Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 11-25-2007, 02:17 PM
Winnie Winnie is offline
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Loudoun County, Virginia
Posts: 845
Dealing with a grandparent with dementia - advice/support

I'm eager to hear from other Dopers who have dealt with an elderly family member with dementia. My 83-year old grandma was diagnosed last year with dementia, and from what I remember a pretty advanced level of it. Her car keys were taken from her then, too. We've had an older female family friend move in with her (she lives in a 3-bedroom house) as we didn't feel comfortable with her living alone anymore, so far that's worked out pretty well and she even seemed to improve a bit although every now and then she still asks why Sandy's clothes are still in the bedroom. My dad has to remind her "because Sandy lives there!".

So anyway, I hadn't seen her in about a month and we had our whole family over for Thanksgiving - like 14 people. That little change in my grandma's routine just sent her over the edge. The night before Thanksgiving she called my parents EIGHT times to ask who was picking her up, what was she bringing, whose house was she going, too, etc. EIGHT TIMES with the same questions in the course of 3 hours. The last 2 calls she was convinced we were all coming to her house but still asked who was picking her up. Then on Thanksgiving, Sandy told her it was time to go (she was driving her to my house) and my grandma had no idea what she was talking about - had no idea it was Thanksgiving, no idea she was supposed to be somewhere. Then the whole way over she kept telling Sandy not to take her to my house, to take her to her son's house (my dad) because that's where Thanksgiving is. She got to my house and just seemed amazed that we were all there, she kept saying, "this is all a surprise to me, I didn't know we were doing this today" and despite the fact that I try to REALLY not get irritated or at least let it show I said "but Grandma it's Thanksgiving" and she just said "I know happy thanksgiving". Then all day she just kind of complained about everything, nothing was being served on time, the cookies were too hard, it was too cold in the house, every strange noise bothered her - which is NOT her personality at all. She was always the most tolerant, easy to please person I've ever known, just genuinely sweet and easygoing all her life. This "person" she's become because of the dementia is heartbreaking and it's crippling our family as none of us know how to deal with this or what to expect. Clearly a major holiday was so much for her to comprehend that she just couldn't get a grasp on anything all day, and her memories were erased as fast as things happened. How can we pull together to help each other face her changing personality and needs, while addressing her issues with suddenly becoming more compative and stubborn, and occasionally saying inappropriate or mean-spirited things which I understand happens in people with dementia as they lose the ability to censor themselves. We are also concerned about Christmas - it's generally a source of chaos for us as we have a 3-year old who's all about running around, opening presents, singing songs, plus all the gift opening for the whole family, dinner, etc. we really feel is too much for her but don't want to exclude her at all. Help... we just feel really lost and sad.
"You don't sound like you're very happy! I'll teach you to be happy! I'll teach your grandmother to suck eggs! It's the little critters of nature! They don't know that they're ugly! That's very funny! A fly marrying a bumblebee! I told ya I'd shoot, but ya didn't believe me! WHY DIDN'T YOU BELIEVE ME!!!"
Old 11-25-2007, 02:31 PM
jjimm jjimm is offline
Join Date: Jul 2001
Posts: 28,704
My grandmother and my mother-in-law have Alzheimers.

Just remember, it is not them - it's the madness of their condition making them like that. (In the case of my MiL, it's enhancing an already unpleasant character, but that's a different story.)

I spotted my grandmother's condition about ten years ago, and had a terrible job convincing my great aunt (her sister) that all the bitchy ways in which my grandmother had upset her were just symptoms. The best advice I can give is: ignore the nastiness, and agree with the nice things.

She was actually diagnosed five years later, and deteriorated rapidly. She is now a shell of her former self, forming half sentences, living in a specialist home.

Each person's case is different, but generally routine is good; change of routine disturbs them. Even though their short-term memory ends up shot, they do retain a certain general environmental awareness.

Every affected family has a different way of coping, and some may find that my family's way has been very pragmatic, even seemingly heartless: wanting granny around for Christmas would be for our happiness, not for hers. She would not appreciate it; not know where she was, why she was there, or who we were; worst of all, the change would upset her. So we'll leave her in the home, and visit her there. Even visiting her is entirely for our peace of mind - she does not understand our visits.

Another example of our apparent heartlessness: my grandfather, her husband, died about six months ago, but we haven't told my grandmother. Why not? Because for the 30 seconds or so she comprehended the news, she would be terribly distressed, and after that she would forget, and have to be told again, and again, and get distressed each time.

I hate not to offer more positive advice, but there's nothing positive to say about the condition. There are drugs that retard the condition somewhat, but it's rather inevitable. It sounds like your grandmother still lives on her own? This will soon become unwise. As her condition deteriorates, give her the care she requires to keep her, if not happy, at least not distressed or in harm.

