14 November 2012

My Sweet Nana. Turning 90 and Living with Alzheimer's

Where Nana lives.

J and I arrived at River Oaks at 10:30 am.
A Sunday, Veterans Day.
And also my Nana's birthday.
Her 90th!
We have always joked in my family that all the hoopla and
 parades on November 11th each year are in honor of her.
Something brought up later that afternoon,
and her mind was right there..laughing at our old family joke.

Nana adores receiving cards.
Up until a few years ago, 
one of her joys in life was sending them.
To family, friends, past co-workers..
A letter was usually tucked in the card.
Old-fashion correspondence of years gone by that she kept alive.

In cards she sent to me, over the years, 
there would also be recipes, magazine articles, and coupons.
And she would always tuck a 20 dollar bill in it,
with a note that would read... "Have a pizza on me!"
On the flip side of that note would be a letter.
Of all things happening in her world.
Along with a few lines of "Nana advice"!

The pizza money was always such a sweet thing.
But the letters were precious.
I have a box filled with them,
along with many of the recipes, magazine articles...
I have not read them in a long time.

Sunday was a great day for Nana!
We hold our breath, in my family, 
for the day she no longer recognizes us.
I think this must be a common bond for
all those 

But, this past Sunday was not that day.
She said "Well hello there", using our names as soon 
as she saw us getting off the elevator.
She was seated on a sofa with her lady friends.
We told her, "Happy Birthday"!!
And she replied with, "Is today the 11th?"
It struck me right away when she said this.
As for the last few years, Nana has not remembered 
the date of her birthday; only the year!

I knew right then, we were in for a wonderful visit.
There are those little things in life I thank God for.
And this was a big....Thank you.

My aunt Debbie and uncle John drove over from North Carolina.
When they walked through the door into 
her little apartment, she was thrilled.
After hugs and kisses, Debbie and I sat with her
 while Nana read every birthday card.
With a little nudge from Deb, 
Nana pretty much remembered each sender.
When she got to my mom's card,
she held it up for me to see and with a big smile said,
"This one is from your mama!"

Right then, knowing her mind was connected to
thinking about my mom, Debbie called her in Ohio.

{Unable to travel because of my Dad's 
impending surgery 
and the immense pain he is in, 
my mom was crushed that they 
couldn't be there for Nana's big day.}

Debbie kept the phone on speaker so we could all chime in.
It was great phone call with Nana being "right in the moment"!
I was happy for my mom.
If I had closed my eyes, I would have sworn that we
were all together, at my parents home in Ohio,
 chatting, snacking, and laughing the way we used to.
Us four girls.

Wearing her locket.

After lunch, Nana unwrapped her gifts.
Mostly things that are simple, used every day.
But one gift was something my mom did a lot of research on.
A very beautiful, life-like baby doll that Nana named "Sweet Pea".
{If you would like to read about 
"Baby Doll Therapy in Alzheimer's Patients", 
here is the link to the Alzheimer's Store.}
We are anxious to see if she makes a connection with the doll.
Something that can calm her when she is feeling agitated or afraid. 
Something she can bond with.

As the afternoon wore on, Nana was getting tired.
When her energy level is low she begins to slip away.
Into a place where we can't go with her.
Things become harder for her to recall.
She becomes quiet.
We all left about 2pm.
I imagine an hour later, she no recollection of us being there.
Because that is how the dreaded Alzheimer's rolls.
Later on, J and I played with the horses.
Good therapy they are.

I remember about 5 or six years ago, when the first symptoms 
began to reveal themselves, my mom and aunt Debbie 
began taking Nana to specialist after specialist. 
I would wait for the phone call or email letting me know
what new medication or therapy they were going to try.

It seemed that for so long, all of us just kept fighting the inevitable.
As time rolled on, we all finally came to a place of acceptance.
For those of you who have a loved one with Alzheimer's,
you know what a hard place that is to land.

Days like Sunday are what you hope for in each visit.
They are not always like this.
I used to pray that a new med, a new doctor or a new discovery in the research of Alzheimer's would be the answer.

And all those big things I used to pray for?
They have turned into the most simple of sweet prayers.
That each time I go to visit Nana and I get off the elevator,
she will say, "Well, hello there!"
And she will always know exactly who I am.
Her favorite {and only!} granddaughter.
This is how she always introduced me,
and began every letter she wrote to me.

