My grandfather was diagnosed with Parkinson’s two years before he passed away. The final years of his life were a constant struggle—not just for him, but also for us who took care of him. Slowly, but steadily, we could feel his memory slipping away like sand, until it finally gave way almost entirely. It hurt us every day to see him in pain—medicated, unaware, and unconscious.
He would refuse to eat, be angry at all of us, and show signs of aggression that he never had before. All of this, coming from a benign gentlemanly professor, was a huge shock to everyone in the family. Perhaps you can read all you want about the symptoms of dementia, but nothing can ever prepare you for when it happens to your own family.
I was the only lucky member of the household my grandfather recognised, until the end of his days. I was his favourite grand-daughter, the only one he listened to, the only one he allowed to feed him. For months on end, he would refuse to have dinner unless I was feeding him with my own hands. We would have long conversations that just went round and round in circles, never going anywhere. I would hold his hand and ever so slowly walk him to the dinner table every night until he couldn’t walk anymore. There would be times he would call out to me in the middle of the night, and ask me to not leave him alone. I would hold his hand and curl by his side until he fell asleep again.
I tended to my grandfather like he had tended to me as a baby.