Grandpa Wayne

August 10, 2011 - Trish Vradenburg

Once in awhile, we'll feature the personal story of someone who has a firsthand experience with Alzheimer's, or who simply wants to find a cure for this unforgiving disease. This is Amanda's story.

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I lost my best friend when my grandpa got Alzheimer's. My grandpa passed away from Alzheimer's Disease in 2005; he was 68.

I was 12 when he started showing signs; my grandpa was 58 years old when diagnosed with the disease. My great grandma, my great aunt, and my dad have all been tested for Alzheimer's in a clinical study but they do not know if they carry or will have Alzheimer's.

He was always a kind gentle man before the disease, while with the disease he never seemed like himself. It did however amaze me that on his good days he might not have remembered his name, but he would remember a family vacation 10 years ago, or something he did while growing up. The one thing that I always tried to remember was the good memories I had with him, and I still cherish those today. Those memories are what I want to remember of my grandpa, not the disease.

I remember watching my family members stress about who was going to take care of my grandpa: was he going to be safe on his own, when could he not work anymore? What was the best way to take away his driving abilities? How would he understand being placed in a nursing home?

He was in his early 60s when his disease progressed, and the last five years he was in a nursing home. Those five years he was not the man I remembered. It was very difficult watching my grandpa start to change and leave us. My grandpa's prized possession throughout his disease was a poodle named Minnie. Eventually the dog couldn't be around him because he couldn't handle the dog right, so a stuffed animal replaced the dog to comfort my grandpa.

The final stages of the disease, he was blind, unable to eat regular food because he couldn't remember to swallow, unable to walk to the rest room because he was crippled and bed-ridden. The kind, active grandpa he once was disappeared. He did always seem calmer when my grandma or a family member was with him. The nurses he had were very kind, but the nursing home seemed so over-crowded, and they didn't know my grandpa the way we family members did.

The last week he was alive; I had not seen a glimpse of my real grandpa in a very long time. However, that day, he held my hand, and I felt as though he was telling me he was okay and to not be scared. That is one thing I will never forget. I'm very glad that I was by his side at the end, because I always knew he was on my side.

I really hope a cure can be found for this disease so that others do not lose their grandpas, too. This disease not only affects the person who has the disease but it also affects the patient's family members and friends. My grandma tried to take care of my grandpa for as long as she could, but it was hard for her, hard on her body, and hard on her emotions, mostly because her best friend and the man she loved was being taken away a lot sooner than I'm sure she ever imagined. When my Grandpa was placed in a nursing home, my grandma tried to spend every day visiting him; she fed him supper most nights because he ate more if she fed him than if the nurses fed him.

Family get-togethers were not the same, because there came a point where my grandpa wasn't able to leave the nursing home and it was hard all of us to see him, yet he would not know who we were. I also think it was also hard on him, being in a place that he should know, but because of the disease, he often had no idea where he was or what was right. I always felt my grandpa deserved so much more... I wanted him to be around to see so many things in my life but because of Alzheimer's he never got to see me grow up.

I'm sorry if I rambled with stories here, I just have so many thoughts about this disease and I really hope one day a cure will be found. This will be my second year where I will walk in the Alzheimer's Memory Walk in memory of my Grandpa Wayne. I volunteer because I can and I want to make a difference...I want to find a cure!

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