Dr Jennifer Rouse


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Nearly 22 years after her grandmother’s passing, 38-year-old Martina Douglas says it still hurts her when she remembers her grandmother’s last months living with Alzheimer’s disease.

“It happened all so fast though.”

One day I came home from school and my grandmother was sitting where she usually sat—the indoor veranda. I had just changed my school uniform and while heading to the kitchen, I noticed granny hustling with her underwear down to her knees and rushing to urinate by the bookshelf. I called out to her asking what was she doing, but she seemed confused. I ran to her and steered her to the toilet.”

Douglas said at first she thought her grandmother could not hold her urine, hence the almost bookshelf stop, but she realised something was wrong when her grandmother seemed confused not even knowing where to go when she was finished using the toilet.

“She was saying strange things and just did not know where she was. I called my mother who was at work and when she got home later that evening she told us granny might have been going ‘senile.’ It was the first time I had heard the term but was only told it meant my grandmother would be forgetting things. I did not know it was a disease,” Douglas explained.

She said her mother called a doctor as in the following days it seemed her grandmother’s condition was worsening. “She would take things like my teddy bear and attempt to put it on her feet as if it were a slipper and I remember the day my heart broke when I asked her who she was and she said with great precision, “I am Stephanie Boaz.” My grandmother’s name was Frederica Farley Edwards otherwise known as ‘Mother Titus.’”

She added, “I did not know much, but I knew there and then I no longer had my grandmother.”

Douglas said her grandmother’s deterioration was rapid and within a matter of months after her Alzheimer’s diagnosis, she passed on.

It is experiences like Douglas’ that Anne Smith, president of the Alzheimer’s Association of Trinidad and Tobago (AzATT), urges the involvement of young people in the association.

While the association could not host its annual public activities to mark World Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Day on Monday, in a telephone interview, Smith said, “It is about trying to change people’s perception that it’s all about old people and it’s only when you get old you think about it. We need to get children thinking about it…what’s happening with their grandma, what’s happening with their grandpa. And how they relate to them.”