Watching a Loved One Lose Time

When I started writing for the Families.com Health Blog, I was living with my grandmother and acting as one of her primary caretakers. Among a laundry list of other health issues, my grandmother has Alzheimer’s disease.

In the three years I lived with her, my grandmother’s disease seemed to progress quickly. She went from the occasional “senior moment” to more concerning behaviors like leaving the stove on, forgetting to take her medicine, and hiding her purse in strange places.

My grandmother has entered a new stage of Alzheimer’s disease, one I call “losing time”. You might call it living in the past, or forgetting the present. All of those terms are accurate. She has a great memory for things that happened fifty years ago, but can’t recall things that happened five minutes ago.

The worst comes when she starts looking for people who are no longer with us. Lately, she’ll wake up from a nap and search the house for her father (who died thirty years ago) and her mother (who died ten years ago). When reminded that they have both passed away, my grandmother will say something along the lines of: “I’m an orphan!” Or, “I’m all alone now!”

She doesn’t seem to count her two children and four grandchildren. Or, for a moment, she just doesn’t remember us.

I miss my grandmother — the woman I remember from before the Alzheimer’s disease started stealing her personality and memories. The one who acted as chaperone for my class trips (because both my parents were teachers them selves and were in school) and told off my fifth grade teacher because he dared to assume she couldn’t keep up with the group because she was old. The one who went to every video store in town to rent The King and I after the theater we were watching it in caught on fire and I didn’t get to see the end of the story.

She was an amazing woman. And now she’s someone else. In her memory, she’s losing time. In my present, I’m losing my super cool grandmother.