The Beast entered our lives with a bang. My mother in-law fell the end of August 2017 and broke her clavicle. She went to the ER, was admitted and stayed in hospital a couple of days for observation. During her stay at the hospital, after tests and scans, she was diagnosed with Advanced Alzheimer’s Disease. (It was explained to us that a true diagnosis could only be done during an autopsy. However, they have learned some about the disease to be able to decipher between dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.) They claimed hers was Advanced because of the “damage” and “disintegration” that was seen in the Occipital Lobe of the brain. The doctor advised us that her “days of being alone are over” and that, at this stage of Alzheimer’s, her life expectancy would be approximately two years.
She was discharged from the hospital and taken by ambulance to a rehabilitation center and was evaluated by several other medical fields, with the conclusion being another diagnosis of Advanced Alzheimer’s. She came home from rehab at the end of September.
Shortly after, we finally gained an appointment with a specialist in the Alzheimer field, a Neurologist, who confirmed again Advanced Alzheimer’s. Aricept was prescribed. A mood altering drug was also prescribed because many Alzheimer patients can become combative or even violent. My husband and I decided that we would not put more chemicals into her body until or unless it was absolutely necessary. She had gone her whole life with no need for medications, with the exception of thyroid medication. She has had kidney issues since she was a very young girl; therefore, we were concerned that her fragile kidneys would not take to all the chemicals.
I would like to state, for the record, that I love my mother in-law. For the most part, we have had a good relationship. We have all lived in one house for over 25 years at the time of her Alzheimer diagnosis. She had her own kitchen, laundry, entrance, etc. If you are going to merge two families under one roof, THAT is the only way to do it – in my personal opinion. We did not argue or bicker. My husband never had to “break us up” or referee, we were after all adults. I cannot conceive raising our three children without her help. Our children never had a babysitter and never came home to an empty house.
However, with Alzheimer disease all “filters” are gone. I would now know exactly what she was thinking, the moment it crossed her mind. I can only assume that the filters would get more and more porous as the disease escalated. I must remember not to take it to heart. I must remember what my parents taught me: “I am not responsible for what others do or say but I AM responsible for what I do and say.” Also, the quote by Eleanor Roosevelt must stay in the forefront of my mind: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” My hope is that I can live that and, with God’s help, I believe it can be done.
I must remember that this is my husband’s mother. He is an only child, one of the major factors of us all living together. His father has been gone for over 30 years. When his mother dies, he will be an orphan. It sounds a little silly that a grown man would react deeply to being an orphan so late in life, but I know it will affect him in a profound way. Perhaps more so than the passing of my father affected me, which was a deep pain that still aches. I, after all, still had a mother, brother and sister to share my grief. I cannot imagine how it would feel to have no “family” to share your grief. He will have me and the children, but I don’t think that will be quite the same for some reason.
Because of my love for her and for my husband, I left a job I thoroughly enjoyed to be the full-time care giver for my mother in-law. It was the logical decision but it was also the wise decision and best course of action for us. I do not include this to paint myself the martyr or to pat myself on the back, merely to inform. I am doing what needs to be done and can only be done by me at this time. The future may switch my roll but for now, she and I are joined at the hip.
I believe the worst part of Alzheimer’s Disease is the daily shrivel of life. They call it “The Long Goodbye” and I now see why. She has days, right now, that she is in the moment and can actually follow what is happening. However, most days she has a difficult time remembering how to dress, brush her teeth, etc. I am home all day with her but do my best to give her as much independence as possible to reserve some of her dignity. On “good days” she will dust, clean her bathroom sink, etc. But she needs to be supervised – I once walked in on her cleaning the sink with her toothbrush and then she put it back in the holder ready for her to use to brush her teeth the next morning. I replaced the toothbrush when she took a nap and do watch her a bit more closely now. It is almost like having a toddler in the house; however, a toddler learns something almost every moment and the complete opposite is happening with her.
She used to be able to multiply, add, subtract large numbers in her head. Now, there are days she does not even recognize a number larger than two digits. When the children were young, she would tell stories about “how it used to be” and they loved it. Now, however, there are only a half-dozen stories she repeats over and over, and even then the details can alter and the names are often changed.
