Tag Archives: dementia

Don’t Just Disappear

She exists in two worlds—the reality that we all know and the reality that her mind creates.

Some days she’ll look me straight in the eyes and tell me about how she’s exhausted from running here or there for a husband who has been gone for years.

Looking at Gram in her wheelchair—where I know she’s been all day, all week, all year—I can see the confusion-filled cloud of dementia that hangs over so many that live in the home.

But lately she’s slipped past the frustrated stage into one of simple contentment most days. Sometimes she’s with us and sometimes she’s lost in that world of her own, but the fear of those two worlds colliding seems to have lessened a bit.

I’ve written about the relationship between my mom, my grandma and me here dozens of times, but this past year it’s been really hard. While there are moments of tenderness and heart-breaking hilarity, continuing to visit and watch mental and physical deterioration—and being powerless to change any of it—isn’t easy to do.

It’s no longer the way that it was.

She doesn’t understand watching baseball anymore, so our biggest shared interest is gone. And at times I don’t want to clean up the room or stop in and find that she’s still sleeping, blinds closed and room dark in the middle of a sunny summer day.

But recently an aide commented to me, “It nice that you still come and visit so much. So many families just disappear.”

As hard as it is, I admit I know exactly how those people feel. Most times I just don’t want to go.

Maybe it’s fear. Maybe it’s knowing that she is safe and in capable hands without me doing the work. Maybe it’s the difficulty in seeing a person you love with your heart and not just your eyes fade into the gathering darkness.

It’s hard when she’s not the person that she used to be, and in a way she exists in two worlds for me—the reality that we all know and the reality my mind creates, the way I want to remember she was.

But if being on the outside is rough, being on the inside must be harder, even if her recognition of this has passed, too. We all have times that we feel alone or fear that somehow we’ll be forgotten simply because we’ve changed in a way that others find hard to accept.

But while it’s not always fun and it’s not always easy, it’s also not all about me.

So I go to make sure she’s comfortable, to selfishly lessen my guilt, to connect her two worlds when I can and make sure she knows that I’m there—wherever her “there” is on that day.

I go because this is our reality now.

I go because deep down she’s still the same Gram.

I go because love doesn’t just disappear, and because she hasn’t either, neither will I.

Like the blog? Buy the books!

P.S.  If you don’t want to miss anything, be sure to subscribe here on the blog and/or follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.

Advertisements

Senior Moments: The Ones In Between

I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I’ve had a few people tell me that they enjoy my Senior Moments posts.

If you know my grandma, you know I’m not making any of this stuff up, and many of the other residents have endeared themselves to me with their stories, their wisdom and their wit.

They really don’t get enough credit.

I’m there a couple times a week, and lord knows I wish each and every trip could be post-worthy. But the truth is, 99 times out of 100, there aren’t many funny moments that I can share. For every Bingo game or dating firing squad, there are 99 times I go there not knowing what the heck I’m walking into.

These are the senior moments I don’t often write or talk about, the senior moments in between.

My mom and I are past the days of having to go at this alone, past those nights of phone calls that sent us flying out of bed in a panic and the horrific stress of being thrust into caregiving roles were weren’t trained for, but that we quickly took on day to day.

When Gram moved to this facility a couple years ago, it was as if the weight of the world had been lifted from our crumbling shoulders. We were finally in the clear. It’s not perfect there, but she’s safe, she’s cared for and we can return to our roles as her girls.

That role is still rough though, as we never know just what we’re going to face.

Some days she’ll look me straight in the eyes and tell me about how she’s exhausted from running here or cooking this and that for a husband who has been gone for years. Looking at her in her wheelchair—where I know she’s been all day, all week, all year—I can see  the confusion, the frustration, the genuine fogginess that hangs over so many there.

One day I’m called her sweetheart and a hero for brushing her hair. The next day she won’t get out of bed and will yell—and I mean yell—at anyone who comes to her side, nurses, aides or otherwise.

She’ll be mean, she’ll say things that she won’t remember but that I’ll never get to forget.

This is the case with so many there, so I’ve learned not to take it personally. But time passes on, as do many of our senior friends, and knowing this inevitability only slightly softens the blow.

You never get used to seeing an empty chair at dinner or the family members of other residents huddled and crying softly outside in the hallway, talking with nurses and struggling to come to terms with things before the final breath is drawn.

Again, you don’t get used to it, but you accept it.

So I apologize that this isn’t one of the funny(ish) posts, one of those that leaves you chuckling a bit with pictures of geriatric square dancing in wheelchairs or yard gnomes, but it’s also reality. It’s a reality that people face on a daily basis as they struggle to deal with the dementia, the Alzheimer’s or any other disease an aging loved one is suffering from.

These are the moments in between, and not to sound like a geek, but they are also “teaching moments.”

Because I learn something from every person I’ve met there, good or bad, and  I wouldn’t trade any of the time that’s been spent with any of them. They have stories, they have wisdom, they have wit.

They really don’t get enough credit.

And those few senior moments—the funny ones I know I’ll never forget and those that I share with you here—make up for the ones that I keep to myself, the moments that are in between.

This post was based loosely on the Studio30 Plus prompt:

In the Clear

Need a holiday gift that gives back? Buy the Book. Save a Kitten.