When you lose someone to Alzheimer's, you have to accept that they are gone before their physical being has left Earth. That might be the hardest part. You can still see them, hug them, look into their eyes, but they are already gone.
Alzheimer's is a thief and it's prized possession is the memories of those the disease inhabits. We first learned my grandmother was a victim when she was found driving aimlessly through the streets of my neighborhood, confused as to why my house that she had visited thousands of times before, my house that was less than a mile from hers, suddenly became invisible.
After that, memories disappeared rapidly, sucked into an abyss of unreachable thoughts. Pretty soon, she saw me but couldn't bring herself to remember my name. Then she didn't see me as me, I was a stranger. And then she didn't see me at all, there was nothing.
Loving someone with Alzheimer's requires patience. You cannot ask your loved one to remember and you cannot try to get them to understand. I was born with the desire to help everyone. Realizing that this was something that was incurable and that I could do nothing to fix was a harsh awakening.
When you're losing someone to Alzheimer's, the only thing you can do is sit beside them and let them know you're there.
This is one of the worst diseases because it is the longest goodbye. You are grieving and missing someone who is still alive. Every day you are forced to see someone, but know that they are no longer with you. Losing someone you love to Alzheimer's is a brutal battle between comforting them, and grieving for yourself.
When your loved one eventually passes, the grieving process, I found, isn't as intense as a non-Alzheimer's related death. Perhaps it is because you accepted the loss long ago, or maybe it is because you are oddly comforted by the idea that the victim no longer has to live a life they are unaware of. Whatever it is, losing someone who was already gone is a special kind of grief.
When you lose someone to Alzheimer's, you must hold tight to memories of your loved one. When their memories are gone, yours will be all you have.