It must have been the fourteenth time Grannie asked me the same question, “Have we had our dinner yet tonight?” I know she can’t help it. I know she doesn’t mean to repeat herself. And truly, I don’t mind answering the same question fourteen times – it just makes me sad.
Grannie hasn’t always been forgetful. Actually, she used to remember everything! She knew what kind of cereal was my favorite and exactly how I like my hamburgers. She never missed calling me on my birthday and always asked about my latest sport or activity.
As a kid, I looked forward to coming to Texas every summer to stay with Grannie. Grannies’ house was fun – she had a pool with a diving board and a slide. She even let us have cookies and Coke for breakfast (she said it was because grandparents can do that but we probably shouldn’t tell our parents).
Occasionally Grannie would call me by my sister’s name – but everyone does that. Once in a while Grannie would forget the cookies in the oven, but so does my mom. Over time though, it got worse. She would forget to take her medicine or forget where she put her keys. She would turn the water hose on but forget to turn it off. Honestly, I didn’t know what was wrong or that my sweet grandmother was slowly changing.
Within a few short years, my grandmother became one of the 35.6 million people around the world that are living with dementia. It began with small signs of forgetfulness, losing track of time and trouble recalling names. We tried to help her out and pretend that it was okay. We would answer her repetitive questions and remind her where things were. However, we could see the frustration and confusion it caused her. It broke my heart.
When we moved to Texas to be close to my grandparents I was so excited. I thought Grannie would finally be able to come to my school events and participate in my daily life. Although we tried, we quickly realized it caused her great anxiety and stress to be in social situations. She slowly began to withdraw from the things she loved: church, friends and family gatherings. We tried to take her to the mall or out to eat to give her an opportunity to get out of the house, but she would wander off.
The greatest impact came when my grandfather passed away. Her husband of fifty years was no longer there to be her daily support. Grannie quickly declined and it became evident she could not take care of herself. Forgetting to eat and overlooking daily task; depression set in fairly quickly.
Through a friend, we learned of the unique setting of Autumn Grove and their ability to love and nurture residents effected by dementia and Alzheimer’s. Specializing in the care of patients with memory loss, the Cottage offers my grandmother a place to feel loved and appreciated. They give Grannie the time and space necessary to do things on her own and plan activities to help her feel successful. We are so blessed by the caregivers, managers and volunteers at Autumn Grove. Grannie has given so much of her love to me, and countless others, she deserves to continue living a wonderful quality of life that makes her feel special.