My Grandma is going to be 89 this year (if she makes it to August). Up until June of last year she was in her apartment, driving (although she had cut back to only during the day in familiar areas), playing bridge with her friends, ending up her stint as a decades-long volunteer at the hospital.
Grandma was always a very reserved and proper, relatively unemotional German woman who loved us but not in any mushy way. Her house was neat as a pin and you could eat off the floor. My Grandpa died suddenly in 1977 and she didn’t show a lot of emotion about that but I know felt some loneliness, but as I said she carried on very well on her own. She has one child, my Pop, and us two grandchildren.
We always joked that Grandma would outlive us through sheer force of will and fear of death. Other than a long-term low level leukemia-type thing and some IBS, she was in good health. She would sadly watch her friends decline and die since she moved out of her house to a retirement village about twelve years ago.
Last year in June my brother had a heart attack but said not to tell Grandma. When my parents returned home from that, it was to a message that Grandma was in the hospital. It turned out she had had surgery for a tumor in her small intestine, and was left with an ileostomy. She went home maybe a week later and had a nurse visit occasionally to help out. It wasn’t clear that she would get the surgery to close up the ileostomy, and she was very clear about not getting any treatment for subsequent cancer, although they thought they got it all.
Around Labor Day last year she was moving about and got severe back pain. Turns out she had compression fractures between a few vertebrae. Cortisone shots didn’t help and the cement procedure was done way too late to help.
So about two months ago she decided to move into the nursing home area of the village. It was tough for her to give up her apartment but I think she was happy to take control and not have to worry about it. Pop travelled out to get her stuff sold and given away, and to arrange to pay all her bills. At some point one of the visits to the hospital revealed widespread cancer throughout her organs, but again she doesn’t want that treated. I saw her over Memorial Day and while she was in pain and didn’t have an appetite, she was lucid and talked a lot about the stories behind the keepsakes we were taking from the apartment.
Long story short, whether it’s cancer spreading to her brain, the painkillers, her barely eating anything, she starting to be very confused. She recognizes when my father calls but can’t quite remember who’s who. He talked to her about me a couple of days ago and she seemed happy to hear about my news, but then the next day she said “Now, you’re going to have to remind me who Gwendolen is.” He had to tell her about her having had one son, two grandchildren. “Now, did something sudden happen to your father?” (Grandpa) and Pop had to explain about his death.
She knows she is confused and is somewhat disturbed by that, but we think that as long as she is comfortable and feels safe (she was worried for a while that she would be kicked out of the nursing home when she gets really sick), we don’t really mind if she doesn’t remember. As long as she is not really scared or uncomfortable. We are logical and while it would be nice to know why this is happening, there’s no reason to do more tests because she doesn’t want treatment. I selfishly want a name and explanation though.
My father inherited the stiff upper lip but I feel really bad for him. I hear things secondhand but he has to hear these things firsthand and deal with explaining things. It must just be freaky to hear that; I was struck cold by what she said in reference to me. My mom’s parents died suddenly like Grandpa so my parents have never had to deal with decline like this. I feel sad for all of them.
Thanks for listening. I’m not looking for hugs but it’s so nice to be able to spill this and not burden Pop who is trying to just carry on with business and not dwell on emotion! Please feel free to vent on your own situations like this if you want.