On July 10, Dan DeRoma posted a photo of his grandmother, who has Alzheimer’s disease, to the Reddit.com’s “Funny” subreddit, a community where people share content meant to give others a laugh.
Some Reddit users found humor in the photo, while others felt it hit too close to home to be funny. But instead of a heated argument, something sort of great happened — a discussion began, one that came from a place of understanding, compassion and, above all, love. Many even shared their own experience with Alzheimer’s.
The Mighty compiled a few poignant responses in case any of them resonate with you — whether someone you love lives with Alzheimer’s disease or not. Take a look at their stories, and share your experience with disease in the comments below.
1. My grandmother had Alzheimer’s the last eight years of her life. She remembered my grandfather, who sadly passed away six years earlier, and tried to call him on the phone after bingo at the home to see when he was getting her. My saddest memory was when one of my uncles passed away from cancer. She had no idea who her son was in the casket, but she had a sudden moment of clarity seeing my aunt and asked where my uncle was.
I never wanted to see her when she was like this. If only I could have had her back to normal for one day. Just one more Apple pie on a cool Iowa night in the fall. Chasing lightning bugs and seeing the huge smile on her face when we got one in a jar.
2. [This] reminds me of my mom’s mom, who passed away about seven or so years ago. She [lived with] Alzheimer’s for about five years, and it was terrible. You cannot quite describe the disease to anyone who hasn’t known anyone (personally) who’s had it. It’s much more than simple memory loss. It strips them of any true dignity.
It’s an emotional roller coaster for everyone. You get tired and upset after they’ve asked you the same question for the 15th time in five minutes, then they get upset and confused as to why you responded a bit harshly out of exhaustion. Then two minutes later, they’re happy again, asking you the question/s again. Or, they’ll have sudden moments of utter clarity and you think everything’s normal again. Then they’re gone.
3. My mom’s mom has it. It’s weird how there are a few things that she remembers clear as day and yet she can grasp onto nothing else. She doesn’t know my mom, she doesn’t know my uncle, she doesn’t know anyone. When you spend any length of time with her, she asks you who you are every four or five minutes. The only person in the world she remembers is my grandfather and he died in April. Every few days she’ll ask when he is gonna get home. You can’t tell her that he is never coming home because that experience, that loss, will be the longest she has had in the past five years. And then she’ll forget and ask you again in a few hours or a few days. It’s heart-wrenching. But she’s the same person. She may not know who you are, but she’ll ask for a hug as she asks you who you are. She’ll tell you she loves you and sing you a song.
4. My grandfather [lived with] Alzheimer’s for eight years, and it was like watching someone slowly be locked in a box. About a year before he passed, his younger brother was put on life support due to pneumonia and the family had to make the decision to ‘pull the plug,’ as the doctors said he could no longer live off of a machine due to lung deterioration. At the funeral my grandfather refused to sit anywhere but the very back, like he knew something was wrong but couldn’t quite figure it out. When they rolled the casket by, it all clicked, and the strongest man in the world broke down into confused, distraught sobs. Watching someone who has Alzheimer’s finally understand what’s going on can be a blessing, but not when it’s a loved one being wheeled by in a casket.
5. The last time I saw my great grandmother as herself was in 2004, before we moved halfway across the world. After we moved, she started losing it. I saw her again for the first time in 2012 when I visited back home. Nothing ever prepares you for what you’re going to experience. I went to the bathroom of her rest home and cried before going back out. She had no idea who I was, but she told me my jeans were ‘very lovely.’
6. My mom told me once that her father (before it got super bad but not early on, either) looked at my mom and said, ‘I’m sorry, I know I know you and love you dearly, but I don’t know who you are.’ And he started crying. One of the only times my mom saw her dad cry. I only have one super solid memory of him and it’s distant and random, but I absolutely understand how hard it is seeing them now versus who they were.
7. Both my grandparents had Alzheimer’s disease. My grandfather was just the king of forgetful and sometimes a bit of confusion, and he passed before it could really take hold. My grandmother, however, was the sad story. She was a refugee from Europe who’d seen too much of the war, so the memories she seemed to be able to remember were from this period. It was never fun being accused of being a Russian soldier, or of killing her friends, or of stealing. Then later, she began to leave the house in the middle of the night, bag packed with food and water, intent on going west. It was a crazy sad time, but I try to remember the times of clarity. I was however amazed that those ‘flashbulb’ memories did not seem to be destroyed; these bad memories became her reality. She’d found safety for nearly 50 years, but for the last three, she was in the worst place ever.
8. I did laugh about [the photo posted]. Then I read the comments and thought about two of my grandparents. They are both together in a facility, but both live with this terrible affliction. My grandma has compensated for my grandpa for years, but now she’s bad and he’s worse. We go visit almost every other weekend and it gets harder and harder. There are times they are still there. Maybe forgetful, but still the same. There are [also] times you see they aren’t the same people, too — they’re angry and bitter. They snap, they fight, they bully. It’s hard knowing I will never be with my grandparents again, at least not how I’d want.
I don’t know who will read this, but it helped just putting it out there… and knowing I’m not alone.
Read the entire discussion thread here.