Alzheimer’s Took My Mother-In-Law

In this touching story from Leeanne Chames, she brings to light many of the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease as exhibited by her mother-in-law. Enriched Life Home Care Services is passionate about creating awareness and educating families about this disease to help prepare them for the road that lies ahead.

My mother-in-law was diagnosed four years ago with Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 74. Her mother had dementia and passed from it. They never did give her mother a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, but looking back, her journey and the journey of my mother-in-law was tragically similar.

We noticed changes in my mother-in-law long before her diagnosis. She stopped cooking much and didn’t make blankets and crafty things anymore. Those were the first signs that made us wonder what was going on.  She had always loved to do those things for her family. We reasoned it away, thinking that she was retired now, and was maybe just tired of doing all of that.

Then she started repeating herself, asking the same question over and over. That’s when we started looking at each other, those looks with your eyebrows raised, and you can’t speak, wondering, what is going on?

Soon after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.  What we had been seeing over the last few years began to make sense.  My heart dropped, of all the things that could come into her life, a woman that was so fiercely independent and did so much for her family and others.  We all had a good picture of what lay ahead.

Memory-People-MO-ClipartEventually, she couldn’t even heat a cup of coffee, much less find the microwave, or even know what it was for. Everything was just more and more confusing day by day. It was like she was walking farther into a fog, disappearing from us a little more every day.

It was unbearable to see the pain on my father-in-law’s face as the reality of what she was becoming slowly hit him over and over. If I could beat something up, set it on fire, and send it straight to hell, it would be this disease, for what it was doing to our family.

That was some of the worst. There is a best. After her diagnosis I started researching the internet like crazy. I went online to find out how to help my family. I found many sites and a lot of information, but the most life changing discovery was an online support group that would become like my second family throughout this ordeal.

I found Memory People, an online Alzheimer’s and dementia support group on Facebook founded by Rick Phelps.  Rick is a patient who was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s disease in June of 2010 at just the age of 57.  He knew there had to be others that needed support and information just like he did.

Finding Memory People changed my life and the lives of my family. I began to listen to others caught in this and realized that we were not alone.  It made all the difference. Reading the stories shared by patients and caregivers broke my heart, and they still do, but together we take another step.

The insight I received from the patients in the group made such a difference.  It helped my family and I understand why my mother-in-law no longer seemed to do well in a crowd, and why she got agitated late in the afternoon. When you have a better understanding of those things you can be a better caregiver, you can take steps into their world and meet them where they are. We learned that she could no longer walk with us in our world.

I soon found out what I would not want to know about this disease.  As a caregiver, you carry that knowledge always, that there will be an end.  I learned that this disease is in fact fatal.  No one escapes it, there is no possibility of remission or hopes that with the right medications they may be able to buy you a few more years.

You tuck that knowledge away in your back pocket.  You know that the end is coming, and you take it out every so often to remind you to cherish today.  The phrase, “One day at a time” took on a whole new meaning for me.

Alzheimer’s claimed my mother-in-law on September 12, 2012, with her husband of over 50 years and all of her children gathered at her side.  This disease took it all, to her very last breath.

In the midst of the anguish of losing her there was also a relief that her struggle and torment with this disease was finally over, she had finally found peace and rest.  Seeing her freed from it afforded my heart a measure of peace, also.

Today I am still at Memory People, still helping others as they walk this journey with dementia. To know you’re not alone means the world, even on this side of the journey.

Leeanne Chames is the Executive Director of Memory People, an online Alzheimer’s and dementia support and awareness group on Facebook.  She is also Rick Phelps’ Assistant.  Rick is the Founder of Memory People, diagnosed with Early onset Alzheimer’s disease in June of 2010 at just the age of 57. 

If you or someone you know has been touched by dementia or you’d like more information, please join us at Memory People Facebook page.  We are patients, caregivers, and advocates, walking this journey together.

If you have any questions or comments please email Leeanne Chames at leeannechames@gmail.com. 

Bringing Awareness, one Person at a Time…