*I have been trying to figure out when and how to write this post. Now seems all too fitting a time if ever.
Unfortunately, the title of ‘Caregiver’ is back for Lovie and I.
Grandma, or Gma as I have called her since I was a little peanut, is at the next stage. You see, she was diagnosed with mid-stage Alzheimer’s about two years ago. At that time, she was on her own after Grandpa passed in 2005, living a state away, but we began noticing things just seemed a bit off. Mom knew something was wrong when she was visiting Gma, and Gma didn’t know it was her own birthday when writing the date on a check.
Once the diagnosis was given, things were set in motion. Gma was not able to live on her own anymore. When we would take trips to visit, we saw signs of hoarding, bills that were behind or paid a few times per bill, food way past its expiration date that she was still eating, scads of magazine subscriptions because she thought the advertisements were bills and just paid them. It was heartbreaking.
Mom did a ton of research on Alzheimer’s to educate the family on what to expect, what comes with the disease, and how to best provide care for Gma. She also found a video that describes Alzheimer’s so very well. The biggest thing I learned from all of Mom’s reading and research is that there isn’t really anyway to know what to expect. This horrible disease affects every brain differently in different lengths of time.
Mom and Dad moved Gma into their house. Gma thought she was taking a long vacation to visit, and would be going home soon. That was two years ago, and with it came many mentions of needing to go back home. Her house was cleaned out and sold last winter. It was one of the hardest things to help clean out the house that Grandma (Gma) and Grandpa (Pampa) built and raised a family in, the only house I had ever known as Grandma’s and Grandpa’s house. As we packed, memories flooded back. The closet by the living room where Gma kept toys and puzzles for when we came to visit. The old mixer that Gma used to make mashed potatoes for every dinner. All of Pampa’s old western books on the shelf in the front room. Gma and Pampa’s chairs in the living room. And walking through after it was all packed and removing the heirloom pieces that are staying in the family, it was one of the toughest times.
While Dad has been working out of state, Lovie and I have been Mom’s help on caring for Gma. We eventually moved back home last year to help even more as the disease took over and Gma needed 24-hour care. Fast forward to this past spring; we watched the disease progress more and Mom begin to really tire out. The stress of watching her own mother start to fade away was weighing on her. In April, the decision was made to place Gma in a memory care unit. Since, she has continued to decline, and I only see a glimpse at times of the Grandma I grew up with.
Her memory is less clear, her balance is unsteady, she often looks at you confused as you ask her a question, but her sparkle shines through when her family is with her.
She was recently taken to the hospital after a fall when she bumped her head. With fear of a concussion or worse, she was admitted and checked. She didn’t know why she was there, and didn’t remember falling. Thankfully there was no damage, but it became clear to us this was most likely the first of many visits.
It breaks my heart to watch her fade away. It breaks my heart even more to watch Mom as she watches Grandma fade away.