Not Really There (F*@% You Alzheimer’s)

I see my grandpa, but he is not really there.

I can hold his hand and touch his warm forehead.

I can give him comfort, but he cannot return the favor.

Sometimes he knows me and my children.

Other times, he asks when I will graduate high school.

He often asks to go home, whether he is at this facility or home with Gram.

Today he thought my three year old was a patient there with him.

It is a blessing to grow old.

Is it, though? I question this frequently.

Gram complains about his care, no matter the quality.

I understand. And yet, this irritates me.

As a nurse I know these kind people are doing their best with an irritable, elderly patient.

I cannot force away my frustration with her no more than she can let go of her desire to control his care and surroundings.

She is losing control and she is lonely, scared.

She is losing some of her physical abilities as well.

It is difficult. It is unkind, this harsh new reality they face.

Broken bodies. Alzheimer’s. Aging souls.

As they face these nightmares, so do we. We are their only immediate family.

I think of my Papa’s estranged family members and wonder where they are or if they care what is happening to this man. Because, we do know what is happening.

It is not pretty.

As things sloooowwwwlllyyyy change, we are there.

As much as each of our demanding lives will allow, at least.

Everyday we are struggling to fit in one more progress meeting. One more visit.

As we continue to clumsily juggle our own daily tasks, we bring him a donut. We check on my gram. We worry and we make phone calls and we hope.

We are starting to plan for things that we previously had never thought about.

Even more so than the physical injuries my Papa is dealing with, Alzheimers has been a cold-hearted bitch.

Slowly stealing his light. Stealing his motivation. Stealing his mind.

One thing these circumstances have brought to light for me is the strength of our family.

My mom. My dad. My brother. My sisters. My Gram. I am proud of the things we are doing, the time we are spending, the effort we are now making.

Still, there is guilt. Are we doing enough? Are we doing the right things? Are we supporting them in the ways that they need? Should we have intervened sooner?

There exists no guidebook with the correct answers circled in red.

No rules in the medical anarchy that is dementia.

So, we will just carry on doing the best that we can.

I will continue to visit. Hold his hand. Touch his paper-thin skin.

Encourage his achievements no matter how small.

Chat with him about the weather, my kids, and gently redirect him back to the present when his mind deceives him.

I will remember to kindly speak to my gram as she fumbles with her exasperated, rude words.

I will praise and thank my family for being freaking amazing, each in their own way.

This is an adjustment for us all.

We love these people. My Papa and Gram.

Love gets more difficult though, when you can see someone and they are not really there.

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