This is a rather sombre post on my part. I think it’s something that I desperately wish I could write about, but I’m just not there yet. All that I really think I can manage is those brief little snippets that somehow cut to the heart of the issue. Bri and I are going to visit my grandmother (paternal) after work today. She has just been moved into a home. Well, she was in a home before, but that was more of an assisted living facility, one where she had a bit of her own dignity. Her cat was with her, she had some privacy. Now, the place she is in is heartbreaking. I realize that she needs to be there because she can’t take care of herself alone anymore. I know this, I do. I just wish it weren’t so. She shares a room now with someone else, and this new place is just so much like a… hospital. No one feels comfortable in a hospital. The entire essence of a hospital is unfeeling. Residents are patients, not people. Patients are commodities, work stations. At least that’s the feeling you can’t help but have. It’s hard to feel optimistic. Without being able to resist the urge to use a geeky analogy, it feels as if the place is haunted by Dementors – sucking all the happiness out of everyone and everything.
I hate seeing my grandmother in such a place. Perhaps I’m not entirely ready to deal with accepting her disease, so I’ve projected my frustrations onto the environment. It’s even more difficult when she doesn’t remember moving into this place and keeps thinking she’s going home at some point. What’s even more difficult than that is trying to explain this all to her every five or ten minutes, explaining that this is her home now. I can’t comprehend the confusion and sadness on her face. It’s like watching a baby or a pet, and seeing their eyes as they process a thought – and being completely incapable of communicating what’s going on in their head. I feel guilty for saying this, for infantilizing her or dehumanizing her… but I guess that’s exactly what Alzheimer’s does. It robs you of your dignity and your adulthood. And I sincerely hope not your humanity. Nothing can take that from her… right?
I find it rather fitting (but earth-shatteringly heart-breaking) to compare images of an Alzheimer’s brain (left) and a healthy brain (right). It seems the perfect, terrifying visualization of what you feel is happening. I think this is why I very nearly broke down in tears when I saw one at the Body Worlds exhibit at Science World a few years ago. Anyway, I know I will have to deal with this at some point, but I just can’t yet.