My Mother-In-Law and Alzheimer’s

I distinctly remember the day that my Mother-In-Law Helen crossed that line between being normal and becoming a person who had a disease. Rhonda, my sister-in-law and I were feeding our children down at Helen’s lake house and Helen walked into the kitchen and started yelling at us to clean up the kitchen. She was upset that the kids weren’t helping and why would someone dump out her coffee! Rhonda and I calmly told her that we would clean up after the kids were finished with lunch. She just couldn’t understand why we were waiting. Rhonda and I knew there was something seriously wrong.

This was probably 6 years before she was actually diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Such a sad disease, because yes I am sure it scares the hell out of the person when they realize there is something out of whack, but it is so much harder on the family and caregivers.

Every week after Helen went into the nursing home I would go have breakfast with her and we would talk about nothing. And sometimes in the evening I would stop by and we would have a glass of wine together and again talk about nothing. After she had been there about three years she told me that her son Terry (my husband) moved away with that woman “Sharon” out to an acreage and it was just too bad. Every week she would talk about Sharon and how sad it was for Terry. One day I came to the realization that I was Sharon!

Now if you don’t know someone very well then you could easily have believed that Terry was shacking up with someone named Sharon and she was telling everyone at the nursing home that would listen! I often wonder what they thought!

One night I got a phone call from my brother-in-law, “Hello” I said. “Hi, Is Sharon there?” He asked. Funny, at least we could joke about it!

As time went on she couldn’t even think of how to put together a sentence or to ask a question. This is when they moved my mother-in-law out of the Alzheimer wing and into the nursing home. I started dwindling my visits down. She didn’t know who I was, nor did she really care that anyone was there to see her. She would smile and say hello and sometimes there would be a sparkle in her eye for just a moment and then it was gone. I really just went to see if she was ok.

My point of this blog today is: If you know someone who has Alzheimer’s, then say a prayer for those family members who have to take care of their loved one. They have a hard job. Maybe they just need a friend or a night out for dinner. Whatever you can think of will be appreciated, because they also probably have to deal with amazing tales about fictional people too, just like Sharon!

After thought – I wrote this not for me, because I wasn’t a caregiver I was acting as a friend to my mother-in-law. I was thinking of all the spouses and children that would come into see their loved ones at the nursing home and I would feel so sorry for them. I remember before my mother-in-law went in the nursing home, my husband would have to go over to her house to give her a pill and every day she would refuse to take it. He would have to beg and plead with her and then he would come home and put his head in his hands and say “what are we going to do?”. I always felt so sorry for him. That’s a caregiver.

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