I was listening to NPR this afternoon and one of the topics on Talk of the Nation, Lying To Alzheimer's Patients, really struck a nerve.
My Grandma passed away from complications of Alzheimer's 11 years ago. My family and I watched her slowly transform from a vibrant, healthy grandmother, mother and wife, to a confused, thought scattered, toddler in an adult body. The transformation was not quick, it took years for her to slowly forget how to function normally in daily life. She would forget how to quilt, knit and cook the best food you would ever put in your mouth. The one little thing that I missed the most that still makes me sad is she would say, "Grandma loves you" when she would kiss us goodbye...and this f*cking disease made her forget, made her forget us, made her forget herself, and I hate it.
We had a Sunday afternoon tradition of having supper at Grandma's house after church. She lived for Sundays, church and then her family coming over for supper. She was the best Grandma in the world, she would always have Dentyne gum in her purse and a folded kleenex under her watch. We first started noticing the signs when she couldn't remember her recipes for the dishes she had cooked for over 50 years. And, when she couldn't remember how to quilt her quilting squares together she had worked so diligently on months before.
Alzheimer's is like a thief that you know is stealing your valuables, your important thoughts, but you cannot make them stop. The more you want to remember, the more it takes. It is a shitty disease that I wish medicine had a cure for, but unfortunately there isn't. This shitty disease also runs in families. I worry about my dad sometimes, like when he tells a story that he has already told us, and he doesn't remember telling it before. I love my Dad so much and he was so brave and strong with my Grandma, I don't think I could be that strong if my Dad suffered the same fate. But, I guess we never know what we can endure until we are in that situation.
When my Granddad could no longer take care of my Grandma, we had to put her in a nursing home. We really didn't want to do this to her, and we waited as long as we could, but she was at a state where she was harmful to herself and to others. She was like a unsupervised toddler, she needed to be cared for 24/7.
When Grandma was in the nursing home we would visit her on the weekends. My oldest daughter, Cork, was just a baby then, and I can remember it like it was yesterday. We would come in to her room and she would be sitting, staring into space. She would look at us and there would be no recognition, she did not know us. She would, on occasion, have her good days, and would know my Dad (her son and only child) but usually, she knew no one. When we would take Cork out of her baby carrier and give her to Grandma, she would light up like she was her old self. It was like she could relate to a baby, like they could communicate somehow. I never worried about her dropping or hurting Cork, she was always so gentle and kind to her, it was almost therapeutic for her. I always looked forward to the interaction between Grandma and Cork, it was if she could bond with her like she couldn't with us.
What was the question again? Oh yes...do you lie to Alzheimer patients?
I ask you one thing before you answer.......Why would you make your loved one relive the same feelings over and over again if they will never remember what is told to them? If they will experience the same story as if it is the first time they have heard it....each time they hear it.
That is what I believe is cruelty. I know there is not a concrete answer for each case, and in the end, the family needs to make the final choice for each situation.