It’s been a while since my last post because so much has been going on and I’ve been struggling to cope with many things. 2017, for me, hasn’t started off great. My wonderful grandma was taken into hospital on 4th January and I was told that night that she wouldn’t pull through and we had days left with her. I’ve been sat by her bedside a lot since then. She is still with us for now but it breaks my heart to see her so frail. I wanted to write a post about how much of an amazing grandma she is but also talk about the disease that first took her away from me many years ago, Alzheimer’s.
I spent a lot of time with my grandma throughout my childhood which I’m so thankful for. There were days where I would go to see her and my grandad and she would teach me things like sign language. My grandma is deaf so learning how to communicate with her in ‘her language’ was important to me. She’s an impeccable lip reader but I could always see she enjoyed having small conversations in sign language with me. We used to go to Bury deaf club together too. We’d get the bus up and meet all of her friends there. They used to give me lots of biscuits too which was a huge bonus for a kid! Everyone was always so happy to see her and there was constant laughter around her. I always felt proud that she was my grandma.
She also loved to bake and every time I’d go around to her house I’d help her make a fruit cake. There was a constant supply of the stuff! She loved it! It was a staple in her and my grandads diet. I have to say, cake is a large part of my diet too!
Playing cards was something else she taught me. We would sit at the table for hours playing cards. Every now and then she would make herself and my grandad a cup of tea and we’d eat ginger biscuits before getting back to it for a few more games. It was impossible to be bored at my grandmas house!
Occasionally she would lose her purse and we would spend ages searching for it then find it under her pillow. I thought it was funny at the time and thought misplacing things was a normal “old people” thing. I didn’t realise it was the start of the disease that would make her forget who I am.
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. It’s a progressive neurological disorder that affects multiple brain functions, namely memory. It was over 10 years ago that my grandma was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and it is one of the most devastating diseases known to us. It doesn’t just affect the sufferer, it also has a huge impact on their family and friends.
My grandma was getting worse but I saw her every day after school so I didn’t notice as much. One of the worst days of my life was when she turned on me. I came home from school and was told by my dad that my grandma had walked to the police station and told them that I had been stealing her tea spoons. When I first heard, I laughed because it was obviously silly and she wouldn’t really do something like that, surely! I told my dad I would go and see her as normal and see how she was. I got to her house and rang the doorbell. My grandad walked out with my grandma just behind him. I said hi to them both and headed into the porch but my grandma pushed her way past my grandad and held her fists up at me like she was ready for a boxing match. I backed out of the doorway and she followed me with her fists still in the air. She looked so angry, I’d never seen her like this before. She started throwing punches at me, luckily missing me. I kept stepping back down the driveway and ended up on the pavement where she stood guard so I couldn’t get near her house. I was in tears and called my dad to tell him what happened. He came to the house and saw her with her fists up towards me as I stood crying and shaking. I couldn’t understand it. Why would anybody steal teaspoons? Why did she think it would be me? Where had my wonderful, happy grandma gone?
After that day I wasn’t allowed to visit her or my grandad as it would be too distressing for her. The next time I saw her was in her care home and she had completely forgotten who I was. She no longer remembered the teaspoons or trying to fight me. She just sat there nodding when I told her I was her granddaughter. She had no recollection of me whatsoever. It broke my heart and I was too upset to go often. It’s only in the past few years that I’ve come to terms with it and been able to spend time with her, buy her clothes and take her some home baking. Her smile is how I remember it but her eyes glaze over because I’m just a person who visits her now.
Spending time in the hospital with her the past week or so has meant so much to me. I told her I loved her in sign language and she smiled, grabbed my hand and wouldn’t let go. I will remember that moment forever.
Alzheimer’s needs to be researched a lot more. There is no cure or treatment. It’s just a brutal disease that can break even the strongest of bonds. I will do what I can to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s and hope that there is a preventative or cure in the near future.