PERSPECTIVE: Alzheimer’s ruins more than just a brain

Shelbie+Goulding

Shelbie Goulding

Shelbie Goulding

In my mind, Alzheimer’s is the worst thing in the world. To be there physically but not mentally, it’s unbearable. Sadly though, it’s taken a toll on my family.

About eight years ago, I stayed with my grandmother for a summer dance camp that lasted three days. That’s where it all began. I noticed something wasn’t right with her.

The food in her refrigerator had grown mold, her cupboards were bare and the ice cream was freezer-burned. The guest room wasn’t ready when I arrived, and she seemed surprised that my mother had left me there. It was almost as if she forgot I was staying.

It got worse.

Waking up for the first day of camp, I hopped in the shower and got ready. As I paced back and forth between the guest room and bathroom, my grandmother’s door opened. She began to walk to the kitchen, naked. I stood there in shock, and she noticed me at the end of the hallway.

I startled her. She immediately ran back to her room and peeked around the door as if she didn’t know who I was or why I was there.

She also forgot that she had to take me to camp. Along the way, I noticed her driving was terrible. She ran two stop signs and a red light. Her facial expressions never changed. I don’t think she realized she violated any traffic laws. I asked her why she didn’t stop at the traffic signs, and she seemed to ignore me as if I was talking nonsense.

That wasn’t like my grandmother.

As she kept driving, she ended up passing the school as well. Her faced flushed with confusion and suddenly turned red when I told her she passed our destination. She began to act irritated and hit the steering wheel as she shook her head.

That definitely wasn’t like my grandmother.

After practice, I waited for her, but she never showed. I had no choice but to start walking back to her place. It took me over an hour to get to her house. I walked for miles after dancing from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with no food in my stomach. When I finally got to the house, I found her mowing the backyard.

I didn’t bother to ask her why she didn’t pick me up because I didn’t want her to feel bad or act out again like she did that morning. I went inside eager to eat dinner, but I noticed she never ran her errands like she said. There was nothing. Only the same molded food in the refrigerator and the freezer-burned ice cream.

She came in the house and didn’t bother fixing either one of us dinner. She sat on her lazy boy chair and watched T.V. until it was time for bed.

For two more days I lived that same routine, and it was harsh for me at my age. But if it weren’t for me staying with my grandmother for those longing three days, my family would have noticed her Alzheimer’s too late.

Today, my grandmother is in a wheelchair, speaking in tongues and I have no idea if she knows who I am, let alone her own daughter (my mother) or anyone in our family. She still smiles at babies and laughs uncontrollably over random things, but it’s not the same and it never will be.

Alzheimerś is a killer and destroys more than just a brain. It breaks the heart too. Be thankful for your grandparents and make as many memories as you can, before those memories are taken away.

Shelbie Goulding is a columnist. Contact her a [email protected]