Our family has been touched by Alzheimers
Alzheimers is not stranger to my family. My mother in law, Linda, was inspired by growing beautiful flowers, vegetables and fruit in her yard. She used to give me a tour of her yard every time we went to her house. It drove me a little crazy, but her garden was amazing. She was a florist and owned her own shop. It suited her. She loved animals, all animals. She inherited several stray cats over the years but especially loved the swans, bald eagles and orca whales. These things brought her joy before she was diagnosed with Alzheimers.
Meet My Mother-In-Law Before She Had Alzheimer’s
My husband inherited his mothers beautiful singing voice. When she was young she and her cousins performed together. She always had a place in her heart for music. Her little CD player always had something going in it. Music made her happy before she had Alzheimers.
Nothing made her happier, however, than children. She just loved children. She always had a smile on her face when she was around them. She always wanted to hold them, love them, mother them. She really loved her grand kids and she was a wonderful loving grandmother and mother.
Below is a picture of her at our wedding day 15 years ago. As I walked down the aisle toward my husband I broke down and began to cry. When I got to the altar she reached over and grabbed my hand and said “we love you”. That is who she was, so kind before she had Alzheimers.
Oh. Why was I crying? Well, that would be because I was relieved that someone was FINALLY marrying me. I figured he was still standing at the altar, he appeared as if he was going to go through with it, I finally believed it. I bawled. Then I heard everyone go , awwwwww. It was pathetic.
Here is Linda with my daughter 9 years ago. She was a snuggler. She loved children so much, before she had Alzheimers.
Here she was on the day that my son arrived home from Korea. Adoption day was a special event for her.
Wasn’t she beautiful? To know her was to love her. She was sweet and joyful and loving before she had Alzheimers.
Does my rambling sound a bit like a eulogy? In a way, its is.
My Mother-in-Law, Linda, was diagnosed with Alzheimers when she was just 68 years old. Her symptoms were observable a few years before that but it took us a while to figure out what was really going on. She was very good at hiding it and we blamed it on a narcotic she was taking, fatigue, retirement. Lots of things that were going on in her life made us feel her symptoms were just a passing “phase”.
Linda is still sweet and kind. She has kept her sweetness and can still exude joy. She is still beautiful and full of personality. She still loves children and identifies with a pretty garden. However, the Linda that I knew is gone. She is not there anymore. Every once in a while a little piece of her personality shines through and it makes our hearts soar for just a moment. She can make us laugh and smile for a moment. Then, it is gone again.
That is how it is for families who live with Alzheimers. A glimmer of hope to the depths of despair. We are constantly faced with reminders of what once was and the reality of what is. The knowledge of what is to come is, truly, heartbreaking. Unbearable, really.
She is just celebrating her 73rd birthday coming up on Christmas day. She does not know us, can’t speak a full sentence. She is incontinent, she needs to be fed, she needs help dressing and bathing. She stays up at night wandering the house all night long. That is called sundowning and it has been difficult to control. My father-in-law is up all night with her. During the day she wanders around the house and whimpers. She has a caregiver come in to help for 4 hours per day. My father in law takes care of her the other 20 hours per day. Four hours just isn’t much of a break.
My father-in-law has proven to be a worthy care-giver. It was a bit of a rough start but he has worked hard, gotten the help he needs, and figured out what needs to be done. He does it without complaint. He has shown his wife nothing but kindness, love and patience. How on earth he does it, I have no idea. The man is a saint and has my complete admiration. I am really proud of him for rising to the occasion. I am not the only one who did not think he could do it. He received a lot of unwarranted criticism from other family members at first. Most thought he had too many health issues of his own and it just wasn’t “in his personality” to care for another person. My husband and I worried about it too. Then one day I saw him put her in the car. He opened the door for her, helped her in, covered her up with a warm blanket and fastened her seat belt. All the while he spoke lovingly to her, kindly, lovingly. Lovingly. Then I knew, not only could he do it, but he was doing it. Love prevailed, he conquered.
My in-laws celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last year. We celebrated this fall with an open house for all of their family and friends to come. It was heart wrenching as many knew it would be the last time they ever saw Linda.
Here is a picture of her at the 50th Wedding Anniversary Celebration. What I want to know is how someone goes from the pictures above to the the person pictured below in just 7 years?
I believe in God. I trust in Him and want to do His will. Someday I will sit at the feet of my Lord and bask in his glory worshiping all that He is. That will not stop me from asking Him what He did with my mother-in-law, where did He take her, and why? Maybe He will help me understand the reason for Alzheimers.