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When it Really Hits Home


They say, “Practice makes perfect.” Working for Home Instead, it’s my job to connect with older adults and their families. I read and hear their stories every day. I have access to the latest research and training for family caregivers. I work with the experts in dementia and caregiving. My professional career is all about aging – the good, the bad, and the ugly. This is the ultimate training ground for my personal journey.

Or so I thought.

I’ve written before about my grandmother and the day I knew our lives would be different. The truth is, our lives did go back to normal after that – in a way. Cognitively, she rebounded. It seemed that an infection and dehydration were at the root of her delusions that day. But somewhere deep down, I knew that eventually, this state would be her new normal.

It became clear that her once sharp mind was now only capable of having the same five conversations. When you strayed from one of those five, confusion set in.

Recently, I walked into my grandmother’s hospital room. She was there after a fall at her assisted living facility. As I leaned over to give her a hug, she said, “You have beautiful skin, just like my granddaughter.”

I would like to say that my heart sank, but that would assume there was a possibility that it could rise back up again. Really, my heart just shattered. The only image that flew through my mind was that prescription bottle with NAMENDA written on it.

I worked to catch my breath and hold back the tears, all the while trying to keep a smile on face for Grandma. Why wasn’t I prepared for this? I knew what to expect. I knew how to handle this.

The thousands of stories, the hours of training, the chats with the experts, and all the research in the world could not save me from heartbreak. This was no longer someone else’s story, no longer someone else’s struggle. This was now my story, my struggle, and there was no emergency exit.

In moments like these it is amazing just how far our brains are from our hearts. The most rational, intelligent person becomes a heaping mess of confused tears. When it’s your loved one, statistics become meaningless, and making a decision based on fact and information is like solving a Rubik’s Cube.

I’d like to give you a nice neat ending to this story. Usually, I end with the lesson I learned, a moment that made it worth it, something to make the blog post a neat little package with a bow. That’s not going to happen this time. There simply is no way I can make it pretty, and it’s too soon for me to have seen a lesson or anything that could possibly make this okay. Maybe someday, but today, my heart is still much too far from my brain.


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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. May 6, 2013 at 10:48 pm | Posted by grace

    They are stories about parents in their very late years. I lost my parents early...and I think all of you are blessed still have your mothers and fathers with you. They can not recognize you, but you are able to give them a hug showing your love...


  2. April 11, 2013 at 9:37 pm | Posted by Lynne Hamilton

    My heart is breaking for my 96 year old mother. She was diagnosed last year and was able to live independently until then. All her life she insisted that she be independent and hoped that she wouldn't "lose her mind". My dad has been dead for 33 years and my fondest wish would have been for her to go to Glory from her house. That is not to be. She fell a month ago and has made some progress towards rehabbing at my house, but she will be with us until the end. She is still sweet and so glad to be with family...even though she sometimes thinks that I am her sister instead of her only child! Dementia is indeed the last lesson we learn from our parents in many cases!


  3. April 8, 2013 at 11:54 am | Posted by Diane Chadwick

    Welcome to a club that no one wants to be a member of but thousands of us are here. My mom is well into her 2nd year of AD after being diagnosed but we saw the signs several years before that. I read everything I can on AD and dad is her 24/7 caregiver and we are there when he calls for help. He is one proud and stubborn husband who doesn't take well to our advice or help but we do it anyway. It is a hard road and I am thankful there are many websites out there with ideas, thoughts and I love to hear other people share their struggles. It gives me new ideas on how to help my mom. We are all in this together...lets be the best team we can.


    • April 8, 2013 at 11:57 am | Posted by Cat Koehler

      One thing I do know from reading all of the stories, is that this club has some pretty amazing members! Thanks for the welcome, Diane! Cat Koehler


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