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She Knew The Love They Had For Her

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My good friend’s Grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease quite a few years ago and having had a Grandparent of my own who was also diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, I have tried my best to offer my support whenever I could. Very recently, my friend came to me looking for advice. Their Grandmother, who was in the late stages of her diagnosis, had been given little over a week left to live. With the current COVID restrictions, it was impossible for my friend to visit their Grandmother at her care home, the best that they were able to offer my friend was a final scheduled video call.

The advice my friend sought from me was one I had often tried very hard to avoid in the past... “What would you have said if you knew that it was the last time?”

This question was considerably more difficult to answer than any I had been asked before and I made sure to take my time in replying. Thinking on my past experiences, there are two aspects that need to be taken into consideration in a situation like this.

I expressed that it is paramount to cater to the wants and needs of their Grandmother, she must be as comfortable and happy as possible. To this end, my advice was to not discuss anything that may have sad or painful connotations, to be positive and uplifting and to maybe even act as if it were a normal conversation to not cause any stress.

The other aspect that I thought must be considered, is that my friend must be selfish in how they want to spend their final moments. The knowledge that a conversation is likely to be the last, as hard as it may be, must be put into a positive perspective; it is a chance to prepare and say everything you could possibly want to. As someone who has lost people suddenly, this is an opportunity I have wished every day that I had. To this end, my advice was to plan everything, and make sure that you are able to end the conversation with no regrets, nothing unsaid and to know in your heart that your Grandmother understands the love you have for her.

Understandably, this had a mixed reaction. Whilst my friend understood what I was trying to stay, they had reservations. Most notably, a fear that their Grandmother would not be able to understand, and they began to question if he could bare the final conversation. My reply to this came a lot quicker than to the initial question…

The person, the life lived, the memories shared before the diagnosis are still there. The connection that the two of you have made over your lives is one that no diagnosis will ever be able to take away. To take away the beauty of a final moment through fear, would be damaging to both of you. If this is your last meeting, it is not the last time you will feel her presence, you will carry her memory with you forever. But you cannot tell a memory how you feel.

Thankfully, my friend took my advice and whilst upset, was able to come away from their final conversation fulfilled with the knowledge that she knew exactly how much she had passed on to him, the memories she had given him, and she knew the love they had for her. Whilst the sadness of losing a loved one is undoubtable, it teaches possibly the most important message of all…never miss an opportunity to tell a loved one just how much they mean to you, you never know when that last chance may come.

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