It was Rukeya Mitchell’s paternal grandmother who instilled in her a love for reading and it was when she stopped reading that alarm bells rang.
“That is when I knew there was something wrong with my grandmother,” said author Ms Mitchell, from Watergate.
She launched her book Living with Alzheimers, a granddaughter’s memoir, at Lentegeur library on Tuesday September 19.
Prior to caring for her grandmother, Narriman Ryklief, who died 11 years ago at the age of 83, Ms Mitchell would visit weekly.
“Ma was a ferocious reader just like me. After a while I noticed that magazines which she subscribed to were piling up on her coffee table,” she said.
Ms Ryklief would take her granddaughter to the library, taught her to read and instilled in her a love for reading and writing.
Ms Mitchell grew up in Manenberg and moved to Mitchell’s Plain at age 14.
“From a young age I loved to read and write, poetry was my passion and writing my own songs too,” she said.
She was also passionate about singing and spent most of her free time singing at family functions, school events, shows and once on the Grand Parade, along with other artists.
She wrote the book within two weeks and said that it was a labour of love and grief as she battled with wondering whether her granny knew it was Ms Mitchell who cared for her during the last decade of her life.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia.
Ms Mitchell said her grandmother had this progressive disease, which began with mild memory loss, to losing the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to the environment.
It involves parts of the brain that controls thought, memory and language.
Ms Ryklief progressed to forgetting how to walk, to swallow, to speak and to recognise their partners and family.
“Remember, Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t mean it’s the end of your world. But rather the end of their world as they knew it,” writes Ms Mitchell.
She said the book was written to create awareness about the disease.
“It is also to show families that it may be tough to look after them and that no one has the right to judge the family if they place the family member in a care facility.
“It is also the sweetest time that you have with that person and the memories you make that time will last a lifetime,” she said.
Ms Mitchell said the book had some funny moments for which readers would laugh and that soon the laughter would turn into tears, when you realise that mentally they are slipping away.
Her book was one of 26 which received an award at the Sixth annual AfriCAN Honoree Authors Awards on July 31.
Living with Alzheimers, a granddaughter’s memoir retails at R150, is available on Amazon or you can email Ms Mitchell on email@example.com to buy a copy.