Family First, Everything Else Comes Second

My grandmother was born on May 2, 1929. She has nine children, ten grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, yet she can’t remember most of their names without thinking about it first. She comes from a Polish family and has lived in the same house for over 70 years, yet she doesn’t know where she lives. Her mother has been deceased for many years and yet she calls one of her daughters her mother. She has spoken English most of her life but knows a small amount of Polish, yet having a daily conversation with her is very difficult. My grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a few years ago and our family has been taken on a trip we didn’t plan for.

            My grandmother was the only grandparent that I knew growing up. My other grandparents had all passed away prior to my birth. When my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s I was younger and didn’t understand what was happening at first. Why was someone who could sing to music, remember some Polish songs from when she was younger, crochet, cook meals, and remember the holidays, repeating the same question multiple times in a few hours? My family would answer the question and when they would say, “I told you that a few minutes ago. Do you remember?” My grandmother would get quiet and then say “Oh yeah.” but my family knew that she didn’t. I asked my mom what was happening to grandma and she told me that grandma has Alzheimer’s and that she doesn’t remember things like she used to.

Up until junior year of high school, I had thought I was going to pursue a career where I was able to work with children. However, as the years progressed, I started to understand and hear more about Alzheimer’s and decided to pursue a different career. I was going to pursue nursing not only because my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, but because of what I learned from my grandmother over the past few years. Through caring for my grandmother I have learned patience, compassion, and responsibility and she has helped me develop into the person that I am today and will help me in my future career as a nurse.

Coping with Alzheimer’s may be different for everyone but there is one thing that is the same for everyone. Everyone is slowly losing someone as the disease begins to take over the person that you knew as your grandmother, grandfather, mother, father, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, son, daughter or friend. Coping with this disease may be the hardest part in a family’s life, but in the end the person that is having the hardest time coping is not the one who is looking from the outside in. It’s the person who looks out and sees their children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren and doesn’t know who they are. It’s the person who has lived in the same house for over 70 years and doesn’t know where they are. It’s the person who can’t carry on a daily conversation with their friends or family. It’s the person who can’t ask for help because they don’t understand what is going on. Coping isn’t hardest on me; it’s hardest on my grandmother. My grandmother doesn’t remember my name but I will forever remember what she taught me.