Alzheimer disease changes lives. Even though the disease is gradual, no one is ever ready for the impact the disease has on family relationships and responsibilities. As a granddaughter, I was flattened by my grandmother’s diagnosis two years ago.
I have moved often throughout my life, but one element of stability has been my grandparents and their residences. I have a strong connection with my maternal grandma as she, my mom and I are the only girls on this side of the family. Our relationships are strong and my memories are vivid; I remember the distinct smell of her residence—a combination of good cooking, flowers and cleaning products. My grandma has always been a high-energy, fashionable, beautiful and fun-loving woman. She has also been one of the strongest and feistiest people I know. Her distinct sayings, lessons, cooking and laughter are forever engrained in my brain. We are bonded for life, despite the fact that she no longer knows who I am.
Subtle Changes in Behavior – Hints of Alzheimer’s
My grandmother had actually cared for my grandpa for 30 years as his health had been compromised from a bad car crash in his 40s. She had to go to work during a time when women stayed home. She had to teach him how to walk, talk and toilet train again—and all while she had a young child (my uncle) and a college student (my mother). My grandpa eventually retrieved some memories and was able to be a good companion to my grandma, but he never worked again. He also heavily relied on my grandmother for the household responsibilities. So a large portion of her life was spent as a caregiver; and I have to say—she did a phenomenal job.
A little over 3 years ago, my grandfather passed away. Obviously, this devastated my grandmother as her spouse of 60+ years was no longer there for conversations, socialization and daily interactions. While my grandfather had health problems, he was her companion and they had a good life. Theirs is truly one of the love stories in movies; they met during World War II at a community dance, built a strong life and business together (my grandpa made a good living as an entrepreneur), had two beautiful children, and filled their home with good food, laughter and song. In fact, my grandfather sang in a barbershop quartet and he and my grandmother would always harmonize. Some of my best memories are of the two of them singing—their faces filled with emotion, passion and undeniable talent.
After my grandfather passed away, my grandmother went down hill fast. She had been forgetful before he died, but it was more basic memory retrieval problems; such as forgetting where her keys were or calling my 3 brothers each others’ names accidentally. But within a few months after my grandfather’s death, she literally spiraled into dementia’s clutches. She began to repeat herself constantly and cry. She spoke about how lonely the house was without my grandpa, even though she had visitors daily. She became bitter and angry. The ‘joie de viv...