- Associated Press - Saturday, January 31, 2015

FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) - “Jack fell asleep in a chair tonight and when he woke up he did not know me. That was the first time he did not know his own wife,” Rose Grant wrote in her journal on Dec. 27, 1999.

Grant, a retired high school science teacher, kept a journal where she recorded her feelings, frustrations, and sorrows during her late husband’s long struggle with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Grant has self-published her journal, along with her husband’s journal, caregiver tips, and their story - a love story, really - of living with Alzheimer’s in a new book, “I Left My Memory on a Bus Somewhere: A Bittersweet Journey through Alzheimer’s Disease.”

Grant is hoping her book will help educate families and caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease, and prepare them for their own journey.

“Neither one of us knew how bad it was going to get,” Grant said.

In the beginning, it was small things, like words he couldn’t remember and lost items. But as time moved on and Jack’s disease progressed, he became more and more unlike himself, and Grant watched him slowly disappear.

Jack was an art teacher at Joseph Case Junior High School in Swansea where, in his mid- to late-50s, he had a hard time meeting deadlines and planning curriculum. He started missing meetings and then teaching the same lessons every day.

“He kept losing things. He couldn’t sleep,” Grant said.

His doctor told him it was all due to stress at work.

“That went on for a couple of years,” Rose said.

At age 59, after a four-hour assessment at Rhode Island Hospital, the couple learned Jack had early onset Alzheimer’s disease. At more than 13 years his junior, Grant was just 46 at the time.

“He was very philosophical about it,” Grant said. “He said it was God’s plan.”

The two met as teachers at Bishop Stang High School in 1971. Their relationship started after a skiing trip in 1973. They were married four months later. They had two children, a son in 1975 and a daughter in 1979.

Jack, after his diagnoses, retired in 1995 after 30 years of teaching.

Grant, besides being his wife and friend, cared for him at home for five years. He would live another six years in a nursing home until he passed away in 2006 at the age of 71.

Jack kept a different kind of journal from the one penned by Grant.

“I couldn’t believe how good (his entries) were,” Grant said. “At the same time, I could see the progression of the disease.”

He logged his daily walks and the many historical books he was reading, with page numbers to help him remember where he’d left off, as well as some personal feelings.

“I am concerned about Mr. (Alzheimer’s),” he wrote in his journal on May 11, 1999. “I look at it as something that happens. So far I have handled it OK. Rose has been great. Physically I feel great. Mentally: I have memory problems. I do what I can. I learn every day that in order to get something, you have to do it.”

Grant said one of the things that really got to Jack was his loss of words.

“The words see me and run away,” he told Grant once. “He just loved words. It was a loss that bothered him.”

Things got worse very quickly. It was later that same year that he didn’t recognize his wife for the first time. His sleeping routine had also become erratic.

Grant logged one night in late November of 1999 that he awoke and made a bathroom trip at 11:30 and 11:50 p.m., 12:29 a.m., 1:30, 3:05, 4:37, 5:30, 6:10, and 7:04 a.m.

In stage II of his illness, he leapt out of the car when they were stopped at a light once. He called her a liar when he thought she moved his sweater that same night.

“This is not like the old Jack,” Grant wrote. “He would never talk to me that way in the old days.”

In an email entry from Grant’s sister who was helping with his care while Grant was at work, she reported that Jack was “very sweet” and showed her his Valentine’s Day card from Grant.

“He said he is going to keep this card because there is a lot of love in it and his name is on it and so is Rose’s, so he is part of a good thing,” her sister wrote.

As time wore on, things became more and more of a challenge. Grant wasn’t getting any sleep and his disease and care were competing with work. She was getting sick all the time.

She said Jack was “losing time, was agitated at night, and wandering.” At 6 feet tall and 170 pounds, it was hard to help Jack when he became belligerent.

“I have been agonizing about placing Jack in a nursing home,” Grant wrote on Feb. 10, 2000. “Sometimes he is so lucid and happy. My old husband is there … Then he gets paranoid and calls me hateful names and can’t remember who (our son) is or that this is his home …”

He was placed in a local nursing home in 2000.

“That was a tough decision but a good decision,” Grant said. “In the end, they can’t walk, eat or (use the) toilet.”

Grant said it was a difficult road for Jack and for herself. She said she thought it unfair at times.

“We planned to retire together and travel,” Grant said.

Although Grant never thought she’d become Jack’s caregiver, in many ways it was a labor of love.

“If the tables had been turned, he would have done it for me,” Grant said.


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