This morning I was reading a blog post on Easy Peasy Kids. You can read it here. Nathalie was describing what it was like to parent her mother who has advanced alzheimers, but more importantly how to teach her children how to deal with it.
It brought back a flood of memories of my Granparent's and how hard it was to watch them decline and forget how to be.....be mothers, fathers, friends, companions, grandparents. Forget how to be who they were. They just forgot. Just like that...gradually over time. Little by little.
It started with my grandfather when he was just settling into a nice retirement village with his wife. It was supposed to be the happiest years they would spend. Just being. Instead he forgot how to be. He just lost track of who he was, where he was, how to do things, how to eat even....I remember the impact this had on my family, especially his kids. How do you watch your dad, who was a very talented craftsman, active and loving father forget even how to use his hands and forget that he was even your dad??
Eventually my grandmother had to put him in a nursing home as his care got too much. This was so hard for her, but she was a faithful and loving wife, and she stayed by his side, visiting every day almost until the day she was suddenly taken from us by a stroke. That was hard. Our family having to tell their dad that his wife had died, when he didn't even remember that he had a wife. Watching him at the funeral with that confused look on his face will always stay with me. I guess for him, it was a good thing as he was spared the pain of the loss, but for us it was even more painful knowing that he didn't truly know that she was gone...or that she was...his wife.
A months later it began with my other Grandparents. It all started when my Grandfather started having trouble going to the toilet and having some issues and a few falls, he ended up in hospital. My Grandmother was beside herself when he was gone, and after a few times, she started asking us where he was. I realised that she was forgetting the events going on around her. A while later she started having trouble at the home with wandering and being aggressive when they wanted her to return to her room. After a while, I could just tell it was all going downhill, the last time when grandpa was in hospital I went to visit and Grandma started saying how she didn't know where she was or who she was, that she was confused and I think alot of it had to with the fact that a large part of her was missing.
Visiting my Grandpa in hospital near the end was so hard. I saw a side of him that was not him, agitated, scared and messy. We tried our best to comfort him, to show him the love that our family was so good at as a strong family unit. To help him know who we were. I told him over and over how much I loved him. Read to him from his beloved bible and sang to him. This did help and eased and comforted him. My parents brought Grandma in to visit him one day, I was not there. Tears apparently streamed down her face. She remembered. Even only for a fleeting time.
When Grandpa died, peacefully in his sleep one night, my parents had the task yet again to tell their mother that her husband had passed away. I hope I never have to do that. What a hard task.
At Grandpa's funeral Grandma came, wheeled in a wheelchair to the front of the church. A mere shadow of who she once was. She was thin and depressed looking, confused and solemn. She barely looked up from the order of service which had Grandpa's picture on the cover. What was she thinking? did she remember him? I think she did. She accepted all of our thoughts, kisses, hugs and prayers with grace, and then we returned her to the nursing home.
The next few weeks I saw her forget how to be. She forgot who she was, who we were and how to eat, drink and do the simplest of things. She wasted away. She was dying from dementia but more so from a broken heart. She had lost her lifeline. Her husband. I remember going to see her for the last time before she died. I told her how much I loved her, I read to her and sang to her. I told her "I love you" and she replied, almost unable to speak..."I love you too". Slowly and like she just had to get those words out.
And I will always remember.