I'm very sorry for your troubles.

Last edited by jjimm; 11-25-2007 at 02:33 PM. Reason: clarification and added another sentence
Old 11-25-2007, 02:38 PM
Alice The Goon Alice The Goon is offline
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: Asheville, NC
Posts: 9,895
Your grandmother sounds like she's either very close to needing professional care, or she needs it now. Please don't allow your family to be in denial regarding how much care she needs, and expect the caregiver to handle her care around the clock. That's far too much work and pressure for one person. People with advanced dementia need 24-hour care in a secured building. She may eventually need a great deal of physical care like diapering and such- does the family friend have training in this kind of care? It may be time to start looking into care facilities and if she's ready for one.

Last edited by Alice The Goon; 11-25-2007 at 02:39 PM. Reason: Added the word "care" because I hadn't used it enough.
Old 11-25-2007, 02:51 PM
Fuji Fuji is offline
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: County Cork
Posts: 1,455
I'm very sorry to hear about your grandmother, Winnie. I can definitely sympathize, as my brother and I are having to deal with my mother's dementia right now. In fact, I just spent the better part of an hour reading through some of the (heartbreaking) threads with "dementia" in the title here at the Dope.

The personality changes you describe are, for the family members, probably the most horrible part of the deal. My mother has become deceptive, nasty, and incredibly paranoid, while still oblivious to the nature of her condition.

I wish I had better advice or support to offer, but I don't have a whole lot of experience dealing with it (just the last 6 months since my father died). However, if I could offer one piece of advice, make damn sure all the legal angles are neatly tied up ahead of time. My brother and I are having an incredibly difficult time taking care of things because she doesn't trust us (because of the paranoia), and we don't have the legal authority (yet) to step in and take care of her affairs.

Good luck to you. I'll be back frequently to check this thread.
Old 11-25-2007, 05:37 PM
wonky wonky is offline
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: DC area
Posts: 29,865
My sympathies for everyone dealing with a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer or any disease that affects people that way.

My grandmother had Alzheimer and for the last few years of her life she was alone in the nursing home without visitors or anything. It was horrible that no one could visit, but visits traumatized her for days. She would simply scream and scream and scream. The last time my father visited her, he came out of the home and sat in the car and cried. Devastating.

I think it's really important to remember that as these diseases progress, the person isn't going to enjoy things the way we think they "should." It isn't cruel to leave someone out if leaving them out means they aren't upset or stressed.

Such cruel, horrible diseases. Best wishes.
Old 11-25-2007, 07:11 PM
Mona Lisa Simpson Mona Lisa Simpson is offline
Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Vancouver BC, Canada
Posts: 2,887
Winnie, I am a nurse, I work with dementia patients. I also have a grandmother with it, plus numerous other relatives.
Best advice I can give is keep it short and sweet. Have her over for a small part of the festivities, just the dinner, or just presents opening in the morning for Christmas. Make it a structured event, give everyone a timetable so everyone repeats (ad nauseum) the same information. Give her a copy. IE we'll be picking you up at 430 going to Winnie's house, for turkey dinner at 5, then we will watch the carollers on tv, and you will go home at 7. Or whatever works for you.
Repetition helps. Lists help. Keeping things low key is good too,
If you have any questions you can email me, its in my profile...

good luck

Old 11-25-2007, 07:40 PM
Count Blucher Count Blucher is offline
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: Near Baroni&Kelly's Jail.
Posts: 13,668
I wish you both well & will share the one bit of advice I, as a non-proffessional, can offer. Listen, listen, listen. Correct when you can, hold her hand and love her when you can't. Do your best not to show any anger/agitation in front of her (you can beat the hell out of a speed-bag and curse out Og for being unfair after she leaves).

I lost my Mom to the symptoms you described above. Alzheimers/Dementia/decreased brain size due to emphezema. At the end, a massive stroke didn't kill her because her living brain matter had shrunk so small that the stroke couldn't build up enough pressure to kill her. Love her while you have her; make sure she knows how much you care. Once she's gone, that door closes permanently.
Old 11-26-2007, 12:26 AM
nikonikosuru nikonikosuru is offline
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Wayne, MI
Posts: 1,638
It's hard. My grandmother was officially diagnosed with dementia this year, although we had known for a while before that there was something up.

Just like yours, my grandmother asks the same questions over and over again. After being gone for a year, I went out to dinner with my grandma. I had been told that her memory was getting worse, but I wasn't there to see just to what degree. In less than an hour, she commented about the air conditioner, almost the same comment word-for-word, no less than seven times. Each time was a little more heartbreaking than the last, to me.

