Grandparents play an extremely crucial role in many people's lives. Without them, we literally would not exist. The unconditional love and support grandparents shower their grandchildren with cannot be received from any other source. From the moment we’re born, they’re our number one fans. Attending every concert, recital, and ball game they can, they want nothing more than to see us happy, healthy, and successful. So, when you notice changes brought by the inevitable decline of their health, it hurts.
By definition, dementia serves as an umbrella term that covers symptoms related to depleting memory and impaired thinking. According to The National Institute on Aging (NIA), "Dementia is a brain disorder that affects communication and performance of daily activities and Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia that specifically affects parts of the brain that control thought, memory and language." Both diseases drastically alter the person suffering from them and leave the family with overwhelming heartache and grief.
If you're lucky, this article will only create a sad hypothetical situation in your mind. However, for those personally impacted by the effects of dementia, it is a harsh reality. Watching someone you love slowly disintegrate takes an enormous emotional toll. When your grandparent used to carry you, cook, and dance, the transition into being the one who cares for them drastically alters your life.
As a small child, I looked up to my grandparents with the utmost respect and admiration; now I look at my grandmother with sympathy and love as I administer medication, spoonfeed her, and change her clothes. I see the humiliation in her eyes as caretakers complete the simple tasks that her body and mind can no longer endure. Though it pains me more than anything to say, I selfishly look forward to when she will no longer suffer.
Watching each struggle to remember the names of her children, explaining for the hundredth time that grandpa is in physical therapy when she asks where he is (though he passed away months ago), and answering the same question over and over again digs like a dagger straight through my heart. The days go by, and the confused look on her face proves that she has no idea of the world around her.
Through the turmoil of dealing with these unfortunate circumstances, I've found a silver lining. My patience and compassion for those around me has grown immensely, and I've realized how much we take for granted. Each day that we can get out of bed, brush our teeth, and go for a walk is a blessing. As my grandmother lets go of her grip on this life, I've caught her favorite recipes, traditions, and fondest memories that I can one day pass on to my children. Cherishing the time I have left with her has tied me closer to my heritage and presented me with a newfound appreciation for family. Nothing in this life is guaranteed; the sooner we realize that, the sooner we can begin to live each day to the fullest.