Tuesday, March 26, 2013

{Guest Post} Alzheimer's Through My Eyes

Today I have a guest who, as you know, I consider to be one of my "blogger besties" sharing her thoughts on watching her grandmother's struggle with Alzheimer's for almost 20 years.  This post will touch your heart and make you think (so make sure you have the Kleenex handy).  My grandfather struggled with Dementia in the last years of his life, so my heart was instantly in tuned with hers when I read how Alzheimer's impacted her life growing up, and how watching her family's response shaped her views on true, unconditional love.
 
 
Please welcome
 
 Jo of Jo, My Gosh! 
 
(and please leave her some comment love below)
 
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Hi!  I'm Jo, the blogger behind Jo, My Gosh!  Join me as I blog about deployment, care packages, recipes, crafts, and everything in between!
 
One of my deepest, greatest fears is that hidden somewhere in my DNA, I hold the right cocktail of genetics for Alzheimer's. Even typing that sentence makes me tear up, makes my stomach twist. Every time I lose my train of thought or misplace something, my brain can't help but move in that direction. What if...?

My fear comes directly from watching my grandma struggle with Alzheimer's for almost 20 years. Alzheimer's is a cowardly disease-- sneaking in and stealing, piece by piece, personality, memories. It is painfully slow and painfully emotional for everyone watching it affect the person they love.

I can only imagine how Grandma must have felt in the early years-- knowing something irreparable was wrong as more and more words slipped out of her grasp, as more things didn't make sense. It must have felt like slowly sinking into the ocean, like slowly drowning without the hope of a life preserver or a friendly hand. As a kid, I didn't notice her slow unraveling at first. And, when I knew that something was wrong-- once, as a family, we began naming it for what it was-- it was the family members around me that profoundly changed.

It galls me to say that something positive could come of Grandma's illness. It was so very devastating to my family; even thinking it makes me feel like a traitor. And yet, good can always be found in the darkest times and most unremarkable places.

The love that my mother and grandpa displayed tirelessly and unconditionally over two decades, is nothing short of monumental. It wasn't until I became an adult that I really understood the sacrifices that they made all while dealing with the emotional ramifications that Alzheimer's inevitably entails.

Grandpa's unwavering steadfastness is something that I will always admire, and something that I try (and fail) to emulate. Throughout her disease, Grandpa never forgot that somewhere, inside her slowly withering body, was the girl he fell in love with in eighth grade and the woman he explored the world with. He treated her that way-- as the woman he was still madly in love with-- even as she became unable to talk and no longer recognized him.

My mother kept two households running-- making dinner almost every night for our family and Grandpa and Grandma, cleaning, advocating on behalf of my grandparents for various organizations-- all while taking post-master's classes, raising three kids, working a professional, full-time job, and keeping everyone's schedules straight.

As a clueless kid and then as a self-absorbed teenager, that was just the way things worked in my family-- it was status quo, nothing special. Today, looking back, I am deeply in awe.
 
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You can connect with Jo at the following locations:
 
 
 
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Thanks again for joining us, Jo!

Here's your badge, if you'd like to use it.

 




 
For more information on Alzheimer's and what you can do to help raise awareness, become an advocate and/or help find a cure, please contact the Alzheimer's Association.

 

11 comments:

  1. This totally made me SOB. Oh Jo, hugs. What a beautiful, amazing piece of honest writing. I am SO GLAD that Julie had you here to share it.-Ashley

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    1. Ashley-- thank you so much for your kind words! I am glad that you found worth in the post. :-)

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  2. As a clinical manager that cares for patients who suffer from Alzheimer's and dementia, I can so appreciate this post. Thank you for sharing this with readers. Alzheimer's is a disease that becomes a lifestyle change not only for the patient, but for that person's entire support system. Great post! Andrea @ be-quoted.com visiting from SITS.

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    1. Thanks, Andrea! I really admire the work that you do-- it is difficult, but dementia patients need advocates too!

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  3. {Melinda} Such a sweet, but sad story. Your Grandpa sounds like an amazing man. What a beautiful picture of unchanging love.

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    1. Thank you, Melinda. My Grandpa is one of my heroes. He is absolutely unwavering and loyal. It is amazing.

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  4. Thank you to all who left some comment love for Jo! She did an amazing job sharing such a difficult subject! I am so glad she agreed to be a guest for me. :) Thanks again, Jo!

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    1. Thank you for having me, Julie! It was truly wonderful to write this and to guest post on your blog. You're awesome!

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  5. Your grandfather and mother are amazing! Alzheimers is a horrible disease, for everyone touched by it. Thank you for sharing your experience.

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  6. Gah, I am literally crying while typing this. Alzheimer is ugly, but your grandparents prove to be awesome and not even that horrible disease can withstand their love. I just wish there will be a person who'll take care for both of them. I super admire your Grandpa's loyalty; it must have been the truest love for thinking he'd been taking care of her for more than 20 years. *more tears*

    Taneka Carl

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