Alzheimer’s and Unconditional Love

M. Jepson '15

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Right from the beginning Molly and Nana, Molly’s grandma, had always had a special connection. After Nana’s husband died, the same day Molly was born, everyone believed somehow Molly was a gift to comfort her. Molly grew up occasionally visiting Nana, mostly at Christmas and Thanksgiving. But one day Molly and her mother, Theresa, were driving home from Cincinnati, where Nana maintained her own household, and Theresa broke the horrifying news.
        “No!” Molly shuttered. “This can’t be happening, this can’t…” she mumbled.
The words that came out were unbearable. Molly was silent the rest of the car ride. She was sniffling with the dark gloomy sky above her. The smell of exhaust from the car ahead irritated her nose. She was terrified. After all, Molly was only 13 at the time, and that isn’t a great time to know that Nana, her very last grandparent, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s was a scary word to hear for Molly. She didn’t exactly know what it meant. But she knew it was an awful disease. It’s when the brain is slowly shutting down. Nana had memory loss. The body is still somewhat active, but the brain cannot send messages to the rest of the body. This ultimately leads to death. There are three stages in Alzheimer’s disease. These include: Mild, Moderate, and Severe. She was in the Mild.
Nana started forgetting things. She would make little mistakes symbolizing forgetfulness. For instance, she was continuously losing her glasses, forgetting that she had already eaten a meal, and little everyday things we often take for granted. Nana was the sweetest woman. She wouldn’t hurt a fly. With Molly living in Philadelphia, it was a long drive to visit her. Molly did her very best to see her.
Nana sold her house and moved in with Molly’s uncle. The took care of her for about a year. They decided a nursing home would be better. Molly’s parents, Luke and Theresa, wanted to put that off as long as possible, so they took her in.
It was a different life for Molly, and her two brothers and sister. Everything was changed. There was now a 7th person in her family. She now spent her time helping Nana get out the door and into the car, finding her glasses, helping her off the bleachers after sports games, and keeping her busy.
“Molly,” Nana would say in a soft voice, “Would you help me get in the car?” Molly would hold her hand and gently give her enough of a push to get her fragile body in the car.
She had a great impact on Molly’s life. She taught Molly patience above all. Molly would at first in the beginning get frustrated, but after time she would learn to adjust to Nana’s life and disease.
Additionally, because Nana was a former teacher, she would always find a way to correct Molly’s grammar.
“Me and Beth went to the store today,” Molly would start.
“Beth and I,” Nana would correct.
She was such a kind, considerate, loving, generous person. There wasn’t a day that went by when Nana wouldn’t say her usual,
“I love you!” in a wholehearted voice.
Although she had to stop teaching years before, Nana would wake up early as Molly would go to school and ask, “Do I have to go to work today?”
Theresa would kindly respond no and motion her back up to bed.
        Sometimes she would ask, “Where is my husband? He should be home by now!” We all knew, except Nana, he had passed away several years before.
After a year of her staying at Molly’s house, they finally put her in a nursing home. This was a nursing home in Ohio, about an hour away from where she used to own her house. It was a nice little place called “Traditions.” When Molly walked in the aroma of flowers surrounded her. It was a nicely furnished place and she thought it would suit her well. They picked out her room.
In a few months the room was repainted and had all her belongings in place.
“Ohh I’m scared,” muttered Nana, as she was moving in. She was so confused and didn’t understand what was going on.
Every night Molly’s aunt would come visit her, since she lived very close by. She was always very puzzled and confused. The workers there were extremely nice and constantly helped her around. She slowly eased into the moderate stage after moving in. Usually during the moderate stage, you go through a period of time when you become nasty to others. The doctors told the family that she was too sweet to go through that phase. She was never mean to others and wouldn’t start now.
She began getting into the swing of things at the nursing home. They served breakfast lunch and dinner and in-between hours were free time. Nana would walk, watch TV, read, and attend Mass. She found a best friend named Cathy who would accompany her in her activities.
Molly’s aunt could take her out to lunch or make dinner for her just to help. Molly visited with the family at Christmas and Nana had forgotten some of the names. She couldn’t recognize Luke or Molly’s brother. It was sad to hear but there was nothing they could do.
“Um .. and, whose this?” Nana would mumble.
Sometimes she would be listening to the conversation and add something completely irrelevant to the subject. The family and Molly would respond respectfully, hiding the overwhelming sadness that would come over them every time. The family just had to deal with this, and with the unconditional love for Nana, they certainly would.
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