21 May 2011

~Alzheimer's Has Touched My Family~

Alzheimer's has touched my family.
With it's cruel hand it locks away years of memories
Memories that contain years of living one's life.
Memories of the childhood.
Birthing children and raising them.
Memories of everyday life that make life what is.
Sadly, my Nana has no memory of coming to visit in August 2009.
And the cruel hand of Alzheimer's even takes away the memories
of yesterday and an hour ago.

Several years ago my parents began to notice subtle changes in my beloved Nana.
So subtle that as they passed on their concerns we just chalked it up to age.
Nana is in her late eighties.
Several specialists chalked it up to depression.
And treatment was began through
a never-ending, *trying to get the right medication to work*
for a diagnosis of severe depression in my grandmother.

Specialists, with all their degrees and years of practice, who smiled at the end of each visit,
with words of wisdom ~
"Give this new medication about 4-6 weeks and you will start see a change".
With prescriptions in hand, my mother and my aunt Debbie, (who is more like a sister!)
 would guide my
Nana out the door.
And to a pharmacy to fill yet another bottle with hope.

But over the next 4-6 weeks the changes my family would witness
be ones of apathy.

An avid reader for her whole life, my Nana wouldn't pick up a book.
Loving a good movie lost it's appeal.
She would stare at the same page on a magazine for hours.
She no longer wanted to take a walk or get on the treadmill for her exercise.
She had such an attitude of apathy it was frustrating for my parents,
with whom she lived.
She would sit in the same spot for hours.
No TV or radio.
Just sit and stare.
Along with medications she was instructed to exercise.
Something she had always kept up with.
My Nana has always been extraordinarily healthy.
(Hospitalized 4 times in her life;
twice for the birth of her children,
once in a car accident and only once for illness.)
But, she would tell me she simply felt as if she had lost
"her get-up and go".
I would ask her to promise me that after our phone call,
she would do 10 minutes on the treadmill.
To my Nana, a promise is a promise.
(A secret is a secret! Always a great quality in a Nana!)
But, later I would speak with my mom and find that Nana
had simply hung up the phone.
And didn't move from her
*hours in the same spot* place on the sofa.

A new specialist was sought to ask what had been broached with other specialists.
Does our mother have Alzheimer's?
My mom and aunt Debbie would always ask.
Always told no, they would accept the diagnoses of depression.

This new specialist confirmed that, yes, it most certainly
early onset Alzheimer's.

There was a lot of anger toward those
2 years of making the rounds and seeking out a diagnoses.
Two years that could have been spent
seeking the right therapy and proper medications.
Two years of frustration beyond belief.

With a proper diagnoses and intense education among ourselves
my family moved forward with
our *new normal*.
Of course, J and I live in Tennessee.
My aunt and uncle live in North Carolina.
And my parents, along with Nana, live in Ohio.
We are a very small family!
(I am an only child; my mom and my aunt are each other's only siblings)
My aunt would make frequent trips to Ohio.
Taking over my parents duties of
what became 24 hour watchful eyes.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Me and my Daddy!

But, my parents became full-time caregivers.
My dad is semi-retired.
And I cannot say enough of how proud I am of my father!
He took on all the daily caregiver duties while my mom was at work.
Helping my grandmother in the kitchen,
helping with normal daily activities we take for granted-
even taking Nana to her once a week beauty shop appointment!
My mom still works full-time at her position of 25 years.
Stress-filled is not even a phrase to describe what their daily lives became.
Although my grandmother is very much
*in the moment* and can carry on a conversation and enjoy it-
10 minutes ago, in her new world, does not exist.
Basic things, such as bathing, fell to my mom to take of.
Laying out her clothing each evening, so Nana could dress in the morning.
New locks had to be installed on the exterior doors of their home.
My parents lost the ability to enjoy each other's company
for a dinner out alone.
All of this seems very trivial but there is so much more that I could
write about. I believe you get the *just* of it!

my Mom, my best friend!

