Oh boy. Do I have lots to share about my grandfather and the crazy ride that the Dementia and Alzheimers Disease are putting him (and the rest of us) through. I have to tell you that I am noticing that Finding the Blessing in Dementia is allowing me to cope with this crazy ride I (we) are all on. I spent some time with him yesterday at the Nursing Home and he was by far, the worst I have ever seen him. Not bad meaning he was violent or agitated (thank goodness!) but completely on another planet. Literally.
Since my gram passed away the night before Thanksgiving, he has managed to deal with her death fairly well. We have done our best to keep him on his regular schedule of camp everyday and coming home on Saturday and Sunday for a few hours to visit with his cat.
This week has been especially rough as the temperatures here in Mass have been below zero (which means taking him home isn’t an option) and we got hit with a snow storm that dumped about a 1.5 feet of snow. Between the snow, ice and below freezing temperatures, he hasn’t been able to go Adult Day Health (Camp) or come home so he is out of his routine. Yesterday was a CLEAR example of what a break in routine will do for someone with Dementia and Alzheimer’s, not to mention my grandmother’s death really messed up his routine.
When my son and I arrived yesterday he was eating in the dining hall and when I said, “hi gramp!” He just looked right through me and said nothing.
I thought for a half a second, “oh no, he doesn’t know me” (I am preparing myself for that day trust me….I have a plan though for when/if that happens….will share more on that later).
He then said in a serious voice, “I am beat to death, my ass is killing me from sitting on the tractor all morning and working in the gardens. Do you know how hot it is outside?”
Now imagine my 11 years olds face (as we are standing there bundled up in our heavy winter coats, snow boots and hats) and expression when this came out of his great-grandfather’s mouth (he knows Big Gramp has Dementia and he finds the things he says funny). I had all I could do but to not laugh and honestly, it was so far fetched that I thought he was teasing me and joking around. I didn’t respond because I wanted to see what he would say next. For the next 10 minutes we just went along with what he was talking about and while it was complete crazy talk, he was happy he was working. He was happy he was tired from being on the tractor. He was happy he had more work to get done.
That my friends is a huge blessing.
I just sat there thinking to myself, “he would DIE if he knew how messed up he was.” -ha.
I went to speak with the nurse on duty and they told me that he had been out of it for most of the day. He was all over the place with his thoughts. The nurse came and had lunch with us to monitor him and after about 10-15 minutes of being with my son and I, he came back to reality and was back to being in the present. We called my aunt and he wished her a happy birthday ( he knew it was her birthday) and he was joking with her on the phone and back to being his normal self. After about 20 minutes of being in the present, he drifted back to being exhausted from working in the garden and could barely keep his eyes open. He was back to being confused. When I started to wheel him back to his room, he asked, “am I in a wheel chair?” He thought he was on a tractor. The strangest thing happened though. I left the Nursing Home for the first time in 9 months, since we admitted him as a long term resident, not feeling sad or angry that he was stuck there. I didn’t have the sick feeling in my stomach every time I leave. Before I left, I wheeled him down to his room, grabbed his dirty clothes to bring home for washing and he was content in his wheel chair to take a nap. He said he had already put in a full days work and needed to rest so he could get up early again tomorrow and get back to work. He was happy! As crazy as that sounds, I was happy too! Finding the Blessing in Dementia isn’t easy but when you live it with a loved one, you must find it. They are there, you just need to look for them. To be continued…..
PS. Thank you for the comments on yesterday’s post about How to Avoid the Sweater Fit Dilemma.