This month is Alzheimer’s Awareness month. Many of us know, or have known, individuals affected by Alzheimer’s Disease. Today, research is lightyears ahead of where it was just a couple years ago and many promising discoveries have been made. Even still, there is so much to be done. So, we continue to share stories and raise awareness about the people who are affected by Alzheimer’s and the importance of finding treatments that work. Over the next couple of weeks, we are sharing stories from our office staff about how their lives have been personally affected by this disease. Today, we are turning our attention to Cathy’s story of caring for her mother-in-law, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and passed away in 2016.
Interviewer: Thank you for taking the time to sit down with me to share your experience.
Cathy: Of course. I am happy to share my experience. My mother-in-law was a wonderful person.
Interviewer: What was your mother-in-law like before the Alzheimer’s?
Cathy: She was always so loving, fun, and energetic. She was English. So, she would have her tea time. She was also always non-stop busy and on the go. She loved her animals and was known to take in stray cats. At one point, she had nearly 20, that included kittens!
Interviewer: Did she have some of the same qualities to her, even with the disease?
Cathy: Yah she did. She always wanted to have tea time and she still loved her animals. But, she really lost her energy and ability to go out.
Interviewer: When did you first realize that she might have Alzheimer’s?
Cathy: She started to constantly repeat herself. But probably the biggest clue was that she was losing a lot weight, because she was forgetting to eat. She would take something out to eat, heat it up and forget that she did it.
Interviewer: What was the most challenging aspect of watching your mom-in-law live with the disease?
Cathy: She was so frail at the end. Some days she would be “so with it” and remember everything. Other days, she didn’t.
Interviewer: What was most challenging aspect, for you, about providing care?
Cathy: Whenever I was there, it was just a challenge to get her to do simple things like eat. She would give her food to the dogs. It was just frustrating that I couldn’t get her to do something so essential to life.
Interviewer: What is one fond memory you have of your mother-in-law while she had Alzheimer’s?
Cathy: Well, I used to sleep in mom’s room at night, because I didn’t want her to get up and wander away and accidentally hurt herself. She used to tell the same story to me, night after night. She would talk for what seemed like hours about the same thing. I used to nod my head and say “mmhmm” while lying in bed. Usually I would just nod off, because I heard the story so many times! She was just so grateful to have the conversation and be heard.
Interviewer: What advice would you give to someone currently going through a similar experience?
Cathy: I would say the best thing you can do is show them “respect”. Just because they have Alzheimer’s, does not mean that they are no longer an adult. Be patient and understanding, compassionate and present.