Not long ago, I was helping a friend behind-the-scenes at an event, and one of the featured guests had Alzheimer’s. We were expecting her to show up at a certain time for hair and makeup when we received a call from her husband. She had jumped out of the car they were in, and he couldn’t find her. It was unsettling, to say the least. When he called back a few hours later to say that he’d found her and everything was okay, we all breathed a sigh of relief.
That night, I couldn’t stop thinking about her. And Alzheimer’s. It’s such a mysterious disease. I start googling and discover that it’s on the rise. Right now, over 5 million people have it and by the year 2050 that number is expected to reach 16 million. That’s a lot of Alzheimer’s.
My mind shifts over to my friend Jonyse whose mother has it. Maybe she can give me some insight. Jonyse says that she never saw it coming. “I went to my mother’s place one day and it was unusually messy, and another time she had no food, even though she said she had just gone food shopping. When the bank teller called to say that she was coming in every week to get new cards because she couldn’t remember her PIN, I knew something was out of whack.”
She took her mother to the emergency room and they diagnosed her with dementia. Eleven years later, she has full-blown Alzheimer’s. When I ask Jonyse if her mother knows who she is she says,
“It feels like it. They’re still who they are, but on a different plane; in another dimension. She still speaks to me, but differently. I have to raise my level of consciousness when I’m around her because I have to be open to the fact that she’s still my mother; my greatest teacher. There are things that I can still learn from her.”
I find myself reaching out to my cousin Marty who took care of my Aunt Babe, after she got Alzheimer’s. She says she enjoyed having Aunt Babe come live with her post-diagnosis because she was welcome company after her husband and son died. She kept her mother with her for seven years until a full-time nursing home was unavoidable.
“She began walking around in the middle of the night, and I was afraid she might fall down the stairs,” remembers Marty, “And she was also becoming more irritable.”
Naturally, it wasn’t an easy decision, but it was at the nursing facility that something incredible happened.
“Ma used to be a nurse. So being at the nursing home brought back her nursing instinct. She became very caring towards the other patients and you’d see her rolling her wheelchair around, making sure they had water, and asking them if they were okay.”
Aunt Babe. Next Marty tells me how she passed, and it only gets better.
“I was right there with her,” she says. “I saw her reaching to a light that was in the room, and I knew she was seeing someone. She kept reaching up, and I was telling her, ‘I know you see someone.’
She looked at me and smiled. And when her hand came down she looked at me again and closed her eyes.”
(Featured Photo of Uncle Bill Palmer & Aunt Babe)