Age and Decline

Posted on February 10, 2012


As most of you know, I am my grandmother’s primary care provider. She has a dementia disorder and is slowly declining. In my quest to be the best care provide I can, I have pursued and consumed any and all books I can find on the subject of dealing with the elderly dementia patient.

Before I go any further let me just ask, how many of you know what it is like to lose a loved on to the grip of any form of dementia? In my predementia life the only thing I knew about any form of mental decline was seeing Aunt Clara on Bewitched. In many ways my grandmother is like Aunt Clara. Sweet, forgetful, bumbling and loving.

Unlike Aunt Clara, it never ends. It is not a character she steps into. This disease is not amusing, thee is nothing funny about it. To an outsider, some of the quirks of a confused person can be humorous. To those that love the person, it’s hard to find anything positive. Watching the person you love become frustrated to tears because they can’t remember what day it is, where they are, or who you are is heart wrenching.

Every hour is a never ending cycle of repeated questions. Every five minutes I am updated on what time it is, what is being fixed for the next meal, where I live, who lives with me, who lives with her, what day of the week it is, where is her husband, where is my husband, how much pain she is in. This is how we spend almost 12 hours of every single day together. Then the next care giver jumps into the routine.

It is frustrating to me because despite knowing she can’t help herself, I find my self getting irritated and impatient then I snap. The guilt I feel for allowing myself to get frustrated is compounded by how upset it makes her.

On top of the confusion, we also deal with Sun Downers. The agitation created from her frustration builds to the breaking point and sometimes we have violent outbursts, rage, anger and physical as well as verbal assaults. Sometimes it involves being spit on, pinched, kicked, I have had things thrown at me from television remotes to her walker have hit me.

It’s so very hard to remember not to take the insults and attacks personally because I know she can’t control herself.

We have tried so many different things to deal with her illness. Medications, refocusing, distractions, but what works one day might not work the next.

I don’t understand why it affects some and not others. My other set of grandparents are both still living, and older than Nanny. While they do suffer from some age related forgetfulness, they are strong and still able to function, running a large cattle farm and hay operation.

Its upsetting to me that the is no way to stop this degenerating illness. Once it begins, it only gets worse. But what is the most upsetting, frustrating, anger inducing is that when she requires urgent care from hospital staff, she is dismissed, disregarded and discounted. I have actually heard one doctor say that because she has Alzheimer’s (which she does NOT have) she wasn’t really in pain, but her brain was in a broken loop and she didn’t know how else to express herself so she complained about being in pain…needless to say I was PISSED.

So where is this all leading? Am I just babbling to hear myself speak? Am I just looking for reaffirmation that I am doing the right thing? Maybe I’m just venting?

Actually each one is right. But I am also asking for help. There has to be some way to cope with the hard times. If anyone has a suggestion on another book to read, another place for guidance and support, or just some suggestions for distraction and redirection I am ALL ears! I would be so supremely grateful for any help I can come across for not just myself as her care giver but for her as the one who suffers so and for the rest of my family. Please leave any suggestions in my comments.

Thanks so much for all the help
Donica Covey