When a Loved One Suffers from Dementia

grandma in nursing home

 

It goes without saying I have an immense amount of guilt for living so far away from my family. I’m in New York.  Most of them are in Arizona.  I miss a lot. I obviously can’t make all the birthday parties, family BBQs and most of all I am missing spending quality time with my Grandma. I grew up spending a lot of time at Grandma’s house. Unlike most kids who dreaded going to Grandma’s … I looked forward to it. I was my Grandma’s only grandchild,  meaning… I was spoiled. Not just spoiled with toys, my own room at her house,  but lots and lots of love. I would spend hours playing with my paper dolls, watching classic movies like White Christmas or Easter Parade or just snuggling on the couch with my Grandma. She always made me a special omelet in the morning. Bottom line, I had it made with Grandma.

As I grew up, there was less spending the weekend with Grandma but we had dinner at least once a week together. While at college, I would drop my laundry off and she would do it for me. When I moved out of Arizona, I would still talk to her on the phone almost daily. Even if it was a short conversation, it was always nice to hear her voice. Unfortunately, in the last couple of years, Grandma has gotten older and she was diagnosed with dementia. She is now living in a nursing home and my phone calls now consist of my Mom putting the phone to her ear and pretty much telling my Grandma what to say. I know when my Mom tells my Grandma to tell me she loves me, my Grandma means it. But it is hard not to be able to carry on a conversation with her. While at home at Christmas, I tried to spend as much time visiting her as possible. One day, I wheeled her wheelchair out by the Christmas tree and we were sitting and chatting. It wasn’t until my Grandma started talking about Katrina that I realized she didn’t know who I was. I tried telling her I was Katrina to only have her tell me… No, you aren’t. Or that I didn’t look like Katrina. But still the sassy spitfire who is my Grandma wasn’t holding back on the kisses! For being a stranger to her, she was pretty affectionate! I told my Mom later that I believed Grandma was giving kisses to strangers! Grandma has days when she doesn’t know who my Mom is or days when she is flat out mean to people, it comes with the disease. But we know deep down, my lovable Grandma is in there. Not a day goes by I don’t think about her or wish I could see her. My Grandma is lucky to have excellent care, a wonderful daughter (my Mom) who visits her daily, sometimes twice a day and lots of love all around. Not many people get to have such a great relationship with their Grandma like I do… I just hope my future kids will have the same thing with my Mom. But the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…

Does your parent or grandparent have dementia?  How has that changed the family dynamic or your experiences with them?

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About Katrina Sutherland

I'm an Arizona native who left behind the desert and rattlesnakes for New York City life. As a single gal I spend my days working with the Wall Street big boys and my evenings living a clean version of Sex and the City with wonderful friends. Who wouldn't love a Big Apple adventure?! Learn more about her here.