For the second year in a row, Emi Takayama is leading a team for the Pacific Northwest Walk to End Alzheimer’s. She walks in honor of her paternal grandmother, Megumi Takamaya, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 65.
Emi grew up with no concept of who her grandmother was before she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. “My earliest memory of grandma’s Alzheimer’s began with our routine visits during our trips in Japan, to her nursing home near Tokyo Bay, where we saw her enjoying piano music in the dining hall and occasionally taking wheelchair strolls to a park next to the IBM building,” Emi says on her blog. “I never got to know the loving, beautiful woman I had heard so much about. During her late stages, we visited her in the nursing home as much as we could, and I remember seeing her, motionless, in a room filled with drawings and origami, not quite understanding why she never spoke. Looking back, I wish I had spent more time with her, holding her hand and talking to her.”
Although she did not witness the progression of her grandmother’s disease in its earliest stages, Emi learned about the ways it affected her and her father’s family. “Alzheimer’s slowly crept into her day-to-day life with simple forgetfulness like misplacing house keys, but became more noticeable when the stove and hot water faucet were left on,” writes Emi. “My dad’s family was devastated with the news [of her Alzheimer’s diagnosis], but they were fortunate enough to afford caretakers. My grandfather wished very much to keep her alive as long as possible and dedicated much time in keeping her happy.”
Emi’s grandmother lived about 20 years after her diagnosis and passed away a few years ago. “Without Alzheimer’s disease, we could have bonded over our love for music and shared a closer relationship. Regardless, I am grateful for the moments I did have with her and that I was old enough to remember our visits.”
Today, Emi is a senior at Lakeside School in Seattle, doing what she can to help other people experiencing the disease and their caregivers.
With the help of her maternal grandmother, Emi hand-sewed fidget aprons for people with dementia and sent them to hospices in Pennsylvania, California and Washington. “Fidget or activity aprons have unique sensory attachments to help calm the patients. For example, buttons and zippers offer tactile reminders of past clothing while fuzzy accessories elicit playfulness and warmth,” she wrote. While Emi faced some setbacks during the process, she “eventually produced over 50 aprons due to high demand and positive feedback.”
She also created her own blog for people looking to learn more about Alzheimer’s disease. It explores research and resources, and includes FAQs about the disease. She is also interning with the UW Memory and Brain Wellness Center, writing an article about Alzheimer’s research for Dimensions magazine, and hopes to volunteer in a scientific laboratory this fall.
Emi is on a mission to fight Alzheimer’s in honor of her grandmother. She says, “The disease can affect anyone, and I believe awareness is the first step towards a better future.”
Walk to End Alzheimer’s is happening — and you can join us at your local event or Walk From Home in your neighborhood. No matter where you Walk, your participation makes a difference in the lives of those facing Alzheimer’s today and in the future. Visit our website to find the Walk nearest you and register today!