And for almost a year and a half, they never, ever went
anywhere together, just the two of them.
A great many marriages do not survive the diagnosis of Alzheimer's
in a parent in which the patient lives with their adult children as caregivers.
I know that I am not even scratching the surface of frustration they felt.
Anger at Alzheimer's is more than a mountain of feelings.

Last summer our family began to tread lightly
on what was obviously going to become a necessary life change for my Nana.
Finding a place for my grandmother to live,
which would give her the guided mental stimulation needed for Alzheimer patients,
24 hour round the clock staff, in a secure environment.
A place that specialized in memory care patients.
A place where she could have social interaction with others.
A place where we, her beloved family, would know that  she was living a quality life!

And so last Fall,  after being on a quite a lengthy waiting list,
my grandmother moved to a wonderful assisted living facility
in my hometown of Perrysburg, Ohio.
There was a time of adjustment for her obviously.
Also for my parents.
But even greater for my lovely mom.
In the past few years she has become the parent to her own mother....
My mom and grandmother have always been exceptionally close.
And my grandmother had lived with my parents since 1992.

And now our family is getting ready to make yet another adjustment!
My parents will moving here, to east Tennessee, within the next year.
(i just danced the *Happy Dance*)
Because waiting lists for specialized  facilities are usually a year or more,
action had to be taken!
My Aunt Deb and Uncle John made the trek over the mountain, two weeks ago
from North Carolina, to where J and I live.
They had several appointments to look at different places.

One very special place is called
River Oaks (just click)
It sits in the most charming little town of Loudon.
I adore this little town.
Really, it's right out of Mayberry!
River Oaks was originally built as the county hospital.
Five years ago the property was bought and totally renovated and updated
into one of east Tennessee's premier assisted living facilities!
And it has  *memory care* assisted living!
Just what my wonderful grandmother needs to help her
maintain a happy, healthy, in-the-moment life.

Deb and John couldn't stop gushing about River Oaks!
Where my grandmother is currently living is a beautiful, well-staffed place.
But, River Oaks is above and beyond anything we could have imagined for her!
(it is also $2,500 a month less! Yes, you read that right. Assisted living is very, very expensive!)

But, then there is the dreaded waiting list....
Oh, wait!
They actually had one suite available.

After my family spent hours on the phone with one another, emailed pictures, info,
spent time online reading reviews, checking out the facility physician (i know him !)
the decision was made that River Oaks was where the family wants my grandmother to live.
And since I live near River Oaks,
Deb and John are only two hours away,
( retired and looove road trips!)
and my parents will be moving here....
it would work out beautifully.
But, we couldn't wait.
Nana could go on the waiting list and when my parents are ready to move,
there might not be a suite available.
And we certainly are not leaving her in Ohio all alone.

So next week my entire (little) family will be arriving in the mountains
of beautiful east Tennessee.
With my beloved grandmother!
Who will be making her new home here!

I know she will be happy at River Oaks.
They have so much to offer her.
My grandmother also has much to offer in the way of her huge heart and loving spirit!
She will make wonderful new friends,
participate in a multitude of activities they have
and really be able to socialize with the residents
and an army of volunteers that come each day!
Much, much more than where she is living now.

And for the first time in my adult life,
my grandmother and I will live close by.
I will be able to stop by for quick visits.
Sit with her on the veranda and hold her hand in mine.....
And just live in the moment with her.
Because that is all any of us really have anyways, isn't it?

This very moment.

I look forward to sharing this new chapter in my life with all of you!

In the coming weeks would you be so sweet and keep my family
in your thoughts and prayers.
~Safe travel
~That Nana will settle in at her new home.
~That her daughters, my mom and aunt, will know she is safe and cared for.
~A little special prayer for my mom, who the first time, will live a great distance from her mother.
~And for me. That my Fibromyalgia will quit rearing it's ugly
head and plethora of symptoms,
so I can help my family get Nana settled!

{I heart each and everyone of you}


Lucy (aka rharper) said...

