Alzheimer’s & Fire Alarms

My grandmother has Alzheimer’s disease. It has been a slow process of forgetting, losing, and regressing. It’s been difficult for our family, and my mom refers to this process of caring for her as “always having to say goodbye.” 

We say goodbye a little more each day. It’s as if the lights in her mind grow dimmer and cobwebs appear which are unable to be swept out. Mom visits granny nearly everyday; however, there are days she can’t go see her.

A few weeks ago, mom had been unable to visit for a few days when my parents got a call from her caregivers. They informed my parents that Granny had pulled the fire alarm. 

This, naturally, prompted firetrucks and firemen to quickly respond and the home was thrown into action… Only to find out that there was no fire. 

I’m sure everyone was quite irritated with my granny for causing such a ruckus.

My mom, of course, went right up to see my grandma to find out why she pulled the fire alarm. 

Her response as to why she pulled it?

“I knew if pulled the fire alarm, my friend would come.”

(“her friend” is the term she uses for my mom when she can’t remember her name.) 

Mom asks again, “Betty why did you pull the fire alarm? You’re not supposed to do that, and you know that…”

I knew if I pulled it, then my friend would come. 

She wasn’t wrong. My grandma, slowly losing her mind to this wretched disease, still knew something very important. 

If you ask for help, someone will come. 

Pull the fire alarm, and the people I love will come. Someone will come ready to save me. Someone will come to help. 

There are days, if I’m honest with myself, when I wished I had enough courage to pull the fire alarm. We all endure days of crisis, moments of paralysis, and times of indecision. We struggle on with our individual sadness and pain, never dreaming of doing that which grownups deem childish.

But perhaps, even enduring Alzheimers- the painful stripping away of all we ever knew, all we ever loved, and recognized. 

Perhaps ceasing to understand, and letting the truth sit on the surface for contemplation allows us to muse about one thing which is quite profound.

There is always help for those who seek it. Always companionship, friendship, and help to those who have the guts to admit … I need to pull that fire alarm.

If you don’t quite yet have the courage to admit it to your peers, your family, or your community, then I hope you know you have the freedom to admit it to God. 

He is the fastest fireman around.


“Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.” Ps. 54:4

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