now lived 12 years since her initial diagnosis. They credit the level of at-home care she's been receiving by my family, especially her caretaker and my dad, who is truly a saint."
However, though the body can be healthy, it's heartbreaking to see someone you love in this state.
"At this point she is completely non-verbal and unable to care for herself in any way (eating, bathing, dressing, walking unsupervised, etc.). But physically she is still relatively healthy, beyond issues resulting from her mental deterioration (she grinds her teeth incessantly, which has caused significant dental issues)."
It's hard to imagine going through such an event with a loved one.
"She has been on hospice since the summer, but the doctors say that it could be months or even years before she passes. It has been a few years since she was able to speak and several since she was able to identify who I am."
In closing, she thanked everyone for the kind words and well wishes. She said she was happy to share information about this illness and what it was like to those who were curious.
"I'm happy to answer any question about Alzheimer's/what it's like to care for someone who has it/our experience with the disease. This really does affect so many, but I've learned that, like many things, it's not really something you can understand unless you've experienced it."
Seeing the progression of Alzheimer's through the work of those suffering from it is quite harrowing. American artist William Utermohlen did something similar. He painted the self-portrait pictured here before his diagnosis.
Utermohlen learned he had Alzheimer's in 1995. He set to creating self-portraits as time passed, to show the effect it had on his abilities. Pictured here are his works over a five year span as the illness ravaged his mind. He eventually passed away in 2007.
Crocheting and painting are skills not everyone possesses. But Alzheimer's can make you lose the ability to perform even the most seemingly simple of tasks. Here's a progression picture showing how a patient lost the ability to sign their own name over time.
We still don't fully understand how to treat, prevent or cure this disease. More alarming is the fact that cases are on the rise. It's estimated that by 2050 the number of Americans suffering from Alzheimer's might reach 16 million.
Despite the devastating impact of this condition and the fact that it's the most expensive disease in America, research is sorely lacking. Progression is moving at an incredibly slow pace, and the most draining toll it takes isn't on the wallet, but on those living with this ailment and their loved ones. If you'd like to help, consider donating today.