Saturday, May 22, 2010

Reality

It is time I shared a little update on my sweet Gigi. I need to be honest with myself. I am recognizing that it is terribly hard for me to move into the absolute reality that this disease is taking my grandmother. To say that it has been a difficult few months would simply be an understatement. Since her diagnosis 2 ½ years ago we have seen significant changes, but you could say they have been more like “snapshots of confusion”, interwoven with some fairly clear days. Recently though, that is not the case. In the span of 6 months, maybe a little more, she has rapidly been on the decline. What was previously hours of confusion smattered in a good week is now almost full days of confusion; many days of the week. The funny thing is that one moment or one day, there is clarity and the ability to join in with her surroundings; whatever they may be, and the next she is “gone”. I have had quite a few people share with me that same fact about a relative or friend who suffered from Alzheimer’s. You have a glimmer of hope as they seem so clear for a moment and the next minute they are asking you about a spouse or relative you don’t have, or stating something as fact, wholeheartedly believing it to be reality but you are distinctly aware that there is no possibility it is true. For example, the other day Gigi asked Mitchell to “tell his wife she was sorry”. On the same day she asked me “what your brother had to do with it?”. Not being sure what “it” was and hoping to clarify that I don’t have a brother I told her “I don’t have a brother Gigi, I have a husband” to which she rolled her eyes and turned her head in disbelief. On the same day she asked me again where her Mother and Daddy were and with Papa’s help, I shared with her that her Daddy died when she was 14 and her Mother died many years ago. Oh how she was heartbroken, crying as she asked me… “why didn’t you tell me?” “how come you haven’t told me before”….it is so difficult to see her relive these deaths over and over again, fresh and new to her.

As the days go by and there are a multitude of moments that I want to share with Chad when he gets home yet it has been harder and harder to remember all the details. I desire to relay it accurately so I thought it best to write them all down one day. As much as I could remember in a day, I would record. I know it is not everything that was said as I was gone for about 4 hours and Mitchell remained home. I recorded nothing from that time frame but still had so much from the day. What I did write down filled 2 ½ pages of a yellow legal pad. ….it was an eye opening day.

Up to this point we have been blessed to not really have the anger/paranoia/anxiety side of the disease rear its ugly head but unfortunately that to is slowly changing. The anger and anxiety are starting to show with questions and statements like…”I want to know where my clothes are”… “you sold our car”… yelling to me over and over again…..“why are you doing this to me?”…asking about “the jerks who get me dressed, your daughter”… “I don’t want to leave this room”…“I want to call the police”… “whose home is this?”… “so where are we?”…“those kids play all night”…“that girl is sick, I am sick, your mother is sick”… asking Papa (speaking of us)….”what are these peoples names, I have never liked this kind of people”. Random, statements and questions that are hard to know how to answer, like telling Papa…”the people were very good and got dinner for you kids”…”where’s Papa (as he is sitting right near in his chair) I need to take him back to our house”…asking me why I won’t let Papa go home with her…asking Papa how many children he has….answering my question of “Gigi, do you know who I am?” by saying, “names would be nice”. One of the hardest questions came just a few days ago. I knelt down beside her as she sat on their loveseat and I asked her how she was doing or if I could get her anything. She looked at me and while pointing to Papa replied, …”who is that man over there?”, I asked her, as I pointed to Papa “do you mean him?”, “yes” she replied. I touched his arm and asked her one more time, just to be sure….”you mean this man?”…”yes” she stated…I said…”that is your husband” to which she said…”oh, I remember now”. A simple conversation with a heartbreaking reality.

As a family we have been taking the time to watch a caregiver training video and I have been doing some more reading to get a better understanding of the disease. It has been quite revealing and very helpful to us as we learn how to better take care of Gigi. I was not aware to what extent the brain is destroyed by Alzheimer’s disease. The degeneration is staggering. I wanted to share just one photo showing a comparison of two brains after death. One had Alzheimer’s and one did not. This section of the brain that is degenerated shows the ability to use words and language.



Normal






Alzheimers


We still have so much to learn as a family. Each day or week something different will happen and we have learned that the best we can do is to remain open to change, watch the cues she is giving us and learn how to respond best to her current stage. Only the Lord knows how long she will tarry and what that road will mean for her.

