For Lisa Marie Cerasoli, December 16, 2010, will always be remembered as a day where the light in her life forever flickered just a touch dimmer. On that day, her grandmother, Nora Jo, passed away at the age of 89 after struggling with Alzheimer’s disease.
Cerasoli’s book, As Nora Jo Fades Away, chronicles the experience of Cerasoli, her husband at the time Jared Weaver, and their children Brock and Jazzlyn Jo, as they adapt to their new life of care-taking for grandma Nora Jo in the comfort of their own home. While the book description depicts Nora Jo’s condition as dementia, it should be noted that dementia and Alzheimer’s are not exactly interchangeable.
According to the Mayo Clinic, a dementia diagnosis has less to do with an actual disease and more with indicating that someone is exhibiting certain symptoms, such as a loss of memory and a noticeable struggle with language. So while it is believed that Alzheimer’s makes up 60 to 70 percent of dementia cases, the two terms have very distinct meanings.
In other words, someone who has Alzheimer’s disease would show symptoms of dementia, but having dementia symptoms does not necessarily mean that person has Alzheimer’s. For Nora Jo, that distinction probably mattered less, as her struggles with the progressive disease and its symptoms were robbing her of lifelong memories in front of her family’s eyes.
As of 2013, up to 5 million in the United States alone were struggling with Alzheimer’s. For most cases like Nora Jo, there is a family member like Lisa Cerasoli who witnesses the devastating deterioration firsthand and tries to cope with it the best she can. In an attempt to shed light on living with this horrible disease, Cerasoli decided to film her grandmother’s final days and share it with the world in her Life With Alzheimer’s documentary shown below.
In 2011, Cerasoli posted the mini-movie on YouTube to give viewers her personal account of caring for someone with the disease. The heartbreaking dialogue between grandmother and granddaughter is fittingly filmed in black and white, as if to give a sense that the audience is watching historical footage of a time once forgotten. Unfortunately, Nora Jo’s bewildered demeanor at the notion that her husband, Fritz, had passed away six years before is a tragic moment that Cerasoli had to watch her grandmother re-experience every day.
In the video, Nora Jo’s quippy idioms like “Well, hit me with a brick, I did not know that” give way to starkly serious re-realizations. “I thought my husband was still living,” she blankly admits to the camera after Cerasoli pulls off the road and slows her car to a stop. When Cerasoli probes as to where Fritz might be, all Nora Jo can surmise is that he was just “around.”
Cerasoli’s life might not be the same without Nora Jo’s once-beaming light, but with her book and videos like the one shown here, more people will become aware of, and never forget, the truths of living with Alzheimer’s.