Valley Voices

Harneet Sidhu: Old is gold: how teens can help seniors

Growing up, I have witnessed the stages of life from hearing cries of babies to the screams and impenetrable language of the elderly. Most of my childhood was spent in nursing homes or assisted living centers due to my father’s work as a physician.

When I was around the age of 6 or 7, the bitter truth of life never struck me. However, later on as I turned 10, the circus of emotions ran through my blood because I finally realized the hardship of all these diseases that can happen especially as one ages.

During my visits at nursing homes, I had a tough time trying to cope with the dementia patients. It was heartbreaking to see them suffer and forget about me within a week.

I would be sitting at the nurses’ station observing people wandering around, yelling, hallucinating, talking to themselves, and patting baby dolls as if they were living in the past.

Despite these challenges that come along with Alzheimer’s Disease, these people are filled with stories and amazing personal experiences. Every weekend I would open up a new book and be enriched and thrilled.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that destroys one’s memory and other mental functions. This disease worsens over time and brings gloomy days to many families. With proper care for the patients, we can ease their situation.

In the summer of 2013, I met a wonderful lady who was wandering around in the hallway. She mistook me as a staff member on our first meeting at the nurses’ station and was asking for her medications. I agreed to help her and called one of the nurses.

As my father completed his rounds, she came up to me and asked my name. I also asked for hers. She introduced herself as Mary and began talking about her past. She took me all the way back to the time period of World Ware II and how it was a really difficult time for her family, friends, and moreover, our country.

The next week, after attending prayers at my temple, I met her again. Although this time, she told me her name was Lucy. During our conversation, I learned a lot more about her and questioned her about her schooling.

In the beginning, she told me she attended Ohio State University and would often come to Fresno to visit her sister. As I was about to leave, I wanted to test her. I asked her again where she went to college, and this time she replied Fresno State. When I visited her the third time, once again she had forgotten about me.

I did not mind at all because I would always end up opening a new chapter of her life. She would talk a lot about her children and family, whom she seemed to cherish the most and would often complain about being alone and far away from home.

Later on, before school started, I was really busy and unable to meet her each weekend, but I always thought about her.

A few months into school, around Thanksgiving, I wanted to visit her again, but I discovered that she had passed away. This was when I learned that her name was actually Rosaline. I was very dejected and regretted not being able to keep our consistent interaction. I profoundly appreciated her telling me her stories that would always conclude with a moral for life.

To better understand this disease, I would frequently ask questions of the hardworking staff, including nurses and their assistants. Everybody tried to educate me and answer my questions thoroughly, and the replies were based on their medical knowledge.

The society we live in today should do more for these patients and increase the number of facilities that treat Alzheimer’s. These events inspired me to create the Alzheimer’s Awareness Club at Clovis North High School, which I am proud to serve as president.

This is the first Alzheimer’s Club in the Clovis Unified School District and I really hope to see it grow and become successful.

Many teens still do not know what Alzheimer’s is, why it happens, who it happens to and when. In fact, most teens seem to be oblivious to the fact that our seniors need attention and care.

If teenagers don’t treasure the value of our elder citizens, how will they grasp the knowledge and wisdom they need to be the successful leaders of our country?

I am eager to spread awareness and support individuals with Alzheimer’s so that more high school students would acquire gratitude for our senior citizens. I am proud to say that our group is made up of dedicated people who care for the Alzheimer’s patients and want to make a difference in their lives.

Many of our members have family members with Alzheimer’s and really want to improve the tough situation for others.

As I visited nursing homes, I realized the importance of interaction with Alzheimer’s patients, because every time I talked to an individual, I learned something new.

As they say, old is gold, and I truly value the presence of our seniors in the world. I have planted a seed at my school and I hope to see it grow into a beautiful flower.