Alzheimer's... a Silent Thief
May marks the one year anniversary of losing the person who inspired us to open our business, Tailored Touches. She was talented and creative in so many ways. She could do or make or create most anything that she could think up, and she taught her children to do the same. I learned most everything I know and invest in Tailored Touches from my Mom.
In her last years, my Mom suffered from Alzheimer's, a disease that has struck twice in our family. We at Tailored Touches are supporters of Alzheimer's research and wanted to dedicate this one year anniversary to that effort.
1 in 9 adults aged 65 and over will get Alzheimer's disease
As kids, my siblings and I would go with my Mom and Dad to visit my Dad’s parents almost every Sunday. We’d hang out and have Sunday dinner. As a teenager, my Dad started having to visit more often. This was in the late 1970s before “Alzheimer’s” was a household word. No one really talked about it publicly. My grandmother got so forgetful... so my Dad started stopping in every day after work. Work was one direction; her house was another - so he began driving three hours a day just to check in on them. It was exhausting...
In the United States, Alzheimer's is the 6th leading cause of death - more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.
Eventually, despite limited finances all around, my parents bought a small house a block from ours and moved my grandparents into it. My Mom always made sure my grandparents had breakfast and lunch and a hot cooked supper. Dad was able to check in on them when he got home. My grandmother was always up to something, so it was a constant vigil, but it was easier with them close. Eventually, my grandmother needed constant supervision. My grandfather was sharp as a tack, but, at 93 years old, he couldn’t keep up with Gammy. So, they made the difficult decision to move them into nursing care.
I remember my Dad agonizing over the decision with my Mom right beside him. Making the decision to take someone out of their home and into nursing care is terribly difficult.
In 2015 in the United States, 15.9 million family members provided over 1.8 billion hours in unpaid care.
My grandfather insisted on going with Gammy. My grandmother had long ago forgotten who my Dad or Mom or any of us were, and she seemed happy in the nursing home, but it was hard on my grandfather. Not many months later, my Pap passed away. Not even realizing it was her husband of over 60 years, Gammy offered condolences to the “family.”
Only a few months later, Gammy would succumb herself to kidney failure…her mind had finally forgotten to make her kidneys do their job. That’s what Alzheimer’s is…an incurable brain disease that steals a person’s brain function...
Fast Forward 30 Years...
In 2012, my Dad opened up to me about my Mom’s recent, similar behavior and her forgetfulness. I could sense he was worried. The symptoms of Alzheimer’s can be difficult to detect.
Only months later, we unexpectedly lost Dad but not before he pleaded with us that we take care of Mom. He knew - as we came to know - that she’d need more than just the emotional support of losing him.
A person's lifespan is about 3-9 years after diagnosis, but the disease may take up to 20 years to run its course.
Over the next three years, Mom tried in vain to adjust to losing Dad. She fought to maintain her independence even as she began to get “turned around” (as she would say) when she went to places she had visited all her life. Doctors said she had dementia.
5 million Americans currently have Alzheimer's
My sisters lived close, so the burden of her care fell on them. I visited every few weeks to give them a break, then I moved in with her the winter of 2013-14.
For any of you who have had to deal with Alzheimer’s, you know how frustrating it can be for both patient and their family. Mom knew her mind was slipping, and in moments of lucidity, she spoke of how scary it was.
Mom was extremely fortunate to have 5 children and a myriad of grandchildren to look in on her. We pulled together to honor the promise we gave our Dad. Some folks are not that fortunate.
1 in 3 seniors will die from Alzheimer's.
After finding a wonderful 24-hour care home, my sisters and brother packed up some of her comforts of home. Yet, when Mom left her house for that last time in the fall of 2014, she simply walked out of the home - the one she and Dad built together, raised 5 children in, and lived in for 55 years - with no reaction. She never mentioned the house again. She has forgotten it. It nearly broke our hearts.
Picture: Mom in her nursing home with a quilt I made for her.
No cure - no way to slow the disease - it's terminal.
Mom's fight was over in May 2015 - one year ago. It was such a long journey for her. She had been a woman who was a wonderful wife, Mom, grandmother, and great-grand many times over... an expert cook and baker, seamstress, gardener, bank teller, doctor’s assistant, and jack-of-all-trades. There was nothing she couldn’t do. Yet, at the end, there wasn’t anything that she could do. Alzheimer’s stripped her of her talents and dignity.
Our company, Tailored Touches, is a testament to her, to who she was, and to what she taught us. She is loved by so many and sorely missed.
Information on Alzheimer's
If you have a loved one suffering from this disease, here are a few tips to help you and them:
~ Be patient. In the early stages, they can sense something is wrong, and it's very scary. They may be irritable or defensive. Remember that they are literally fighting for their lives...
~ Plan ahead! Weigh your options early and gather as much info on care facilities and/or in-home care as far ahead as you can. Decisions will have to be made sometimes more quickly than you'd like, but with options in place, the hard decisions will be easier...
~ Be prepared to sacrifice a tremendous amount of your time and resources.
For more information and further reading, please check out these sites:
~ Alzheimer's Association
~ Mayo Clinic
~ WebMD article
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Welcome to Tailored Tidbits!
If I'm not in the kitchen cooking up new items for my shop, I'm sewing fabric baskets, taking care of our honeybees and Ms. Kitty, pitching in on the latest project at my son's, or planning a trip somewhere with my daughter. Here, I'll share a "day in the life" at Tailored Touches!
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