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What I Learned About Living with Someone with Alzheimer’s

My paternal grandmother lived with my mother, father, my sister and I throughout all four of my years in high school. About one month before I graduated high school, she moved out of our house because we could no longer provide the best care for her. Since that time, she’s moved twice and I’ve learned quite a few things about Alzheimer’s.

To me, the most important thing about living with someone with Alzheimer’s is watching the disease take its toll on that person. I always knew my grandmother was declining, but it never seemed rapid in real time. However, to think about where she was 6 years ago – a walking, talking, slightly forgetful woman – to today – a woman bound to a wheelchair, who can only eat liquefied food and can’t communicate at all – is a pretty severe decline. Alzheimer’s strips everything away from the person they once were and makes them someone who is trapped within their own deteriorating mind and body. It hurts not only that person, but those around them to see them wash away, so much so that my father – her own son – and my sister can’t stand to see her the way she is now.

Equally as important is how Alzheimer’s will affect those around that afflicted person. The tension between my mother and father escalated immediately when she moved in and as soon as my grandmother moved out, it dissipated. I missed out on a lot of things in high school because I often came home to help my mom around the house because she had been with my grandmother all day. Essentially, there’s a lot of misguided and pent up frustration that gets thrown around the house and it’s not always pleasant.

The thing that makes me the angriest is the system of “care” that Alzheimer’s patients are afforded. Well, afforded is the wrong word because if you want your loved one to have the best care and be the most comfortable, it’s going to cost you more than an arm and a leg. My grandmother truly does receive the best care – her nurses are sweet and kind and always keep my mom up to date and involved, she’s comfortable and before she couldn’t speak anymore she used to love to watch the birds outside the home’s porch window (she really loved birds her whole life). Before she ended up here though, she lived in two other places besides our home. We moved her twice: once because of injury and the other because of neglect. For a system that revolves around the word care, I’ve found that quality care is difficult to come by.

I truly love my grandmother and even if I didn’t, it would pain me just as much as it does now to watch her suffer the way she does. This disease stripped my grandmother of the person she once was and devastated my family. I hope someday that a treatment or a cure is developed for this awful disease so that no one ever has to suffer from it again, but in the meantime, I hope that you can find a little more sympathy within yourself for those who suffer from Alzheimer’s and those around them.

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