Dakota Center for Independent Living

Kitty Lived With Alzheimer’s for Nearly 30 Years

~Written by Cathy Job

 What does Alzheimer’s mean to you? To many, it means just the forgetfulness of their loved one. To me, it means so much more. My grandmother, Kitty, was a classy lady, who many knew. She was the wife of a life insurance agent (who passed away in 1988). Kitty was the organist at the church, worked for the Catholic Conference, active in legislative events, Catholic Daughters and ND Right to Life. She taught piano lessons to many including me and my brother. She could place her hands anywhere on the keyboard and play beautiful music.

Grandma had Alzheimer’s early on without diagnosis. She did things strangely and we just thought that’s how grandma does things because she was “old”. However, she was not really old in numbers; she was in her 50’s. Some of the “strange” things my grandma did, included putting bright orange lipstick on as her eyebrows and hiding chicken bones under the couch.

She used to go to Arizona for the winter months. Before leaving she would bake zucchini bread and cakes; there were always unidentifiable crunchies in there, not sure if they were eggshells or something else. She never really cooked, but when she did, it was always the same things and often there were unrecognizable ingredients found in her food as well.

We helped take care of her, not even realizing she was failing. We helped her sign up for Meals on Wheels and other local services that helped her maintain her independence. As time went on, there was a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease. The time came for her to go to a place where she would be cared for and fed, etc. She lived in a “cottage’ specifically for the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s. Her piano was there and she could still play it well. She was progressively failing, so on to a nursing home in the Alzheimer’s wing or memory care unit. She became just a shell who looked kind of like grandma, but not the same. And then she didn’t talk, she’d just hum, she wouldn’t even sing familiar songs. She didn’t know us, she knew no one. She couldn’t feed herself, she couldn’t do anything herself. She sat in a chair unable to interact with anyone.

She lived in her home until about 2000. She passed away in 2018 at the age of 87, and lived with Alzheimer’s for nearly 30 years.

Growing up with a grandma who I knew as a piano teacher and watching her decline was one of the hardest things ever. She was my kids’ only great grandma that they ever knew and she didn’t know them. When we would go visit her at the nursing home; almost daily the last few years of her life, we helped feed her (pureed food) and clean her up afterwards. She was the only great grandma my kids really knew, but she didn’t know them.


1 thought on “Kitty Lived With Alzheimer’s for Nearly 30 Years”

  1. Kitty and my mom were very best friends and we here in Kalispell noticed little signs when she visited. She was indeed a very classy lady, wearing only the best and stylish clothes. It broke our hearts to see what was happening to her at a relatively young age. 30 years is a long time…guess that’s why they call it the long goodbye💔💔. My mom too had Alzheimer’s, but it didn’t rear it’s ugly head til later in her life.. she was a good mom and spent her lifetime helping other people. I think she knew me til the end..at least she knew I was someone who loved her . Bless their souls❤️❤️🙏🏽🙏🏽

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