Alzheimer's Foundation of America

Foundation of America

Care Partner Creativity: Life (and Love) with Grams

Five years ago, Kris McCabe, 34, became the primary caregiver for her grandmother, MaryAnn Padovani, 84, affectionately known as Gram. She is living with Alzheimer’s. Based in Chicago, McCabe regularly shares her experiences as a full-time caregiver for Grams and the ups and downs of the disease on Instagram and TikTok @LifeWithGrams.

“At first, I just wanted to share our adventures and show my friends and family who always loved Grams what we were up to, but it unexpectedly turned into so much more. I soon realized how many others were out there like me, clueless on what to do to provide the best possible care for their loved ones with dementia,” she said. McCabe now uses her platforms to help educate and support other caregivers, whether it’s offering tips and tricks, or sharing the reality of the day-to-day unpredictability of living with Alzheimer’s.

I knew that maintaining her independence was going to be key to our success,” said McCabe. “I had to let go of expectations and meet her where she was.” McCabe understood that her grandmother always kept up with her hair—and McCabe encouraged that. Over the years, McCabe has shared videos of her grandmother styling her hair, wearing makeup, and dressing up in costumes for Halloween. “As her disease continually progresses, I still find ways to keep her involved with her hair. I adjust the equipment we use and how we do certain styles. I think it’s really important as a caregiver to keep your loved one involved in activities they love.”

Caregiver health and support is often a topic in McCabe’s videos. “Whenever I meet a fellow caregiver online it’s like a virtual hug. There is something truly special about the connections I have built and knowing that other caregivers really seem to understand us.” McCabe often emphasizes the importance of looking after your own mental health in order to provide the best care and support possible.

“A little patience, guidance, and love can truly go a long way with Alzheimer’s,” says McCabe. Follow along @LifeWithGrams on Instagram and TikTok.

This article originally appeared in Alzheimer’s TODAY, Volume 17, Number 1, published by the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. View the entire issue by clicking here..