For 25-year-old Stephanie Bertels dementia runs on both sides of her family. Her paternal grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in her early 70s. In a matter of eight years, she declined rapidly, going from an independent, vivacious, brilliant woman to the confused, non-verbal, infantile person she is today.
Her maternal grandfather also began showing signs of Alzheimer's several years ago. His memory problems started off small, such as forgetting birthdays and appointments, cleaning his cats' litter boxes, and losing things; however, as time went on, Stephanie and her family knew his condition was deteriorating. He started forgetting about major holidays, like Christmas and Thanksgiving, and even forgot how to get to familiar locations like the local hospital.
At age 23, Stephanie became her grandfather's Power of Attorney and was forced to make the difficult decision of placing him in an assisted living facility so he could receive the full-time care he needed. After her grandfather's passing in November 2014, Stephanie knew she wanted to take action against this devastating disease and join the Alzheimer's Prevention Registry. "I want other people to have access to the information and resources I didn't have as my family continues to deal with Alzheimer's," she said. "Joining the Registry was one way to honor my grandparents and help prevent my daughter from having to watch another family member suffer from this crippling disease."