One time her medications were messing her up. They put her in the hospital temporarily until they could sort things out. Having her tell me that she wasn't lonely because all the little people visited her all the time scared the living hell out of me. Luckily the hallucinations went away after they altered her medication, but it was eye-opening nonetheless.

It is hard, to see someone degenerate into a shell of their former self. My grandma has been going through this process for about 9 years or so, beginning when a leg amputation (resulting from a bad quadruple bypass) took her mobility and independence. Left to the mercy of the kindness of her children (which is far from enough) she became housebound. My mom and aunts didn't make her follow the exercise or diet regimen so she never regained her mobility. My mom was an idiot and as misery loves company, convinced my grandma to take up smoking again. A prisoner of her own home with only the rare outings, she just watched television and didn't do much to stimulate her brain, which I'm sure didn't help against the dementia.

It's hard. For me, every time seeing hurts. It makes me feel like a horrible grandchild for not visiting her enough, for not helping her enough, for not caring for her as much as I wanted to. Maybe I got scared and sad and distanced myself from her after I left for college. I guess I don't know how to deal with the dementia, neither. All I know is that each time she asks the same question to me, I feel sad. I try my best to answer each question, no matter how many times it's repeated, patiently. I think I owe her that at the least.

If there's any advice I could offer another person going through the same thing I am right now, it would be to just be patient. Remember that it's not their fault; it's the sickness. Remember all of the good times and how the person was before the sickness.
Old 11-26-2007, 01:59 AM
nonacetone nonacetone is offline
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: In The Shadows
Posts: 1,790
My only advice to you, is to love her, and treat her with respect. Do all you can do for her, and make sure she's safe and comfortable at all times. There's not much more you can do.
I know it's difficult to deal with, but it can be dealt with.
You'll be glad you did.

I'm the caregiver for my 91 year old grandmother.
She's been diagnosed with dementia for over a year, now.

My husband and I had several rooms built on to her home, and my husband, myself and our daughter moved in, so I could care for her 24/7/365.

My mom couldn't do it, because of her health problems, which have made her very, very bitter and mean. She wouldn't do it anyway, because of her own bitterness.

My sister couldn't do it, as she's one of those types who believes that 'God will heal! No doctors/medicine needed!' type folks. So, it was out of the question to even bother with her.

So, it's just myself and my daughter, as my husband is an OTR truck driver, so he's gone for 2 weeks at a time, and he doesn't have to see it/deal with it every day, like we do.
He does deal with it very well when he's at home, though.
He's got the patience of a saint, I swear he does!
I just wish that even a little, teensy-tiny portion of his patience would rub off on me!

It's not easy, but I am committed to taking care of her, until her dying day.
I used to be a nursing assistant, many, many years ago, and I've done it all. So, there won't be any 'surprises' for me regarding her care.

She's very confused most of the time, and she's not able to think of our names most days.
She can't keep track of what day of the week it is, she's almost not able to write her own name anymore, and she doesn't take direction well, because she is having such a difficult time understanding what is being said to her.

I have had POA and Medical POA for her, for over a year, and just two weeks ago, signed a DNR order for her, at her doctor appointment.
Her doctor brought it up...I wasn't the one that instigated it.
But, I recall my grandpa had a DNR order, so I went ahead and signed the paperwork for it, after producing all of my POA paperwork for the doctor's office to copy, and attach to my grandmother's DNR orders.
I realized that it would be better for her to just pass, if she had a serious medical issue, rather than to be brought back, and live out the rest of her life not knowing anyone, or being aware of what was going on around her.

As it stands now, she's in rather good health for someone her age, so I don't see the DNR coming into use anytime soon!

Last edited by nonacetone; 11-26-2007 at 02:02 AM.
Old 11-26-2007, 07:56 AM
Kitchen Wench Kitchen Wench is offline
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 1,226
Just like nonacetone, I have POA of my 91 year-old Grandmother with Alzheimer's. She started showing symptoms about nine or ten years ago, and she has been in assisted living and then a skilled nursing facility since 2004 (I think- the years blur together).

When she was first moved out of her house, she was quite angry and agitated (because she wasn't being treated). Very combative. She's steadily gone downhill and now thinks that the nursing home is a motel, a hospital, her house, etc, depending on the day. Other days, she's quite lucid and knows who I am and how we're connected. While she's confused 99% of the time, she has not so many days where she's really agitated. Those are the days when she wheels herself into other residents' rooms and demands that they get out of her house. Or she she's panicked because she doesn't have money for the bus home. There are many other "glitches" but I don't want to list them all.

