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A Terrible Disease

Updated on October 12, 2011

Steals the People You Love

Alzheimer's is a sneaky, terrible, life-stealing disease. And this is not a news flash for anyone who has watched another person being stolen away by it.

Almost 3 years ago, I began to notice odd (for her) behaviors in a precious, too-young-for-this, sister-in-law, who lives within sight of my house. This was an early 60s woman who had been a stay-at-home wife for a few years, at that time. Very involved in church and ministering to the elderly and the sick, the families of the deceased, and to her lucky neighbors and her family...with her homemade cookies, cakes and pies. She had done all these things even after working at a job all day, too. She babysat her little grandson until he started to school, and many was the afternoon that I would stand at my kitchen sink and see her out playing in the yard with him. She was never at a loss for something to do, either in the house, in her garden, or her yard. Her summer days were spent freezing and canning vegetables from her garden, or maybe just preparing them and giving them to someone who had none of their own. Countless times, I and my family were the receivers of her bounty, since we didn't have a garden either. Around the holidays, she would bake for weeks ahead of time in order to have goodies to share with friends, neighbors and co-workers of her and her husband. My boys always knew that they would be getting a heaping plate of her homemade chocolate chip cookies on their birthdays.

One night at a family gathering, I heard her trying to tell my sister the ingredients for one of her baked goods, which she had made just that day, and she could not remember what she had used. In that instance I experienced a feeling of alarm, knowing that her mother had spent the last several years of her life in an Alzheimer's facility. That was the beginning of her sad journey, which is still in progress.

As I continued to notice little things that just weren't right, I kept it to myself, expressing my fears only to my husband. Months later, my brother came to me one day with tears streaming down his face, and told me that she had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Only then did I tell him what I had suspected for months.

I said all of the above to help you understand the differences in that still-sweet lady that we now see. She very seldom ventures outside on her own. She doesn't pick up the phone to call anyone. If someone calls her house, and her husband isn't available to answer, she will. But if he comes in, she will quickly pass the phone to him. She doesn't remember birthdays anymore, not her own or that of her children or grandchildren. In her middle 60's and physically able, she does not remember how to turn on the stove, or how to read a recipe or package instructions, to cook. For the largest part of her day, she sits in her chair and watches TV. It is as if she no longer sees or thinks of anything that needs to be done to run a household. In a way - that is for the best - as some tasks that are harmless for others could be dangerous for her to attempt.

There are blessings even in this situation. She still knows her family and friends. She is happy and doesn't seem to be in any pain. She loves to have visitors, although she will begin to repeat herself in a conversation that lasts more than 10 minutes. Her husband is retired, and therefore he is able to be close by her on a daily basis. He has learned to cook a little - and they eat out alot. I carry food to them from time to time when I cook something I think they will enjoy. Another retired sister cooks for them during the week sometimes.

We thank God for her good days, even as we are all aware that without a miracle, her life is a tunnel with no light at the end - until Heaven.

Alzheimer's is a sneaky, terrible, life-stealing disease.


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