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Best to help because they’ve been there

In Monday’s paper we ran an article about the organization of an Alzheimer’s support group in Vicksburg.

It hit home. It hit home very deeply. My maternal grandmother had Alzheimer’s.

She was in her 70s when she came down with the most common form of Dementia. It ate my mother alive.

My grandmother lived with us. Both my parents had to work to support our family, and my grandmother practically raised me, my brother and sister. She was there when we woke up, there when we came home from school, pushed us to do our homework and got the evening meal started, so when she began to show signs of the disease, it became very devastating.

Her onset of Alzheimer’s occurred while I was a teenager. My brother and sister were much younger. None of us understood what was happening. During the course of my grandmother’s disease, I was alternately her grandson or her younger brother, depending on the day or the time, and there were times she refused to let me enter my house and locked me out because she didn’t know who I was.

My mother was a nurse and tried to care for her as best she could, but as the years went on and the disease worsened, being the caretaker became harder. And outside of the three of us and our father, my mother had no one else to help her. We all tried to help, but this was something we were ill-equipped to handle, because we had no idea what we were dealing with.

For me, probably more than my brother or sister, it was very difficult seeing my grandmother go down. Here was a woman who along with my parents watched over and cared for me as an infant and a child. Someone who helped me grow, who steadied me at times and was always a part of my life.

I watched my mother struggle to deal with the decline of her mother, the person who raised her, cared for her and supported her. She suffered more than any of us, because she tried to do her best to care for her. When she finally was forced with putting her mother in a nursing home, it tore her apart.

At the time of my grandmother’s illness, there were no support groups my mother or any of us could turn to.

My mother turns 94 in April. Fortunately, she has escaped her mother’s illness. So far, I have escaped it and my brother and sister have so far escaped it as we now approach our later years. My wife, whose mother recently died of complications from Dementia, has so far escaped it.

When my grandmother was stricken, we didn’t have Alzheimer’s support groups. Based on my experience, I urge anyone who has a family member stricken with Alzheimer’s to attend the meetings. The people in the group will understand your problems because they’ve been there.

It can only help.

John Surratt is a staff writer for The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at john.surratt@vicksburgpost.com.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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