But I will say this: Even before she fell & broke her hip (while having a hallucination), there was NO WAY I could have let her move in with me. I have the room, yes. But I lack the patience and know-how to take care of her properly. The nurses and aides at the nursing home are trained to do everything from showering and diapering her to recognizing that she may have a UTI because she's acting more agitated and confused. They also have all the equipment Grandma needs, and access to a doctor 24/7. They keep track of everything; her meds, a percentage of what she eats at every meal, her weight, how many times a week she poops and so on. And ultimately, those men and women helping Grandma go home after 8 hours. They don't have to deal with it all day and night.

Winnie, I know exactly how you feel regarding the change in personality. It's true- she's been replaced by someone else. Yes, it's annoying... or disconcerting to have to repeat your sentences eleventy different ways in a half-hour. It's distressing to see her distressed, knowing you can't do a damned thing about it. It sucks. I agree with jjimm and everyone else who's mention routine and structure. Grandma gets overwhelmed by any deviance in routine. And for the holidays, it's best to have small groups of four or less visit on her turf at any given time. She could have many different visits in one day; an hour after we've left, she's forgotten that we were there. We also limit our time spent with her- no more than an hour. After that she gets tired of talking. It just takes too much energy.

So- if I were to dispense any advice (take it or leave it), I would say just think of her as a new Grandmother. The old one is gone, but the one remaining still needs love. Try to be patient, but if you're wearing thin, shorten your visits (I've had to leave after 10 minutes a couple times). If yours is anything like my Grandma, don't correct her all the time-- it's just gonna piss her off. When she's talking weird, just nod your head and smile. Go with the flow. Life is more pleasant for everyone that way.

nonacetone- I applaud you for taking care of your Grandmother. Lord knows I couldn't do it even if I had training.

Last edited by Kitchen Wench; 11-26-2007 at 07:59 AM.
Old 11-26-2007, 08:06 AM
nonacetone nonacetone is offline
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: In The Shadows
Posts: 1,790
Kitchen Wench, thank you. It's really difficult sometimes. If my daughter wasn't here, I'm not so sure I could do it! She helps me out, and listens to me when I become unglued.
I'm also taking care of my mom, who has health issues, such as cleaning her house, taking her to Dr. appointments, taking her to the store, etc.

Today is mom's birthday, and she's 69 years old. I'm starting to see signs of dementia in her now, too. I have for about the past 6 months, or so.
It's not just me seeing it, either. Others are seeing it, too. Friends AND family.
I cannot take care of both of them, at the same time.
I have no idea what will happen when it gets to that point.
Old 11-26-2007, 11:16 AM
Cat Fight Cat Fight is offline
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: I'm right behind you!
Posts: 7,176
Originally Posted by jjimm
Just remember, it is not them - it's the madness of their condition making them like that.
Second this, as well as calls to get her some in-house care. Experimenting with different meds may help, but the ones that don't work... won't. Quite spectacularly. And it isn't pretty. Find the best nurse you can, though she'll likely be expensive.

A relative of mine who had dementia almost drove me to murder at one point. But for some reason (okay, probably meds), though she spent much of her life sour and depressed, she spent her last years affectionate and kind and the maybe the happiest I'd ever seen her, even as her physical health failed. Truly bittersweet.
Old 11-26-2007, 11:47 AM
Anne Neville Anne Neville is offline
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Pittsburgh
Posts: 12,064

My grandmother had Alzheimer's before she died. It is heartbreaking to have to deal with.

Originally Posted by Juliefoolie
Best advice I can give is keep it short and sweet. Have her over for a small part of the festivities, just the dinner, or just presents opening in the morning for Christmas. Make it a structured event, give everyone a timetable so everyone repeats (ad nauseum) the same information. Give her a copy. IE we'll be picking you up at 430 going to Winnie's house, for turkey dinner at 5, then we will watch the carollers on tv, and you will go home at 7. Or whatever works for you.
Repetition helps. Lists help. Keeping things low key is good too
I'll second this. I would also recommend leaving the 3-year-old out of the part of Christmas for your grandmother- neither she nor the 3-year-old is likely to get much out of being around each other. The running around and singing and all is going to stress her, and being made to sit still and be quiet for her is not going to make the kid happy. Have someone babysit the 3-year-old somewhere other than where the activity involving your grandmother is going on. Maybe bring the kid in to see her for a few minutes, but not for her whole visit.

Do the parts that involve the chaos and kids running around earlier or later, when she's not there. Maybe just open the presents from her or Sandy with her around, and do the rest of them some other time.
Old 11-26-2007, 04:01 PM
vivalostwages vivalostwages is offline
Charter Member
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Lower half of CA
Posts: 13,975
A lot of excellent advice in this thread.

To reiterate: structure; diminish the chaos (don't have the little tyke in her presence too long, as this may agitate her further); don't take things personally.