Oh no. Heavy sigh. I am so sorry. Life is truly unfair when it hands this diagnosis out. I wish I knew the answer. I have a long list of questions that I will be taking with me for answers someday. It's such a scary thing. Everytime I can't find my carkeys/wallet/glasses/anything else . . that's my first thought. I wish I knew something to say that would be of help but I don't. Hugs always.

Uncle Tractor said...

I saw my grandmother transition thru dementia to Alzheimer's. It is not comfortable, but when I look at how my family pulled together to support my grandmother, I am glad we all faced the challenge and accepted this phase of life. As I read your blog, I know you embrace every day of the life we are given. I hope you and 'J' find comfort and joy in every moment you can have with your Nana. - Bob

Rural Revival said...

Oh Misha, how wonderful on so many levels. To have a wonderful place for Nana to come to, to knowing your mom and dad will soon be in Tennessee, to being able to sit and hold your Nana's hand. That simple little thing, holding her hand is a precious gift you've been given. Do me a favour, take a picture of your hand in hers, it will be a special keepsake many years from now.
You and your beautiful family will be in my thoughts and prayers as you go through this transition. I know it will all be fine, I just know it will.
And now I'm crying. Oy!


Betsy from Tennessee said...

Hi Misha, This made me cry --simply because Mom Adams (George's mother --age 91) has it. Don't think she has been diagnosed ---but it's what she has. She only lives in the moment... Doesn't even comb her own hair anymore... SO very very sad --what this disease does.

AND--because of this, Dad (who is 98 and has his memory) knew that he couldn't care for her any longer. SO--a few months ago, they reluctantly moved in with their daughter in Tullahoma, TN.

Mom is doing fine in the new situation --but Dad is going downhill quickly now that he is not at his home anymore. He grieves because he has lost his wife --and he grieves after leaving his home. The entire situation is very very sad.

Glad you found such a great place for your Nana. And I know how happy you are to have your parents move closer to you soon. Glad you will have some time with your Nana now. Like Mom, she'll probably live longer simply because she has no more worries now.

Got be with all of you ---including you and your health

Golden To Silver Val said...

Oh Misha, this really touched me. I have such a tiny family too, so I know. Your family may be tiny...but its beautiful...through and through. How wonderful that your parents and Nana will be so close by. Take plenty of beautiful pictures...these will help her remember.
I really get angry at doctors who want to label everything as "depression". I've had a lot of that myself.
We've been looking for a warmer climate...a small quiet little place. Maybe Louden is what we've been looking for too.
I will say prayers for you and your beautiful family. God and his angels will watch over all of you and see everyone safely settled. Big hugs, Misha, and God Bless.

Samantha said...

Oh Misha...hugs to your family.
This broke my heart a bit, as we watched my fierce, funny, brilliant Gram lose her battle with Alzheimer's a few years ago.
I'm so glad your family will be close by!
Love and blessings to all of you.

texwisgirl said...

i truly hope your nana can make the adjustment without your parents being close by. i am worried for your parents moreso than your grandma. i couldn't take the distance after living in one home for so long and tending day to day...

good wishes for you all.

The White Farmhouse said...

Again, you bring a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye. I am so glad that you will have her close by to make memories. It is the memories you leave your family with, not the ones you take with you that live on. I will keep you and your family in my prayers. Love all the pics of you! You just look so gorgeous!

Donna said...

What a lovely and heartbreaking post. i am so sorry about the diagnosis. Thank goodness you found a good place here in east TN and they are all moving! I will be praying that it all goes smoothly. Yes, many special moments await...

Sydney_bitless said...

It's a very sad disease. I am very glad you are taking on this responsibility and having your nana close!

Country Dreaming said...

What a wonderful story. As an adult it is sooo hard to see family members lives change so fast.
Blessings and prayers to you and your family especially your Nana.
I wish her the best.

I keep telling Ken---"It shouldn't be so hard to grow older!"

Good Luck.


Deb said...

Oh Misha, I'm sorry that your Nana has this disease. I know it must be heartbreaking for you to watch. Having said that, I think River Oaks sounds like the best place for her and I know it will help put your family at ease knowing that she will be cared for in such a great way.

