The middle of July through the end of the year is a difficult time for my family and me. We are reminded that the world continues to spin and time keeps moving forward even after a great loss. Although this difficult time does not directly pertain to Alzheimer’s and Dementia it may hit home with some of you. My thoughts are unorganized and the words don’t flow smoothly together. My lack of focus can leave my mind foggy and my body exhausted. I guess grief can do that to you.
Experts say there are seven stages of grief. I’ve found that these stages do not go in any particular order and are often repeated. These stages are Shock and Disbelief, Denial, Pain, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance/Hope. There are also different types of losses that we grieve. Of course, the loss of a Loved One to death’s door is the one most people associate with grief. Some other losses we mourn are Loss of Relationships, Employment, and Health.
Grief is exhausting and can become very overwhelming. I’ve learned that you need to feel your feelings and talk about them. As painful as that may sound, and it is painful, you have to give space to them. If not, that emotion will begin to fester and intensify until the blister finally pops. Leaving an uncontrollable ooze of negativity that can push you into a very dark place.
In that first year of my journey with grief, I stuffed my many painful emotions into a “closet”. Struggling every day to keep those “monsters” hidden behind that bulging “closet door”. I was so very afraid to confront those monstrosities of soul-shattering pain. I was using all my strength and every ounce of energy to forcefully keep that “door” shut. I found myself in a very dark place. I was very fortunate to find a safe place to allow those “monsters” out of the “closet” and talk about my shattered heart, lost hope and disappearing dreams.
Don’t Let Grief Guide Your Path
The old adage “Time heals all wounds”, is not completely true for me. Time does not heal all wounds. Even when the wounds appear to heal, there are scars left behind. These scars are a reminder of our brokenness and the strength it took to gather those pieces and put ourselves back together. Time does not heal, but using that time to learn to feel our feelings does somewhat in time ease the pain just a little. This allows us to cope with these scars without allowing them to define who we are.
Grief is difficult. Give yourself permission to talk about it. Talking about it takes away its power to consume you. Don’t let grief guide your path. Find a comfortable balance that allows grief to walk with you through this thing we call life.
When you are fortunate enough to be able to care for your Loved One Living with Alzheimer’s at home ….. There is a constant question looming over your head. How will you know when it’s time to place your loved one in a facility? This is a very sensitive question for most people and the answer does not come easily. My family needed to face that question about a year and a half into caring for Gram at home.
In the beginning, we had several family members and some trusted people from the community to help Gram stay at home. Gram had a sum of money in the bank and we were able to secure a grant from the county and state to help pay them. Acquiring that grant is a whole other story. In-home care is expensive, especially when supervision is required 24/7. Of course, then there’s the challenge of maintaining a caregiving schedule and balancing our own jobs and families. At first, it was an exciting challenge that we met head-on. Then the excitement wore off and we were just left with challenges. Do not get me wrong, I feel blessed to have been able to spend that time with my Gram. But it was not an easy task.
An abundant array of choice words.
Gram didn’t like a couple of the caregivers and she did not hide her dislike for them. There was many an occasion that she had an abundant array of choice words for her family too. My thought is that it comes with the territory. Being her granddaughter….. I felt I could approach the situation a little differently than I would if I were a nonrelated caregiver by being assertive and straightforward. My Gram referred to me as the “Bossy Redheaded B*tch”. Which to this day I proudly shoulder with a smile. Others were not able to separate the nasty name-calling and meanness from the Gram we knew. So, our help became scarce and volunteers were not knocking down our doors to expose themselves to this side of our beloved Gram. A very wonderful handful of caregivers did stick around and became “family”.
Wonderful handful of caregivers
Eventually, money became tight and the caregivers who choose to be private pay had to take a pay cut. Our family began to cover more shifts. Also, the county and state grant payee company lost their contract and we were faced with a several weeks delay of payment for the hours allotted for our loyal caregivers. It seemed as though this whole thing was falling apart. Our family began silently holding in grudges. Then the silence was broken and feelings got hurt. We began looking for facilities. I will leave this struggle for another story.
So for Gram’s family, the decision came down to finances. Looking back, there are quite a few things we should have done differently. But we were new to this struggle and did the best we could do at that time. There are no magical keys to this aspect of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or Dementia. Other families face this decision under different circumstances. Some may be confronted by the primary caregiver becoming ill or emotional exhaustion may set in. Whatever leads these families to decide to place their loved one in a facility, it is not an easy decision. It comes down to a very over thought, emotional, personal soul-searching realization that it is finally time to put their loved one in the hands of someone else.
My grandma was in her late 80’s and my mom had left for her annual vacation….as usual I told my mom I would check in on Gram while she was gone. My mom was Grams source of transportation and had been since grandpa passed away many years ago, Gram never drove. I almost always visited on the weekends and Gram was really enjoying my mid-week visits while mom was on vacation. Since I was spending more time with Gram I got a chance to snoop around a little more than usual……as granddaughters sometimes do. Once I really looked around….. I noticed her house was more untidy than I remembered and I found several unpaid bills.
Gram was always good with her finances. Keeping her checkbook balanced, always having to have a certain amount of money in the bank or she thought she was broke. She’d been the treasurer at our church for some forty years. She’d been an Avon lady for some twenty years….. although looking back now my mom and I had been helping her fill out her merchandise order forms for a few years prior. But I thought that had more to do with her visual decline due to macular degeneration.
When my mom returned home from her vacation I told her about the unpaid bills, things being stuffed in strange places and boxes and boxes of just papers and papers and more papers. At that point, we decided it was time for Gram to have some additional help from us. The more time we spent with her, the more we realized her abilities to care for herself were declining. Gram had been living by herself for over sixteen years now so she welcomed the added attention from her family.
My mom had been asking for some time now for Gram to let her have access to her checking account. Gram had agreed to have my mom’s name added to the account and the checks but prior to this Gram would not allow her to do anything with it. Although Gram enjoyed us making her food and doing her laundry she was very resistant to relinquish any control of her checkbook.
Our Care Giving Journey
Thus began our caregiving journey with Gram….. none of which I would trade for anything. I’ve asked my family and other caregivers to share the stories of their time spent with Gram. I’m looking forward to sharing the laughter and the tears with all of you.