My grandmother has dementia.
This is not a state secret, but I wish it was. This morning when I said: “I love you.” She just kept on talking about how everyone’s surnames were going to change. This kind of broke my heart. This afternoon however, right before she fell asleep she whispered “I love you” back to me.
This all began last year. My grandmother, who then was 78, was a vibrant old woman. She was the life of anything that happened at home. You could have asked her anything and she would have given back a very intelligent answer, because she was an intelligent woman. A year before that we started a blog, which she wrote diligently, all about her past and how things were in the 30s and 40s. Things that I never knew. She got sick and this stopped. One day she started writing again, which was fantastic to us. We read her stories and spoke about it until it all changed. She started writing funnier, she couldn’t answer the crossword puzzles as well as she used to.
One February evening, after I came home from a dinner. My gran was sitting in front of the tv, waiting for my cousin and I to go out. She wanted me to meet a guy, which is kind of heart warming but not really. At 11 o’clock that night – she did not budge from her couch, she was still waiting for us to go out. This meant that I had to dress as if I was going out, get my cousin to play along and ‘out we went’ to bed that is. That was a horrible week, time meant nothing to her and we finally persuaded her that we were going out but first we needed to go to the hospital. Now that week, she spent money like it was water, she told everyone these long elaborate stories that made sense. Of course they meant nothing, but we did not know that she was sick.
She was sick, too old to have her hernia fixed, old that her ‘fever dreams’ were reality. Turns out, she had an infection but scans confirmed that her frontal lobe shrunk. They (the doctors) said it was because of the calcification of the main brain vein and a few other veins that lead to this. She was in hospital for months and when she finally got out, which was a miracle in itself as she had septicemia and a survival rate of 5%, she was put in a home. She could not walk, made absolutely no sense and made us teary quite often. I was sure that she was not going to survive this.
From September to December she was in a home. Complaining that there was absolutely NOTHING wrong with her and that she needed to go home. She couldn’t even walk for the first few months. Her 79 birthday in October was quite something, we bought her home for the day. This was something special. December we bought her home to stay. She was better, she talked a lot and did things she wasn’t even interested in. The crossword puzzles were filled in, she was crocheting blankets again, talking normally.
Then May of this year arrived.
May was a difficult month, she was not well. We honestly thought it was another infection, not dementia. How could it be dementia if she was behaving so well over the last few months? In less than a week she was someone who could laugh and talk, to someone who was mumbling nonsense at anyone who would listen to her. She totally forgot how to walk – which was a blow to us. She would call out to anyone who was willing to be with her. Now, everyone is far away from each other except two bedrooms. Thus whatever my gran says, I can sometimes hear – especially if it is extremely loud or if it in the dead quiet of the night. This lasted for a few days, which all-in-all tired me out.
This is emotionally tiring, we finally took her to hospital. They thankfully said it was asymptomatic pneumonia. We thought that this time when she got home, she would finally be speaking coherently. This is not the case. You can see that this is dementia. She has totally lost reality with the now. It saddens me to see a strong woman, who has helped each and everyone in my household + my friends, to fall to pieces. She doesn’t realise this. Sometimes she says something that gives the indication that she knows that something is wrong. This like: “You know I can’t remember anything.” or “There’s something not right.” But these lapses are few and far between.
Now all we have is patience. This is all we have left, the waiting game. She might get better or she might get worse. She might have moments of clarity or she could go further down the rabbit hole. All I can do is quietly laugh, because that’s the only way I can cope.