Tuesday, January 18, 2011

In the shadow of Alzheimer's.

When I was a young girl, about 10 years old or so, my great grandmother on my mother's side of the family was diagnosed with Alzheimer's.  My great grandmother, Bubba, the name is a Czech term meaning old woman, who was my grandfather's mother was always a busy woman.  The most vivid memories I have of her, were of when she had to move in with my great aunt and her daughter.  My cousin, Theresa, mainly took care of her while my great aunt worked.  And then my great aunt would take over so so that my cousin could go to school.  One Christmas they had given her a My Buddy doll.  Bubba treated that doll like a real baby.  She never went anywhere without it.  When she could no longer walk on her own was the day they had to put her into a nursing home.  She died less than six months later.  Her My Buddy doll laid next to her in her casket.  I was 16.

Fast forward to today.  My mom's mother has Alzheimer's.  She denies it.  She throws out any prescriptions she thinks she doesn't need.  Doesn't help that she is a retired R.N. because she will go through her medical dictionary for drugs to look up her newly acquired prescription.  If she sees that it is for depression she will throw the prescription out. It is common for anti depressants to be prescribed for individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer's.  She won't take what she needs to and she is always missing her medications but you can't stop her from her vitamins and supplements.  She has more bottles of l-carnitine fumarate then she knows what to do with and it's not like she needs the protein and fat burning qualities of it.  She has hypothyroidism and even though having that makes it difficult for you to lose weight, she is not overweight by any means.  And on top of that she has been screwing up my grandfather's medications. 

 My grandfather has heart disease and he also keeps his nitro necklace on him at all times. Ever since my grandmother has been descending the depths of reality, he has been taking at least one everyday.  We found out shortly after he was admitted to the hospital that she was overdosing my grandfather.  He has gotten so bad that no surgery will help and it's all about borrowed time.  The meds are just prolonging his life.  He is very frail and I will bet that he doesn't weigh more than 120 pounds soaking wet. Every time I see him I am reminded of how little time he has left.  He will probably not see this Christmas.  I try and spend as much time as I can with them and cleaning for them every two weeks gives me some alone time with them.  They are just a fraction of the grandparents that I remember in my youth. 

My mom and her two siblings have been talking a lot lately about what to do with my grandmother when my grandfather passes away.  It is very clear that she will need to go into some type of retirement home.  They don't really want to put her in a nursing home and the appeals of a ALF (assisted living facility) is far too independent for her.  She needs her privacy but also needs the structure of getting the meds she requires at the proper time.  My aunt and uncle have tossed around the idea of having her move in with them, but they know that it is going to be a living hell while she is there.  You can only be in the room with her for a short period of time before your patience runs out.  It's devastating to say that but 100% true. 

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