98: All You Need Is Love

98: All You Need Is Love

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living with Alzheimer's & Other Dementias

All You Need Is Love

To us, family means putting your arms around each other and being there.

~Barbara Bush

When I heard that my grandmother, already in poor health, had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I had no idea what to expect. Beyond what I’d read in books and heard through word-of-mouth I knew very little about the disease.

I live abroad and had been planning a trip back that would include a visit with my grandmother. In preparation of what I feared I would find, I read up on Alzheimer’s and talked to friends who had relatives with the disease. Having nursed my mother through to the end of a terminal illness, a part of me feared a repeat of that pain. I almost didn’t want to go.

My uncle and his son live with my grandmother — my cousin was attending classes in the early morning or evening and taking care of our grandmother the rest of the time. My cousin is several years younger than me, in his early twenties — he loves his Pit Bull, fixing his vintage car, and listening to music. He’s a great guy, but he sports a large tattoo and loves his beer, so he wasn’t exactly what I’d call a classic nurturer.

While I was there, I told my cousin and uncle to take as much time off as they wanted while I stayed with my grandmother.

We had a wonderful visit. I cooked her special meals, cleaned some neglected corners of the house, and accompanied her and my uncle on a doctor’s visit. Some days she remembered me; some days she didn’t. One day I startled her badly when she awoke in the late morning to go to the bathroom and, only half awake, saw me in her living room. She thought I was a visitor and felt terrible that I’d been left on my own and no one was entertaining me. I reassured her and we carried on. I told myself that this wasn’t so bad after all.

Then one night it was. Grandma had stayed up a little too late, perhaps, and she got emotional when she couldn’t figure out where her bedroom was. It wasn’t the first time that she had trouble finding her bedroom or bathroom but this time she lay down on her bed and cried: “What’s wrong with me? Am I losing my mind? Why can’t I remember that? Should I go to a home?”

I stood in the doorway feeling completely clueless, old fears from seeing my mother in pain flooding over me. I tried to think of what to do, what to say, but drew a blank.

From behind me I heard my cousin walk quietly past me into the dimly-lit room. Gently he lay down next to Grandma. “It’s okay. Don’t cry, Old One [his name for her]. This is your house, and you’re going to stay right here for as long as you want to. It’ll be okay.”

Deeply touched, I backed out of the room as her crying subsided.

Fifteen minutes my later, my cousin emerged. “She just needs a little reassurance sometimes when she gets confused,” he said simply, and smiled.

Just a little love. I stood in awe of this unlikely caregiver. Truly, Grandma had the best care ever — someone who loved her.

~Evangeline Neve

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