My eyes do see,
My ears do hear,
I am still Me, so let’s be clear,
My memory may fade,
My walk may slow,
I am ME inside,
don’t let Me go.
— Facebook post: My Day, My Way
My grandfather had Alzheimer’s.
Getting old sucks! But Alzheimer’s sucks more.
I have so many awesome memories of Pop:
- walking along the beach at Broulee (before it was wrecked by tourism) and being buried to my neck in sand
- being plastered with a bi-carb soda paste to stop the mosquito bites from itching, because bi-carb soda cures everything
- watching him eat the whole apple (including the seeds) or eat a chocolate I had popped in my mouth (then decided I didn’t like) because ‘when I was in the army, the food was so awful but we had to eat it anyway, so now I appreciate all food’
- listening to his tales of the antics he got up to as a child in Canberra, he was a ratbag
- learning how to drive in his Corona, with him in the passenger seat, making me drive in continuous circles around the car park, through the trees, around the root.
Sadly, I also have memories of his gradual demise into Alzheimer’s: questions repeated multiple times, striding walk (that was hard to keep up with) turning into a shuffle, forgetting how to do ‘basic’ things like using a spoon.
This was so hard to watch, knowing the fit, healthy, active man he had been up until his late 80s.
But, I always knew that my Pop was still in there. Sometimes he would emerge. He was an absolute stirrer and that was the side of him that would come out. There were times he didn’t know who I was, he pretended he did but I could see in his eyes that he had no idea. But there were also times he knew me straight away.
I used to get so frustrated with people, family members (and the staff at the nursing home) who treated him like a child. The baby, sing-song voice some people used with him, and the patronising tone, made me want to scratch the perpetrator’s eyes out. I firmly believed he knew what was happening — and I stand by that. I don’t understand why young children and our elderly should be treated like imbeciles.
It also annoyed me when people would say, after hearing him ask the same question or tell the same story for the third time in half an hour, ‘You’ve already asked/said that.’
All that did was make him frustrated, embarrassed and upset. Sometimes he would get the shits, which was not like him at all. I would pretend I hadn’t heard the question before, and I would answer it like it was the first time. It’s such a small price to pay to show respect.
Pop’s gone now. His death, 18 months ago, was dignified and solitary. He passed away in his sleep. We didn’t get a chance to say goodbye, there was no lead-up, no signs. I think he just decided he had had enough.
My grandmother (who is as sharp as a tack) believes that he is with her all the time. At night she sees and feels him sitting on the edge of her bed. She hasn’t told many people this, because a couple of people have taken on that ‘oh you poor dear’ tone when she has mentioned it. I do not doubt what she says for a second. That’s the kind of man he was.
I hope though, that he left us knowing that I knew he was still the same Pop. Memory or no memory. I know he was still in there.
Everyone knows someone with Dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Please give them the dignity and respect they deserve.