By Amanda Ro
My name is Amanda Ro. I’m 16 and a junior in high school. I grew up living between California and Korea, but my family settled in Washington a few years ago. I always knew about the Alzheimer’s Association, but I found about The Longest Day this summer through VolunteerMatch. For The Longest Day, I will be selling clothes on the Depop app in honor of my grandfather who is living with dementia.
I also serve on The Longest Day Planning Committee. I’ve always been interested in biology and biochemistry, especially when my mom and dad faced specific medical struggles. Due to my commitment and passion for science, The Longest Day seemed like an amazing volunteer opportunity for me. I’m also very passionate about advocacy work, and spreading helpful information like the effects of Alzheimer’s disease amid the pandemic piqued my interest.
I see my grandparents as role models to look up to. They live in Los Angeles — where my dad is from, and where my sister and I were born. I admire their work ethic and drive, something that translated to my dad. I think my grandparents being immigrants from Korea and finding success in the United States has really inspired me to continue that legacy, hoping to make them and my entire family proud.
One of my favorite memories of my grandfather is from one arid night in Los Angeles about seven years ago. I went out to dinner with my uncle, aunt, cousins and grandparents. My grandfather is quite tall, about 6’1”. This completely juxtaposes my grandmother’s frame; she is around 5’0”, maybe even shorter! I remember hugging both of my grandparents, being enveloped by my grandma, but barely reaching my grandpa’s torso. I looked up at him and saw his distinct silver glasses and wide face, and we exchanged a warm smile just before we sat down to eat.
My grandfather started showing signs of dementia a little more than two years ago, experiencing slight memory loss about basic things. He would forget names, his street, his apartment number, etc. It wasn’t until about a year ago that my grandpa began showing more concerning symptoms.
In addition to my grandpa’s memory loss, my grandparents both became sick with COVID-19. When the virus hit my grandparents’ area last summer, they took extra precautions to grocery shop at designated hours and only leave if absolutely necessary. However, they were still infected and had to stay in the hospital for multiple nights. To make matters worse, my grandma had a harder time coping with the virus, making my grandpa go without care for a short period of time. Thankfully, they recovered, but when they were released from the hospital, my grandpa’s condition quickly worsened. He struggled to recall basic memories or facts.
Right now, it’s a relief that he can maintain some independence, but I’m afraid it may not last very long. I spoke to them recently, and hearing their voices filled me with regret and guilt for not visiting them sooner. My grandpa’s condition is worsening, so much so that he can’t remember my sister’s or my name.
Caregiving is difficult for my grandmother. My grandparents live alone in an apartment near downtown LA and live quite traditionally. They don’t have wifi nor do they own smartphones, so their resources are limited. While my grandpa can still shower and use the restroom without assistance, he is beginning to lose his appetite. He’s lost at least 10 pounds in the last few months, which worries my grandma even more.
Recently, my grandparents took public transportation together to run errands. My grandfather got off at the wrong stop and was wandering around town, alone. Meanwhile, my grandma frantically searched for him, fearing that she would lose him that day. It was a miracle that he could tell her some information on his whereabouts over the phone. My grandma tries her best at caregiving, but she is very stressed and can sometimes be ill-prepared.
My activity for The Longest Day
I am participating in The Longest Day by selling clothes on Depop. Depop is an app that allows users to shop secondhand items online; a modern twist on the local thrift shop. I’ve seen some friends sell on Depop, so I was inspired to sell in hopes of not only raising funds, but also recycling clothing. I also knew that fundraising through Depop would reach a nationwide audience, further persuading me to start listing items. While slow at first, I’ve recently seen sales and other activity on my page, funneling 100% of the profits into my The Longest Day fundraising page. I will continue to update my page and list new items, and I hope to gain more customers willing to support this crucial cause.
I am participating in The Longest Day because I believe Alzheimer’s and all dementias are extremely important causes worth fighting for. The impact of this disease, I feel, is somewhat hidden to many people. I want to be able to spread crucial information that can enlighten others, while also contributing to the fight of this disease. I also love the message that The Longest Day spreads, advocating for fundraising while doing something that participants are passionate about.
Want to plan your own event or turn your hobby into a fundraiser for The Longest Day? Visit alz.org/thelongestday for more information!