Never in million years did I think I would be a caregiver at the age of 33. Growing up, my biological father did not raise me, however, my mother always made sure I spent time with my father’s mother – Flossie. Our relationship was never a close one, but after my grandfather passed, I felt that it was important to get to know my grandmother before I lost her as well.
About six years ago, I began regularly weekly visits to my grandmother’s apartment. Muddear, as I affectionately call her, was 89 years old and living on her own. I would do simple things like grocery shop, pick up prescriptions and periodically pay bills.
Over the course of two years, I began to notice a decline in my grandmother both mentally and physically. She was using her wheelchair a lot more and seemed more forgetful. At that time, I knew very little about Alzheimer’s and dementia, but I knew something was wrong. I contacted her social worker at the Council on Aging to procure additional services, like housekeeping and laundry.My grandmother began displaying behavior that was very alarming to me. ”Asthma attacks” in the middle of the night, improperly taking her medication, and failure to admit the home health aide responsible for housekeeping are only some of the strange behavior exhibited by Muddear. Muddear’s confusion was increasing at an alarming rate, and after I received a phone call from the police regarding her erratic behavior, I decided it was time to move her to a nursing home.
While in the nursing home, I continued my weekly visits, often increasing to two per week. Muddear’s confusion seemed to decrease; however, physically she was declining quite rapidly. Muddear began to refuse meals, she was sick all of the time, and I noticed that the nursing home was not providing appropriate care.
I could only stand this for a year and a half. My husband and I began discussing the concept of bringing Muddear home to live with us. This was a very difficult decision. I didn’t want her to remain in the nursing home, but I was not ready for such a life-changing event. I was 33, a stepmother and a career woman – I did not want this additional responsibility. There was no one else to assist with caregiving other than the aides provided by the Council on Aging; my husband and I would have sole responsibility for her care. However, after experiencing three significant deaths (brother-in-law, grandfather and grandmother) in one year, my husband felt this was our only option. I agreed.
I love my grandmother with all of my heart. I am thankful for this time that we have together. Yes, it has been difficult adjusting, but I have come to a place of peace. My husband is my number one supporter, and I am his biggest fan. If it were not for him, Muddear would be wasting away in a nursing home.It has been great not only for us, but for the kids to see firsthand, family sticking together and caring for one another. In the end, I have learned to find joy in the difficult times and laughter during the stressful times. I write a blog, Dementia-Thoughts, to help me cope with the magnitude of responsibilities and to share caregiving from my perspective with other caregivers. I have not taken this journey alone and I hope to encourage others I meet along the path.