Azheimer's changes lives. No one is ever ready for the impact the disease has on family relationships and responsibilities.
I'd like to share my personal story. Writing this has been extremely difficult but healing and therapeutic for my heart.
Both of my grandmothers were diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. My paternal grandmother was diagnosed first. In the beginning, I didn't quite understand the disease. I understood what the it does but had no idea the impact it has on families. My grandmother, Eleanor Carswell owned a dance studio in the town I grew up in. I spent every weekend of my childhood dancing. I have so many special memories choreographing dance routines and performing at recitals with her. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and was alright living in her home for a while. However, a few years later we helped her move to an assisted living community. It absolutely crushed all of us to send her there. When we went to visit her she would beg us to stay. It was so difficult to see her so sad and confused. I would do anything to go back and have the just chance to tell her how much I love her. When I would visit, she would want to braid my hair and we would paint each other's nails. Even though she didn't remember exactly who I was, I knew that she was happy when I was there, and her memories are so strong in my heart.
My maternal grandmother was diagnosed a few years after my grandma Carswell passed. I knew what was coming but I didn't want to believe it. My maternal grandmother, Angela Bingham was the center of our family. She had a smile that lit up the room. She absolutely loved to have company over to cook and entertain. She hosted every holiday with lavish decorations and endless delicious food. She always made everyone feel welcome and gave each person individual attention that made them feel special. She was so supportive of all of her grandchildren and was present at every important moment of our childhood. She taught me how to cook and would make my my favorite pasta dish every week after church school. Our whole family experienced so many beautiful memories with her.
My grandfather took care of her until the bitter end. I swear their relationship was a version of the Notebook. He kept her in their home until his own health started to dramatically deteriorate. My mother and Aunt would take my grandmother shopping and out to dinner to try give my grandfather some rest time. She wouldn't be away for long until she started asking where her husband was. My grandfather cared for her until he was admitted into the hospital for his heart condition. We knew it was time to start looking for a patient facility because caring for her was literally taking my grandfathers life. Within 6 months of her being in the nursing home her health took a turn for the worst. At this time, I was living out of state. My mother called me in October and told me that the doctors gave her 7 days to live. She had a DNR and stopped eating/drinking. Those last 7 days were a turning point for all of us. I immediately drove home. Three days later, she passed away. I was holding one hand and my sister holding the other. Words can't describe the sadness I felt on that day. Our lives will never be the same but her memories and traditions will live on forever.
Thank you for letting me share my story. I encourage anyone who has been affected to share their story and help raise awareness.
Please support my participation in RivALZ, a flag football game and fundraising competition to help end Alzheimer's. This is a disease that must be defeated and we need your help to do it.
Your donation will advance the care, support, and research efforts of the Alzheimer's Association.
Thank you for helping us tackle this disease - win or lose, our true goal is a world without Alzheimer's!