From Being a Grandson to Being a Father

Young man quits his job and leaves college behind to look after his grandmother with Alzheimer’s

Mariane de Oliveira

Tuesday | March 29, 2016 | 1:44 PM | Last update: September 22, 2016, 4:07 PM (Brasilia time)

Learning that a member of your family has Alzheimer’s disease is not easy; after all, the challenges the family will face and the changes they will go through as the illness progresses are many. Dealing with it with good humor and lightheartedness was the strategy adopted by Fernando Aguzzoli, a young Brazilian who decided to quit college and put on hold the plans he had to open his own company in order to dedicate himself exclusively to his grandmother, or Granny Nilva, as he affectionately called her. He was 22 at the time.

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“In the beginning I thought it was something like amnesia, forgetfulness. But I dug into it and found out it was something much worse. It was in fact frightening, but she was still my grandmother,” he said in an interview with GOOD WILL magazine. He himself explains why he decided to deal with the disease positively: “I’d go crazy if I took the disease seriously, because it’s very tough and overwhelming. Choosing to let lightheartedness and good humor take over would make everything possible—my parents and I wouldn’t go crazy and my grandmother would laugh a lot in the time left for us on this journey.”

For six years he lived with Granny Nilva and her Alzheimer’s. The experiences, sometimes unusual and sometimes dramatic, and the lessons he learned during that time inspired him to come up with a page on a social network. The success of the stories of his somewhat uncommon routine and of the conversations he had with his grandmother was so great that it led him to write the book Quem, eu? Uma avó. Um neto. Muitas lições de vida! [Who, me? A grandmother. A grandson. Many life lessons!].

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During this period, the relationship between the grandson and grandmother became even closer: “Alzheimer’s helps unite many families. My grandmother and I had always been close and also great friends, but after the disease we became best friends and later we developed a relationship similar to that of father and daughter,” said Aguzzoli.

In December 2013, a little before her 80th birthday, Granny succumbed to a urinary infection. Happy because he had had the opportunity to look after someone who had looked after him, Fernando leaves a message for all those who go through a similar situation: “Sometimes it might seem that if we distance ourselves everything will be different and we will not suffer, but you can’t put a price on a clear conscience and there’s no turning back the clock. . . . Live life in a happier and upbeat way. If we don’t share smiles with those we love, every difficulty we come across will be insurmountable. We need patience, a lot of patience, but if we have goodwill and love the person we’re looking after everything is possible!”