Just keep telling yourself that it's the illness speaking, because that's exactly what it is. She can't help herself.

Do not argue with Grandma. Just agree. Let her have her delusions; you can't talk her out of them with logic. Logic no longer applies.

Get used to repeating yourself. Be aware that whatever you say will most likely be forgotten within a few minutes, as will things you say to her.

My dad died of physical complications of ALZ (and anaphylaxis) last year. We were worn out from looking after him at home, and private nurses are expensive. The situation resolved itself because he was having so many medical problems. Medicare and his Blue Cross PPO picked up the costs for hospital stays, and Medicare was set to pay for at least the first 100 days in the nursing home. (It starts over again if the patient is out for hospitalization for three nights and then goes back to the home.) He wasn't there that long, though.

I learned to keep my visits short because the longer I stayed, the more agitated he got.

Anyway.......please do print out the thread and take the advice posted.
I feel for you, I really do.
Me: Good lord, it's a regular human centipede.
Superdude: It's a conservative human centipede! ETA: Curse you, vivalostwages!
Me: I consider the curse a great compliment.
Simster: Well, then, I am complimenting you like a mother....
Old 11-26-2007, 04:22 PM
jjimm jjimm is offline
Join Date: Jul 2001
Posts: 28,704
By the way - I have already mourned my grandmother. That person left several years ago. My grandfather already had, too, when he passed away. He still visited her every day (30 miles each way, aged 93, driving at 20 miles per hour, pissing off everyone else on the road) until a week before he died, bless him, but I suspect it was just for the want of something to do.

When she dies, I will be happy for her.

Visiting the home she is in for the first time was like stepping into a Bruegel painting. Dozens of ranting, distressed people, sitting or wandering around in confused dementia, dribbling, soiling themselves, screaming at each other or their invisible demons. It's horrifying, and the nurses who work there have my undying admiration.

Ironically, because she's now under 24-hour care from medically trained staff, she will live for years and years more, rather than pass peacefully like my grandfather did. It makes me even more strongly in favour of euthanasia. If I ever get in that state, I want someone to pop me off and spare me the suffering.
Old 11-26-2007, 04:24 PM
Cattitude Cattitude is offline
Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: NY-may we never forget
Posts: 332

Another nurse chiming in. A lot of good thoughts and advice so far. Your Grandma's thoughts are not really her own anymore, they belong to the illness. I know it's hard to watch and it will get harder still, but do the best you can to take care of you. Only then are you able to help your Grandma.

She may very well be able to stay home for a while,it's all very individual. I work in Long Term Home Care. Each state is different and offers different coverage but find out what VA has in terms of home care. You may be able to have a home health aide come in for a few days / hours each week to give Sandy a break. One thing is certain, your Grandma shouldn't ever be left alone and a lot of safety measures need to be put in place besides taking the car keys.

Things like removing stove knobs, placing sharp knives out of reach, getting home equipment (commode for bedside). There are all kinds of things to help someone stay home and be safe and comfortable. Talk to the rest of the family and see if you all want to try and have her stay home as long as possible. I've had a couple of Alzheimer's patients spend their last few years at home. It takes a strong, available family unit and it can be done.

If you guys decide you want to go the route of a nursing home, do plenty of research first. Get recommendations and make surprise visits.

Good luck and hang in there. I know this can be heartbreaking, my heart aches for you and I don't even know you. I hate this disease that robs us of so much.
Old 11-26-2007, 04:48 PM
Tastes of Chocolate Tastes of Chocolate is offline
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: slightly north of center
Posts: 4,479
I'm sorry you have to go through this Winnie. I'm just starting down this road myself.

My 71yr old father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, the day before Thanksgiving. Or rather, the doctor ran out of tests for other things, and Alzheimer's is what is left. It's still early. Dad lose of short term memory just seems to be starting.

Any advice for how to set things up in their home, so that Dad will be most comfortable/able to function for the longest time? My SO and I are in the process of moving, and we have decided to look into a duplex or a house with an in-law suite, so that my parents can be close, not have to take care of a house, but not be in our living space.

