Friday, February 28, 2014

Ten Things of Thankful: Alzheimer's Edition

As I've mentioned, I arrived in Oregon this week to care for my grandma while my dad undergoes heart surgery and recovery.  My sweet grandma is 97 years old and has Alzheimer's disease.  
 
Me, Grandma, and Mom--Summer 2013



Though she functions relatively well given the circumstances, caring for her has poignantly reminded me of just how much I take for granted.  The terms "Alzheimer's" and "forgetfulness" go hand-in-hand, but even though I don't have Alzheimer's, sometimes I fail to remember how easy my life is:


1.  I'm thankful I remember John's name.  Grandma will talk about her husband, or my mom's dad, but his name seems to escape her.  

2.  Similarly, I'm thankful I remember my grandchildren's names.  I'm not sure that Grandma remembers my name.  My parents have lived in this same house for many years, and Grandma remembers that my siblings and I used to occupy the bedrooms here.  As we walk down the hall, Grandma will point to each room:  "That room used to be where the boy stayed."  "Whose room am I staying in?"  (my sister's)  "Whose room is that?"  (mine)  With each room, I tell her the name of the former occupant, and she says, "That's right.  I have trouble remembering the name."  

3.  I'm thankful I know who is living and who has already passed away.  Several times since I've arrived, Grandma has asked if my mom's dad (Grandma's husband) is dead.  He died in 1979.  I knew that short-term memory fades with Alzheimer's; I didn't realize how dramatically long-term memories disappeared also.  

Grandpa and Grandma years ago


4.  I'm thankful I remember how family members relate.  After my parents left to stay at a hotel near the hospital the day before Dad's surgery, I said something to Grandma about my dad.  She asked where he lived.  I told her my dad's name, and explained that this is his house; he lives here.  She was a bit surprised that he was my dad, and said she thought that he lived a long ways away.  

5.  I'm thankful for my mom, who is a caregiver extraordinaire.  Unless she has been able to sleep through the night the past few nights, while staying at the hotel near the hospital (and I hope she has), it has probably been months since she has had an uninterrupted night's sleep.  

Mom and Dad a couple of years ago


6.   I'm thankful for my dad, who is taking his own heart surgery in stride.  He's more concerned about my mom than he is about himself.  

7.  I'm thankful for the miracle of the human body.  Yes, parts wear out and break down over time, and many things can go wrong, but for as intricate as bodies are, it is absolutely amazing how well they work!  

8.  I'm thankful to live in a time when heart valve replacements are "routine" procedures. 

9.  I'm thankful for cameras and computers.  As I was walking down my parent's long driveway one morning to get the newspaper --Grandma likes to read the obituaries and the advice column while she eats breakfast--I noticed some cute lambs in the field across the lane.  I quickly grabbed my camera, and was able to share the scene with Grandma.



10.  I'm thankful that even though Grandma's memory is failing, her sweet disposition remains.  I know that isn't always the case with people with Alzheimer's.  It would be emotionally difficult to care for someone who resisted help, but Grandma is appreciative and accepting of my sometimes-clumsy efforts.  (Silly me--how was I supposed to know that shirt was actually a nightgown!)  While my parents are out of the house, Grandma and I are having a party!

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I'd love to have you join in our weekly Ten Things of Thankful blog hop.  Write a post telling what you are thankful for this week, and link up below. 
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42 comments:

  1. Kristi, I loved hearing about your time with your grandmother. My own passed away 4 years ago and she didn't have alzheimer's, but she definitely had some memory loss (her short term was pretty bad), but her long term was not really affected. But I do remember having to repeat so much to her about things that just happened and mine too had a very sweet disposition and just loved having us around to keep her company. Miss her terribly, but your post tonight made me smile and remember my times with her now. Thanks for that and hope you are indeed enjoying this time. And keeping your dad, mom and grandmother in my prayers now.

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    1. I'm glad my post brought back sweet memories. Thanks for the prayers. My dad is doing well and might be home early next week.

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  2. A bittersweet post. Our memories are so important to create a sense of family.

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    1. Yes, I am saddened to realize the extent of her forgetfulness, but her love of family remains strong. She just is confused about the specifics.