Thanks to those of you who always ask how Nana is doing.
It is much appreciated.
To all of you on this journey of having a special someone
in your life diagnosed with Alzheimer's, my heart goes out to you.
~ ~ ~
Always remember that a hug is one of the best gifts.
Absolutely free, but it feels like a million bucks.

I write these posts not only to share with you, but to document 
my thoughts and memories about Nana for myself.
And for my family.

If you would like to read past posts about
Nana and our families journey with Alzheimer's, 
just go to the top of the sidebar, 
and you will find the "SEARCH" box 
type in "Nana" and click.
Each post that I have written will 
come up with the oldest post first.


Mary said...

This post brought a smile to my face. Your Nana was so pretty when she was in her younger days (she still is). I do not have first hand experience with that terrible disease, I can only imagine how heartbreaking it is. I am so happy that she was "up" for your visit, the best gift I am sure. I love the photos!

Bianca said...

What a wonderful day making memories whith your family and your Nana.
You are blessed whith family you love so dearly. Not easy having to miss your parents on such a special day, although they were there in spirit.

My first job was one in a home for the elderly with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. For family it's one of the hardest things to go through, having to let go without death... Unnatural and hurtfull. But I have lovely memories with lots of the residents there, having a childlike demeanor. It's not only tears and loss, but laughter and singing too....

Thank you for sharing such a special day.
Big hug for all of you!

Buttons said...

Oh Nana is beautiful and I knew she would love your necklace gift.
My Mom has Alzheimers and I am thankful for the doll link, I had no idea but makes sense.
I love that you have all those letters from your Nana there is nothing better.
I am sending prayers to your Dad and the rest of your family.
Happy Birthday Nana and I understand this disease.
Thank you I really enjoyed this post. HUGS B

Beth @ E. lizard Breath Speaks said...

so glad you all had the day to share with her. what a great birthday. i say it is the small moments together that mean the most. so very special. i can understand you thoughts here about alzheimer's ... i've dealt with family who has had both alzheimer's & dementia. so i know how it is tough & such a learning experience. love & big big hugs. (:

Hartwood Roses said...

I'm smiling, too. Sweet Nana is 90! That is such a wonderful thing to celebrate, and it is doubly wonderful that Nana was having the kind of day where she could enjoy the celebration with all of you.

Happy Birthday, Nana!

RoeH said...

What a blessed family you all are. Nana is - and always was - a beautiful woman. I just love the memories those photos bring.

Lynne said...

Such a sweet face and a sweet day too!
Happy 90th sweet Nana!

Freda said...

Happy Birthday Nana!!!! Thanks for the sweet Nana story Misha. Glad Nana had a good day and enjoyed her birthday. Hope you are having a good day, too. Hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving.

TexWisGirl said...

i am very glad you all had a good day - even with your mom on the phone. :)

Patricia said...

The photos of you Nana are just beautiful. What a wonderful post this morning. Thanks, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Donna said...

How adorable Nana is and so beautiful! So glad she was having a good day on her birthday. And 90 years old!! We all hope to live to be 90. Oh the stories she could tell us about you :) I know you treasure the recipes and letters she sent you over the years. I have handwritten recipes that my mother wrote and I cherish them so much!
Sorry your mom and dad couldn't be there. I know about the back pain :( I have scheduled my surgery.
Big Hugs,

Karen said...

What a beautiful woman!!.. she passed that down to you. So glad you had a great day together. I really enjoyed the old photos.. each one a treasure for you and your family.

Denise at Autumn Sky said...

How wonderful that you all had such a nice and memorable visit with her. My friend's mother had Alzheimer's and she laughs at some of the memories those past few years. Her mom would always ask, "Is this my birthday? Are we going to have cake?" Still some optimism even on those confusing days.

Grandma Barb's This and That said...

How wonderful that you had that great day with Nana and she was
able to enjoy the day knowing you.
Loved the photos you shared of her.

Donna said...

It is such a blessing to her that she has a wonderful family who loves her dearly. Belated happy birthday wishes to her!

Aunt D said...

I cried and cried, bittersweet. Love you, deb

the cuby poet said...

A big day for Nana which sounded like mostly a good time for you all. This was a beautiful post.