Have you ever thought you knew somebody and understood them but turn around and it seems they are something completely different?
This can happen in any relationship we are in, and I certainly have been in a few like it in my life. Most recently though – I have found in caring for my Granny that some days she seems to be somebody I don’t even recognize. I leave one afternoon having spent the day with the woman I grew up with – sweet, caring, a little bit on the naïve side but always loving and generous. The next morning I arrive and it’s as if some stranger has taken her place. When did the aliens start abducting my Granny for a night and leaving this strange woman in her place?
I know it hurts her as much as it hurts me. I know many parts of this disease she simply doesn’t understand at all. She can’t comprehend fully why or how things come up missing and gets hurt and angry when we mention she is the one that hid them or threw them away. She feels like we are making fun of her all the time, when in reality – we work so hard to be gentle, respectful and understanding. She thinks some of her family doesn’t love her anymore because they no longer stop in for a visit. It’s hard to explain to her that it’s much harder for them to see her in an angry or disoriented state than she can imagine.
I have worked in the medical field off and on for ten years now. I have been around many Alzheimer’s patients in many situations. I have seen patients with severe dementia that seriously thought they had been abducted by aliens, abused by family members or were millionaires on a luxury vacation. What happens in our brains as we age or are affected by disease amazes me. From a medical standpoint I am curious about its origins, what its causes are and how it can be prevented. From a granddaughter and caregivers standpoint I hate it. I want it gone. I curse the day it became a problem in our life and I would give anything for a cure that would not only stop it in its tracks but repair the damage done already.
This journey continues to amaze me. The little things that make a difference surprise me every day, and the rational normal moments that appear give me hope and break my heart all at once. I think about the book/movie The Notebook almost every single day. The staff and doctors had no hope for her – but he knew that woman he loved was in there somewhere – if only he could reach her for a moment, and they could dance. Each day I get out of my car, take a deep breath and walk up the ramp to the door. As I open the door I pray that today is a day when there is a smile greeting me and happiness that I am there. I know once I cross that threshold I am there for the duration regardless of what greets me.
The days of knowing and understanding are behind me…now are the days of loving and having compassion regardless of the actions and words that are presented. Just like in the movie – I wait for the days when I can see my Granny as she was – those glimmers of the dance.