My Grandmother has dementia and it is starting to become a rather sizable problem for my family.
My dad, sister, and step-mother deal with her more than anyone else. I am not sure how often my aunt and uncle or any of my cousins talk to her, but I know for sure my side of the family sees my grandma most often, if just simply due to proximity.
Apparently the disease is getting worse. Her memory is slipping more often, she is harder to deal with, and she is entering what appears to be a depressed state of mind. I say apparently because this is what I am told, not what I’ve observed. I don’t see or talk to my grandmother very often, but when I do, she always seems to be in pretty good spirits, if not quiet. I don’t mean to sound like I doubt these things are happening to her, I’m sure they are. I just mean to say that I have not seen it first-hand, which is to say that I have not been emotionally affected by it.
My sister, through her line of work for many years, and possibly just her outlook on life, is pretty well equipped to deal with the changes that are happening. I’m sure it is hard on her, especially considering how close she was/is with my grandmother. But she is handling it so well that you might not even notice something was going on. My sister has also been in the trenches. Not only does she do a lot of the extremely helpful but not emotionally taxing things like grocery shop for my grandma, but she has also helped out with doctors’ visits and even bathing. She seems to still enjoy spending time with my grandma but you can tell that the attitude my grandma has is getting to her.
My dad does not appear to be handling the situation very well. He has always been the type of person that really internalizes a lot of what is going on around him. It is hard for him not to be emotionally invested in things. I imagine that has served him very well in his past. But I am sure that something like this, watching your mother drift off into an unrecognizable person, all while blaming you for everything wrong in her life and being incredibly mean in the process is having an even deeper effect on my father.
To be perfectly honest, plenty of times over the past year or so, he has seemed like a completely different person. He is quiet, lacking the charisma that everyone is drawn to. He is reflexive and often to himself. He probably hasn’t been this stressed out since his divorce. He appears to be taking a lot on and sinking it into himself.
The bad news is that my grandma is not going to get any better. I am sure that there is an emotional learning curve that comes with dealing with an illness like this. And hopefully those people who are taking the brunt of the emotional damage being splayed out right now adjust quickly and learn to be adequately equipped before lasting harm is done. I always feel like counseling is a good idea. I enjoy my time in counseling and can see the benefits it has had for me in my life. And I think it would be a good option for my father and my sister and my stepmother if they feel like they might benefit from it too.
The good news is that my grandma is in otherwise superior health. She might live well into her 90’s. Everyone is worried about how far this will go before it is all over. I’m just hoping that my family learns to deal with it in a way that they can remain virtually unaffected by it, if that is even possible.
In the meantime, I will do what is asked of me when called upon. And I will try to be a support system for my family if at all possible. It scares me to see how much these wounds are being deepened. I wish I knew anything that would help. But I don’t. I simply have no idea what to do.