Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. So when we got the diagnosis that my grandma’s weird behavior was in fact her Alzheimer’s disease at work, I began to be very fearful that we would not have much time left together. Although very tragic, my experience with my grandma and her Alzheimer’s disease completely changed my outlook on life.
1. Live in The Moment
Every moment spent with my grandma really reminded me to live in the present moment. When I was with her I was never sure if the next time I would see her if things would be drastically worse or not. So the time we spent together I tried to be fully present so that I could create some long-lasting memories with her. Things like reading books, singing, talking and laughing became some of my favorite memories throughout our time together. Sometimes, her mood could switch fast. One minute she would be happy and the next she would be scared or angry. Since things were changing so fast, it actually helped me adapt better when I was staying in the moment. I was fully equipped mentally to handle whatever was coming. Not only did this teach me to stay present but to truly learn how to enjoy the present moment without distraction.
2. Love Is The Most Important Thing
In the later stages of her disease, if my grandma didn’t recognize me or someone else, all you had to do was give her a hug or be friendly and she was always able to reciprocate that. She could feel your positive energy and even if she wasn’t sure if she knew you, she still felt comfortable enough to talk with you. Another beautiful thing was that she somehow always knew my grandpa was her husband. Sometimes she would forget, but most of the time she still will hold his hand just like she had in years past. Even when her memory was completely fading, the love she had for those close to her never faded, and that was always so special to see.
3. Keep Your Loved Ones Close
It may be so cliche, but if you have people in your life who you love so much. Never stop letting them know you love them, care about them and are grateful for them. Life really does move to fast to hold onto resentments. The people that are in our lives deserve to know that we will always be there for them, even if we can’t always tell them this verbally, it is important to do this by our actions as well. I was grateful that some of the time I could act as a caretaker for my grandma when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. But I know that now, I so desperately wish I was more present before the disease took hold. I wish I baked cookies with her, I wish I didn’t rush through dinner with her and I wish that I didn’t try to squeeze away from her hugs. This important lesson taught me to not only keep my loved ones close, but be an example to those around me to not rush through the precious moments.
4. We Are Not Our Diseases
Sometimes my grandma would get angry or forget my name. This used to startle me until I realized that that was her disease, it wasn’t her choosing to act that way. It didn’t mean that she didn’t love me any less. It’s important to remember this in all aspects of our lives and with different interactions with other people. Our diseases such as addiction, mental illness etc don’t always dictate who we are in the essence of our soul. My grandma was a beautiful, funny and caring individual and when her Alzheimer’s took over I knew it wasn’t who she was and that helped me to see through it. To love her right as she was and know that deep inside there was a glowing beautiful soul of a person. Try to remember that when those around you are suffering with many different things.
Alzheimer’s may have swooped in like a wrecking ball and taken my grandma from my family and me. But I know that she lived a beautiful life, and taught me so much along the way. These are life lessons that I will hold close to my heart forever.