Alzheimer’s and its effect on victims’ families


Senior Alicia Jones (middle left) sits with her sister, cousin, and great-grandmother.

Alicia Jones, Reporter

“Which one is she?” my great grandma asked while pointing to a picture of me. A picture in which, just a few months before, she would have recognized me at the snap of a finger.

I mean, how could she not recognize me? I was the little girl she helped take care of. The little girl who would come over weekly with her younger sister while their parents were at work. The one who she took to McDonald’s to play on the playground. The one she bought ice cream cones for. Her oldest great grandchild.

I was just 15, a sophomore in high school. My great grandma Neal had a good 82 years on her at the time, and her memory was just starting to be claimed by the horrible disease known as Alzheimer’s.

It was a couple days after prom, and I was at my grandparents’ house with my dad.

“We went over to Mama Neal’s on Sunday,” my grandma said to me. “I showed her pictures of you and Berto from prom. She pointed at the picture and asked which one you were.”

Which one was I? She only has three great granddaughters, her choices varying at the time between 15 years old, 12 years old and 9 years old.

Tears immediately started to well in my eyes. My dad stared at his mother in disbelief after she broke the news to us.

“Why would you say that to her?” he asked her.

I sat next to my dad in shock. Tears just kept forming in my eyes after reality started to hit me. I knew she was getting old and that her memory was getting weaker by the day, but the fact that she couldn’t remember who I was baffled me.

I knew my grandma meant no harm in telling me what my great grandma said, and I knew my great grandma meant no harm when she asked which one I was. She just simply didn’t remember, and it wasn’t her fault.

I was the first in the family she admitted, whether she knows it or not, to not knowing.

I’ll be blunt here. It absolutely sucks. I live in fear every time I go to visit her at the nursing home that she won’t remember who I am. Who knows? She probably wouldn’t even have the slightest clue who I was if I didn’t show up with my grandma or other family members to see her.

I have to remind myself whenever I see her that I have to be strong even if she doesn’t remember who I am. I can’t lose it in front of her, it would only confuse her. That’s so much easier being said than done, though.

People get sick every day. I know that my great grandma won’t be the only one in my family who’s going to become diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Eventually, it’s going to happen to more of my family members, and that’s something that I can wait for.

She’s now 84, and because of her getting sick, she’s had to sell her house and move into a nursing home, give up her license and can’t, for the life of her, remember certain things.

At the nursing home, she claims that the cleaning ladies steal her belongings, but they don’t. She hides her things, then doesn’t remember where she hid them which causes her to blame the custodians. My grandparents used to get constant calls because of it.

In addition to that, trying to have a conversation with her now isn’t as easy as it was once before. She repeats herself at least three times, but it’s not something that she can help, nor is it nice to laugh. She has to take medication which helps a little, but when she forgets to take it she’s exceedingly grumpy and mean.

What I can say to you is cherish memories that you have with your loved ones. I know many teenagers would cringe at the fact of having to spend time with family instead of friends, but it’s seriously something that will be missed when you can’t do that anymore. Granted, I can still do that with my great grandma, but it won’t be the same as before.

I love my great grandma, and there isn’t a thing I wouldn’t do for her. I know there’s not a cure for Alzheimer’s yet, but with each passing day we just have to pray she’s having a good day.