Most of us know about Alzheimer's and dementia. They're diseases of the brain, and they gradually affect one's memory and mental ability to the point where someone doesn't remember how to perform basic everyday tasks. It can make life much harder not only for the person who suffers from it, but for their entire family as well. My grandmother has late-stage dementia, and here's a few things I have learned while watching her suffer from this disease.

Dementia can be heartbreaking. To have to watch my grandpa take care of my grandma as if she were five years old again is difficult to watch. When I see my grandma, most of the time she recognizes that I am an important person to her, but it breaks my heart a little every time she asks who I am because she doesn't quite remember why I am important. I constantly call her "Mamaw," so she knows who she is to me, and that maybe next time she'll remember that I am her granddaughter. It makes me sad to see her mind deteriorating, and I can only imagine how much more difficult it is for my mom, and my aunts and uncles to see their mother like this, let alone my grandpa. It's hard, but we get through it one day at a time.

Dementia can take a huge toll on a person, mentally, emotionally and physically. My grandpa is 81 years old and he has aged so much since my grandma's dementia started to progress. He has to help her take a bath, help her get dressed, and keep a constant eye on her to make sure she is OK and not getting herself into trouble. It's tiring for him, and when my mom or an aunt or uncle or even one of us grandchildren come to help out for a day, it can become tiring for us as well, but we're always glad to give grandpa a little break.

Most importantly, dementia can make you love more strongly and appreciate family. To be honest, before my grandma got dementia, I didn't visit my grandparents as often as I do now. I realized the importance of spending time with family, especially your grandparents. They aren't around forever, whether it be mentally or physically, so spending time with some of the most special people in your life is precious time that shouldn't be wasted. You celebrate the little things in life. I always get so happy when my grandma remembers something that she couldn't before, or when she constantly wants to hug me and my sister tight and never let go, because "my girls" came to visit. It makes her so happy when she sees us, and that makes my heart full knowing that this brings her joy.

Life with a grandmother who has dementia can be difficult but when there's love, you can never fail to succeed.

I love you, Mamaw.