This is my grandma.... I love this photograph. Proudly sitting behind the wheel of her very own vehicle, which she worked long hard hours to save up for and purchase all on her own. She met, and fell in love with a man in the United States Army at the tender age of 14. By the time she was 19 she had given birth to 4 children. Unfortunately, her love story didn't end with happily ever after. They divorced while still in her early twenties, and this young woman, with 4 young children in tow, went on to work and support her brood completely on her own.
As a child, I remember going to visit her in a beautiful apartment building along Park Avenue, in the heart of midtown Manhattan which she kept pristine. This building was not only home for her, but her place of employment. She was the building manager... a rarity. It's no secret most building managers are male. But my grandma proved that she can do anything, and everything a man in this profession can do.
To say that today it pains me to see the shell of the woman that once was is a huge understatement. Ten years ago, grandma started showing signs of Alzheimer's. She went shopping in her neighborhood and was returning home when suddenly, she didn't remember where "home" was. She stood in the middle of the sidewalk trying not to appear as though something was wrong. A passerby must've seen the look of confusion in her eyes and asked her "Is everything OK?" She told her she was trying to get home, but didn't know where to go. The kind woman asked to see her license and walked her home. A mere 2 blocks away.
Because she didn't get the proper medical attention for her symptoms sooner, her faculties began to deteriate quicker than a person who starts the treatments immediately. 3 years ago, upon seeing how bad she was during a visit, my mom decided to move in with her and become her caregiver. Anyone who has dealt with loved ones with Alzheimers knows, this is no easy undertaking. They begin to regress and act like young children. Although she takes her medication religiously, grandma, each day is getting worse. She can do the basics any preschool school age child can do: use the restroom, bathe (when told), and feed herself. She can laugh and play and have a good time. But, like a young child, she can not be left unsupervised. When unattended, she has destroyed a storage container of make-up, eaten all the sweets in the kitchen, put objects not intended to be eaten in her mouth, and has attempted to "cook". And like a child who doesn't get his/her way, she throws tantrums. When no one is looking, she hides items, then can't recall where she has put them. But perhaps the worse, is realizing that this once vibrant, independent, hard working woman is gone forever.... never to be seen again.
Grandma 2 years ago
My heart goes out to my mother who each day is coming to the harsh realization that she can not do this on her own. She has no help from her siblings, so this means she bears all the weight on her shoulders, and as each day passes, the constant need for care and supervision is making my Mom weary.
Alzheimer's is defined as one form of dementia that gradually gets worse over time. It affects memory, thinking, and behavior. Memory impairment, as well as problems with language, decision-making ability, judgment, and personality, are necessary features for the diagnosis. What the definition doesn't include is the fact.... It is a disease in which you slowly watch the person "die" before they have physically gone. My girl scouts and I put in time in a nursing home with an Alzheimer's unit, and we have seen how in the end.... the body is there, but the mind...the person who once was.... is long gone.
I pray, with all the medical advances being made on a daily basis, that someday we will see a cure to this terribly debilitating & devastating disease.