COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - June is Alzheimer's and brain awareness month, an opportunity to highlight a major public health issue.
92-thousand people in South Carolina are affected by the disease and there are more than 300-thousand caregivers, according to the Alzheimer's Association.
Crystal Hayes knew something was wrong when her grandmother, 86 year old Dorothy Ratliff of Cheraw stopped reading her mail. “My grandmother started misplacing things in her house, her mail she stopped going through her mail and some of her utilities started getting disconnected, my grandmother is a stickler about paying her bills on time, so when I saw utilities like her cable bill and water bill getting cut off, I was like something is not right with my Grandmother."
Hayes hopes by sharing her story it helps someone recognize early signs of Alzheimer's. “It's very hard because she raised me, just to see a decline in her mentally."
Ratliff was diagnosed seven years ago. Hayes said, "she cooks, she loves to cook, and she has a gas stove in her house and she accidentally left that gas stove on, while sitting in her living room and the house was full of smoke, and she just forgot, and then her demeanor changed, her mood, she became very agitated and would snap at the least little things, and I knew that wasn't my grandmother's behavior, and then her appearance, she is a very stylish woman, always had her earrings to match her shoes, her pocketbook, and I noticed her appearance started declining."
Hayes was the first to discover her grandmother's signs of stage one dementia.
According to Hayes, her Grandmother walks around the house and sometimes cannot keep her balance. She is now in stage 3 dementia and at times, she even blacks out and collapses.
The purple sash Hayes wears represents her support of the Alzheimer's Association.
She is a member of the local Columbia chapter and participated in State House Day in back April of this year.
To learn more about Alzheimer's, Hays took at free, 5 week class over the phone called Dementia Dialogue offered by Prisma Health. Hayes still uses those tips to help her and her family care for her grandmother.
Hayes took the idea of an Alzheimer’s support group to her church, Bible Way Church of Atlas Road and with the help of her pastor, they are now organizing one.