Laughing Through The Hard Times

In life, many people adopt the mantra ΓÇ£everything happens for a reason.ΓÇ¥ I hear and say this a couple times every month, maybe even every week. ItΓÇÖs pretty easy to say this to someone, but when adversity strikes at a personal level, itΓÇÖs harder to believe.

Eight years ago, my grandmother suffered from a massive stroke and lost more than one third of her brain function, leaving her paralyzed and facing many challenges, one of which being severe dementia.

My family had to place her in Seven Acres, something that was equally difficult for my grandmother as it was for her daughter and son. Grandmother didnΓÇÖt realize she was in a nursing home or that anything was wrong with her. Because of the dementia, she always thought she was somewhere else. In her mind, she frequently went on dates with Anderson Cooper and Bill Clinton, would travel to New York City to attend a play on Broadway, and would visit Paris and eat by the Eiffel Tower. Other days she wouldnΓÇÖt have such pleasant thoughts- she sometimes couldnΓÇÖt identify who my family and I were, she would think she was in the Middle East stuck in the war, or was in a natural disaster.

With the ups and downs every day every day entailed, it was difficult to find something to rely on. So much sadness was surrounding grandmotherΓÇÖs situation, but my family and I were able to find an aid: laughter.

We had to focus on GrandmotherΓÇÖs happy moments. We would smile when we heard about the fabulous date she had with Bill Clinton at the White House and laugh with her whilst she relived the adventures she had created. In life you can either laugh or cry, and itΓÇÖs much easier to laugh and see things in a positive light. Dementia is a horrible diagnosis, and I know this is easier said than done, but optimism helped us get through this unimaginable situation.

IΓÇÖm not saying we were all always able to laugh and stay positive. It was difficult to feel forgotten by grandmother. When she couldnΓÇÖt remember who I was I would get upset, but I knew she was facing much more difficult challenges. I knew she had the same heart and soul and was still my grandmother. Instead on dwelling on something that couldnΓÇÖt be changed, we decided to celebrate the love and passion grandmother still had for life and help her live her remaining years to the fullest.

Everything does in fact happen for a reason. It took me years to see the positive impact my grandmotherΓÇÖs dementia created. It helped my family and I appreciate and lean on laughter, love, and one another. Without those things, we are nothing. ItΓÇÖs easier for me to reflect on this cheerfully because she passed away two years ago and I know she is at peace and whole again. My memories of her are not consumed with the adversities she faced with her dementia, but instead of the joy she had in her heart and the joy she brought to every person she met.

-Written by Laura Littlejohn as part of our Lessons Learned blog series

AlzTex Admin

The Alzheimer's Association Houston & Southeast Texas Chapter (www.alz.org/texas) consists of families, caregivers, scientists, health professionals, and concerned citizens who are committed to finding a cure for Alzheimer's Disease and to easing the burden of Alzheimer's Disease and related disorders on patients and their families and loved ones.

3 thoughts on “Laughing Through The Hard Times

  • September 6, 2012 at 10:07 am
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    Before Alz., my father was an avid and committed golfer. Like most average golfers, he was constantly seeking a better score. In a game that rarely offers satisfaction, he fought mightily to be the best. Today, with Alzheimer’s, my father makes a birdie on every hole and quite regularly out-golfs even Tiger Woods. This is one of those silver linings that makes me smile. Your story about your grandmother’s dates with Bill Clinton made me smile.

  • September 6, 2012 at 12:05 pm
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    I am so proud of my niece, the author of this article. She has a remarkable ability to rise to the occasion, support family/friends and shine a bright ray of light on our world. The journey we shared caring for my mother was both challenging and rewarding. Our memories of healthier times, along with times of laughter and tears brought the family together and made the path a little easier. Wishing everyone caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease the best!

  • October 24, 2012 at 7:52 am
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    Elaine I don’t know if it will help or not, I just know that I take one half metformin a day to help keep my diebates undercontrol and that does work well for me with my diet,( I do know some people take as many as 3 whole metformin a day to help them, and they also forget things) but I must say I do forget things especially when I put something away so I know where to find it then when I go to find it I have forgotten where I put it. not all the time but sometimes . Alzheimer’s I know is a very bad disease to get, I have a friend whos husband got it and he would wander away and she would have to go look for him, in fact he got so bad she had to put him in a home which is not an easy thing to do to a love one. It sure would be nice if they could find something to help with this disease.

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