Get an Orange Ring

Rika Hikita
Middle School Attached to Okayama University

Imagine waking up in the morning in your bed, but you donft know where you are. One of your family members greets you a good morning, but you donft know who they are. They are holding your clothes to help you get dressed because you donft remember how. In fact, you donft remember how to do most things, such as, reading and writing, having discussions and learning new things.

These are symptoms of dementia that nearly two million people in Japan live with every day. Degenerative dementia, also known as Alzheimerfs disease or chronic brain syndrome, is a progressive illness that destroys brain function, so people who have it donft get better. Daily life for people with dementia and their family members is an on going trial of love, patience and understanding. Recently, my father and I visited my great grandmother in Gifu. She suffers from dementia. She lives with her son, my great uncle, who is 73 years old. He treats her like a queen and he has devoted his life to taking care of her.

Caring for people with dementia is not an easy task. While I was there, I had no idea what to do. I felt incompetent, ignorant and in the way. But as I watched my great uncle give his mother a bath, brush her teeth and do all the other daily things that we take for granted, I was amazed at the love and devotion he has for her well being.

My great uncle inspired me to learn about dementia. I joined a training program sponsored by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, which teaches people across the nation on how to help and give support to people suffering from dementia. After finishing the course, you get a Ninchisho Orange Ring Supporter Bracelet for your time and effort. This program was great. It gave me the confidence I need to help my great grandmother and it taught me many things about dementia. First, the onset of dementia begins with memory loss, loss of ones judgment and shaky limbs. Second, if a person has dementia, they should eat nutritious foods, do light exercise and communicate with others on a daily basis to stimulate brain activity. Finally, when caring for people with dementia, you should always be calm, compassionate and understand they have feelings just as you and I have. I also learned that roughly 50% of people over 85 have dementia. That means if all of us here today live past 85, half of us will suffer from dementia. Thatfs scary! Dementia is a silent killer that slowly takes everything from you and leaves you with an empty shell. But with proper education, love, patience, clemency and awareness, like that of my unclefs, we can help those who have been stricken by this dreadful disease to live a more comfortable life. So what can you do? Ifll tell you. You can join the Ninchisho Supporter Program in your area and get an orange ring. It helped me and it can help you, too. Who knows? Someday, you may have to help someone in your family.

(5th Prize in the 60th Contest, 2008)

(C)JNSA FUND/the Yomiuri Shimbun

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