What can be done to maximize quality of life and independence in the early stages?
Old 11-26-2007, 05:34 PM
gigi gigi is offline
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Flatlander in NH
Posts: 25,265
I'm so sorry to hear from everyone who is dealing with this--as mentioned, you are forced to start mourning someone whose body is still alive. In some ways my three grandparents who died suddenly were lucky.
Old 11-26-2007, 06:21 PM
taxi78cab taxi78cab is offline
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: At work
Posts: 3,803
Originally Posted by jjimm
By the way - I have already mourned my grandmother. That person left several years ago.
This is what I was coming here to say too. You have to allow yourself to feel the loss now because the grandmother that you knew is gone. That's the hardest part. We have culturally acceptable ways to mourn someone who physically dies. But when someone's body is still living, breathing, and moving around but whose mind has changed so drastically that they are no longer the same person, we don't have any formal way to acknowledge that or to deal with it. My advice is either alone or with your family, take the time to remember who she was, to reminisce about all the good times and to accept the sadness that that person is gone.
Old 11-27-2007, 11:13 AM
Anne Neville Anne Neville is offline
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Pittsburgh
Posts: 12,064
Originally Posted by Winnie
all the gift opening for the whole family, dinner, etc. we really feel is too much for her but don't want to exclude her at all.
You'll feel like you're excluding her. But, unfortunately, your Christmas traditions are just not something that someone with dementia can be expected to deal with. If you try to include her and do all the stuff you traditionally do, you're going to end up stressing her. She won't enjoy that, and I suspect the rest of you won't enjoy being around her in that state, either.

You face one of many hard choices that you will face in this situation- the best thing for her in this situation isn't going to be what you'd like. You can try to do all the stuff you traditionally do with her there, which is not going to be very pleasant for her, but will allow you to pretend (at least to some degree) that nothing has changed. You can include her in all of it but drastically cut back on your family's Christmas celebration. That would be less stressful for her, but other members of the family might not like it. Or you can continue to have a larger Christmas celebration, but only include her in part of it. That will allow you to do all the stuff you associate with Christmas and won't stress her out, but it will make you feel bad for excluding her.

This is one of the terrible, heartbreaking things about dementia or Alzheimer's- the thing that feels best to you might not be the thing that is best for her.
Old 11-27-2007, 12:03 PM
nonacetone nonacetone is offline
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: In The Shadows
Posts: 1,790
With my grandmother, I've found that she doesn't do well with strangers, or in a different place, other than her own home. She feels and acts better when she's around only the people and places she's very familiar with...even though their memory is going, they still somehow 'know', if they're not too far gone, I believe.

My grandmother can't go to the store anymore, without becoming very confused, she can't look for the groceries she would like, because she can't comprehend anything that is on the packages, let alone actually comprehending what it says on the packages.
She gets very confused when she goes to the doctor, and she becomes a basketcase when she has to spend any amount of time in a hospital, or other strange place.
So, she's pretty much homebound now. I did get her a wheelchair, so I could take her out to visit her sister, who is in a nursing home, and to visit with her other sister, who lives in a seniors apartment complex.
Still, she's not at all in her comfort zone in either of those places, so the trip for her is very full of stress and uncertainty.
It's really just best that I keep her at home, and let her go outside into the yard, sit on her porch swing, or take her to visit a neighbor, if she wants.
I don't know what else to do.
It's rough on the caregiver, that's for sure. It's rough for the entire family to see their loved ones go through this.
All you can do is be patient and be alert, because they can't be.

Last edited by nonacetone; 11-27-2007 at 12:05 PM.
Old 11-27-2007, 11:29 PM
Terrorcotta Terrorcotta is offline
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Roswell, not the UFO one
Posts: 904
I'm chiming in as well because I've been going through this for 2 years now. 'Luckily' my mom fell and shattered her leg which put her in a nursing home where the rest of her symptoms came into focus. It's been rough and I hate like hell she's in a nursing home for good now but the dementia and Alzhiemer's has made her cranky and difficult so 24/7 care is for the best.

Every phone call goes in circles at least once very 10 mins, she asks me questions I can't answer ("How do I work this thing?"), and she begs me to get her out or come down to visit, neither of which I can do. I have worked through my grief and that bites too but it is what it is. My mom is gone and I still need to respond to this shell like it's someone I know.

One thing I can highly recommend is watching the legal aspect of things. I got railroaded into a guardianship by my cousin who lives closest to my mom and it's been a nightmare on top of a disaster. It was mostly my fault for not doing the homework and educating myself but my uncle is a professor of law and that side of the family assured me it was the right thing to do. They also lied to me on more than 2 counts so I have a slow motion train wreck on top of everything else.

I think there has been a lot of good advice here for you Winnie and I couldn't be more sympathetic to your situation and for everyone else caught in this living/non-life crunch. It totally sucks.
Old 11-28-2007, 12:19 AM
supervenusfreak supervenusfreak is offline
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: PA Amish Country
Posts: 1,621
Chiming in here too. I am the major caretaker for my elderly mother who has Parkinson's Disease and dementia. I get a lot of support from my family and community through the local Office of Aging (state funded). If anyone is concerned about home care and funding, that may be a good place to start.

On a personal note, I think that one of the best things that we can do, as caretakers, is to take care of ourself too. Letting others look after our loved ones can be a difficult thing to do, at times, but is very necessary for our own well being.

