Gran and Grandad were around for most of my childhood and I took for granted that they would always be there. When my parents separated when I was 6, my grandparents made a huge sacrifice and bought a static caravan near where I lived so they could travel down around every Monday to Friday to support my Mum to work whilst raising 4 children. They took us to school, collected us from school, made sure we had a warm meal on an evening, and gave Mum the chance to continue with her career.
Now, Grandad has just turned 90, and now lives alone. This is incredibly difficult for him after being married to Gran for nearly 70 years. Gran was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a few years ago. Eventually Grandad couldn’t manage her behaviour. She kept wandering off, was increasingly forgetful, and grandad was unable to keep her safe. The family made the decision to look for a care home.
She no longer recognises Grandad or any of the family or knows anything about herself. Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease that has taken Gran away from us all. She has rare lucid moments now, however still loves music and singing which makes her smile, and amazingly remembers song words despite not remembering much else.
It took a long time for Grandad to get his head around how Alzheimer’s has changed Gran. Initially he would get frustrated with her, tell her to stop being silly, or try and correct what she was saying. I think from his generation, mental health had a stigma and was poorly understood, and he held prejudice around it. He has come to terms more now with the situation but it breaks his heart to see Gran like this. He manages to visit the care home now, following a cruel period of time during COVID when he was unable to see the love of his life for so long.
I moved to the town where they live 3 years ago, in a strange turn of events that I never envisaged. I never thought I would live in this small seaside town, but it gives me the chance to be near my old relatives, similarly to how they moved to be near me when I was a child.
There is still a long way to go for researching Alzheimer’s and there still remains no cure. All our family can hope for is that Gran is comfortable and happy, and remember the strong, caring, loving mother, grandmother, friend that she was.