I'm not sure when my Grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Honestly it feels to me like she has always had it. And living with someone who is afflicted with this condition is heartbreaking as well as being pure hell.
Because of the recession in 2009 I could no longer afford to live and study on my own. I moved out of Cape Town and back in with my parents....and my grandmother. My Mom still had her own business then and would work long hours. My Dad would work from home in an outside office. The care of my grandmother was left up to a lady that my Mom originally hired to do cleaning. She was very good with my grandmother and would cook for her and take care of her during the day while taking care of the house. Soon though my grandmother started to become more and more of a full time job.
We had a cat back then who my grandmother became obsessed with ( a commonality in Alzheimer's patients). If the cat wasn't within her line of vision she would panic, she tried to follow this cat wherever she went (and if you own a cat you know that this is impossible). If the cat did anything like "meow" or role around or ANYTHING she took as a sign that the cat had to be hungry and would get furious at all of us, accusing us of starving the cat. At least once an hour there was a blow up with her about the cat. The worst was when the cat went off somewhere as cats do, my grandmother would leave the house and go and try to find her. My parents lived on an apple farm and this happened several times a day and either Georgina, myself or my Dad would have to go out and frantically look for her. Then she would start accusing any stranger she came across of stealing the cat. And then came the day when she claimed that our cat....was not our cat.
At night her obsession switched to the locking of doors. After she went to bed she never slept as she was up and down all night checking that all the doors were locked. Of course she would always forget that she had already checked and keep on checking all night. Soon she started waking us up at night "Wondering where everybody was". She needed help with dressing, bathing and eventually going to the toilet. She was terrified of being alone and always afraid of some impending doom. She would work herself up into into a crazy state that would always end in her crying hysterically. Her balance was effected and we constantly had to watch her to make sure she didn't harm herself.
And then of course, there was her mental state. It probably sounds petty when I say that her repeating the same thing over and over again or the 50 million questions she would ask...by breakfast, was irritating. But just imagine having to hear the same line over and over and over again knowing that telling them to shut the hell up would have no effect what so ever AND you actually couldn't even get angry because it would agitate their mental state even more?. Well... I'm sure that's how my Mom must have felt. I didn't let it stop me from screaming my lungs out besides, it me feel better. Even if she would be beside herself once I had calmed down.
Throughout all of this I was horrible to her. I hated her. I kept thinking, "After being a constant intrusion in our lives you had to go ahead and become a burden too". I didn't care that she was afraid and confused and suffering. I just cared about venting all the anger I had held inside of me for years.If I wasn't ignoring her, I was yelling at her. I called her a "A demented old cow" and " A senile old woman". I resented her always having to tag along when my Mom and I were out together. My Mom may have been able to control how I spoke to her when I was little but not now. This lead to many fights between my mother and I which of course made me even more angry.
But even through her dementia my Grandmother still managed to retain her good qualities. After any attack I had made on her the disease would have her promptly forget that anything had happened. But the unhappiness remained. She was unhappy and she didn't know why. Knowing my Grandmother she probably thought it was because of something she had done. She would seek me out and want to hug me and love me. This made me feel like the worst person ever born on God's green earth and I would try to get away. My grandmother may not have been able to rescue me from my abuse but she was always there to comfort me. When it was my turn to do the same I failed her I did nothing but make her suffering worse. The full implications of that haven't hit me yet but they will eventually. I will have to deal with what I did for the rest of my life.
STILL more to come....