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  3. 97 is amazing. How many things your grandma has witnessed in her lifetime! I love the picture of the three of you - what a family resemblance! Alzheimer's is such a sad disease. Enjoy your time with her, as bittersweet as I'm sure it must be. Praying for speedy recovery for your dad, and oh, I love the picture of those wittle wambs!

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    1. Oh, I'm hoping I have her never-needs-dye hair! She might be little and old, but she isn't white-haired.

      Alzheimer's is a sad disease, particularly because she recognizes that she is forgetful. She is gracious in her acceptance of the need for help.

      Thanks for the prayers. It looks like Dad will be home as early as Monday.

      Aren't the lambs cute?

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  4. I'm really glad that your grandma's still got her sweet disposition. That must help a lot. And it sounds as though the forgetfulness is an irritation rather than a cause of anxiety, which is really good. I'm glad you're having a blast with her, and SO happy that your Dad's surgery went well :)

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    1. That's a good assessment. The forgetfulness annoys her, but doesn't make her anxious. We all help her fill in names of people or places. I am enjoying my time with her, and my dad is doing so well there is talk of him coming home on Monday!

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  5. congrats for your family coming together so effectively in response to something like Dad's surgery... so glad it all went well. Hope he is home soon. Your grandma is so lovely, I so love that generation photo of the three of you.

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    1. The doctor's said he should plan on 5-7 nights in the hospital; Dad said 4, and it looks like he might get his way. If he continues to do well, he can come home on Monday.

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  6. I am thankful for a wonderful older sister who is taking care of Grandma while Mom is at the hospital with Dad. Love you!

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    1. One of these days we should all consider living closer to each other. :-) Grandma and I are having fun together. Mom will be sleeping here tonight and tomorrow night, and if all goes as planned, Dad will be home on Monday. He said he feels like he's been run over by a buffalo herd; I accused him of roller skating. :-)

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  7. This was beautiful, and I could great patience and love. Truly awesome!

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  8. How wonderful that you are able to help care for your Grandma. I love your list and your attitude. I bet your family is amazing.

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    1. I am very fortunate to have a great family. Grandma is a strong, independent soul, and though she wishes she could do more for herself, she is also gracious and accepting of our help. She is a delight to care for.

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  9. You look like your Mom and Gran! Lovely picture.
    The longer Alzheimers takes, the more of the memories go, the latest first. Often people with A. will remember their own youth and parents and siblings the best. I worked in a nursinghome for people with A. and we sang childrens songs all the time, for they seem to go back in time. That your gran stays the sweet person she has always been is very rare ; so very often people get a completly different attitude. Sweet woman suddenly are harsh and bitter, the strict or closed man suddenly can become very warm and tender... So funny (not in a fun way) how that works....
    Continue your precious time with her, you'll be remembering this time you spend with her.
    Hope you Dad can come home as soon as he hopes and his recovery will be speedy.
    Have a wonderful weekend, sunday and till next time
    (oh, have the new router now, so internet is FAST!!! again... so glad! )

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    1. Glad your internet is faster now--it's always good to hear from you! I didn't know you worked in a nursing home; I bet you were a wonderful caregiver. I just read recently about a Dutch nursing home for Alzheimer's patients that is set up like an entire village. The residents can shop, get their hair done, go to the library, etc. but all of the store owners, etc. are actually employees of the nursing home. It sounded like a wonderful concept.

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    2. This sounds like a wonderful place. Why oh why can't they build more like that?

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  10. So true that the basic day-to-day things, places and names are what we take for granted. Your post is a fabulous tribute to your parents and grandmother! Glad you are able to help with the caretaking responsibilities!

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  11. How beautiful is this, Kristi! LOVE the way you put it together...so much to be thankful for, even in the midst of this thief of a disease. Glad you can put a positive spin on it, to say the least.

    And I especially love the photo of your grandparents...beautiful picture of a beautiful couple. :)

    Thank you for sharing this!

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    1. I'm glad you liked the photo; I wanted to show life before Alzheimer's. We can rarely get the full picture of someone's life by only looking at current circumstances.

