What a Difference

I’ve had emotional whiplash all week. Grandma is visiting us this week. In case you don’t know the significance of those words you can read the worst part of it here. I’ve written about our struggles with her before. Turns out she does not have Alzheimers or dementia, per se, but the neurological damage she does have has basically the same markers and symptoms. One Doctor even called it “false dementia” which is so sad it’s almost funny. There isn’t anything “false” feeling about it. Previously when we have gone to visit her (all five of us) it has been hard to help her because she gets so angry at everything we do…help her haul things to good will, clean out her pantry, get her bookkeeping caught up, walk the dog…it is all viewed as taking over her life. Left to her own devices these things would never happen, though. The constant yelling and arguing left me shaking from emotion every time. A couple of weeks ago it became clear that she needed 24-hour companionship and the easiest way to make that happen seemed to be my husband fetching her and bringing her to stay with us for a while, meanwhile researching more long-term options. It honestly felt like I was stepping off a cliff to invite her to stay in our home, but it seemed also like the right thing to do. It was a big leap of faith. So my husband brought his mom last Saturday and what I had prepared myself for has not come to pass.

She arrived sunny and more cheerful than I have seen her in years. Even when my husband took her to visit a couple of assisted living facilities she was pleasant. Normally she complains about spending money, but purchased some medication for about $100 without batting an eye. There have been just a few outbursts that give me pause – the old fiestiness is in there somewhere – but overall we’re now just coping with her forgetfulness and confusion. Good thing from working with the child (and her siblings) I am used to answering the same question multiple times calmly. Now I feel like instead of recoiling from her I am guarding her safety and well-being, a role I am much more comfortable with. Meanwhile the child’s routine competes with Grandma’s for attention and it is hard to juggle everyone’s brain differences.

The change may be due to several factors – she is removed from the main sources of her anxiety (her house and all of her medical appointments); we prayed continually for this visit to go well and not be sheer hell; and she recently dropped one medication and started a different one. My bet is the latter, though I’m sure the prayer didn’t hurt any. I am no pill pusher. I really believe medication should be used as a last resort. Still, what a difference…and here’s hoping it lasts!

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