On a happier note, I'm glad that your Mom and Dad and Nana will be moving close by because after all, family is what is ALL about. I will look forward to future posts about your family's big move.

Beautifully written post and it makes me miss my beautiful Grandmother.

Have a nice weekend!

Julie Harward said...

Hi sweet Misha...I am sorry about this, life can be tough at the end. Sounds like she will be in a real nice place and hopefully you can see her and take pictures and love her..everyone and everything responds to love. Families are forever and I think we come in the batch that we were meant to come in, large or small. With prayer and a loving Heavenly Father, I know you will all get through this and be closer than ever before. I will pray for you and yours. Come say hi when you can. :D

Linda@Coastal Charm said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your nana's disease but I'm happy that y'all found her an awesome new home near you and soon to be your parents too.


Feral Female said...

So sorry to hear about your nana. I know the pain of Alzheimer`s very well, it seems to be ripe in my maternal side of the family. *Hugs*

Jeanette said...

Misha. What a bittersweet post! How wonderful that your Nana will be so close to you now and how sad that she's fading away from you. I feel your excitement that your mom and dad are moving to Tennessee. You will be in my thoughts as your family goes through this transition. There is much sunshine at the other end. Have a blessed weekend, my friend.

Freda said...

My prayers are with you and your family Misha.It is so hard watching our loved ones get older. My father was admitted to the hospital last night for either blockage of carotid artery or stroke. Lots of luck to you and your family.

Elle Bee said...

It is so hard to watch a loved one deteriorate before your very eyes. My Papa had Alzheimer's and it was heart wrenching for our family. I'm so glad a life change is coming for all of you--it is going to be such a positive situation! Being able to visit your Nana so close by will be wonderful.

Peggy Montano & Paintings said...

What a great family you have. My friend is dealing with this disease right now in her mother. It takes courage to just take it day by day.

XO Peggy

Kelly said...

So glad to hear that your grandmother will be near you now. I hope she will adjust well to her new surroundings. I'm sorry to hear about her alzheimers though.
:( I will definitely be thinking about you and your family as you go through this transition.

Amy said...

Hi Misha, what a touching story and also a heartbreaking story. Alzheimers has to be the worst disease. As you so beautifully wrote, stealing the memories of a lifetime and leaving you with nothing but a shell of the person who use to be there. Heartbreaking. The news that your family is moving to your beautiful state and closer to you all is so great though. That would be a dream of mine to have all my family closer...we aren´t a big family either and I miss my sister and her girls and my dad...and my beloved grandma...I know what you mean about just wanting to sit and hold her hand. I love my grandma so much.
I´ll keep you all in my prayers, I hope moving goes smoothly, adjustments to new places go smoothly and your health stays in check so you can be a part of this big event in your family´s life.
A big warm hug from Norway my friend... <3
ps I have said it before but you and your mom look like sisters!!! Beautiful!

Ironstone and Pine said...

Misha I am so sorry to hear what you and your family are going through with your Nana, that must just be so hard. It's the sad reality of growing older and having to watch the generations ahead of you age, it can be so sad and stressful. My thoughts are with you and your family as you deal with this illness......... love is patient, love is kind......with prayers~devon

Snappy Di said...

It's going to be wonderful to have everyone nearby. You'll be able to give and receive warm family hugs much more often. :-)


Karen said...

Misha, this is awesome news! I think having your family so close together is just terrific. My family followed me to CT one by one, and I love that we can meet at the drop of a hat for dinner, etc.

Donna said...

My heart aches for you and your family having to deal with Alzheimer's. I cried as I just read about your precious Nana. Life is so unfair at times. I can imagine how your parents felt after your Nana moved to assisted living. My life was so wrapped up with Amber and since she went to Heaven I don't know what to do with myself.
God had a hand in finding the facility your Nana will be living in close to you! It is wonderful that you will be able to visit her often. What a blessing she is to you!
You and all your family are in my prayers ... sweet friend.
Sending you big hugs!!!

Janet said...

