Evident of the countless number of teens touched by Alzheimer's disease, nearly 1,300 college-bound students applied for AFA's annual scholarship this year.
"We continue to be amazed by the compassion shared by these young people and their ability to take away life-changing lessons from their experiences of interacting with loved ones and strangers with Alzheimer's disease," said Eric J. Hall, AFA's president and chief executive officer.
Henley's heartfelt essay describes the close bond she shared with her father, Richard, the impact of "watching him slowly become someone else," and his death four years ago at the age of 44.
"He wouldn't call my mom, my siblings or me by our names because he was afraid he would confuse them. He couldn't remember the simplest of things, like how to tie his shoes or whether his watch was facing the right way. 'What's this?' he would ask. 'It's a spoon, Daddy. You eat with it,'" she wrote.
Henley also relayed how their mutual love for animals--her only source of comfort amidst the emotional upheaval wrought by her father's illness--has inspired her career choice.
"Now, I can pursue my dream of becoming a veterinarian. I can continue honoring my dad and do some better things in the world that he wasn't able to do," said Henley, who plans to attend Colorado State College in Fort Collins next fall.
While a significant number of other applicants also wrote about losing their parents to early onset Alzheimer's disease, which accounts for about 10 percent of cases of the brain disorder, most teens recalled how the disease has impacted their grandparents, great-grandparents and other older relatives.
Regardless of the
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