So you think

It is so sad to watch a loved one who is aging and ill.  I am watching a beautiful intelligent woman suffering with dementia make absolutely no sense.  Someone who took pride in her appearance and loved the finer things in life have no ability to brush her own teeth or use the bathroom independently because of a stroke.  It is so heartbreaking to watch people- but especially my own beautiful grandmother- suffer with these illnesses and diseases and deteriorate right before my eyes.

Grandma in her home in the 70s

Grandma working in the Estee Lauder Department

This morning for instance my Grandmother called me from the rehab center and said she wanted to go back to the other hotel.  She proceeded to tell me that she checked herself into this new hotel today but didn’t like it and wanted to go back to the other hotel.  When I tried to explain to her that she was in the rehab center because she had a stroke she told me that I was crazy and her stroke was old news.

I shortly after went to visit her with my husband and she wanted us to “break her out of the hospital”.  She said she wanted me to sneak her out without paying the bill.  LOL.  Where does this come from?  She was giving us details of stories that were very vivid in her mind.

After we left we received regular phone calls from her.  She called my husband saying she needed money to pay her hotel bill.  Then she called me and told me she was at the spa but didn’t have cash on her to tip the workers.  Later she called my husband again saying that when they went to look for apartments earlier that day that they had left her cat Mia in one of the apartment buildings.  Then she called me to make sure that my husband went back to the apartments to find her cat.

She was confused all day with stories that made no sense.  The stories changed hourly but she believed them completely.  Dare you try and explain the truth to her she becomes upset, agitated, and angry.

The stories sometimes can bring a smile because they have cute details that you can figure out where they stem from.  Other times the stories make zero sense!  On some days you can speak with her rationally and she totally gets it, other days she thinks you are crazy and laughs at you, and other days she becomes furious saying awful things.  You never know what is coming!

My grandmother constantly feels scared, confused, angry, alone.  Moments where she is comfortable or content are rare right now. We are hoping that when she is out of the rehab this will be better.

Tonight our personal aide is with my grandmother.  Thank God for our personal aides!  Without them I don’t know what we would do. They give us moments of a break and offer fresh energy for the situation.  If you are a caretaker you must have help!!!!   Enlist family and friends as available and hire helpers when you can- there is no way to do this alone.

The rehab gave Grandma a Xanax early, before her normal sleep time to calm her down.  It helps relax her, but how sad it is.  It makes her very calm but very lethargic.  Its better then her falling again though.  She is covered in bruises:(

Examples of bruises since in rehab

bruises in rehab

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bruises in rehab

bruises in rehab

During her more cognitive moments, she makes comments like “I am really out of it”, “I think I’m going crazy”.  She knocks on her head and says “I might be going senile”.  She will also say, “I think my memory isn’t the best” or “I’m loosing a bit of my memory”.

She always tells me how happy she is to see me when I walk in the door.  She always wants a hug and a kiss and tells me how much she loves me.  She makes me promise to come back or not to be gone for too long.  As much as she is not mentally up to par she has moments of clarity and moments of total sweetness.  She talks about me to the nurses and is always trying to reach me.  Yesterday she told me “we have been through a lot together and I know I can always count on you”.  AWE:)

Grandma has been using her Claris Companion and completing her regular surveys that I have set up most hours.  This gives me a window of what’s happening in that hospital room when I am not there.  I have set up additional wellness survey’s now too which ask a series of health related questions to give me a better idea to her physical and mental well being at that moment.  I have also set up check in points, which is literally a beep that says press the check in button to let your family know you are ok.  These are just extra little things to let me know that she is alert. These things certainly don’t fix the problem but they do help.  When she doesn’t check in or complete a scheduled survey, I am sent a notification so I know that I can call her or the rehab unit.

We are planning to bring her home with us when she is released and I admit, I am nervous. Each bad day makes me more nervous. She is very needy and can be mean at times.  The dementia has completely worsened since the stroke and now she is bed ridden. So much has changed so quickly.  I am praying that with the equipment we used when she was living in her house (Iris system with CARE feature), with home health aides, with new equipment for lifting and moving (hospital bed, stand to lift, etc.), and with the new systems we are putting in place for communication (Claris and more to come) that all will work out.  I just can’t imagine putting her in a nursing home.

Grandma turns 92 in 3 days!  Nursing homes will always be there as a last resort, but in the meantime I will exhaust every idea and energy in trying to make her life as comfortable as I can. I believe that dementia and Alzheimer’s are some of the most horrific diseases. I can’t even imagine what it must feel like to her or others suffering with these diseases.  To flip from happy and content to scared to death in seconds over and over again– horrible!

If you know someone who is taking care of their loved one, for whatever condition and whatever age, offer to lend a hand.  Once a month for a few hours you can make a serious difference and be a hero for these people while doing a good deed that you can feel proud of.  And if your a mommy or a daddy, you are teaching your own children a great lesson!

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