They arrived as strangers at the municipal capital. They dismantled their suitcases and even among themselves, they concealed the strange devotion they suddenly felt for the red earth that had bathed their feet all their lives. But a hollowness quieter than nostalgia crept in without any of them even noticing it.
Grandfather began to lose track of the faces for minutes... He would wake up in the middle of the night and scream because he felt lost. One day he no longer knew who the woman was who had been with him for the last 68 years. The younger ones associated the events with the suddenness of the move and went on as before.
On the last Thursday in August, grandfather did not wake up in bed. They searched every corner of the courtyard, inside the cistern, under the stones... They began their search at the terminal, snooped around the hospitals, and notified the police, but no one anywhere noticed the old man with the blue checked shirt missing from his wardrobe.
They returned to the little village of his birth in desperation, followed the train line, searched through the blossoming cane, and found not a clue. It was as if the very ground he did not know had swallowed him up...
Months later, amidst the weight of absence on the balance of the doorway, at home, they began to talk about Alzheimer's and remembered their paternal great-uncle who, at just over 60 years of age, even forgot his name. Then the hands on the head became like a ritual of guilt, a mute and imperceptible one, like the footprints that "the old man" did not leave behind.
Sadly, it is increasingly common to find families like this one on social networks, desperate for the absence of one of their elders. At the same time, it is notorious the increase in information about the incurable mental illness, which degenerates the nerve cells of the brain and diminishes the brain mass at will.
Alzheimer's disease is taking center stage in a society like ours, which is aging by leaps and bounds. People joke that "the German got me", but its claws do more than cause temporary forgetfulness; they cause significant cognitive deterioration that manifests itself in language difficulties, loss of a sense of direction, and difficulties in solving simple everyday problems.
The saddest side of the phenomenon is to witness first-hand how the mind of the person who brought you into the world, who taught you the most detailed or ephemeral notions of the universe, is blurred and now does not know that you are his child and pushes you away, avoids you, shuns you.
This pain is followed by a drastic change in all family routines. Doors can no longer be left unlocked, the gas pipe must be kept under maximum surveillance and an adult must remain in the home at the cost of sacrificing work or personal goals. There has to be a designated hitter every day, no matter what...
Once the first symptoms appear, the patients degenerate and become more dependent, so they have to be helped to dress, to clean themselves, to eat.
At this stage, there is no treatment to prevent the disease or to slow its progression. Medications are prescribed to help with some symptoms and improve quality of life, but they are usually only useful in the early stages and this is a journey of no return.
It is known that the first lesions may appear some 15 to 20 years before any symptoms are shown, and debut in the region of the brain called the hippocampus, which is responsible, among other things, for learning and the formation of new memories. Although there is no scientific evidence, it is thought to be caused by a combination of risk factors, some of which are not modifiable, such as age or genetics.
Among the elements that can be changed to prevent "forgetfulness" are a healthy lifestyle that involves reducing fat intake, making vegetables, fruit, and legumes the basis of the food pyramid, and, above all, regular physical exercise.
Three years after the move, the family, with its traces of pain and red earth, is still hoping that one day they will find a trace of their grandfather. Alzheimer's has robbed him of his peace of mind... They have learned the hard way that in the home there have to be springs to warn of even the most imperceptible alarms; "magnifying glasses" are needed to keep an eye and affection for the elderly.