I believe I told you a little bit about my grandmother. She’s 90 and she suffers from short-term memory loss. Yes, like Dory. Except, it’s not that funny.
For instance, she’ll ask the same question to the same person repeatedly, forgetting that she’s already asked it before. There’s no point reminding her of that; that would only upset her to be told that something funky is happening to her mind.
So, people just play along, repeatedly answering the questions and also trying to divert the conversation to something else. She’s such a dear that none of us mind it.
Of course, this does place a significant burden on her caregivers. My grandmom chooses to live in her own home; the place where she has lived ever since she was a new bride. She has two women employees; one who cooks for her, and one who takes care of her basic needs, like help with bathing, moving around and the like. But, for her emotional and mental needs, she’s heavily reliant on my mother.
My mother, who lives a few miles from my grandmom, visits her every day at least once, and sometimes twice a day. This is in addition to running her own household and volunteering at various charities. In addition, she also talks to her over the phone once in the morning and once in the evening to make sure she’s all right. At times when she and my dad, both of whom love to travel, are out of town, other relatives step in to visit my grandmom occasionally, but my mom still calls her to make sure my grandmom is doing okay.
Naturally, even though words cannot express how much she loves her mom and values the time together, it does take a toll on my mom. Especially, the repeated questions. Earlier, my mom used to be very elaborate in her answers, but ever since she realized, to her chagrin, that she would be required to give the answer multiple times within an hour, she has limited her reply to a single sentence or two! A year ago, my mom decided to volunteer at the local Alzheimer’s patients association, which also caters to patient with varying stages of dementia, in order to better understand people with memory deficits and how to better respond to them! Needless to say, her patience levels have substantially increased and she has been able to educate the rest of the extended family as well.
Nevertheless, my mom is human and, at times when she is really busy, or not well, or when I visit and she would rather spend time with me, she is terse and impatient with my grandmom. Given the above details, you would think that I would heavily sympathize with my mom, but I don’t! I’m more pro-grandmom even though I may not be anti-mom, and I spend much of my time chatting with my grandmom and deflecting her questions to my mom, and also preaching ‘more patience’ to my mom!
I guess my sympathies lie more with my grandmom first, because, well, she’s my grandmom who cosseted and pampered me and told me all kinds of wonderful stories; and secondly, because I’ve always admired her fierce grip at the little independence that she has left. Even though she is actually heavily dependent on others both physically and mentally, we do indulge her in believing that she still is self-reliant.
I remember the recent conversation my mom had over the phone with her. This was when I was visiting in December, in the morning while my mom and I were at home sipping tea and browsing through the newspaper. My mom decided to remind my grandmom about her doctor’s appointment since my grandmom hated surprises and preferred to be reminded a few times of an impending excursion! Here’s the one-sided dialogue that I heard and that made me smirk behind my newspaper:
Ma, I’m just calling to remind you of the doctor’s appointment this afternoon…… yes, this is for your knee. I’ll be picking you up at 2 p.m…… what? Really, Ma, when was the last time you went to the doctor’s or anywhere else by yourself? I always take you……… no….I mean…….I didn’t mean……..yes, Ma……. you’re right…… no, there should be no problem about going by yourself………yes, it’s so nice that you thought about me spending more time with Roshni….. it’s just that…….would you mind if I join you? I haven’t talked to you in a long time (only just yesterday evening!) and I thought we could catch up….yes, Roshni can join us….okay, thank you, Ma, that would be very nice. So, I’ll pi….what? You’ll pick us up? I……uh!…………………okay! We’ll be ready then! Okay, bye!
She then put down the phone disgruntled and said to me, “Hopefully, by the afternoon, she’ll have forgotten all about picking us up, so I can go and pick her up!”
I continue to smile with pride and triumph for my gorgeous, headstrong grandmom!