Alzheimer’s Disease affects the entire family in ways you cannot anticipate. The obvious is that we cannot plan to do anything because we are not sure how Granny will be on that particular day. The unexpected are things like her getting scared because she is in the car with a “stranger” and doesn’t recognize where she is – when she is, in fact, in the car with family on roads traveled regularly. Nothing prepares you for those moments, especially when it is not the “norm”. I think we, as humans, can adjust to anything if it is a regular occurrence. I have been told that soldiers do not react to every bomb exploding around them when they are in a war zone, they become desensitized. They can eat, play cards, even sleep while the bombs drop and gunfire echoes through the night. I am told that one day I will adjust to this life, but I cannot see how that is possible.
WE NOW MUST JUMP AHEAD IN THE STORY . . . .
It has been one year, almost to the day, since the fall and diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease. My first grand babies (twins) will be born shortly. I must admit, there is a part of me that resents this illness in a new way because it will most definitely interfere with time I could be of help to my daughter and her husband, visits with my grand babies, or just enjoy being a grandmother. I no longer work outside of the home, therefore I have no source of income that I can use to buy items they need or just to spoil them. The rational side of me knows this would NEVER be something my mother in-law would plan for herself but the emotional side of me is still a bit resentful, not of her but of the disease.
I am merely being totally honest here.
I am a Christian who loves the Lord and believes with my whole heart that He loves me and wants only what is best for me. I believe that He never allows anything into our lives without it first going through His loving hands. However, the age-old question still surfaces: “Why does He allow tragic incidences into our lives, into the lives of those who love Him and He loves more than human words can express?” I know that the Bible tells us that ALL things work together for good to those who love Him…. (Romans 8:28). Therefore, I must come to the conclusion that this time in my life is for my over all good. It is allowed for me to grow, to deepen my faith or merely to learn something that I can pass on to the next one walking a similar path. I pray I am worthy. But what “good” can come for my mother in-law through this disease? We can never think like God, we cannot see the end on this side of Heaven; however, we trust that He has my mother in-law in His loving hands.
I try not to fall into the “poor pitiful me pit”. I do what I can to keep depression at bay, but all I do is only temporary – and I fail so many, many days. I know the only way to stay focused, remain loving and keep my heart from hardening is to crawl up into His lap every single day and allow Him to love her through me. There are so many days that I don’t love me and, without that small act of kindness to myself, I am totally unable to be loving to anyone. There are also days that I feel so defeated that I do not have the physical strength to pick up my Bible or even fall to my knees. However, I will keep reminding myself that I am not alone, that He loves me and that this was not allowed into my life to break me. I must constantly remind myself of who I am and Whose I am and Who abides in me and strengthens me. Also, this is not happening to ME but to her and that helps keep selfishness at bay – for a time. I am a selfish person, a truth I have discovered on this road.
The Grandbabies were born almost a little less than a year from Gran’s fall and diagnosis. We all went to the hospital to celebrate their arrival. We decided that we would all leave the babies and their parents “alone” for the short time Daddy had off of work. Shortly after my son in-love went back to work, Gran and I began our prearranged schedule – every Tuesday and Thursday was to be spent with the babies and their Mommy. We went on Tuesday and had a wonderful visit. She laughed and cooed over the babies. She held each of them and gazed into their eyes. You could see years fall from her face and peace wash over her. On the way home we talked about our visit and relived the precious moments that we had shared that day.
BEFORE COMPLETING THIS POST, my mother in-law Graduated to Glory.
We went to see her new Great Grandbabies on that Tuesday and she had a “bleed stroke” on Thursday of the same week. When we were on the way home from that visit with the babies, we had a wonderful time and she laughed often, she and I had a long time to talk due to traffic. We were talking about what was to come now, I am a grandmother and will have new tasks in my life. She is now a GREAT Grandmother and will have all the benefits, hugging babies, and NOT changing diapers. We laughed as we remembered the faces the babies made that day, the precious things my daughter did for and with them. I said something about how my life was about to change, in a good way, and get very busy. She thought for a second and said, with a smile in her voice, “I’ve held the babies and the boys both have good girls, I’m done.” And she laughed, as if to say all the “heavy lifting” would be up to me and not her.