While I can record the words, I cannot replay the emotion from which they were spoken. Sometimes anger, fear and paranoia rule the outbursts, sometimes sadness. This to me is grievous; this is the part that bears burden on my soul each and every day. I am truly, utterly helpless to “make her better”. We can be there to care for her; to try to make sense of her confusion, but nothing will change the fact that these words, emotions and situations are so very real to her. How difficult that must be for sweet Gigi. What seems so strange or confusing to us is in essence her reality.

The chorus of a favorite song comes to mind often, “Praise you in this Storm” by Casting Crowns…

I'll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
Every tear I've cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

The beauty is that even in the most difficult days there are moments of sweet responses. They most often will fall at the end of the day as we tuck Papa and Gigi into bed each night. As Mitchell, Isabelle and I go to each side of their bed and give kisses and I love you's, Papa is so quick to say I love you many times over with what seems like a thousand thank you’s included! It is then that Gigi will be tender, and give a very heartfelt, full of understanding, “I love you” to each of us. Recently, one special night, after a particularly hard day, I tucked her into bed. As I held her hand, she looked at me with eyes of recognition and simply said…”don’t leave us”. That moment was a blessing beyond measure, one I will treasure and draw from in the days to come.

Even though our earthly “reality” and Gigi’s earthly “reality” sometimes differ greatly, and that difference will only grow greater as her disease progresses, we praise the Lord that we share the same final reality….that our loving Savior has brought her to salvation in Himself. It is an unequaled comfort to know she rests securely in the hand of our heavenly Father. This life is but a vapor, our home is eternal, our hope is in the Lord.

Titus 1:1-2 says.... Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago,


This post has been much longer than I ever intended but I want to end with a deep, heartfelt, full of love and kisses, thank you from the Honey family. Thank you too many sweet friends and loved ones who… speak hearty words of encouragement, lend listening ears, write sweet notes, and give amazing actions of self sacrifice to bless our little family. Your ministering love to our family is cherished.


The Joy of the Lord is my strength




Psalm 103:1-5
Bless the Lord, O my soul, And all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits; Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases;
Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; Who satisfies your years with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.


Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

9 comments:

  1. Oh my sweet friend! My heart is breaking for you!! As I read your tetimony with tears streaming down my face ~ I think I need to see you, help you, hug you! You know I pray for all of you and I know that is important, but what else? What else can I do? I am so glad for you that there are still sweet and tender moments to help you get through. And I thank God for Papa and his strength of mind and character if not body. I love you girl!

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  2. Oh Jod....I treasure you. I will respond to your email....Wednesday cannot come soon enough!

    Love you

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  3. Chessa, you are a wonderful writer. As much as I tried to stop the tears, they wouldn't. My heart and prayers go out for all of you. This is such a tough season in life. Could you imagine doing it without the Lord? Keep praising Him! He is so faithful.

    Love and hugs,
    Marla

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  4. Marla girl....thank you for your note and encouraging words! I could not imagine doing this without the Lord, not in a million years! I will call you back soon...I am sorry I didn't get to it that same day!

    He IS so faithful...thank you for your words of truth!

    Love and hugs to you girl!

    Chessa

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  5. Chessa this beautiful post brought tears to my eyes. I cannot imagine going through what you are experiencing with your precious grandma. It makes me thankful that God was so merciful in how he took my grandma. You and your precious family are such a beautiful example in the way you tenderly care for your grandparents!

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  6. Chessa,
    This is heart rending. How wonderful for you that you have the Lord to guide you and to lean on during this time. For Gigi, even though she may not be cognitive of this but having her family around must be a comfort on some level.

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  7. Abigail and Leslie...thank you for your encouraging words, they are a blessing to our family! Chessa

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  8. Wow Chessa... you and your family are truly an inspiration. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I was thinking about you and decided to visit your blog. Love and miss you,
    Shannon (your cousin)

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  9. Shannon...so neat to hear from you! Thank you for your kind words, they are greatly appreciated. We would enjoy having you and Jonah up this summer! Love to you both, Chessa

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