What Can Someone with Alzheimer’s Teach Us?

At some point in our lives, regardless of our desire, each one of us becomes a teacher. We may never have a classroom of students or instruct anyone with our words, but we become teachers nonetheless. Children all over the world look up to their parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, big brothers and sisters and peers and they mimic what they see. They study our actions, our reactions and our behaviors. And whatever we model before them is soon displayed before our eyes in a tinier person. We teach by example.



My Father has always been a good teacher, not just as a father, but as a grandfather. In the summer of 2009, he was introduced to his second grandchild, a baby girl adopted from Russia. Lara had lived in an orphanage the first year of her life and never saw a man until she met her adoptive father. She felt safe around men. So when Lara met my Father, she was enamored and felt drawn to him.

It didn’t take long before we realized that they’re really two peas in a pod.

They both have a great sense of humor and love to make other people laugh. They’re tender hearted and stubborn. They love a good story and a good cookie. They’re both givers and not takers. They’re drawn to the outdoors

and no matter the setting, they’re both the life of the party.


By the time Lara was born, my Father had already been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. So she’s never known the same man I’ve known all my life. She’s watched him regress, growing more confused and forgetful. She’s seen his agitation and his sensitivity to noise increase.


And just like a child would, she’s embraced him and all the changes this disease brings. When he needs to go to the restroom but forgets where it is, Lara takes him by the hand and leads him down the hall, chirping, “C’mon Papaw.” When we shop for groceries, she stays right by his side and helps him steer the cart to avoid colliding with the fully laden shelves. When we pack up the car with groceries, Lara leads him to the passenger side and encourages him to get in so she can put on his seatbelt.

And just like that, I’m seeing everything come full circle.


When Lara was just a year old, my Father helped her learn how to walk. Now she’s leading him by the hand. When Lara was learning how to ride a bike, he would hold onto the back to give her balance and keep her from

falling. Now she’s holding onto the grocery cart to help steer it in the right direction and keep him from crashing into the shelves.

She’s learning just like I’m learning. When the rest of the world is speeding up, Lara is learning how to slow down and spend time helping those she loves.


Lara has had several good teachers in her young lifetime, including her grandfather. I just hope someone is already looking up to her.

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