Two days later, she had a bleed stroke that landed her in the hospital. It was explained to us that proteins build up in the brain causing the blood vessels to become “brittle”. Having the bleed was only the beginning. Per the doctors, there was no “repairing” the damage; therefore, the probability was high that she could have another bleed. She was thirteen days in the hospital. Mostly she was sleeping or looking off into the distance. She had some days it was obvious she knew who was there, especially when her two grandsons and granddaughter visited. There were moments she was able to put together a few words, or answer a simple question. But there were also days that she “spoke” but words did not come out, her mouth moved and sounds were made. The awake moments became less and the “sleeping” became more. Finally, the hospital said they had done all they could and would be discharging her to Hospice care. We let them know that we preferred in-home Hospice as opposed to a facility.
She was brought home in an ambulance and a hospital bed was waiting at the house. During the next five days she had only a few moments where she was “with us” long enough to tell her son that she loved him. Our oldest son was staying at the house with us. On Sunday I made sure that her favorite preacher was on the television and loud enough for her to hear from her bed. Her youngest brother had come the night before to say his good-bye to her and her nephew came Sunday afternoon. I think I confused them a little when I told my mother in-law “They are getting ready to leave now, Mom. They just wanted to say good-bye to you.” It was obvious to everyone that she was not “awake”. But I have always heard that even a comatose person can hear what is being said around them. Therefore, we talked to her constantly.
Sunday night my husband and our son said good night to her. My husband, her child, told her that he loved her. It had become my habit that when I gave her the nightly dose of her medicine, I would tell her that she could go Home any time she and God were ready. I promised that I would take care of her son, her only child, just the way she had taught me to. Less than five minutes after the men had gone upstairs Sunday night, she took her last breath. I truly believe that she was simply waiting for her only child to leave the room. Knowing her, she wanted to spare him the pain of seeing her exit her earthly shell.
During the year I was her Care Giver I would take her to all her appointments. Many times we would go for a long drive after an appointment. Most of the time it would include driving by the home she lived in as a child. She loved to tell the story of her and her siblings playing ball in the front yard. The story would often end with her saying in a wistful way, “I miss running”.
On that Sunday night, approximately 10:50 p.m., she ran again. She ran straight into the arms of her Savior that, I have no doubt, came to her personally to guide her Home. She is probably still running on Golden Streets with her sisters, parents and husband.
Alzheimer’s Disease took her from us one day at a time. Alzheimer’s caused the vessels to become brittle and that was the cause of her bleed, the final tool used to take her from us. As much as I hate the disease, I love God so much more. She had no pain, no major problems due to the disease until the end and even then had pain only when moved. Her body slowly gave in to the disease and it claimed her body; however, it did not take her life, not truly. You see, everything that made her “her” is still living and in a perfect form now. She will never be sick again, never hurt again, never need a physician again, never have another tear shed. She was healed, totally, completely and eternally.
Those that do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ may not understand this. We, as Christians, know that God created us. We know God is in control of everything. We messed up perfection in the Garden of Eden and sin entered the world. Because of that, we have disease and a temporary existence on earth. What most do not realize, or want to admit, is that we ALL have an eternal existence. Those that accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior obtain a gift called salvation, that costs us nothing because Jesus Christ paid that cost with His very blood and life. Because of that, we will have eternal LIFE. Those that refuse Christ will have eternal DEATH. God does NOT send people to Hell, our choice NOT to accept His free gift of salvation CHOOSE Hell by default. Get ready, none of us are getting out of here alive. Be sure you have chosen eternal life, do it today.
LESSON: The things I have learned while caring for an Alzheimer patient will translate into my life going forward.
Don’t put off spending time with those you love – tomorrow may not come or you may not be “there” mentally to enjoy it.
When dealing with anyone, whether an Alzheimer patient or the person in front of you in line, you do not know the path they are walking, show mercy – especially when frustration is growing. The slow person in front of you MAY be scared and confused because they do not recognize where they are.
For yourself, remember not every trial that comes to you is intended for your use. You may have an audience God is trying to reach. Chin up and rely on Him to use you, lean on Him for guidance and grace. Learn lessons taught along the way and share them with those walking a similar path.
What was all the “Jesus talk” about? Follow this link: http://www.sbc.net/knowjesus/theplan.asp