I have to agree with most of the others here, Winnie. Christmas get togethers can be a bit overwhelming and crazy. Perhaps you could take her out for a nice holiday celebration on her own. That way you can spend some time with her, celebrate and reminisce, without all of the noise and agitation.

Hugs and tugs to all.
Old 11-28-2007, 12:51 AM
Testy Testy is offline
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Saudi Arabia
Posts: 2,021

I'm so sorry to hear about your grandmother. This stuff is horrible. Please try to arrange some kind of full-time, managed care in a secured facility for your grandmother. Trying to take care of her yourself is commendable but you need training and you need time to live your own life as well.
In my own case, my step-mother has serious dementia but is only 64 and still physically robust. My SM would become violent, refuse to bathe, throw food, and other deliberately antisocial acts. We tried taking care of her at home ourselves but neither of us have the necessary training. A full-time care giver was also tried but that didn't work either. In the end, we realized that my SM was destroying the lives of both my sister and myself. It wasn't her fault at all but we could no longer take care of her at home.

This is one of the most horrible diseases/conditions I can think of. The really nasty thing is that, initially at least, they have occasional flashes of lucidity where they recognize what's happening to them and realize that they are going to regress in a moment and there's nothing they can do about it.

My sympathies go out to you.

Old 11-28-2007, 02:08 AM
Auntbeast Auntbeast is offline
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 2,522
My Grandfather had Alzheimers. We ended up putting him in a nursing home when he attacked my Grandmother. We quickly realized the familiar surroundings were a HUGE buffer. One day in the home and it was painfully obvious exactly how far gone he was. His home hid that. You can fake a lot. An example: He would always sit on the loveseat and read a book. With Alzheimers, he sat on the couch and read the book, except the pages rarely turned and he never finished it, but he could sit there and pretend to read. At home he could be "forgetful." In a different environment, he was blatantly incompetent. Ragingly incompetent. It was a huge eye opener. They may have dementia, but in the beginning they develop coping strategies for it.

I tried to enjoy the man my Grandfather became. No, he had no idea who we were. Yes, he was far more cranky than he was before, but he had the same sense of humor and would tell the same stories. Don't try to force them to call you by name or remember them. (I found it was great, I would change my major every time I'd tell Grandpa I was going to college until I found a major he liked)

Be brave. They don't KNOW they have lost their mind. When it begins, they know, then they forget they know. In the beginning, it is terrifying, then, in the end, they aren't the ones suffering, you are. You know what they are missing and what is gone. They don't.
Old 11-28-2007, 02:51 AM
Horatio Hellpop Horatio Hellpop is offline
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Gumi, S. Korea
Posts: 9,186
My dad had Alzheimer's for the last four or five years of his life. We all learned not to take the things he said too personally, although my mom took the brunt of it and had the hardest time dealing with the vile things he said towards the end (He did not like being in a nursing home). She got petty revenge by choosing his epitaph: "Per ardua, ad astra." What the hell, it's her headstone too.

Your grandmother has been visited by the brain thieves. Remember that as it gets even worse.
Old 11-28-2007, 04:25 AM
auRa auRa is offline
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Helsinki, Finland
Posts: 999
Originally Posted by nikonikosuru
It's hard. For me, every time seeing hurts. It makes me feel like a horrible grandchild for not visiting her enough, for not helping her enough, for not caring for her as much as I wanted to.
This is absolutely what I feel, too. My grandmother moved into a care facility a little over a year ago, after living at home with a caretaker visiting daily just didn't work anymore; she'd make herself tea and forget to turn off the kettle, she'd go outside to take the trash and forget which door she lived at.

The first time I went to visit her, I cried all the way home. Growing up, I had always been my grandmother's favorite grandchild, the one she was so proud of. Now, she remembered the dog, but not me. (Now, she still remembers the dog, but she has some trouble remembering what species she is: "Ooh, there's the horse again!")

She's physically in great shape for someone her age since she's been an avid gymnast all her life; unfortunately, this means that she should live for several more years and get progressively worse the whole time. Then again, my grandmother hasn't been alive for over a year now. This is a completely different woman I'm visiting. It hurts, but for me, it helps to distance myself emotionally somewhat from the person there and remember privately the person who was.
Old 11-28-2007, 04:44 AM
Layla01 Layla01 is offline
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: Adelaide, Australia
Posts: 147
Winnie - my sympathy to you and your family - having a relative with dementia is rough and sad to say, will probably get rougher.

My father died of early onset Alzheimer's 13 years ago, and because he was physically healthy and young, the mood swings and changes in his personality caught us all by surprise. Like everyone else has said, your grandmother is now a different person, and instead of being happy to be with her family, will start to get overwhelmed by the noise and chaos and will probably regress for days afterwards. The constant complaints are just a symptom of the turmoil that she's feeling.

It will probably be better for you to visit her in a small group for Christmas. Keep things light and cheerful, and say and do things which she may remember from years ago (like old family traditions). If you can bring her a few treats, that will probably go down well. Watch for any signs of stress while you are there, and be prepared to cut your visit short if she is getting upset.

Please also remember Sandy, her carer - she will need lots of support and respite during the time ahead.
Old 11-28-2007, 05:22 AM
jjimm jjimm is offline
Join Date: Jul 2001
Posts: 28,704
Originally Posted by Layla01
The constant complaints are just a symptom of the turmoil that she's feeling.
I think, with regard to moving a relative into residential care, this is the hardest part. If the person is saying, completely lucidly "this is awful, you can't do this to me," it's so hard to know whether it's them speaking, or the madness. Because anyone would say the same: if someone tried to incarcerate me, I'd be saying, too.

This is what has happened to my mother-in-law a couple of years ago. She literally had to be put, kicking and screaming, into a van by men in white coats, and was very distressed once she was in the nursing home. If I had been there, I don't know whether I'd have been able to bear it, even though I dislike her.

Yet a few days before she had nearly burned herself to death in her bed, got a DUI and lost her driver's licence, and she had let her house become infested with rats and dirty dog food cans, and newspapers piled to the ceiling.

A few days later she was perfectly happy in the home, and a few days after that called her son's cellphone 67 times in the space of a few days, alternating between distress, charm, and vileness. Then she thought she was going home the next day, every day, for months.

It's a tough, tough call to make.
Old 11-28-2007, 05:46 AM
nonacetone nonacetone is offline
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: In The Shadows
Posts: 1,790
She literally had to be put, kicking and screaming, into a van by men in white coats
In Indiana, or at least the area I live, the patient must go into the nursing home, on their own. They cannot be forced to go. Otherwise, the nursing home refuses to take them on as a patient. This happened with my great aunt. The family had to 'trick her' into going into the nursing home. She had no idea that she would be living out the rest of her life there.

Then she thought she was going home the next day, every day, for months.
This also is the case with my great aunt. She is so far gone, but not far enough to realize that she's not in her own home, and she says that she's going to go home every time we visit her.
She's been there for nearly 2 years.
She STILL thinks she's coming home.

Og, I detest this disease.
I've seen it, and dealt with it, with my great aunt (my grandmother's youngest sister, who is in her late 80's), now my grandmother (who is 91, soon to be 92 in Feb.), and I'm seeing the first signs of it with my mother (who just turned 68 on Monday).

I guess I should talk to my husband about this, and get things in order for me, as it looks like I'll probably have it, too.

Last edited by nonacetone; 11-28-2007 at 05:47 AM.
Old 11-28-2007, 07:29 AM
Sapo Sapo is offline
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Puerto Rico
Posts: 6,786
Winnie, I am sorry to hear about your grandma. My grandpa also suffered from it on his last years. It was a horrible experience to all. Even at his 80's, he was a physically imposing man, and controlling him wasn't easy. He spent his last months basically tied to a chair in a nursing home.

We spent the last year or so mourning the loss of a man we had loved and still having to take care of this new being that didn't know who we were and didn't want us there. My grandma, who took care of him when his dementia was still the kinda-funny type, and fought all the way against having him institutionalized, took it the hardest. Luckily, now that it is her who is suffering from it, we can afford to have her taken care of at home, with constant nurse care around the clock. I don't think we could put her in a nursing home after all she fought against having her husband put in one.

I wish I could give you some hope, but I just cannot. It will get worse and you have to be strong. "Simple" as that. As others have said, don't feel bad about looking for professional help and don't take things personally. At some point it will no longer be her you are dealing with.
Old 11-28-2007, 03:56 PM
vivalostwages vivalostwages is offline
Charter Member
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Lower half of CA
Posts: 13,975
Auntbeast really nailed it: the family and friends suffer far more than the patient who has ALZ.

Dad had no idea how he kept us up most of the night when he was at home.
He didn't even feel the pain of a DVT in his leg and we finally noticed it when it got really swollen.
Towards the end, he was no longer interested in food or drink. He was getting thin but told us he was "getting too much to eat."

In his nursing home room, he would point to a corner and tell me to lock the garage door, make sure the house was locked up, pay the bills and so on. I just said I would and that pleased him. Just go along with it. That's all you can do.


Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 07:08 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to:

Send comments about this website to:

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to:

Copyright 2018 STM Reader, LLC.

Copyright © 2017