TikTok Sensation LifeWithGrams Discusses Alzheimer's & The Impact It Has On Her Family
With over 55 million people living with Alzheimer’s or dementia worldwide, these diseases present challenges that affect families as much as those suffering the diagnosis. CircleIt knows firsthand that the caregivers are hidden heroes who make everyday sacrifices to preserve the dignity of their loved ones. CircleIt was built to preserve and share memories for future generations. We recently sat down with TikTok sensation Lifewithgrams to discuss her journey with her grandmother and how CircleIt presented an option to preserve and share their precious memories for future generations.
Lifewithgrams is an account managed by Kris, who is living on Chicago’s South side and caring for her grandma, Mary, who has Alzheimer's.
Kris started taking care of her grandmother Mary in 2017, moving her beloved grandmother out of her nursing facility and into her home in Chicago. “At the time my grandma was diagnosed, my sister had just had a baby, and my grandma started doing odd things, like leaving the baby unattended.”
The diagnosis was a difficult thing to accept. Mary had always been the vital center and matriarch of the family. For Kris and her family, hearing the news from the doctors was heartbreaking, mainly because of the way it was presented. “The doctors, after giving us the diagnosis, presented it as if it was the end, and not that she could actually thrive with this disease. There was really no positive feedback or anything. They just said our next step is a memory care unit or a nursing home. So, because of that, my grandma was placed in a nursing home. She's got Medicaid insurance, so it really wasn't our choice as to where she was going to live. Our options were limited because we did not have the funds to pay out of pocket and she's always been low income her whole life. She never owned any property or anything like that; she's always lived with family. We had a few options of where she could stay and we picked the one closest to us.
She was there for about three months and I visited her everyday. I wanted to go see her and make sure she was okay. Within those three months, she lost about 25 pounds. I saw that it was really affecting her as a person, she seemed depressed and miserable there.”
The Nursing Home Was a Terrible Environment
Kris explained that nursing homes should be evaluated on a national level. The quality of care, especially for a Medicaid patient was substandard. So Kris approached her family with a different idea.
“I spoke to my family, and I said ‘Look I know I’m 29 years old, I know you all think I can't do this but I don't have any children, and I feel like this is what I am meant to be doing. I can't watch her in this nursing home any longer. She used to be full of life a few months ago, and now I feel like I've lost her completely.’ My family said I shouldn't do this, which definitely caused some tension amongst us, but eventually, they agreed to give it a try since it was obvious she was not doing well in the nursing home. In my mind, I felt like she wasn't going to have much time left, because of how quickly she was deteriorating.
So we took her out of the nursing home and it was a total 180 from there. Obviously, the disease was still there, and was something I had to learn to deal with but she came back a little bit when she moved in with me and my family. Although my family was very hesitant for a while, after a few months they really saw our connection and how well she was doing. We all decided this was what was best for now, and four and a half years later she is still here.”
The Joy of Caregiving
The overall joy Kris feels spending time with her grandmother can’t be overstated. While it isn’t always an easy task, it is one Kris happily takes on. Kris’ special bond with Mary started years back, when she was the parental figure in her life.
“She raised me and she took care of me so being able to share those moments still and have that laughter, and even just a hand squeeze is important to just know that the love is still there. I would take all the hardships to still have that kind of connection.”
However, it hasn’t been easy. Early on, Kris was confused and frustrated by Mary’s actions. It took some time, research and patience to truly understand behaviors Mary was exhibiting as symptoms of her disease.
“After a few months of learning the differences and the signs of what Alzheimer’s does to you, it was a little bit easier to calm my frustrations or anger because it was the disease and not Grams. That was probably one of the most difficult things in the beginning. As of now, I feel like I'm in this really good groove and we have a nice life. The hardest part is the waiting game, I suppose. Now it's like when is the next stage gonna hit, because four years ago she knew my name, and with each stage, you have to conquer the new challenges.”
Families Dealing With Alzheimer's Can Use CircleIt to Preserve Memories
Aside from the confusion and erratic behaviors, one of the hardest things for family members to deal with is the loss of memory. Often their loved one will not be able to recognize them. They won’t be able to share special stories and recall important milestones. By being proactive, families can save these mementos and stories using CircleIt.
Have your family members record themselves telling stories. Ask them questions about their life and record the answers. You can then store these safely in your app and share them with future generations. Just think of the joy your children and grandchildren will experience when they learn about their family history directly from the ones that have lived it.