Hi, Misha
I have never commented before, even though I have been a fan of your blog for a while now. I just had to comment on this post...My Daddy had Alzheimer's,and I just wanted to say that I am glad your family has found a safe and comfortable place for your Nana. That in itself is usually no easy feat. I will for sure be thinking of your family and praying for all of your requests during this time. Alzheimers is such a hateful condition, and I hope and pray that ONE DAY there will be a cure for it as well as so many other awful illnesses.
Best Wishes,

Laura said...

I'm so sorry that you and your wonderful family have had to take this journey...
But it is so wonderful that you will all be close together! There is nothing better than having family nearby...
I could write a very long comment about my journey with my mom. It would be way too long for a comment. I can't even put it all in a blog post because it's just too personal and close yet...
Ah well, so many of us have stories of our journey with loved ones with Alzheimer's. I'm glad that I was able to be close to my mom while she traveled her journey home to be with her husband/my daddy last summer...
I will keep you and your family in my prayers that the move and adjustments all go well...

Mary Ann said...

Misha, we had to make this same decision for our mom, who had senile dementia, but had most of the same symptoms as your gran. Her doctor finally asked my sister and me "Which of you is quitting your full time job to take care of your mom every minute of 24 hours a day" and we realized that we could not do it alone. She had seven happy years, ambulatory at first, and then wheel-chair bound, living with others her age and frequent visits from family. She was depressed at first, but then realized she no longer had to cook, clean, etc. etc. for herself, and she was happy with her friends and room.

It looks like you found a wonderful place for your nana to live!

Flat Creek Farm said...

Now this actually turned out to be a happy story (most certainly not the Alzheimers part... I'm so sorry that your dear Nana has this). But, that your family will be near you, and you can spend time with your Nana... that is the wonderful happy part! This is beautiful, and a beautiful place she will live. I'm so happy for all of you, and will *certainly* keep each and every one of you in my prayers for a safe trip, smooth transition, and many healthy days ahead for all. Blessings and hugs for you and J and your family... Tammy

Jeni said...

Oh Misha, I'm so sorry that awful disease has touched your family.

God does not give us what we cannot handle. I know it sometimes feels that way though, having lived through my own personal family tragedy in recent years.

You have a wonderful family, hold on to each other and God.


(GBS) NewsFromTheHill said...

I'm a new reader, but wanted to say that my prayers and thoughts are with you and your family.
Just take it one day at a time!!
It sounds like you have the secret weapon to make this all bearable..... LOVE!

Maura @ Lilac Lane Cottage said...

Oh Misha, I'm so sorry to read this about your Nana. My Grandpa passed away in 69 but for about 3 years before then he started forgetting who my Nana and I were (I lived with my Grandparents along with my Dad). He remembered me more than he remembered my Nana. Anyway back then Alzheimer's wasn't even a word as far as I know...but looking back I feel that that is what he had. I've seen that distant look and the confusion. My heart and prayers go out to you and your family. Thank goodness you've found a home close to you and that your Mom and Dad will be moving closer to you. At a time like this we need our loved ones near. I'm so happy you'll be able to sit and hold your Nana's hand soon. All the best to you and your family Misha..I 'heart' you too. X Maura

Thistle Cove Farm said...

What an incredible blessing having your family so close together, God is so good! All the photos of you and your family are wonderful and a cherished gift for you all.
Dave's mother lived with us and those last years, she had dementia and the first friend I made when we moved to Tazewell has Alzheimers. Misha, it's awful. Anne is 1.5 years older than I and her symptoms began when she was in her early 50's. There's a long, sad story but I'm not allowed to visit her; probably she wouldn't know me anyway. I witnessed one of her "care giver's" handling Anne so roughly, bruises were made, and I threatened to call Social Services. Needless to say, I was shut out rather quickly.

Taneka Carl said...

Alzheimer’s disease is a horrible condition that ironically touches many lives. I wish your grandmother is happy in her new home now. It's a wise decision to send her in a home care where there will be trained caregivers that will look out for her. And the place looks homey too; I bet she has made many friends in there by now. I'm happy to hear that your family seems all settled now. =)

Taneka Carl