Alzheimer's Gets Personal-We are Sharing Our Stories

Thank you ladies for sharing such beautiful stories! It is important to focus on the positive moments when you're dealing with this disease, and what GREAT stories these are!

Two Generations Shared the Light of Their Lives

When my daughter was young, my grandparents lived in the assisted living wing of a local retirement community. Sharing their apartment pod was a woman who had dementia.  She rarely recognized people who spent time with her regularly--family, caregivers, neighbors.

Hayley and I would visit Pop and Granny several times a week.  We would always say hello to that sweet woman, and she would always ask my daughter's name, and my little preschooler would shout out, "Hayley!"  One day, we noticed the elderly woman sitting in her wheelchair, head down, disoriented, and moaning. My daughter skipped toward her-her body expressing all the joy that fills a four-year-old's heart. As the woman heard Hayley's voice, she looked up, and a grin crept across her face. My young child scrambled up into her lap, and the woman called out, "Hayley!" Hayley gave her a kiss, hopped down, then pushed her chair a bit. The woman began laughing. Hayley giggled then told her, "We're going to see Granny and Pop." The lady, warmed by Hayley's presence, held out her hand and touched Hayley's shoulder. Regardless of the dementia, in that moment, both generations shared the light of their lives.


Laughter is the Best Medicine

I was fortunate enough to live in the same city as my grandparents and was able to visit them often and get to know them well. My dad's mother developed Alzheimer's disease long before I ever knew anything about it. Looking back on it, there were plenty of warning signs (like putting things where they do not belong - burnt-out lightbulbs in her freezer) and the biggest was when she called my uncle from the pizza place down the street from her house, completely lost and scared. She'd lived in that neighborhood for more than 50 years. That's when we started looking for help and began educating ourselves about the disease and what resources were available.
It's important to focus on the positive moments when you're dealing with this disease. It can be frustrating to have to repeat things over and over and over again to someone with Alzheimer's who has no recollection of a conversation you may have just had with them. That being said, it can also be an opportunity to offer someone joy repeatedly as well. There was this joke I used to tell my Tata (literally over and over again) and it would make her laugh every time, which made all of us laugh with joy every time because she was having such fun!
"Hey Tata"
"Yes, Lovey?"
"How do you make Holy water?"
"You boil the hell out of it!!"
I still chuckle to myself when I think about how she used to laugh at that joke, sometimes six or seven times in one visit. It felt so good to make her laugh and while there was absolutely nothing I could do about the course the disease was taking, I was happy to brighten her mood (and my family's mood) whenever I could. She passed away Christmas of 2006 but I still think of her all the time and cherish the memories I have, while I still have them.