Pages

December 21, 2012

declining

Yesterday was a day that I've been waiting for for weeks: Grandma's doctor appointment. I knew it would be integral in determining next steps.

On the five minute ride there, she asked three times where we were going. When we got there, she asked five times why we were there, eventually whispering the question to my dad because Grandpa started answering with Ger, please..., a sign that his patience with her was wearing thin. 

When we were called into the exam room, Grandpa stayed behind and my dad and I went. The nurse took Grandma's weight and blood pressure and asked her if she felt safe in her home. Yeah, why wouldn't I? she answered. 

The nurse asked if they were living alone. Yes, was Grandma's quick reply.  I added in the parts she doesn't remember: that my dad and I stop by everyday to lay out clothes for Grandma, empty the waste basket filled with her adult briefs, throw dirty clothes down the chute and make sure she takes the pills that Grandpa has diligently laid out on the kitchen table. I tell the nurse that I come by twice a week to bathe her and do her laundry. Grandma listens but only reacts when I say, No, there's no danger of the stove being left on because I'm the only one that cooks.  She looks at me and says, Well, I make banana bread sometimes.

When the doctor comes in, the scene replays. Grandma tells him things that haven't happened for years. My dad and I shake our heads in the background, and when he meets our eyes, he smiles and nods reassuringly.

When we go over her list of medications, I ask about the expensive one she takes for her dementia, the one that doesn't seem to be doing anything except give Grandpa something to complain about. 

We explain the decline we've seen over the past year and how it's become more rapid. He tells us that the medication is meant to slow the progress of her dementia and that because she is still declining at a noticeable rate, it can be discontinued. The subtext of his statement is there is nothing to do except wait.

My dad stays back to speak with the doctor as I walk Grandma out. When she sees Grandpa in the lobby, she greets him enthusiastically, obviously having forgotten that he was waiting for her there. 

My dad and I walk to the car alone and he tells me what the doctor said: that her long term memory will go eventually and it would be wise to move them out of their home soon. I already know this. What I don't know is how to tell Grandpa. 

I have my chance while Grandma is getting her hair cut. We are sitting in the waiting area. 

When I tell him what the doctor said, about how she'll eventually forget who we are, his eyes fill with tears as he asks, Even me? My heart breaks as I say, Yes, probably you, too. We talk more about the future, what he wants to do.  It's a hard conversation but an honest one.

While the next steps are clear, they will not be easy. I covet your prayers for my family for an abundance of grace, patience and love.
 


2 comments:

  1. Two of my family members passed away this year because of mental health issues. My Grandpa was 80, but for my aunt it seemed to soon. I sometimes wish I had been more involved in their lives as they went through that. Anyway, just got a little teary eyed reading this.. all the best to your family.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh my, I got teary eyed too. We can all see how much you love your grandma and how hard it is, especially for your grandpa. I am definitely praying for peace, patience, and that you have a lot more quality time with your grandparents.

    ReplyDelete