Saturday, November 15, 2008

My grandfather's memory: Alzheimer's in my family

Although I was younger when my grandfather passed away after suffering from Alzheimer's for several years, remembrances of his struggles and their impact on my family are fresh in my memory.

Alzheimer's disease and the trials it causes are always difficult for family and friends to accept, but probably more so when they affect someone as independent and intelligent as my grandfather.

Specific moments that stand out in my memory are:
  • My grandfather getting into his car to drive home from the park... This was the last time I remember him driving, since shortly after this day the family realized that it was no longer safe to allow him to drive alone.
  • My grandfather's walks around the neighborhood... He still found joy in a brisk walk as he always had, although with his memory beginning to fail, a family member probably had to go "find him" more than once.
  • Confused sentences, questions that didn't make sense, the difficulty he had remembering my name... It was difficult for me to see my grandfather, a man of intelligence who had always encouraged me in my education, losing his grip on the world. Since I was not his caregiver, I had less exposure than others to the struggles that continued as his mind deteriorated, but many of the times that I did witness his confusion are etched in my memory clearly.
  • The familiar smile that I remembered from my childhood... Even in the later stages of the disease, when he failed to regularly recognize loved ones, it was comforting to be greeted by my grandfather's classic, knowing smile.
In this Alzheimer's Awareness Month, I remember again the struggles that my family faced as our loved one continued to lose more and more of his memory and therefore his ability to function in the world.

At his passing, guests at my grandfather's funeral were asked that in lieu of flowers they make donations to the Alzheimer's Association, an organization which provides help to caregivers struggling to understand what is happening to their loved ones, and trying to determine how best to help them. If you know someone facing Alzheimer's Disease, contact the Alzheimer's Association to find helpful resources and a local support group near you.

You might also find help in the list of suggested reading materials in Brenda Parris' Bibliography of Alzheimer's and Caregiving and in poetry written by those caring for Alzheimer's patients. Younger readers may find help understanding why their loved ones are changing by reading some of the books suggested at Brenda Parris' Alzheimer's Bibliography for Children and Teenagers webpage.

This was written for the 60th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy. Please visit Creative Gene for more articles and personal stories about Alzheimer's Disease and its impact.


jutka said...

Lisa, thank you for your beautiful posting. I lost my dear husband this February to Alzheimer's after I took care of him at home for over 10 years. There is no day that I'm not thinking about him and miss him dearly.

Lisa said...

Thank-you, Jutka, for sharing. I'm so sorry to hear of your loss. What a challenging ten years you must have had, but what a joy to have that time with your husband. I imagine that you were quite an angel to him during his struggle with Alzheimer's.


Thomas MacEntee said...

A great post - and thanks for listing some great resources.

Anonymous said...

It was certainly interesting for me to read that blog. Thanks for it. I like such topics and anything connected to them. I definitely want to read more soon.


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