Thursday, March 19, 2009

An Alzheimer's Letter

Dear Night Shift,

My grandmother is the patient in room 561. She broke her hip and will be having surgery to correct it tomorrow. There are a few things that we want you to know tonight.

1) She is what she used to call when she wasn't and so it was funny, "stone deef". But now she is and it hasn't been funny for years, so be loud and in a place where she can see you when you talk. But don't expect a verbal response.

2) She is anxious. She broke her hip because she is a wanderer. Six, eight hours a day she would wander the nursing home halls. It was her new "job." Like so many of us, she is now out of work and it makes her anxious.

3) She's a picker. That bandage, that IV, that name bracelet... they all need to beware. And you need to pay attention when that IV starts beeping unlike you did when I gave birth to my children and you'd let that thing beep for 45 minutes at 3 in the morning. Ok, so that wasn't you, but it could be more serious for her, so please pay attention.

4) She's boy crazy. If you send in any man you can find every four hours or as needed, all will be well. They just need to smile at her, talk nicely, and if they had the time, hold her hand for a minute. That would be more than her husbands ever did for her, and she does have her wits about her enough to remember that.

5) Please be nice to her. We don't know this new version of her. She's a different person to us. We loved the person who used to live in that body, so we're riding it out with this new person, but we don't know her well. Sometimes it is hard for us to be around this new grandmother who doesn't talk much and doesn't make eye contact much and only remembers us sometimes. The rest of the family has no contact with her, and at this point, we understand. We don't like it, but we understand.

We've been sad for a long time now. But you, you're just meeting her. You don't look into her eyes and remember how it used to be. You don't feel fear, regret, anger, and sadness when you look at her. It doesn't disappoint you when her eyes don't light up when she sees you. So you could talk to her in a sweet voice like we try to do, and it would be a true sweet voice, not one you are just trying on, hoping it is enough.

6) Call her by her first name. She still remembers that. I was named for her. It's my first name and I don't use it except at the doctor's office, but it is one of the many parts of her that lives on in me. I hope that the name and the memories are all I carry, and not this disease.

She is a good woman. She is loved. She is completely vulnerable. Please take care of her.

Thank you.
Her granddaughter


Lizard Eater said...

Oh, Jots. (hug)

ms. kitty said...

I am keeping you and your grandmother and your family in my thoughts today. I hope that things go well, at least mostly, from here on out. We need love most when we are at our least lovable, don't we?

scott said...

This is very eloquently written and although I haven't (yet) had to experience a relative leaving my family in this way, this makes me understand it before it happens.

I wish you and your grandmother well.

Dave said...

How beautiful...and many of the same thoughts I had a number of years ago, except expressed more eloquently.

Adam Byrn "Adamus" Tritt said...

The two best things about Alzheimer's disease is you can hide your own Easter eggs and you make new friends every day.