My Grandmother

This is one of the most personal blogs I've written. It has to do with my Grandmother, her health, and how the situation affects my younger sister and myself who are the primary caregivers and only direct next of kin. Grandma is 84 years old. With the exception of heart issues and hearing loss, she has always been in good health.

Things started to change about this time last year. She started having nightmares. Vivid ones where she thought animals were attacking her in the night. She'd wake up with bloody arms from "fighting them off". The doctor couldn't figure out what was the cause. Then she started doing out of character things like locking the door and shutting the shades during the day. After a few weeks she decided to go to a nursing care facility until the situation got straightened out. After a month and some medication alterations, the nightmares went away. Still the doctor had no clue and assumed it was high anxiety. So back home she went for the rest of winter.

Things were fairly normal until March of this year. Just some memory loss, which I assumed was normal. Then she started complaining of hip pain. She scheduled an appointment with a specialist. On the morning of the appointment she fell while getting ready. My cousin came to pick her up and found her on the bedroom floor. Her ankle was dangling from her foot, hanging by only skin. The ambulance took her to the hospital where she had successful surgery. After a week in the hospital it was off to nursing home for rehabilitation.

The process ended up being about three and half months. She recovered but would now have to use a walker because the doctor felt she could no longer support her weight in a safe manner. We did a few home modifications to help the situation and my sister decided to move in with her for a few weeks to see how she managed.

All of three days later she fell again. This time is was a hairline fracture in her pelvis. Back to the nursing home for rehab. After about two weeks the nurses started noticing personality changes, as did I. She started becoming mean and hostile towards the staff refusing to do exercises or get out of bed. When I would visit and try to confront her about the behavior she'd get emotional, cry, and complain. The nurses stated it looked like early signs of dementia but could just be the trauma catching up with her mentality. It took about about a month and half, about twice as long as it should have, but she was released and back home.

Afterwards, Grandma continued to show behavior unlike her normal self. We made an appointment to get her tested for dementia. The doctor confirmed what we suspected. She had early stages of dementia. Certain tasks she could no longer perform such as drive, handle her finances, and use the stove. But she was still capable of making normal decisions on how to carry out her day. At this point she doesn't need twenty-four hour care. My sister decided to move in to assist her with daily activities she cant do herself. My part is visiting when I can and handling her finances.

That was four months ago. The whole situation has been a struggle for all three of us. We've watched a fiercely independent woman turn into a person who refuses to make any decision. Not to mention the constant repetitiveness, contradictions to her statements, and asking questions to which she already knows the answers. Part of this the disease. Part is her way of lashing out at us since we're now the authority figures. My sister and I believe this because acts fairly normal around her friends and other family members.

Tension is now running at an all time high in the household. My sister is at the end of her patience and I can sympathize with her. I also feel badly for Grandma. I cannot image the struggle she must go through knowing her mind is slipping. I do know that something needs to change soon. The current living situation is not working any more.

Personally my stress level is over the top. My Grandma lives an hour away and I'm making multiple trips to her house during the week which plays havoc on my work schedule and leaves me little free time. Plus I'm fielding several phone calls a day while trying to play mediator and explain the same things over and over to her. It is emotionally draining me. As the Power of Attorney my fear is I need to put her into a nursing care facility or assisted living much sooner than I thought. I had hoped for another year or more, but my Grandma's seemingly selective behavior combined with my sister's inability to be a live in caregiver may force my hand. It tears me up inside.

I honestly do not know what to do.

I hope none of you ever have to deal with a loved one with any form of dementia.

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