Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Alzheimer’s Awareness Month: For My Grandma, Jenny

The memory is as razor-sharp as the day it happened many years ago. I walked into my parent’s living room and saw her, my sweet grandma Jenny. She sat on a high-backed wooden chair in the middle of the room, her wrists tied to the armrests with dishtowels.  Her uncomprehending eyes followed me. She didn’t speak. She hadn’t said anything beyond nonsensical mutterings for a long time.

I remember stopping at the sight. It hurt like a fist to my chest. Whether I said anything, I don’t recall. We had all noticed subtle signs years earlier—confusion and forgotten names. Maybe we were all too busy, wrapped up in our own lives. Grandma was just getting older. My grandfather, John, was a proud, strong man. He never let on that anything was wrong even as grandma became more withdrawn. Then his own health failed him and my grandma’s condition became obvious. By then it was too late. Her dementia had turned debilitating and violent.

This all unfolded in the mid 1980s. We didn't understand dementia and Alzheimer’s like we do today. I encourage all my friends to know the warning signs for their loved ones:

* Memory loss. * Repetition.  * Language problems. * Personality changes. * Disorientation and confusion

I wish we could have done more. I come from a proud Italian heritage where family always comes first. Family takes care of family. My parent’s did a wonderful job caring for grandma until the end. We all pitched in. When grandma passed, I had the clearest image of her soaring on wings like eagles through the clouds. I imagined her running like a child, FINALLY free and full of joy.

Time has eased the pain as time always does. I cling to that image of grandma just as I cling to the good memories: sitting around the kitchen table with the salami and capicola, the cheese and wine, Christmas Eve and the Feast of the Seven Fishes, homemade pasta drying on the dinning room table, homemade ravioli, grandma in her apron, always smiling. Those are the memories I will always cherish.

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  1. Alzheimer’s is a disease that is common among older people. So raising awareness about it would really help a lot of people to know its signs and symptoms. The better they know, the sooner they can have themselves checked, and even seek out the proper treatment for it. And it will also help inform those who have a relative or friend suffering from Alzheimer's to better understand what the person is going through at the moment. Thanks for sharing!

    Krystal Copeland @ CountrySide Village

    1. Thanks for replying, Crystal. Alzheimer's is such a devastating disease. We had a family friend who was stricken by it in her early 60s. The family had to deal with the downhill spiral for many years. Hopefully with more research and funding, we can bring more drugs to market that will continue to slow the progress of the disease and eventually cure it.