Today I want to share a little about life with someone who suffered from the onset of Dementia.
My grandmother would have been eighty-nine years old today had she not been taken away from us by this horrible, sad disease. The bad thing is, as was our case, it often times goes unrecognised until too late.
My grandma was the sweetest, gentlest lady you could imagine. She always had a kind word and soft smile for everyone around her.
Then slowly, without us even realising, she changed.
When someone would say something she didn’t like, where before she would have just smiled, now she’d tell them off.
She smoked for years, then suddenly one day, she stopped.
Foods she’d always liked, now she didn’t.
Words that always came easily, suddenly disappeared.
Graph from http://MedicineNet.com
At first we put all this down to normal signs of aging. Both my father and father-in-law had recently passed away. We’d just bought our first business, a restaurant in our hometown, and were focused on learning the ropes there. (Whole other story 🙂 )
Mom and grandma came down everyday to offer advice and pitch in wherever they could. Truthfully, I couldn’t have made it without them.
My point in mentioning all this is I think that in the day to day stress of living, we missed the signs.
They seem obvious now, looking back. Not so much then.
I remember mostly being aggravated because she seemed to act almost childlike, and I thought it was a ploy for attention because we were so busy on the restaurant. I have to live with that now. I’m not very proud of that.
She couldn’t handle her house anymore and moved to a seniors apartment building.
The smile she’d always wore, faded.
We’d go shopping and she’d buy milk and grapes. Milk and grapes. More milk. More grapes.
Finally one day mom went over to see her and found her fridge and cupboards filled with, yes, Milk and grapes.
I think that’s when she knew. I can’t imagine how hard that must have been.
Grandma went downhill pretty fast after that. She couldn’t manage her medications, personal hygiene, or basic living. A decision had to be made.
Mom transferred her to the nursing home where she could receive the best care.
At first grandma hated it, she wanted her home back. Then, as the disease quickly progressed, she didn’t care anymore.
She’d sit in her room for hours, HOURS, watching the Weather Network.
She’d cry because Those People weren’t feeding her. They provided three meals, plus snacks, every day.
Her skin developed horrible black and blue bruises. She said They did it. We think, hope, it was her body getting ready to say good-bye.
Soon she couldn’t recall the names of her own family. Everyone except mom.
She began to think mom, her daughter, was her mother.
I don’t know how my mom handled it. She went every day, quite often twice a day, and kept grandma company while I worked. Then I’d go at night on my way home.
Sometimes it was almost like the old days. We’d laugh about things that had happened. Talk about all the people we knew. Places we’d gone together as a family.
Then, the next day, it’d be gone. As if it never happened. She’d hardly acknowledge us in the room.
This lasted almost two years. Her body slowly degraded. She quit eating.
Then she was gone.
Today, on her eighty-ninth birthday, I wanted to celebrate her life by hopefully helping someone else to pick up on these early signs, either in themselves or in a loved one.
Cherish the moments you have with them. Don’t waste them with useless regrets.
Happy birthday grandma
Love you, always and always