Last year my Grandmother was diagnosed with Late-Onset Alzheimers. She is now 77 and her memory has gotten significantly worse in the past few months. Recently, she forgot to take her blood pressure medicine for two days and ended up in the emergency room with crazy high blood pressure. Watching your family member age is not an easy thing.
My mom is having the hardest time with it, and rightfully so as she is her daughter. I’ve never been very close with my Grandparents, so while it is sad and hard to see her struggling, it doesn’t affect me the same way it affects my mom. Her condition became much more apparent to us after my mom visited her a few weeks ago. My Grandparents volunteer to lead a church service at a nursing home in their town and since my mom was visiting them, she went with them to help. My grandmother can no longer play the piano, because she’s forgotten how, but she also forgets that she can’t play anymore. She gets really embarrassed when she tries to play and then realizes she cannot do it anymore, which unfortunately happened on Sunday. She also introduced my mom to the same person three times, one of which she introduced my mom as her son, and my grandmother only has four daughters.
We try to remember that 77 is quite old, and is lucky to have made it this far before the Alzheimers became a major issue. My Grandfather, who is 78, does a great job of taking care of her, but he is also old and is just beginning to deal with some typical forgetfulness that comes with old age. It’s become clear they may need extra help sooner rather than later. I feel like people don’t talk about how difficult dealing with aging family members can be and how difficult it can be one those who are aging, but maybe that’s because people my age tend to not to have to think about that.
Although the validity of the testing has been questioned quite a bit, I had genetic testing through 23&Me done about six months ago (My PCP wanted me to do this to see if I had a certain gene that affects how you metabolize medications, but that’s beside the point). Nothing too interesting came out of it, but it did say I had an increased risk for late-onset Alzheimers. It’s not shocking, but it’s also not something you want to happen. It actually freaks me out more that my mom might get Alzheimers than it does for me to get it. I’m used to having health issues (and I won’t be old for like a reeeeaally long time) but I just can’t imagine her forgetting who I am. That’s a scary thought. However, there’s no need to fret about that now since it’s not happening in this moment.
I do worry about my Grandmother, and my Grandfather. I know it kills him to watch her slowly slip away. They’ve been married for nearly 60 years, and have been together since they were 18. She’s obviously struggling too, but she doesn’t notice when she tells the same story repeatedly or recognizes someone incorrectly. In some ways it’s better that she doesn’t know for her sake, but it only makes it more heartbreaking to think about for everyone else.
I’m learning aging isn’t fun for anyone involved.