Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Grandma Danner

Holding Hands Across Three GenerationsAs many of you know, my mom is in the very late stages of Alzheimer's. This has been a very long and difficult road especially for my dad who has been her constant caregiver. We are going on over 10 years now since this journey began. I was in college when the first signs started to appear. I have many regrets that I was not around during this difficult time for my parents. I was busy with college, then with being a newlywed. We didn't know what was going on in the beginning as she was diagnosed with depression and treated for that. It would be a few years later before we would know the ugly diagnosis of Alzheimer's. What a heart wrenching disease. The early days were very hard because Mom knew something was very wrong and that it was only going to get worse. It was so hard to see her lose her abilities such as speech and movement. Each thing lost has been a very gradual loss, but so impactful.

Grandma and Grandpa Danner with CoraMy dad, who is incredible, has made sure that she is at home and comfortable. He did not want her put in a home as he knew that alone would bring about an even earlier end. He has done everything in his power to keep her in her home. His ways may be a bit unconventional but he has done the best that he can and I have to say it is amazing! My dad whose previous responsibilities were cutting wood, farming, and fixing anything with a machine in it, has now assumed all domestic responsibilities as well. He is cook, payer of bills, housekeeper, and more.

Grandma Danner and CoraA year and 3 months ago we were referred to Hospice by my mom's doctor. We decided this would be the best route to go but were unsure of what to expect. We can not say enough about Hospice. They have been amazing and so helpful for my dad and mom. A nurse and home health aid visit twice a week and a volunteer stays with my mom once each week so Dad can visit with friends over coffee and get groceries. There are many others who make less frequent visits also. They are all wonderful and have become a part of our lives. The nurses and other Hospice staff tell my dad often that when his name comes up at the office, there are many comments made about what a wonderful caregiver he is to my mom!

Grandma Danner and CoraA few months ago we were very concerned about my mom's decline and worried she might not make it to the birth of her first grandchild. She sort of leveled out and she made it. We have had Cora around her whenever we visit. I really have no idea if she understands there is a baby there, let alone her granddaughter. She is completely disconnected now and usually in a sleeping state. When her eyes are open, she is so distant. There is no communication going on anymore. I have not seen my mom's smile in many months now or had direct eye contact with her.

Grandma and Grandpa Danner with CoraToday I went to visit her so my dad could run some errands. I laid Cora on my mom and took some pictures that Kevin will get up for me soon. It kills me to talk to my mom about her granddaughter and lay her on her and get no response. I was secretly hoping that there would be something. That we would see something in her eyes or a glimpse of a smile but there hasn't been anything. I trust that one day she will know Cora and she will be able to watch her grow. Even more I hope that we can pass my mom onto Cora and that she will know her through memories and pictures. I don't know how much longer we will have her here with us.

Being held at Grandpa Danner's houseThe greatest joy that I have in all of this is watching my dad with my baby girl. He is completely smitten with her. I should have known how excited he was when he came to the hospital to watch me labor for 5 hours. And then he was there to see her within 30 minutes after she was born. He has been known to not share her once he gets his hands on her. I have even overheard him talking to her about riding motorcycles and fixing things together someday. Through Cora we have offered him life, hope and joy again. This is something that he has not had for some time. He and mom also had lost my adopted brother, Scott, at the age of 13 to Leukemia when I was 4 years old. He adores our little Cora and has so many plans for her. But right now he is perfectly content to sit in his recliner and rock his granddaughter to sleep as he gazes at her precious little face looking up at his. He's in no hurry for her to grow up and I know being Grandpa to her has become the ultimate joy of his life.

- Mindy


michelle said...

Ahhh.!! I'm touched .My Uncle Fred had Alzheimers.It's an awful disease.I miss him.He would have loved my daughter McKenna.It's true what they say about a picture speaking a thousand words...THe photo of your daughter and your Mom and their hands is just gorgeous. One your daughter will treasure for years to come.I"m saying a prayer for you and yours.

Michelle said...

sorry the wrong blog came up...after leaving a comment.Michelle