Alheimer’s Disease

Becoming a grandmother was such a thrill for me. I had wanted to be a grandmother by the time I was 40 years old, and my oldest daughter, Corrie gave me the gift of a grandchild just 2 months before my 40th birthday, but Christopher was an even bigger gift to my mother-in-law. Christopher was her first great grandchild, but more than that…he was born on her birthday, just as his mother, my daughter, Corrie was born on my mother-in-law’s mother’s birthday and was her first great grandchild. My only regret is that Corrie’s great grandma didn’t live to see that day. She would have been delighted!! She always felt very special to have her first great grandchild be born on her birthday. In fact, it was the first remark she made to me when she walked into my room, and I knew that I had somehow…without even knowing it and never having planned it, given her a gift that would enrich her life as long as she lived. Now Corrie and given that same gift to her grandmother.

When Corrie managed to have her first child on my mother-in-law’s birthday, we were…shocked to say the very least. By that time we had gotten used to Corrie’s birthday being on her great grandmother’s birthday, and the fact that our niece, Machelle was born on her great grandfather’s birthday…same couple by the way, but when Christopher arrived on his great grandmother’s birthday, and it was the daughter of the great grandmother whose birthday Corrie was born on…well, I don’t know the statistics, but I’m sure it’s pretty rare.

The years have flown by since Christopher’s arrival, and I find myself looking up at a sixteen year old young man today, who will get his driver’s license this afternoon. Sometimes it is hard to wrap my mind around that fact. Chris, as he is now called, should still be that teeny little boy who was and still is famous for making the cutest faces. He could always make me laugh. Christopher always had a flair for the comical as a little boy. I can’t believe that he is so grown up…so close to being a grown man. Where did the years go? They went by so quickly.

I am so proud of Chris. He is a hard working young man, who holds down a job, bought his own car, plays football, and studies hard in school. He also helps out in the care of his great grandma, who has Alzheimer’s Disease, and I know that is a little sad for him, because his great grandma doesn’t understand the significance of their relationship anymore. Nevertheless, they love each other, and when she is told about their birthdays…she says she remembers. And, I think she does then. She remembers that she has a great grandson who came on her birthday, and she remembers just how special that is. She remembers how exciting that was. They both know that they are blessed.

Today my grandson, Chris turns 16…that most exciting year of all. He has his car ready to go…a Camaro, of course. He has been working on it for some time with his dad, and now it is all fixed up and sporty…just the kind of car a young man wants to own. The chick magnet that every guy wants to be driving. He is a good driver, and I think he will do wonderfully well on the road. I think his great great grandmother would have loved to have seen this day. Happy birthday Chris, and happy birthday Mom!! I hope you both have a wonderful day!! I love you both!!

When you are caring for an Alzheimer’s patient, you need all the help you can get. Because of the necessity for extreme hands on care, one person simply cannot do it alone. Our family understands that all too well. It takes a village as my sister, Alena would say to take care of any ill family member, but all too often it is hard to put that village together. This last year, the village involved in caring for my mother-in-law, who has Alzheimer’s, grew by one very important member. My mother-in-law’s sister, Margee retired from her job and offered to help when we needed to leave my mother-in-law home for any reason. Margee sits with my mother-in-law when I need to take my father-in-law to the doctor or if he needs time to get away for a little bit. And when he was in the hospital for a few days recently, Margee played a major role in her sister’s care. We would have been in a very serious situation without her help.

Margee is no stranger to stepping up when she is needed. Her own daughter-in-law died a little over 13 years ago, leaving behind a grieving husband, Margee’s son Dan and two small children, Zech and Stasi, who needed care. Margee stepped up and cared for them all. It was a terribly sad time in their lives. Margee was virtually alone for parts of it, while Dan worked in another state. The kids are almost grown up now, and Dan is working back here in Casper, but they still need each other very much.

Caregiving or helping to raise one’s grandchildren, can be very challenging, and it takes a special kind of person to do it. Margee has been such a blessing to us. As my mother-in-law’s Alzheimer’s has progressed, I don’t know how we could manage the needs of both her and my father-in-law, who has Emphysema, if we didn’t have Margee’s help. She is free during the day, when the doctors appointments are, and she doesn’t mind helping out. I know my mother-in-law enjoys the time with her sister too, though she doesn’t remember the visits once they are over. Still, we know, and we remind my mother-in-law…and we appreciate it very much.

Today is Margee’s birthday. I want to thank her for her dedicated service to her sister and brother-in-law at a time in their lives when they truly needed her help. That is love. I don’t know what we would have done without Margee…and I can’t say enough about how wonderful she has been. Thank you Margee for all you do and who you are. You mean so much to all of us. Happy birthday!! We love you!!

All too often, there are people in our lives who work hard, help others, and sadly, get very little appreciation. They just do what they do, because they are needed. My sister-in-law, Brenda is one of those people. She has a job that requires her to put in many more hours than most people work…sometimes from 8 in the morning to 10 at night. That in itself would be enough to exhaust most people, and it exhausts her too, but when she gets off work, her first concern is her aging parents. She also calls them several times throughout the day to make sure they are ok.

Her mother, my mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s Disease and Chronic Bronchitis, and her dad, my father-in-law has Emphysema. They still live at home, and my father-in-law is my mother-in-law’s primary caregiver. With his own problems, he cannot do this alone, nor would we want him to. We have a great group of family members who help out, but today I want to talk about Brenda. She spends as much time as possible helping them, and I know that they greatly appreciate it.

With her busy schedule, trying to find the extra time for caregiving can be a huge struggle, and that is just the time struggle. There is also the emotional struggle…wanting to be there and yet needing to have your own time too. How do you live with yourself, for needing that time? It is the question that every caregiver lives with every day, because every moment used on self makes you feel guilty, even if you desperately need it. And yet, your body and mind are screaming for a few moments to just stop.

When the times occur that require extra time, it is even more tearing because you know that you are giving all you have, and somehow you will need to dig deeper, to find more. And…you want to because you love them. So the struggle comes when you need to give more time, but there simply is no more time to give. Sometimes, no solution exists. We just have to keep on keeping on. And that is what Brenda does. In the face of the hardest struggles, and the total exhaustion, the guilt over time for self, she just keeps on keeping on.

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