Tuesday, July 10, 2007

New Challenges, Old People

My grandmother is in the beginning stages of dementia. We thought it was alzheimer's for a time but we've known for a while that it's actually dementia.

So, I haven't been a very good grand daughter. I've rarely been to visit her in the last several years unless some other family member is there, and so, even though I live across town from her, she doesn't even know me or my children half the time because we never go over there.

My aunt and uncle (the same ones who adopted my son) have been taking care of all of her business--everything legal and/or medical for a long time now. They go over to her house every day to make sure she takes her pills and to visit with her for a little while. Then she usually goes over to the senior center and does volunteer work and plays cards.

This week my aunt and uncle are gone until Sunday and I have taken on the responsibility of making sure grandma gets her pills and some family visit time every day. Yesterday was the first time I was over there without other family members in a long time. It was an interesting experience. I could sense that every other time she looked at me she couldn't really figure out who I was. Then we would chat for a bit and talk with the kids. And every few moments she would realize that I was there to "babysit" her and she would tell me that she's too old for a babysitter and she doesn't understand why everyone makes such a fuss. I just replied that we love her and want to make sure that she gets her pills so she stays well. Her mood is pretty variable. I'm just not sure if she'll be in good humor or feeling grumpy.

My grandma is very independent. She always has been. She walks every day and has since I was old enough to remember. My grandpa died in October of 2003--almost four years ago--and grandma seems to have really gone downhill from there. But she still walks every day and gets out of the house. She sure is stubborn!

I sure love her and am glad to have this excuse to visit her regularly again.

1 comment:

addie said...

My grandma died of alzhiemers about a year ago. It was really hard on the family, especially after it got to the point where she couldn't live by herself at home anymore. For about 6 months after that, my parents and some of my aunts and uncles took turns staying with her in her house every day and night... but eventually we had to move her into a home (we had already had to take away most of the kitchen knives and disconnect the kitchen stove). Everyone felt guilty about the move, at least at first - like we had failed to be a good family for her. But in the long run, it was really for the best, and she lived happily in her little alheimers dream world until the end.

I guess the point is, enjoy the time you have with her, while she still recognizes you 50% of the time and has her independance. Because later you might not have even that... I'm not sure what the medical differences are between alzheimers and dementia, but your description really sounds familiar.

Wow. Sorry for the early morning downer!