Thursday, May 28, 2020

Grandkids & Alzheimer’s

My son was my mom’s first grandchild for six years. He was the golden child as I used to call him. They had a very special bond. We left my mom’s property when he was 6 years old. We went back when he was thirteen. This time around my mom had changed; her cognitive skills had declined a lot. Her aggressive attitude was like constantly having whiplash. You never knew how she was going to react to situations.
When we went back to our apartment in my mom’s compound, our houses were separated. I had a daughter. Oh, boy! I was not prepared for what was coming. My poor kids! They are both well-adjusted kids in spite of all the nonsense that they have gone thru. That includes dealing with my mom’s Alzheimer’s & Dementia. They were present when my mom had a meltdown. That’s when we all realized that things had changed with “Nana”. 

She would get into ridiculous arguments with them. I had to tell my kids that “Nana is sick” she doesn’t always know what she is doing; explain to them that her reasoning skills are compromised. It is very hard to make a kid comprehend “don’t be hurt by what she says it’s the disease talking”.
She can be very hurtful with her verbal attacks, and she doesn’t care who her target is. Keeping the balance between,  respecting her, not being resentful, and continue to love her, is a lot for anyone to balance out . Especially when she displays Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde's personality.
It affected my daughter (6 at the time) the most. She didn’t want to have any interactions with my mom, because of my mom’s constant bullying behavior towards her brother my son.  She started to resent her. It took many conversations for her to finally understand that “Nana” is sick. How do you explain to a child that my mom's reasoning skills were shot, don’t work anymore. When they are working on developing theirs. My son was able to assimilate this and even though he was the main target for her meltdowns, he loves her a lot. I recall the first episode where my mom slapped him because he didn’t want to finish his food. He was hurt, angry, and very upset. Of course, when I spoke to her about it she didn’t remember the situation. Where was I? I was at work, Where was the caregiver? She had gone home earlier. 

Situations like this drove my kids to lock her out of our apartment. Because they didn’t want to deal with her erratic behaviors and her constant verbal attacks. Like the incident where my mom threw plates at my son, because he said to her, “leave them there, I’ll wash the dishes later Nana”. She was standing at the kitchen sink, turned around and boom dishes started flying in my son's direction. My daughter witnessed this and was balling and very hysterical, telling me she didn’t want her “nana” to come into the house anymore. This is the last thing you want to deal with when you get home from a long day and a long drive back. 

My kid, well my son is not a child anymore he is 19 yrs. Old. And my daughter is 9 now. They both are at peace with my mom. Keep in mind that the episodes that I’m describing happened about 3 years ago. I must share with you that my daughter grew up around the environment of my previous job, in the Day Center. She is very comfortable interacting with seniors. And even though she was a regular visitor there, she never witnessed any of our patients have any disruptive behaviors that my mom has. 

I tend not to sugar things to anyone.  My conversation with my kids about my mom’s disease went something like this: The truth of the matter is “Nana” is sick, her brain doesn’t work as well as it used to. Yes, she may be quite horrid at times, but you know what, it’s the disease that makes her behave like that. It doesn’t mean that her words and her actions don’t hurt your feelings. I know it hurts, remember she is my mother, and I don’t like to see her this way, actually, it makes me very sad. But I know that deep inside of her she still loves me and that is what I have to hold on to. I have to remember that her spirit is still there inside of that body, the lady that shared many happy moments of my life. Yes, it’s hard to see her like this, it’s very hard to love her when she gets aggressive, yes, it is scary. No, there is no cure yet. My mom, your “Nana” has a disease called Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

As a result of this conversation, my Son did a presentation on the human brain for his school project when he was in the 8th grade. He researched the parts of the brain and what they do in our bodies and how they communicate, and what happens when they stop working. It helped him understand that it wasn’t her fault, she couldn’t help it. As he put it “she is broken”. 

My daughter and I did our research on the web, watched videos, she asked a lot of questions. This past Christmas 2019, in her after school program they asked them to write a summary of what they would do with a $100.00 dollars. Her paper was about how she would spend that money to find a cure for her “Nana”. When she told me what she had written about my mom’s disease, it made me sad and proud at the same time. Sad because she has assimilated that mom's disease, proud because she didn’t want to spend that money on herself.

I can’t tell you what to do and how to explain Alzheimer’s and Dementia disease the behaviors and the changes that come from it. We just have to remember that “Nana”, loves us and we have to hold on to that. 

Assimilate, means to have a clear idea or understanding of. Verbs: comprehend, absorb, grasp, process, register, and cognize. The list goes on, it does not matter what words are used to describe Alzheimer’s and Dementia we all have our process to assimilate the information or not, that is a whole other blog. Not Assimilating the disease, its called DENIAL. like I said its a whole other blog page.

Be Prepared, Be Informed, Be Empowered.

I send you lots of positive virtual energy.
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With gratitude-