By ANYSSA BOHANAN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
Even when her grandfather’s Alzheimer’s was at it’s worst, 17-year-old Bend resident Pilar Carson says he remained a cheerful man who loved unconditionally.
“He was hilarious, he was so funny,” Carson said. “And with me he always make sure that he would hang out with me, I guess. He never didn’t have time for you.”
Though he was diagnosed earlier in her life, Carson didn’t learn about her grandfather’s disease until six years ago.
“My mom and my grandma and my dad all tried to explain it to me, but it was just kind of wrapping my head around it as time went on, and understanding what that meant for him because Alzheimer’s is different for each person,” Carson said.
But even as his condition worsened, she says, he remained the kindhearted gentleman she’d always known.
“Whenever we’d go into memory care, we would go in and I would find my grandpa at the door ready to open it for us so he would always be such a gentleman!” Carson said.
He passed away in 2018.
“I miss him everyday,” Carson said.
This year, Carson penned an essay about her adventures with her grandfather both before and after she learned of his diagnosis, as well as her experiences working in a memory care facility for the National Teens for Alzheimer’s Awareness Scholarship Essay Competition.
Out of 2,000 entries, she won first place and was awarded a $5,000 scholarship.
“Putting my experience out there for the world to see was important to me,” Carson said. “It also gave me a sense of closure, because I had to draw back a little bit from the community after my grandpa passed way and that was really difficult for me. But that was my way to step back into the community and say, ‘Here’s me, here’s what I’ve done, and here’s what I want to continue doing’.”
Pilar plans to attend Occidental College in LA where she wants to major in psychology to focus on how best to interact with Alzheimer’s patients, and political science to bring more urgency to Alzheimer’s research and find a cure through the legislative process.