That Time I… became my grandmother’s caregiver


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Opinion Columnist Nanette Nkolomoni shares her heartwarming story about her becoming her grandmother’s caretaker.

By Nanette Nkolomoni, Copy Editor

I was about 8 years old when I noticed a shift in my grandmother’s behavior. My grandmother was a very independent woman with a quick thinking mind and daily routine. She knew when to wake my brother and I up for school and when to pick us up. She knew when to go to Catholic mass and how to get there. She completely knew how to navigate the northside of Chicago only a few months after arriving here as a refugee. But in the middle of my childhood she started becoming forgetful. 

Her forgetfulness started out small, with things such as forgetting to turn off the stove and locking the front door. Everyone makes mistakes – forgetting to turn off the stove and locking the front door didn’t alarm me. However, she soon started to forget things she knew like the back of her hand, and it was saddening to watch. 

She would get lost on her way to the grocery store she frequented and she would ask why I wasn’t at school at 8pm. One night, she walked outside barefoot in the pouring rain and my mother and I had to go look for her. Soon after, my mother was informed by a doctor that my grandmother has Alzheimer’s disease. The only explanation I received from my mother was that grandma was getting old which is causing her to become forgetful. I had no idea my grandmother’s memory could get even worse than it already was and I had no idea she would soon become dependent on myself and my mother. 

I started helping my grandmother wake up, eat, and shower at the age of 11. It felt as though I was mourning who she once was. I missed her waking me up out of bed and getting me ready for school, I missed her being able to cook my favorite meals. It was like everything reversed, I was now taking care of my grandmother the way she used to take care of me. 

Most children around the age of 11 were busy going out with friends and just doing “kid things” but for me, my grandmother’s condition made me grow up fast. The situation I was in didn’t feel like a burden, it wasn’t something I was ashamed of or forced to do. I was proud that I could take care of the admirable woman who took care of me. Throughout my life, my grandmother taught me many valuable lessons, but what I learned from taking care of her left an everlasting impact on me that made me stronger. Life will throw you many things, make the most out of it and live life to the fullest.