Monday, April 02, 2007

Alzheimers

There's only so many times I can log onto Facebook in a given day, particularly when I have no new email notifications of any kind. I'm waiting for a message I'm owed.. but I got nothing.

Here I am sitting in my grandparent's living room in Montreal. This little bungalow house is where my mother grew up. They used to watch the Ed Sullivan show together in this room where I now sit. For as long as I've been alive, though, it's been just a living room. It has one long couch that's usually covered with a gold velvet couch cover, and two big arm chairs. My grandfather gets the one by the big window. My grandmother's stuck by the one near the telephone. A grandfather clock chimes every fifteen minutes. They don't hear it, I'm sure. I hear it sometimes. The rug is a faded bright blue; textured but not shag. Too bad.

My grandparents are aging and my grandmother is suffering from Alzheimers. It's sad to see, but what's worse is that her physical condition is such that she has an extremely hard time walking and moving. This makes my grandfather's job of caring for her near impossible.

I've been working on a project this weeked. I'm attempting to document the story of their lives on video. I hoped I could ask some probing questions that would open up my grandmother's mind and allower her to tell fond memories from her past. I'd heard that while Alzheimer's patients do not have access to memories from the present, they are still very much able to remember the old people and stories from the past.

For the most part I've been unsuccessful. "Tell me about your childhood" elicits a blank stare. "What kinds of games did you like to play?" gets nothing. She can remember the street name she lived on. She can remember some of her family members names.

Where I've found success is in song. She can remember and sing some of her old favourites. This makes for good documentary, I tell you what.

At one point I turned the camera around and flipped the LCD screen so we were looking at ourselves while filming. "What do you see?" I asked. "I'm an old lady!" she said with a hint of of childish whine. "Inside, what age do you feel like. If you were any age, what do you feel like you are?" Can you guess her response? I thought she'd same something like 25; you know, this time that in my mind must be the best. Early adulthood where you have independence and little responsibility. She said she feels nine. Nine years old. And when I thought about it, it didn't surprise me. She's essentially a child now; my grandfather does everything for her. Yet she fights back occassionally, demanding her own autonomy. She's a nine year old.

So I've gotten up to the time in their lives when they raised their children. I'm still going to ask them about their empty nest years, and their grandchildren years. Then I want to ask some important questions.

What advice do you have for you grandchildren and future grandchildren?
How does it feel to be where you are?
How does it feel to not remember?
What do you think about?
What makes you happy?
What scares you?

If anyone has some suggestion about a good question to ask, send it along ASAP. I am really fascinated in how it feels to be at the end of your life. To know that your health problems are permanent, your pain uncurable. How do you stay hopeful? I wish I could find out what my grandmother thinks about, whether she in fact thinks about anything besides her immediate physical state, and whether she's aware of her own condition.

3 Comments:

At April 05, 2007 10:29 AM , Blogger Kiran said...

i wish facebook had a little tally that told your how many times you logged on in one day...seriously! it would freak me out. i don't understand what's so good about it...

we have crack...
and crackberries...
and now...CRACKBOOK

 
At April 15, 2007 11:47 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

That must be really hard on you, seeing your grandmother fade away like that.

 
At April 15, 2007 11:48 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

--Dan

PS--yay for seeing a blog from you again.

 

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