In September last year, just a few days after my birthday, my Grandmother took a tumble down a step (that was only about 2 inches high) and broke her hip. We had been forced to moved to a new house as the farm my parents had lived on for the past seven years was sold. The move sent my grandmother in a continuous downward spiral and we thought things couldn't get any worse...until that fall. After that life became unbearable for all of us.
She had to have surgery and was in hospital for a month. Our entire family and extended family took turns in sitting with her in hospital to comfort her and remind her every few minutes where she was, what had happened and prevent her from trying to get up or pulling her catheter out. I sat staring at her not being
able to offer any words of support other than the stereotypical cheesy stuff when it was absolutely necessary. My Mom was unhappy with the care she was receiving at the hospital and brought her home early. That day was one of the worst days of my life. It was just me and Georgina and the amount of care my grandmother needed was overwhelming.
That fall shot any sanity my grandmother had left. When she came home from the hospital we had to put her in nappies/ diapers because she was incontinent. Her vocabulary were severely compromised but that didn't stop her talking in a continuous monotonous voice from the moment she woke up until she went to bed. The only talking she ever did was in the form of some very weird prayers or calling my mother. That was on a good day on a bad day she would shout and scream continuously. The talking alone drove us up the wall. Even though her leg healed very well, Alzheimer's had started to claim her motor skills and she was confined to a wheelchair, only being able to walk very short distances with a walker. She screamed every time we moved the wheelchair and taking her in the car was impossible because it was "To fast" and she was afraid we were going to crash.
My Grandmother never slept. She had no concept of time or of night or day. My Mom had to eventually start sleeping with her because she was so terrified of being alone and would try to get out of bed. She had several panic attacks a day but my Mom was hesitant about putting her on medication because she didn't want her to get addicted. Though, I understand where my poor Mom was coming from the whole thing was absolutely ridiculous. Eventually one night after I found her in bed choking and hyperventilating which resulted in us having to call an ambulance, my Mom relented and my Grandmother was put on a sleeping pill and sedatives, providing a little relief (and some more sleep) for all of us.
Whether it was because of the drugs or the disease she began having hallucinations. She had entered her own world never to return to the real one. If you told her something that she was seeing wasn't there it was like she either wouldn't hear you or comprehend you and just went on talking about the strange imaginary place she was in. The doctor put her on medicine they use treat people with schizophrenia, which I found odd but it didn't make any difference any way.
She hasn't been as aggressive as most Alzheimer's patients but she has tried to take a few socks and slaps at my Mom. The worst was when I found her trying to strangle Milo- he and jumped in her lap and frightened her, when I walked in I was so horrified I grabbed him away from her and slapped her hand hard. She then told my Dad I had tried to kill her.
Her final obsession was with my Dad. His name was always in her mind and in the last few months she has called for him continuously throughout the day. At first she was convinced he was her husband (something my Dad did not take very kindly). Then to her, everyone she saw was "my Dad" whether or not they were even male or female. The saddest part was when she finally forgot who my Mom was and stopped calling her by her name. I think because she always heard me call my Mother, "Mom", she started to do that too. My Mom would not accept this until the day when my Grandmother was crying and saying over and over again, "Where is my mother?, I want my mother!", my Mom gave in, knelt down next to her and said, "I am your Mother". My Grandmother then cried over and over again, "Oh thank you!, thank you!".
They say that with Alzheimer's patients, the happiest memories go last and this was true for my Grandmother. Her very last memories to go were those of her childhood and when she was at boarding school. My Mom tried to talk to her as much as she could about those days, hoping she would be spared a while long with those happy treasures in her hands. But ultimately, my Grandmother would wake up every morning having lost more of what little memory she had left. And so we watched as every last thread of her life slipped away and she became a stranger to us and us to her.
It is very difficult to convey in words how horrendous the last year has been. Our family, my parents in particular, have faced many trails in their lives but very few of them can compare to this. What we have watched happen is truly frightening. Torture is the best way to describe the emotional impact it has had on us and the toil it has taken on our lives. Our entire lives revolved around my Grandmother and her care. We had very little freedom. We could never go out as a family and if one of us was out it could only be for a few hours because someone was on duty at home and needed to be relieved. It was worse for my mother- for the past year she has been house bound.
It has had a different impact on me. Of course I was to busy with my damn revenge to notice that someone who loved me my whole life and nurtured me (in her tedious, bossy way), was slipping away. But there were moments when the pain of what was happening would lash at me. Watching Little B running to her Great- Grandmother arms wide open only to get pushed away because she thought Little B was attacking her. And then seeing my Mom cry because she missed her mother so much- she was there but she wasn't at the same time. My Dad used to say that the person we had in our house was no longer my Grandmother and that she had left us some time ago. As harsh as that sounds he was right.
And where did all my hatred get me?. Well it got me nowhere. It was useless. It just made me more miserable and more of a liability to my Mom instead of an asset when she desperately needed help. I felt bitter because I had gotten nowhere. I'm still angry at my Grandmother but how is that benefiting me?. It's funny how human beings see holding on to anger as doing them some sort of justice when they have been scorned. In the end no one cares and it's like going around in a circle.