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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Dementia: This is NOT My Grandma...

 but I KNOW she is in there!

Beautiful lady at my parents' wedding
I can spend paragraphs here on this post evaluating the discussion the girls and I had with my grandmother in the nursing home where she sits much of the time alone not really knowing what is going on in her own mind. I hate watching and being privy to it. I hate knowing that she is suffering in a very real way to try to understand why she is here in this room and "what she has done" to deserve this.

My dad called on his way home last Thursday to share the highlights of his visit last week with his mom. I say highlights, but there was nothing high about it. She was stubborn and unwilling to visit with him and his sister and she finally told them all to leave.

So, when I say that I could spend paragraphs evaluating our visit, it is true. With someone we love we do want to know how they are, what is going on in their head, how can we help? Dementia doesn't allow that and we sit and try to figure it out without any real way of knowing in the end. I left the 45 minute visit feeling discouraged and reminding the girls that this isn't really Great-Grandma. They know and I am so thankful they knew her before the worst of this set in.
Sitting in my grandma's lap

It was only after I talked to my dad on my trip home Monday that my perspective changed and I felt a little better about our trip. You see, I was comparing my visit with Grandma to the last time I saw her at Christmas. Dad wanted anything I could tell him to give him an indication of some improvement since last Thursday. She has new meds and so maybe it would just take a little while for things to settle. With that in mind, there was A LOT! (In the dementia world anyway).

Holding three babies!
So, here is what I can report after our visit:
  1. I am not sure if Grandma really knew who we were, but she was comfortable enough to trust that we were her family when we told her and that we care about her. We were able to hug, hold hands and sit with our arms around her.
  2. When I introduced myself as "Jody, George's girl" she responded with "Oh, you have come a LONG way!" So she remembered that George/Jody live far away. She asked me many times during our visit how long it takes for us to get there.
  3. When we started sharing a bunch of pictures we had brought with her she said "I used to take A LOT of these" Ah, yes, Grandma, you have ALWAYS been the queen of the Polaroid camera!
  4. When she saw a funny picture of Zachary trying on glasses and making faces, she laughed (Dad said there wasn't even a hint of any kind of smile or enjoyment when they were there)
  5. When I told the girls that Great-Grandma liked to embroider and to do needlework she told them that she used to make a lot of things. She was surprised when I told her that she made me a set of days-of-the-week dish towels and that I still have them. She seemed to be a little comforted by that.
  6. I mentioned to the girls that Great-Grandma likes to play cards and she told me that she liked to play all the different kinds of games that they played. Then she said "no one plays cards with me here". I told her that next time we visit we would bring a deck of cards.
  7. She also told us that she had not slept well the night before and had a nap before we came and that they fed her breakfast for dinner. She probably has days and nights mixed up.
  8. I left for her a picture of when the triplets were babies when she held them in her lap as newborns. I then showed her a picture of the three of them on the first day of school earlier this year and told her that she wouldn't be able to fit them on her lap now and she chuckled and smiled saying "no, I don't suppose!"
I love her smile
Visiting with Zachary
These all seem like little things but we are learning that this is the economy of life with dementia. I am hoping that the medication is settling in her system and she can be a little less fretful because she did break down a few times and repeated over and over again that she must have been the worst of the lot to be stuck here. She thinks she did something very bad and is being punished. THAT is what I wish I could do something about.

For now though, we will take the little baby steps and pray each day throughout the day that she can have moments of peace and things to enjoy.


  1. Sometimes it really hurts when they do not remember you, even though you know that it’s the disease that’s causing them to forget. I understand how difficult it is for you to see your grandma in this situation, but I guess talking to her more really helps. I hope that you'll have more patience and understanding for her, and I also hope that the medications are working.

    Joel Pratt @ Comfort Keepers

  2. Dementia is a cruel disease. I think you summed it up well. I'm struggling to grasp it too, with my dad. Right now good days outnumber bad, but at age 90 I know there are dark days ahead. That's why I'm choosing to create moments of joy with him. Hugs to you!