My grandmother, known lovingly by most of her family and close friends as Momma Dye, lived out her life and faced dementia the best she could with the help of her daughter and several other caring individuals.
For me, it is difficult to be faced with the few memories I have and the realization that I was not one of the key family members that helped Momma Dye through her last years.
I am unsure of when the official diagnosis occurred, but I do remember some years before nursing home placement that my grandmother started having trouble paying her bills and keeping up with her checkbook. This was one of the first signs we noticed. She also became extremely paranoid about her finances. She believed that her son and daughter had taken her money.
My aunt lived on the same land with Momma Dye. When my aunt and her husband decided to build elsewhere they built a small one bedroom home for my grandmother on their new land. With the help of her children and grandchildren, my aunt did everything she could to keep Momma Dye safe, secure and well-loved for as long as possible.
The day finally did come where the decision was made to move my grandmother into a nursing home. Momma Dye stayed there until her death, a few years later. She experienced all the stages of dementia. Her last days were spent bedridden, unable to eat or drink.
The saddest part of it all is that I, along with my dad, had trouble understanding the disease process. Coping with a nursing home decision is hard, and Dad and I rarely visited my grandmother. I even worked in her nursing home as a social worker and still had trouble visiting.
I did not know what to say. It made me uncomfortable when she thought I was my mom, who had recently passed away. It was frustrating to try and carry on a conversation. Sometimes, when I would visit, she would be packing her things to go home and she would become angry when she found out she had to stay.
I did not know what to do. I thought I was making her angry and the nursing home where my grandmother lived did not have much to offer at the time in regards to dementia education.
Keep in mind, I was one of the social workers where she lived; yet I felt so much anger, frustration, denial and confusion that it was easier to not visit. This was so unfair to my grandmother, my aunt and me!
My aunt bore the responsibility of my grandmother's care with little help. Looking back on that time many years later, I regret not understanding my emotions and realizing that my feelings were normal—everything I was experiencing was normal.
Almost eleven years after my grandmother's death, working in the health care field and with so much more education about Alzheimer's under my belt, I decided to write "Alzheimer's Days Gone By," to help others find their light in that darkened tunnel.
My hope is that you each will find that light before your loved one passes away and discover ways to stop feeling guilty.
For me, the revelation did not come until years later; but I will continue to learn, educate, speak and pass on everything I can to others in my grandmother's memory. I know Momma Dye would be proud to know that she was part of the reason why I overcame my fear of writing, as well as the fear of success—or worse yet, failure—to pass this information on to each of you.
Enjoy those moments when the light burns so bright that it brings tears to your eyes!