September 2, 2015

Alzheimer's letter reminds us importance of the gift of time

May 2

Main Photo
A photo of the letter that was sent to the O-R.

I received a letter from a reader today. She writes that her mother-in-law is in the middle stages of Alzheimer's and wanted to share one of the notes she writes to herself:

11:35 p.m. “I woke up from a dream. Once again, I was cooking and serving food that I made. It was a nice dream but after 15 minutes, it starts to fade away. My husband was helping me in my dream.

“Where is he? Did something bad happen to him?

“Does anyone ever come to see me? I miss everyone. I didn't die and go to Heaven because I wake up each day and I don't see my kids or husband. Am I here until I die? Will I ever get my life back? Doesn't anyone care about me?”

The letterwriter goes on to explain that her mother-in-law lives with her. Her husband died last year, and she's stopped asking about him. She also doesn't ask about the children that she never sees.

Her friends and relatives don't really keep in touch anymore. “You have relatives who have 'advice' but don't make an effort to just spend time being kind to this person, whether she is your grandmother, sister aunt ... Some people feel it is not convenient, or that they have their own problems and can't be bothered to give the gift of time to this woman who raised them, who grew up with them.”

But in the end, the letterwriter observes that it is not she, the caregiver, who is being inconvenienced; it is those who have opted not to visit their loved one who are being deprived.

“When my mother-in-law comes downstairs every morning, she says, 'Thank, God, for you. Do I ever tell you that?'

“I feel privileged to spend the most time with this woman. God put me on this path to help her and care for her. Yes, it can be very stressful, but, YES, it is the most rewarding thing I have ever done.

“I'm not going to lie and say the repeated questions and things she does sometimes don't annoy me. They do. But to think this could be my mom, my dad, my sister or brother makes me continue on every day.

“I do love my mother-in-law. It breaks my heart to see her not have any memory ... I am also scared as hell that this could happen to me or someone else I care about.”

Thank you, Anonymous, for your poignant and powerful words. And thank you for allowing me to share your story.

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The Observer-Reporter's latest staff series will feature Alzheimer's and dementia. Each month, we will concentrate on different aspects of the disease, from what it is, who is affected, resources, and more. This powerful series will go on for the conceivable future.