Memory Care: Loving and Losing our Grammy to Alzheimer’s

Her life demonstrated such calm, sacrifice, and love.  She was smart and dedicated. She was conservative in politics, but abundant in love for her family.

There was nothing that she wouldn’t do for the ones she loved. When her children had babies of their own, she was in the room with them, soothing and encouraging, cheering them on. She spent many nights at her daughters’ houses, taking care of everything that needed to be done so her daughters could just rest and enjoy their newborns. She got up with the babies in the night and rocked them back to sleep and she never complained of being tired or needing to go home.

She adored her grandchildren, and because she only lived one house away from them, her home was a second home to them.  Her pool and heart were always open, beckoning adventurous little boys and girls to come and play and be loved.

She was generous with her money and her time.  If someone had a need, she filled it.  In many ways, her life paralleled that of the Jesus she so passionately followed.  Though her life and marriage weren’t easy, her faith never wavered.  

She was ahead of her time when it came to nutrition and health and alternative medicines.  Concern for her well-being led to taking good care of her body and the bodies of her children and grandchildren.  If anyone was, she was the kind of woman you’d expect to be healthy and hopping for many, many years.

And yet.

And yet, sometimes life doesn’t follow any rules.  Sometimes at the ripe young age of 75, memory can get a bit fuzzy.  Sometimes, a disease known as Alzheimer’s ravages the mind and leaves everyone in its wake feeling a bit dumbfounded and heartbroken.  

This sweet woman, the strong, serving, wise woman, suddenly couldn’t remember things.  It started with the cobwebs.  All her life, she’d valued a clean home.  And I don’t mean clean in the way some of us may consider it when the dishes are washed and the food is put away.  I mean, clean from head to toe, not a speck of dust to be found.

But one of her daughters started finding cobwebs.  

“Mom, did you notice those cobwebs up there?”

“Oh! That’s funny!  I just cleaned.”

A little thing, yes.  Something easy to toss aside.  And they did, thinking nothing more of it.  Until that little thing became a little bit bigger, and that thing became even bigger.  Until they could no longer deny that, yes, her memory was going.  

It all happened so fast after that.  The life she had so carefully constructed, the one in which she worked extra hours to put her grandkids through private school and baked soft buttery rolls that her family still salivates at the thought of, was suddenly lost to her.  

She couldn’t remember how to bake her famous chocolate pies for Thanksgiving.  She couldn’t remember how to get to the grocery store down the street.  And the granddaughter-in-law she’d had for a few years, well, what was her name?

Though heartbroken and resistant, her family finally had no choice but to move her and her husband into an assisted living facility where they worked with memory care.  They visited her often, but she was steadily declining, and not long after they moved in, her husband passed away.  He was her anchor, despite years of anger at his mistreatment of her pouring forth when the Alzheimer’s took over her mind, she still desperately clung to him as her memory failed her.  

But then he went and left her side.  How dare he, in all her confusion and angst, how dare he go and leave her like that.

The facility she lives in works hard to keep her going.  They specialize in senior care and memory care, an assisted living residence, with a special wing for Alzheimer’s patients. And she is at the point now where she doesn’t really remember that she had a home somewhere else or a husband that passed away.  

She still recognizes her three children.  They are her lifeline to the world she once knew.  But mostly, she doesn’t know what she doesn’t know.

But the rest of us?  Her children and grandchildren and sister and friends?  They are the ones with the angst and the pain and the broken hearts.  They are the ones that must keep pushing on when it doesn’t seem fair or right or okay.  

Life doesn’t play fair.  Good, strong people leave us too early, whether in body or in mind.  But it doesn’t take away from the people they once were.  The compassion and the fight and the dedication with which they approached life.  They will always hold that sacred space of joy in our hearts, because their lives have irrevocably changed ours forever.

If you have a loved one struggling with Alzheimer’s disease or in need of senior care or memory care, visit BayView Senior Assisted Living in Point Loma, an assisted living home dedicated to the gentle care of seniors with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia.