Well, it seems that my grandmother officially has Alzheimer’s disease. We’ve been suspecting it for a long time, but her doctor confirmed it last week. For the past several years, her memory has been getting worse and worse, and we’ve also noticed a lot of personality changes. Lately, things have precipitously declined. She’s started seeing people who aren’t there, and having conversations with them. She confuses pronouns, referring to my son as “she” and my daughter as “he”. She can’t remember what day it is, and she can’t remember things like her Monday night choir practice, which she has been going to for the past 15 years. She needs help picking out her outfits, although she can still dress herself. She remembers people’s names for the most part, which is nice, but she asks repetitive questions to the point that sometimes after being up at her house for awhile, I think my head will explode. How many times you can patiently answer, “So is the baby sleeping through the night yet?” without going crazy? But, I try. She also has trouble remembering that MrWhatsit and I have moved home from Seattle, where we lived for four years. We moved back to Ohio six months ago, but every time I visit, she asks when we’re flying back to Seattle. I don’t know whether to keep telling her, “Grandma, we’ve moved back here, actually” and then answer the subsequent slew of questions (which are also always identical), e.g. “Where are you staying?” and “Do you have a job yet” and so forth; or whether to just humor her and say “We’re staying until next week”, knowing that by the time we leave the house she’ll have forgotten what I said.
What prompted her trip to the doctor’s office last week was a paranoid episode in which she forgot who my grandpa was, and accused him of being an intruder in her home. She demanded to be “taken home” and called her sister, my great-aunt, to come get her. My great-aunt did show up and after a few hours of paranoia, she calmed down and remembered that she did live in her own house. But the whole thing prompted my grandpa to get her an appointment with their family doctor. Several MRIs and other neurological tests later, they’ve determined that she probably has Alzheimer’s (because she doesn’t have anything else).
She can’t really be trusted on her own right now because she’s likely to think she needs to “go home” (her childhood home from the 1930s? we’re not sure) so family members have been visiting up there very frequently. This also gives my grandpa a break. And my aunt has come up with a rotating schedule where everyone is supposed to go up there one night a week and make them dinner. Apparently they’d been subsisting on frozen dinners for the past several months, because Grandma can’t cook anymore and my grandpa’s vision is really too poor for him to use the stove reliably. My aunt is also hiring a twice-monthly cleaning service. (My grandparents’ house, which used to be so spotless you could eat off the floors, as my grandma is a cleaning fanatic, is a filthy mess.)
Does anyone have experience with this? My other grandmother also died of Alzheimer’s-like dementia, but I was a little more removed from that situation (I was away at college) and didn’t really see the decline in progress. I’m just not sure how to handle this or if the family is doing the right thing, or what. And, I miss my grandma. She’s still there physically, and I often see glimpses of her old personality, but the person she once was is gone, and it’s really difficult to deal with. She practically raised me during some of the time my mom was a single mom who worked full time. But that person – the person who scrubbed her kitchen floor until it shone, knew all the PGA tour standings by heart, and volunteered at the elementary school library three times a week – is gone. And, I really miss her, and I don’t know how to deal with this new person in her place.
Anyway. Advice is welcome. Also, does anyone happen to know how hereditary Alzheimer’s is? I’m trying not to dwell on the fact that both my maternal and paternal grandmothers have had it, as well as one of my maternal great-aunts. I’m at a point right now where every time I can’t remember the plot of a book I know I’ve read, I panic, and it would be nice if I could stop doing that. I’ve read a lot of books.