Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Grandma's Decline

Judging from both sides of my family gene pool, I will likely live to be older than dirt. My Grandma Christenson lived to be 97. My Grandma McEuen is nigh unto 88.

But sadly, these look like Grandma McEuen's waning months. I'm not sure she has a whole year left in her. She may surprise us, though.

The Johnson women, Johnson being my grandma's maiden name, are sturdier than an amish barn. Living with Grandma in my late teens, Grandma and I would travel around the state of Utah visiting each of her sickly sisters. I watched her sisters peel off one by one. Aunt Effie and then Aunt Alice. Aunt Hazel held on like her life depended on it. All in their 90s before leaving this life for the next.

Grandma McEuen, in her not-so-delicate way, would say to me after we'd visit Aunt Hazel in the care center, "Why doesn't she just push off?" Sweetness doesn't exactly roll off the tongue of Grandma.

And now it's Grandma's turn. Grandma's been inflicted with Alzheimer's for the last six or seven years. The first thing to go was Grandma's ability to drive. It was very hard on Grandma, and especially hard on her children as Grandma made it known in a not-so-quiet way how upset it made her that they would take away her car.

Then Grandma had a bad fall that broke her arm and hip and bruised her face. After that, she needed better care and she sold her house and now lives in an assisted-living apartment.

And up until recently, it's been a great place for her. Her Alzheimer's actually made her rather nice. She didn't have any worries. Her apartment is very pleasant. Her needs are met.

But she's lonely. Yesterday while Kulani took the girls out for their weekly culinary appreciation dinner, I visited Grandma.

No less than 13 times did Grandma ask me who I was, who I was married to, and how many kids I had. That was the okay part. I don't mind answering her questions again and again. Thankfully, Kulani took a continuing education class on Alzheimer's and gave me some tips on how to interact with people suffering from it.

Firstly, you don't say, "Do you remember me?" You just tell them who you are, again and again.

Grandma has a super sweet care lady who checks in on her in the morning and at night. I'm not kidding you when I say this woman is getting a free pass to the heaven of her choosing. She is so sweet to Grandma, and before she leaves each time, she says, "Goodbye, Helen. I love you." And I definitely feel like she really does mean it.

Grandma's helper lady said that Grandma hadn't been out of bed for two days, and she gave me a run down on everything Grandma had eaten. After the care lady left (shame on me for not remembering her name!), Grandma started asking me if she could come home with me.

"Sure," I said. And then she'd call my bluff.

"Let's go," she'd say, and make a gesture as if she was getting out of bed.

I stopped saying "sure" when she'd ask, and instead said, "I'll talk to your kids about it in the morning." And then Grandma would get upset with me and give me the gesture that says, "Forget you!" Well, not that gesture. It was more of a wave-of-the-hand gesture, but I got her meaning.

Another lady came in and administered her some medicine. I asked her if it would help Grandma sleep. She said that was one of the side effects, but that it was for anxiety.

Grandma asked if I'd like to stay the night. I told her I'd stay with her until she fell asleep. (Mind you, you don't talk normally with Grandma. You have to yell so she can hear you.) That didn't make her very happy either.

We watched some basketball, Grandma's favorite sport to watch. And then we watched part of the Olympics. I think I was keeping Grandma awake, as I would catch her nodding off.

She asked me if I had someplace to be. I told her no. Then she asked where my husband was. I told her for the dozenth time that he was on a daddy-daughters date. She told me they would be waiting for me.

I got the hint. She was ready for me to leave. I kissed her goodbye and told her I loved her, and I left.

I'm not sure my visit did any good. It seemed to bring her more disappointment than anything.

Next time I visit, I'll bring my kids. Seeing the little girls always cheers Grandma up. And she likely won't ask to come home with me, because although she loves seeing kids, she doesn't like living with kids.

And when looking into my future, it's nice to be surrounded by those I cherish most.


Christensen's Craziness said...

Mom says she doesn't remember who she is, but sometimes remembers my dad which is odd.

Petit Elefant said...

Ug. This is the hardest part of grandparents getting old. I really didn't love it, seeing them frail and unsure. Sigh. She's a great one though, even though she's ornery, I liked her a lot.

MarySquare said...

We went to see Grandma at Thanksgiving and we caught her lounging on her bed. She really did like having the little kids there. Eddie kept hugging that life-sized dog and that made her happy. But, she kept asking over and over who we were and she would nod like, "oh, yeah, of course" like she was covering up that she forgot.

I was amazed that she wasn't scared of us. I really don't think she knew who we were but because we told her we were her family, she trusted us. If I kept forgetting who everyone was I think I would be super paranoid -- and maybe that is where she is heading. But when we were there she trusted Hans and I and let us give her kisses and took pictures with us.

It makes me sad to think she's on her way out. And I so so so know that hand gesture you're talking about. The little hand flick/wave. That move was employed on me dozens of times!

MarySquare said...

Oh, and after our visit with Grandma, for several weeks after Minnie was a little worried that she'd start losing her hearing. We'd have to reassure her that you only have to yell for Grandma McEuen, most other people aren't that deaf.

Sometimes she'll still say when we catch her talking too loud "We'll I have to talk that loud for Grandma McEuen." or something like that.

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Shake-N-Bake said...

Cindy, I don't know if you remember me, Tiffany Lammons, my mom is VJ, who dated Fred for many years. Reading this brought me to tears. I love your beautiful Grandma McEuen like she is my own. I have had the opportunity to work with Alzheimers patients, they are my favorite! What was hard for me was the families, so heart-breaking to see them wanting their family member to know them and remember them. Grandma McEuen is an amazing woman! I feel blessed and know I am a better person for knowing her! Thank you for writing about her!

Shannon said...

Thanks for sharing your visit. There's something we learn in the details and in the moments we feel like we maybe didn't do any good. Good is done just not how we expect it.

Anonymous said...


Keri said...

I just got word from my mom that your Grandma passed away. I have a lot of great memories of her and her home. I think one of my funniest memories of her was a gift she gave me for my bridal shower...a sassy black nightie. She was quite the lady, and she will be greatly missed.

Morkthefied said...

Thanks, Keri. Her funeral was on your birthday, and I completely forgot to call and wish you a happy one. It was a nice funeral. I'll be posting more about it in the weeks to come.

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