Profiles on Passion: Part II

March 17, 2014

Every Edina High School student knows about the Passion Project. For some it’s a burden, but others see it as an opportunity to inform everyone about a problem in the world. For sophomore Nate Shapiro, it’s a chance to tell his family’s story.

Shapiro’s grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease five years ago. “My grandma actually noticed it six or seven years ago, but was officially diagnosed later,” he explained. His grandfather told his mother that he did not want to be put in a nursing home, so for the past eight months, he has been living with Nathan and his family.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that slowly deteriorates brain cells. It affects a person’s ability to remember, think, reason, solve problems, or even do everyday activities like eat or bathe.

“It’s an incurable disease,” said Shapiro. “[Alzheimer’s patients] can become completely dependent on others.”

There are five stages of Alzheimer’s, and Shapiro believes his grandfather is currently in the fourth stage: moderate dementia. “It’s like he’s in a constant stage of déjà vu. He can remember his past years ago, but has a sort of short-term memory loss. He can do things like get dressed or bathe himself, but cannot prepare food or might [be inclined to] ask ‘What’s the weather?’ five times,” said Shapiro.

His grandfather’s illness motivated Shapiro to do his Passion Project on the financial and emotional impact of in-home caregiving, an issue that will grow more pressing in coming years as baby boomers age. “All the children born during the baby boom [are] becoming older, and the current generations are now having to deal with it,” explained Shapiro.

Caregiving is financially trying. Shapiro and his mother hired two home aids to help with his grandfather. “[Hired] health aides are expensive and most people cannot afford [them],” said Shapiro.

The emotional aspect of caregiving is just as trying. Shapiro’s family has to constantly watch over his grandfather. His goal is to make sure other families in similar situations are well-informed about the struggles and rewards of in-home caregiving.

“My plan is to inform families on how to deal with caretaking and help other families,” said Shapiro. “I can see how happy and healthy my grandfather is. I’m glad he isn’t stuck in a nursing home.”

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