It took only two years to go from a perfectly crocheted square to a tangle of yarn.


As user wuillermania wrote on Reddit, 14 crochet squares show how early-onset Alzheimer’s disease affected her mother’s ability to function in a stunningly short amount of time:

These squares represent her progression over the course of a year or two fairly early on in the disease (she suffers from early onset and was diagnosed at age 54; I was 22). I don’t remember exactly when she stopped being able to crochet for good — she made squares for a while, then the circles, then the little pieces of crochet, until she got to the point where she just carried around the needles and yarn in her purse (which was otherwise empty since she couldn’t really hold on to valuables anymore).

Twelve years later, her mother is still alive and being cared for in-home by her family. Though she is nonverbal and cannot do anything for herself, the mom is in good physical health. Doctors say she could live for months or years, which led some commenters to ask whether that life was even worth living.

Despite the heartbreak of watching her mother deteriorate and suffer, wuillermania says she’s learned a lot in the past 12 years as well. She wrote that it’s enough to make one think hard about what brings meaning to life:

Going through this has taught me and the rest of my family a new capacity and definition of love, and it saddens me a bit to think people’s reactions are sort of “she’s better off dead.” I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t a thought I’ve had many times — mainly because I really don’t want to see my mother suffer — but I’ve also learned that there is still so much you can learn from a person, even thought they’re sick/sometimes don’t feel like the person you knew at all.

Though she can’t speak to her mother anymore, that doesn’t mean she’s stopped learning from her:

She’s taught me what devotion and loyalty are. She’s taught me what it means to love unconditionally, what “through sickness and in health” can really entail. I truly wouldn’t wish this on anyone and would do anything to reverse what’s happened, but I also can’t say I haven’t become a better, more compassionate person with a deeper love for her and the rest of my family for sticking by her. Especially my dad. I wish I could properly articulate the level of absolute care and love and unwavering devotion he’s shown her through all these years.

Watching her father — both the toll that caring for her mother has taken on him and the commitment he has shown — has also changed her.

Before her mother got sick, her father wasn’t one to take on domestic chores. Now, he’s been doing it for years and has become more supportive and understanding than she thought possible. She wrote:

He helps feed her, he helps bathe her, dresses her in the morning, gets her ready for bed. It’s a level of devotion I honestly did not realize he was capable of, and it’s made me so proud to call him my father and has also taught me to better appreciate the many facets of love.

What’s more, just because she can’t communicate with her mother doesn’t mean she doesn’t feel that their relationship has grown despite her mom’s illness:

I feel closer to my mother because I’ve been part of this transition, and I see how it’s allowed me and my family to become more compassionate people. This isn’t to say that I’ve wanted her to suffer for so long in order to achieve that level of personal growth, but I guess a part of me is glad that I’ve been able to have the opportunity to care for her in the way I know she would care for me if the role was reversed.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, approximately 5 percent of the 5 million Americans affected by the disease experience early-onset Alzheimer’s. (That is, Alzheimer’s affecting those under age 65.)

Early-onset Alzheimer’s can affect even those in their 40s and 50s but is difficult to catch, as doctors don’t usually screen for it in younger people. Signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s include:

  • Memory loss that affects daily life and activities, especially recent information or important events.
  • New difficulties in making plans or solving problems (especially number problems).
  • An inability to complete regular, familiar tasks (like forgetting directions to a familiar place).
  • Confusion about time, dates, or location.
  • Vision problems, especially in determining spatial relationships or understanding images.
  • New difficulties in writing or speaking.
  • Misplacing things and being unable to retrace your steps to find them.
  • Loss of judgment or decision-making ability.
  • Withdrawal from hobbies, work, or social activities.
  • Changes in personality or mood.

There is a difference between the natural effects of aging and the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia. If you or a loved one is experiencing any signs or symptoms of Alzheimer’s, it is important to make an appointment with a medical professional as soon as possible.

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