Monday, October 22, 2012

The Alzeheimer's Art Quilt Initiative

Good day to everyone.  I have a new link on my blog:  The Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative.  This is a very worthy non-profit organization.  While I may not be qualified to make an art quilt, I'm going to donate a quilt to raise funds.  The reason I'm interested in helping The Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative is that I saw my grandfather slowly deteriorate and become lost in his fog. 

My Grandpa Patterson was a vital man interested in everything from farming, to stocks, to politics, aircraft, community planning, machinery and education.  Grandpa performed community service via the Lions Club in his area, and at times was the head of his club.  Grandpa was one of those guys that if he ever retired he would be lost without something to do!

Grandpa was a great kidder.  He tried to get us grandchildren to say Mississaslopy instead of Mississippi.  And he was forever asking if we could spell it.  The twinkle in his eye was always the dead give away you were about to be had.  You never wanted to get too close to Grandpa when he was in a kidding mood or you might end up with the arm hairs on your arm twisted into tight little tornado knots. 

Grandpa started his days with a shot of whiskey with his coffee, way before breakfast.  Whoa betide the grandchild who thought they could sleep until 8:00 or 9:00 when Grandpa was about.  Mostly because by then he had been outside working for an hour or two and was back for breakfast.  If you missed breakfast you were out of luck until lunch.  And everyone worked at Grandpa's even if only for a few hours.

Grandpa fought giving in to Alzheimer's with every breathe he had.  He did not give up easily on driving, no matter how lost he got.  He did not give up on going into town and heading to the hardware store, even if in the wrong direction.  And he constantly asked Grandma why she sent him someplace that wasn't there.  He lost track of how to handle money, and he was as scotch as they come.  Then how to dress himself and feed himself.  Grandma hired a caretaker to come in a couple days per week, so she could grocery shop, go to the bank or get her hair done.  It was the only times she could get out of the house and ensure that Grandpa was safe.

When Grandpa forgot how to shower and shave, Grandma remodeled the bathroom so it had a floor drain and a shower chair for him.  She tried to bathe him and help him to the bathroom.  The toll that this took on Grandma put her into heart palpitations and we almost lost her.  My uncle and Grandma had to find an adult foster care home for him, close enough for her to visit.  Grandma just wasn't strong enough to continue to provide his 24/7 care.

The adult foster care home was okay.  Not spacious like Grandma's place.  And they sometimes restrained Grandpa so he didn't wander outside at night trying to find Grandma and home.  I was in Florida visiting about three weeks before Grandpa died, and visited him at the adult foster home.  I remember thinking how frail this big man had become.  Then Grandpa chastised me for being out late and not getting along with my mother. 

Now Grandpa was thinking he was talking to his daughter Kathleen, who was my mother.  That's when I finally realized how closely I must have resembled my mother.  She died when I was seven years old or about 30 years before Grandpa was having a conversation with me.

Alzheimer's or as some call it dementia is a cruel disease.  It's a mental one that robs a person of memories, learned behaviors and control.  I'll do whatever it takes on my part to ensure that I, my husband, my children and grandchildren don't get the disease.  If you've lived through the experience on a day to day basis, God bless you for your strength. 

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