I was talking with a friend today. Her grandma had Alzheimer's. She was sharing with me how she no longer knew who she was and how they had been so close. My friend told me how her Grandma seemed to go back in time when she was young girl and stayed there.
Listening to her, it reminded me of my Mother-in-law, Nana. She died from Alzheimer's in 2004. She lived four years after her husband of 64 years died. Toward the end, it was like she took rides in a time machine. She'd go back in time to happier and younger days. Her Mother died when she was 14 and Nana was 89 when I met her. She would tell us her Mother had come to visit her. When she wandered, she said she was going to her Mother and Dad's house.
I met my husband four months before his Dad passed. Sadly, I never got to meet his Dad. I met Nana after my husband moved her to a nursing home in San Dimas. He felt she would have company since her brother and sister in law already lived there. My parents lived in Covina, so it was good to be able visit her and my folks.
When I first met Nana, she was very paranoid and afraid. She thought people were coming in and stealing her things. She was a short little Italian woman and we immediately bonded. It was so easy to hug and comfort her the day I met her. From that day forward, I became the daughter she never had.
She quickly forgot she had been married, despite the collection of photos decorating her room. She thought her husband was her brother. She did not do well there. We were constantly driving from Riverside to San Dimas to calm her down. Finally, we moved her after 7 months, closer to where we lived. Her new home was a beautiful, resort type, Assisted Living facility and she was very content there.
I have happy memories of her when she lived there. We would take her to my step-son's baseball games and she would be so excited and enjoy being around all the people, even if she did not know which of the players was her Grandson. We took her to family events and celebrations. I remember her 90th birthday party when we took her to Las Vegas. She was so happy and laughed with joy when she needed help blowing out all those candles! I remember when she danced with my Dad at our wedding...
Nana stayed there two and a half years until she started to wander and hallucinate. For her safety, we had to move her again. We had bought a home in Highland, and we were able to find a secure nursing home near us.
Ironically, I was laid off my job, so I was available to spend more time with Nana the last 6 months of her life. Her short term memory had gone by then and she was losing her long term memory. Eventually, she forgot how to eat and swallow. She kept her eyes closed most of the time. We called Hospice after she forgot to swallow.
It was a difficult decision for my husband not to feed her through a tube. Hospice explained it would actually do her more harm than good. Her body was shutting down and it was best to let nature take it's course. We had wonderful, incredible support with Hospice, but I spent nearly every day with her, watching her, looking for signs of pain.
She never displayed any indication of any discomfort. I never saw her as peaceful as she was then. Her skin looked radiant. I sat by her bed and visited, telling her about our day or what was going on. Hospice told us hearing was the last to go. I read her favorite verses from the Bible.
When her time was near, my husband told her how much he loved her and thanked for all she had done for him and his children. He told her he would be fine, and it was OK for her to go home to Papa. Later that night, she left this earthly place and joined Papa in Heaven.
I have heard so many families who have gone through this with their loved ones. They all say basically the same thing. When their time is close, the dying start to see family and friends who have passed on before them. I like to think they are coming to prepare them and welcome them home...