Being healthy and alive is a true gift from God. Sadly, this gift is not something we all get to enjoy our entire lives. In 2008, my grannie was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at fifty-nine years of age. We recognized signs a year prior to her diagnosis, but in hindsight, there were symptoms years earlier. The first recognized indication was at the checkout counter at Wal-Mart whenever she could not remember how to write a check. This occurred the year of her mother’s death, which was the result of a thirteen year battle with Alzheimer’s disease. My knowledge on Alzheimer’s disease has drastically increased over the last 6 years and I want to make a difference by educating as many people about what Alzheimer’s disease is and what impact it has on families.
Alzheimer’s has seriously affected my family with the two diagnoses we have had within the past 20 years. My great grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease a few years after I was born. The only memories I have of her are with her sitting in a wheelchair or laying in a bed at family gatherings. There were also many years when she was bedridden and unable to come to our family functions and celebrations. With my grannie’s diagnosis a year later, my family never really had the opportunity to recover from the grief and pain of my great grandmother’s illness and death.
Grannie was always an amazing cook. She made the best meals whenever we would all get together to have dinner. Since Alzheimer’s has taken a toll on her, she has not been able to cook. Her famous dish for family functions was potato salad. After she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, she attempted to make the dish and did pretty well until she added a can of tuna. Once she realized her error, she was very upset and did not try to cook again for quite a while. The biggest heartbreak for my grannie is the fact that the doctors no longer allow her to drive. When she was given the initial diagnosis, she was told she was not allowed to drive anymore. This was, and is still to this day, the hardest for her to accept. She wishes she could drive herself to the store, to get her nails done, and to come and go as she pleases. Alzheimer’s robbed her of her independence.
As I have gotten older, I have been able to help out more with caring for my grannie whenever my other family members cannot. I am very thankful for the times I get to laugh with her and drive her around in the car singing worship songs together. Whenever she was diagnosed, I had a very hard time understanding why God had allowed this to happen to our family again. One day, months before her diagnosis, Grannie was washing dishes and felt the Lord speak to her. She looked and my grandpa and said, “I think the Lord just spoke to me.” My grandpa asked what it was that He said and she stated that He said, “Trust me”. At that time, she had no idea why the Lord gave her that message. As time went on, of course, she came to understand why the Lord spoke to her in such a way. It is a blessing that this is a memory that she has not forgotten and it gives her great encouragement and strength on the days when she feels like giving up.
The only way I have been able to cope with my grannie and the rest of the family suffering due to Alzheimer’s disease is Jesus Christ. In the Bible, it is written in Isaiah 41:10, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” Whenever a child of God is feeling afraid, God is holding them. God has blessed my family with many loved ones who pray for our family everyday and help whenever they can. I have a best friend since second grade that had a grandmother who was also diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. God knew exactly what He was doing whenever he had us meet each other. She is truly a blessing to me and is a person who understands everything I feel, the good and the bad.
The faith in Jesus my grannie has makes this terrible, heart-wrenching disease a little more bearable. I know when she passes and sees our Savior face to face for the first time her memory will be back! Oh, what a glorious day that will be!