Losing a Loved One to Alzheimer’s Disease

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Growing up, my little sister and I loved hanging out at our grandparents’ house.

Go ahead, Mommy and Daddy, we can’t wait to play with Nanny and Pop-Pop!

I know grandkids are supposed to be the apple of their grandparents’ eyes, but I absolutely adored my grandmother.

I inherited a lot from her: my love of reading (particularly romance novels); game shows (we watched Price is Right, Wheels of Fortune and Jeopardy religiously); and a not-so-guilty pleasure of watching trashy TV (she’d frequently admonish soap opera characters, so I know she’d love reality shows). Moral of the story: I loved my Nanny.

Me and my baby sister with our Nanny, circa '91.

Me and my baby sister with our Nanny, circa ’91.

So, it was with great confusion that I learned she’d be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease when I was about 11. What do you mean this woman with whom I spent a majority of my childhood didn’t know who I was?!

I was hurt. And sad. So I began to distance myself. When the rest of my family was helping to feed and bathe my grandmother–simple actions she could no longer perform herself–I did nothing. I couldn’t. It was just too much.

I didn’t fully understand what was going on, nor did I really want to. I just knew I wanted my Nanny back.

On Christmas Day 1999, my family went to visit my grandparents at their house. When my sister and I were younger, we’d travel from grandparents’ house to grandparents’ house racking up all the gifts we could. But this particular Christmas had a rather somber note because my grandmother was especially sick.

My Nanny smiled and told me I was beautiful. They were simple words, but they meant the world to me. For that brief moment, she remembered who I was–the granddaughter she lovingly called Priss, which was short for Prissy. (So I was a little bit of a diva when I was younger. Don’t judge!)

Nearly two weeks later, my grandmother passed away.

I was devastated and I instantly regretted not doing more to help her. I’d abandoned her when she needed me the most…and now she was gone.

Alzheimer’s is an ugly disease. The person is physically there, but the real person–the one you know and love–is a ghost. It’s heartbreaking…and there’s no cure.

But my grandmother didn’t die in vain. In her death, she taught me perhaps the greatest lesson about life: don’t ever take it and the people you love for granted.

If you suspect someone you love may be suffering from Alzheimer’s, I encourage you to visit this website to find out more information and find out if your memory may be at risk HERE. Most importantly, I encourage you to tell them how much you love them before it’s too late.