My parents were a busy couple while I was growing up. Most of my life was spent waiting for them to be home in the evenings with just my brother and I and the nanny with us. I would cry because my classmates would talk about how their mom or dad would stay help them with their homework and put them to sleep. When my grandma visited us one time (I think she was about 70 then), I told her why I was sad. She just hugged me tight and told me that my parents were working so we could live a good life. Aside from Grandma, there was no other family member close to where we were living.
I didn’t know how or what transpired that day, but after a week, my parents would leave us at our Grandma’s every other day so that ‘we would not be too lonely’ said my dad. I was so happy, and I can even remember how that felt right now. My mornings were so much livelier and the afternoons much happier as she does what she does so lovingly. She cooked us delicious soups in the evenings and always tried to tell stories at night. I recall her voice as she called us from the garden to help her water her plants. She was strong, sharp, and quite active for a 70-year-old.
Alzheimer’s disease is a condition of abnormal aging that is characterized by symptoms that include memory loss, language deterioration, impaired ability to mentally manipulate visual information, poor judgment, confusion, restlessness, and mood swings. —
How She Changed With Alzheimer’s
We were living with that wonderful setup for about two years and then suddenly my grandpa died of a heart attack. My grandma’s best friend and companion of almost 60 years was gone. Although we were there, I saw that she was lonely. She still did what she did – took care of us and loved us – but there was something missing. The strength, the vigor, and the life in her eyes were gone. The laughter became less frequent – sometimes I couldn’t hear her talk for a day. She would just smile and hug us and then go straight to bed after kissing us goodnight. I saw a lot of changes in her – physical, mental, and emotional.
After her 75th birthday, I noticed how she went downhill – so quickly. The most significant change was in her memory. She often forgot where she placed her things, like her purse after we would go to the grocery store, or the knife just after putting it down on the sink. Then I got really worried when I saw her go out of the house barefoot. She forgot to wear her slippers. The final draw was when she was looking at me one night before going to bed. She just stared at me without saying a word. I asked her what was wrong. She cried and said, “Sorry, dear. I don’t remember your name.”
The course the disease takes and how fast changes occur vary from person to person. On average, Alzheimer’s disease patients live from 8 to 10 years after they are diagnosed, though the disease can last for as many as 20 years. —
I wept while I called my parents and told them what happened. They went over as soon as they could to check on Grandma. She was in her bed, crying, and calling out my grandpa’s name. My heart broke into pieces looking at her. I didn’t know what I could do to help her. My parents were so concerned and decided to have her checked. But she refused. She got so mad and after a few minutes, cried again.
Finally, my parents managed to bring her to the hospital, with the help of my mom’s other siblings. They told the doctor everything that happened, all the changes that were happening to my grandma – her forgetfulness, her mood changes, and her frequent irritability when she heard noises. The doctor, after listening and carefully analyzing everything, told the siblings that he suspected Alzheimer’s. So he requested Grandma to undergo some lab tests and mini-mental tests. After much consideration, he delivered the sad news that indeed, my once lively, strong, sharp, and intelligent grandmother was inflicted with Alzheimer’s disease.
Her Life With Alzheimer’s
And so the whole family’s lives changed with the Alzheimer’s that plagued my grandma. My brother and I no longer stayed with her frequently, only when it was my parents’ turn to watch over her. I missed her terribly, despite seeing her and being with her. I missed her laughter, which I would see some short minutes in a day when she would snap out of her oblivion and go back to her old self and remember everyone. My mom’s brothers and sisters went there more often than they used to. It felt much happier because we were together almost every week, eating together, talking, and just sitting around – just be the family that I’ve always wanted.
My grandma wizened more quickly than I expected. She became very weak and had to be driven by a wheelchair during her doctor’s visits. She was taking medication for her Alzheimer’s, along with some pain meds from the aching joints that now plagued her once tough body. She became dependent, and eventually, she suffered more conditions that led her to her bed, and then to her grave.
As she lost her memory, I regained mine. Scenes from earlier years that I had entirely forgotten leapt back so forcefully that they almost seemed to be happening now. — Jeanne Murray Walker Ph. D.
Our Lives After Her Death
Now, ten years after my grandma’s death, we gather together in her house, on her death anniversary. The years spent without her were sad, yet significant. The family has grown so much closer, as if afraid to lose a family member again. We have spent weekends and holidays together, visiting my aunts and uncles when we could. It seems my grandma’s death was an eye-opener for all of us that we should show our loved ones how much we love them while they are alive and conscious.
Alzheimer’s disease crippled my grandma, but it left us with memories that we will cherish forever.