Diminishing Mind, Everlasting Love

Imagine waking up in the morning, and not knowing the name of the man you lay beside. Then you show up at a family gathering, and not only do you not recognize anyone in attendance, but you can’t even recall eating a meal thirty minutes ago. Everything is new, and no one is familiar. This is what people with Alzheimer’s disease encounter every day of their lives. Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative disease of the brain that directly effects memory. This hits home to me, because my grandmother has been battling this disease for five years now. Having to watch my Granny Bea’s life being taken over by Alzheimer’s has greatly affected my family and myself physically, mentally, and emotionally.

In the beginning, my granny started forgetting simple things like people’s names, recipes she has used for years, and locations of common restaurants and landmarks. This took a larger toll on her than us, the family. At this stage, she realized she couldn’t remember things and would get upset and just cry because she got so frustrated. She then began to forget people, which was really tough on me. When I would go visit her and she wouldn’t know who I was, it really upset me. It got to where I wouldn’t go visit so I could act like it wasn’t happening. As things progressed, she would forget more and more, and not realize she was forgetting. She now doesn’t remember how to use a phone, how to cook, or even how to bathe herself. Without the help of her husband and daughter that live with her, she wouldn’t be able to go about daily life safely. She often doesn’t remember the names of her own daughters, including the one that lives with her. She refers to her as the woman who lives in my house. A few times, she has gone to go to bed, and won’t lie down because there is a strange man in her bed, her husband. It’s times like this when it begins to set in and affects everyone around them.

A few months back, there was a family emergency, so I offered to keep my grandmother for a couple days. I had no idea what I had gotten myself into, and how bad this disease has become. It has progressed so quickly within the last couple years. The whole time she kept asking who I was and where we were. She had been to my house multiple times and we have lived in the same house my entire life. She would use the bathroom and an hour later ask me to show her to the bathroom, because she had never been here before. Anytime she saw someone eating, she would have to eat another meal, because she didn’t remember her previous one. The most shocking thing to me, is when she would ask for people from her past, like childhood friends or children she would babysit fifty to sixty years ago. Some of these people she would ask for have not been alive for at least twenty-five years. Watching her was like watching a child. You can’t leave her unattended, she tries to get into things she shouldn’t, and she is constantly needing care. The only difference is, she knows how to do things children don’t or can’t, like unlock doors, turn on the oven, or try to leave the house. Every moment is a new moment. She doesn’t remember something she saw or did ten minutes prior. All of these things make it very difficult to watch after my granny, but my love for Granny Bea wouldn’t have it any other way. I want to make her happy and keep her safe.

Caring for Alzheimer’s patients is physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. If you don’t watch out, it will drag you down faster than you realize. My family and I have found the best way to cope with this disease that has taken over her life is to laugh it off and go with it. When she says off the wall things such as, “Has my husband and his other woman come back yet?” we have to just laugh inside. She says so many things that just make you think, “What is going through her head?” And, when she asks for people that are no longer with us, we just go along with it and agree. If we get down about everything she says or doesn’t remember, it will destroy us. We can’t change what is happening, so we have to look at it from the best angle and accept it.

 Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease that effects the minds of many loved ones. Seeing this first hand has really made me understand more about this disease. Although we may not understand why or want to believe it’s true, we have to love and care for them. Granny Bea is a great woman; one of the sweetest I know. She deserves the best, and I wouldn’t trade anything for my time with her; even if she doesn’t know who I am.