Beyond the forecast: Loved one with alzheimersSeptember 4th, 2012 at 8:31 am by Tara Hastings under Weather
Today is my grandmother’s 84th birthday. Nana, as I call her, has been through a rough year along with all of our family. We’re not sure how much longer she’ll be around because she’s continuing to decline from Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Growing up I remember Nana as always keeping a clean house and allowing me to pretend to cook with her Tupperware. Here we are in 1984 on Mother’s Day. (That wallpaper is gone…yikes!)
She grew up in the depression and didn’t graduate high school but always had a heart for learning. She would always spend time doing the crossword puzzles in the newspaper to improve her spelling and vocabulary and read the bible often. Because she grew up poor her and my grandfather always were trying to get the best bargains. They used coupons, shopped sales and every Christmas my family and I would always laugh because you could always hear Nana saying “Save the bows!” Each year we would have a bow from last year taped on our present.
Earlier this year my father and aunt had to make the difficult decision of putting Nana into an assisted living facility. It wasn’t easy and she fought hard saying she wanted to go home. However her dementia and alzheimer’s was so bad she forgot how to open the door, manage the heat and cook. While the decision was difficult it was necessary for her safety.
I’ve seen so many changes in her over the last few months. I’ve been home about three times this year and each time I see further progression of the disease. The first visit it was putting candy wrappers either on the floor or in the couch cushion (SO bizarre after seeing her keep a clean house all those years) The second visit I almost cracked up laughing. There’s a locked drawer where her medication are kept and I was going to get a nurse to unlock it to grab something for her. Instead she said “shhh. Here I”ll open it” She proceeds to take out the top drawer and reach down into the locked drawer. It took everything in me not to start laughing. She’s like a child who wants a cookie from the cookie jar and she found a way to get it. I was amazed at how fast this disease is taking her mind away. The last time I talked with her on the phone she said to say hello to my sister, (I’m an only child) she thought I was my cousin.
Nana can be stubborn at times but my aunt and I have decided to use laughter as a way to heal the pain. Apparently with Alzheimer’s patients they assume people are stealing from them when in reality they hide things and can’t remember where they hid them. My aunt and I were trying desperately to find her hearing aids (of course they were in the locked drawer) and I found out that she hides things in the clothes hamper. There are no clothes – instead there’s a can of hairspray, a bag of pencils and a variety of other things. No one will take a dollar can of hairspray or pencils. I’m not going to tell her that if people really wanted to steal something her flat screen TV would be the first to go – however there’s NO way the TV would fit into the hamper
I’ve lost two grandparents about 15 years ago. But for some reason this situation is different to me. Is it because I am older and wiser? Or could it be that in a way I am losing my grandmother twice? First her mind then her body. I’m not sure but either way it’s difficult.
As she continues to decline I will always remember the person she was throughout the years – not the woman she’s been the last few months.
If you have questions about Alzheimer’s – here’s a link to the Alzheimer’s Association.