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  12. Kristi, I am glad that your Dad's surgery went well and hope he only continues to improve. I am so very sure that your parents are grateful to have you to take care of your grandmother while they are away. It must be a huge relief to be able to channel all their energy into your Dad and his recovery. I love that in the middle of all of this you can find so very much to be grateful for...this is a true testament to the kind soul that you are.

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    1. My parents and grandparents have always been there for me; I'm glad I can repay some of their kindness to me.

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  13. What a wonderful time to have with your Grandma. I love the picture of your grandparents when they were young. I am glad your Dad's surgery went well. My MIL is going through something similar. It is a blessing your family communicates and works well together.

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    1. Is your MIL going through heart surgery or Alzheimer's? In either case, I wish the best for her.

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  14. Those little lambs are very cute and I bet your Grandma appreciated you sharing them. Alzheimer's is such a terrible disease. Not being able to remember simple things can feel so humiliating for them. Hope you get to enjoy your time.

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    1. It is frustrating, that's for sure. Fortunately, Grandma is generally mild-mannered, though the other day she did tell me that some frustrating thing, "Just makes me want to say bad words!"

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  15. What a blessing that you are able to step in and care for your grandma,and also that you are getting to spend this extra time with her.

    Your lamb picture is super cute. Great capture.

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    1. I'm really enjoying the opportunity to spend so much one-on-one time with her.

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  16. I think Blogger ate my comment...
    Your post is just beautiful, Kristi. Alzheimer's is so difficult - both for the person who suffers with it and loved ones. You have some lovely moments of thankfulness in here. It is true that there is always some beauty even in the midst of struggles and you have certainly highlighted that here. What a wonderful relationship you've detailed - on several levels. God Bless you and your family.

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  17. Oh I love the photos of your precious family, and what a poignant and beautiful list of thankfuls. You're right, we take for granted little things like remembering family and relationships.

    I hope your Dad is okay, and of course, love to your grandma. :)

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    1. My dad is coming home from the hospital today. Grandma has been worried about him, and I think it will be easier for her when he returns. She has been doing well, though.

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  18. What a great way to look at Alzheimer's. It's so good it hasn't affected your grandma's personality. Mine had it and it definitely affected hers, but she didn't even know who my mother was (her daughter) so it probably varies with the severity. Your mom sounds like she's a saint to look after your grandma so well and be up every night. And kudos to you for helping out.
    Hope the rest of your stay goes well and good wishes to your dad.

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    1. Every so often, my grandma will say something that doesn't quite match the woman I know, but for the most part, her personality is the same. I imagine as the disease progresses, that could change. My mom definitely is a saint. When I grow up, I'd like to be like her.

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  19. Oh, Kristi. It is clear where you get your beautiful, positive, nurturing personality. The photos are great additions to this story of your family. I especially like the one of your grandparents.
    The human body is miraculous. I often think about the heart, and how it never, ever stops. With this Lupus thing I have, my muscles tire out way earlier than I like. It astounds me that the heart, a muscle, doesn't need a break.

    I'm glad to hear your dad is doing well. I'm sure he is looking forward to being home again.

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    1. Thank you, Christine. I hope I can live up to my parents' and grandparents' examples.

      I tend to forget that you are dealing with Lupus--maybe it's the pig-wrangling stories that wear me out just reading them--but I'm astonished, too, with the longevity of the human heart.

      My dad is being discharged from the hospital today. I've talked to him, but am anxious to see him again.

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  20. Kristi, I missed this week's TToT, but I put up a post anyway; I was sick with the flu last week and barely got my school work and church work done, nothing else. Thanks for sharing the lovely picture of you three girls! Such a strong family resemblance. My mom's mother died when I was 11 so I never got a three (or more) generation picture. What a huge blessing. I look forward to eternity when we are not bound by time or distance or physical frailties and we can enjoy our loved ones at their best. Hugs and blessings.

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    1. I'll head over and read your post; though I am feeling well, I haven't been able to be online as much as usual this week. I hope you are feeling better now, the flu this year is a real doozy!

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  21. Your hair is so pretty long. The best to you and all your doings.

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Thanks for making this a conversation. I love to hear your comments!