Thursday, September 16, 2010

Misty Water Colored Memories

This blog has nothing to do with my mother. i just need to get some things that are on my mind out so I can sleep.

My grandmother has Alzheimer's. For a while now my primary source of income has been getting her out of the care home she's living at and taking her around.

At first it was neat. I like spending time with my grandma, and I understand a lot more about memory disorders than most people. It was just a matter of being patient and repeating the answers to her questions as often as she needed until it sunk in.

She always wants to do the exact same thing every time we go out. Her favorite restaurant is Porter Street Barbecue and I think she'd eat their sandwiches for every single meal if she could. She also loves ice cream, so we go to Bon Bonnier. She loves movies so we go and see one about once a week. When it's warm we go to the beach.

This sort of predictability has sort of been like a controlled environment for observing an experiment. We do the same thing over and over and over again, and eventually I start noticing patterns. She always has to get her purse, then go to the bathroom before we leave, so she sets down her purse. Then when she comes out she has to find it, and as soon as she picks it up she decides she has to use the bathroom. Something about picking up her purse and starting to leave triggers a habit of using the bathroom first.

When we're going to Bon Bonnier she sees the art gallery and has to go in every time. When inside she says that this one particular painting reminds her of her sister. On days that she goes to the gallery and sees that painting she gets Bing Cherry ice cream because her sister liked cherry ice cream. Other days she gets mint chocolate chip or green tea, because she likes green.

When we get done and I have to take her back she starts to recognize the streets we turn on and gets antsy, though she doesn't know why. When we pull up in front of the care home she thinks we're visiting someone that she doesn't like and asks if we have to stop there, and why. When we go inside she discovers her room and looks for her cat. If the people at the care home have let the cat out, she gets nervous and frantic and thinks he's never coming back. Those are the days that it's easiest to leave. She wants to find him and that's all she's thinking about. If the cat is there, then she collects him up and starts to try to leave saying that she's glad we came to get him before we went home.

That's when things start to get rough. She really, really doesn't not like it there. It doesn't come out to badly most of the time, but when I try to leave she starts asking me why she can't go home. She gets both angry at the people she lives with and very sad. I tell her that this is where she lives now, and she flat out doesn't believe me, even though she can't remember where her old house is, what it looks like, or anything at all about it. She simply *knows* that the care home isn't home. When I try to leave she tries to come with me, thinking that I've just gotten there and that I'm about to take her out to a movie. Generally I tell her I have to go to work and that I'll be back to see her in a few days.

It's heartbreaking. It used to be a bit more spread around between the family, but now with my mom hurt and my dad taking care of her, I see my grandmother more than anyone. She's definitely worse than she was, and very unhappy where she is. She knows something is wrong, but doesn't know what, and it's no use explaining it to her because she will forget within a few minutes. So about three times a week I get to take my grandmother away from the place that she hates, let her believe I'm taking her home, and then drop her back off again. It's hard not to be angry. I try to remember that it's a minor thing compared to all the other crap that's been happening lately, but it's like a grind stone and it's slowly wearing through.

I wonder what I would do if I were ever faced with a condition as horrible as this. I'd like to think I'd have the guts to drink a nice tall Kevorkian Special, but the truth is I probably wouldn't be able to. I'd be convinced I could come up with a system to allow me to function. I've dealt with memory issues my whole life, and there are tricks. Maybe I could.

Maybe I've watched Memento one to many times.