Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, and with no cure, it’s a heartbreaking disease that robs one and their loved ones of memories. It’s a progressive disease—meaning it worsens over time. It can progress from having slight pauses and lapses in memory to forgetting loved ones completely to forgetting even basic necessities like remembering to eat—or how to feed oneself—or how to speak.
A reddit user from New Jersey shared a photo that summed up the heart-wrenching effects this disease can be wrought all in a series of 14 neat squares. The post, titled “The Progression of Alzheimer’s Through My Mom’s Crocheting”, shows crocheting her mother did in her early stages of Alzheimer’s, until she could no longer hold the needles and yarn.
“I’ve often explained watching my mom succumb to this illness as watching her unravel. When I came across the crocheting she did in the early stages of Alz, it made me realize how fitting that actually was,” she shared.
Her mother was 54 when her dementia began, and she was just 22. It was early-onset (typically cases affect those 65 and older), and she made the first few squares in the first two years of her disease.
“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),” the reddit user wrote.
It’s been 12 years since her mother’s diagnosis, which surprised her doctors who credit it to the level of at-home care she’s received, especially from her husband, “who is truly a saint.”
The reddit user shared that at this point now, her mother is “completely non-verbal and unable to care for herself in any way (eating, bathing, dressing, walking unsupervised, etc.).” But physically, she is still very healthy.
“It has been a few years since she was able to speak and several since she was able to identify who I am,” she explained.
Most of us know intellectually what Alzheimer’s looks like—the gradual loss of memories of every kind. But until you’ve experienced it, it’s not the same.
“This really does affect so many, but I’ve learned that, like many things, it’s not really something you can understand unless you’ve experienced it,” the user wrote.
The photo of the increasingly unraveled crochet works helps illustrate and educate, however, and thousands of kind comments have poured in from around the world. Many commenters also took to the reddit thread to share their own experiences—and reveal that they’ve similarly had a hard time bringing others to an understanding of what Alzheimer’s is like as well.
It’s a disease that takes a toll on the person and all of those around them.
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but there are ways of keeping the disease from worsening for a period of time. Learn more about the disease and its signs via the Alzheimer’s Association, and reach out for help if you need it.