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Ashley Adaire

Eventually, my Grandma’s surprise coffee visits and phone calls, telling us how to dress for the day to keep warm, stopped. When my Grandpa visited her every day with a can of iced tea, she got this spark in her eyes. He thought it was the iced tea, but I know it was because he showed up to visit her at the same time every day. We talked about trips they took around the world, including the food they ate, funny stuff they encountered, the best hotels and the views that they saw. She often smirked or laughed as he told the stories, as she seemed to know exactly what my Grandpa was talking about.

Ashley Adaire lost her grandmother to Alzheimer’s disease. After her grandmother’s diagnosis, she created Loyalty Garments, a clothing alteration service for those who have limited mobility.

My Grandma, Diane, started showing signs of Alzheimer’s in 2008, when she was in her late 60s. She always knew the latest style trends, and she was also socially gifted. She tried to make everyone around her feel welcome and often knew small details about people. She also loved to bake. My grandma and my younger sister spent entire weekends baking tarts, sugar cookies, nun’s fartsyes, nun’s fartsand more. It’s difficult to put words to how my Grandma’s disease progressed, but slowly, things she did and said became more out of character. Eventually, her surprise coffee visits and phone calls, telling us how to dress for the day to keep warm, stopped. As my Grandma’s Alzheimer’s got worse, my mission was just not to cry when I visited her. However, watching what my Grandma went through and how my Grandpa interacted with her taught me a lot about compassion.

I learned that it is important to create a positive atmosphere for an Alzheimer’s patient because he or she may remember more than you think. A few years into my Grandma’s diagnosis, she had to be put into a care home. When my Grandpa visited her every day with a can of iced tea, she got this spark in her eyes. He thought it was the iced tea, but I know it was because he showed up to visit her at the same time every day. Routines are helpful for Alzheimer’s patients. We talked about trips they took around the world, including the food they ate, funny stuff they encountered, the best hotels and the views that they saw. She often smirked or laughed as he told the stories, as she seemed to know exactly what my Grandpa was talking about. I noticed she would squeeze his hand. I believe she was letting him know she was still there. Remember that your loved one is not this disease and is still in there. 

You can also create a positive environment by doing something nice for your loved one. My Grandma loved when I blow-dried and curled her hair. That’s when I let her know how much I loved her and appreciated everything she did for me. Paint your loved one’s nails, do her hair or find out what your loved one is interested in. If your loved one can’t talk or has limited movement, just hold your loved one’s hand or watch TV with him or her. When he or she struggles to find the right words or direction of a sentence, just go with it. Come from an understanding and non-judgmental place.

My Grandma’s experience also taught me to have compassion for everyone. I used to be a waitress and noticed that sometimes, being in a restaurant makes people with Alzheimer’s feel anxious. Some elderly people came in, did not wait in line and sat down right away. Other customers didn’t understand why this person might do that and said, “You have to wait!” However, having a loved one with Alzheimer’s helped me to understand this behavior. I replied, “It’s OK, just let them sit there. Everyone will get seated soon.” Sometimes, you don’t know what others are going through and how they are feeling until you have a similar experience.

Alzheimer’s is hard on the individual and on families. It’s a confusing disease. Try to appreciate your loved ones and let this experience make you the best person you can be.

Read more stories like Ashley’s here

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