The Alzheimer’s Threat

Since Doodicus was a baby, his grandma, my mom, has spent one day of the week watching the kids. It’s been a wonderful opportunity for all of us. As you know, my mother’s declining mental health has made many day-to-day tasks challenging. Initially diagnosed with early dementia, she is now in the early, but moderate, stages of Alzheimer’s and on several different medications.

These were prescribed with the intent to slow the affects of the disease, but they only work when they are taken consistently. How do you get someone who cannot remember what day or time it is to take their Monday morning dose? My brother who lives within a couple minutes from the farm, stops in almost daily to see if she’s taken her medicines, but he’s reported there are times he hasn’t been over for two or three days to discover she’s not taken anything.

When I talk to her on the phone, I can tell when she’s been taking her medicine as prescribed. She happy, content, talkative and rarely repeats herself. Without, she’s brusque, bitchy and can’t remember what the topic was from the five minutes before, if she even stays on the phone that long without hanging up without so much as a "good-bye" or "Love you". A couple weeks ago, I had asked if she could come to watch Aitch on Tuesdays instead of Mondays because I have Tuesday afternoons off. I can keep a better eye on her and let her go home earlier as she’s so exhausted by noon. She remembered and I was relieved. Tuesday passed without a hitch except she left her glasses behind. Two days later, as we were eating breakfast, she rang the bell and I went to the door puzzled by her unexpected visit (mind you, it’s a 25 mile drive). I thought it was because she had forgotten her glasses and she had some kind of appointment in town and was stopping by to pick them up. I asked if she wanted to spend the day with Aitch since she was in town. She said, "Well, that’s why I’m here. Your dad said I was suppose to come up." I hadn’t talked to my dad in a couple of weeks and certainly had not told him that mom was to be at our house that day.

We discovered she wasn’t taking her medication again. Sunday I called her, and since I was in a shit mood, having sat at the table with Doodicus for four hours trying to get him through his homework, I told her simply that if she didn’t take her medicine as prescribed, she couldn’t watch the kids anymore. I feared for her safety and I feared for the welfare of my kids. She’s incapable of using the cell-phone we leave at the house for emergencies. Against my repeated requests, she lets Aitch play in her car, which seems to always result in the key getting turned over or the lights turned on leaving her a dead car battery at the end of the day. (Yes, grandma stays with her, but what if mom collapses in the car and my daughter has the key or can’t open the door on a hot day…I go into a panic just thinking about it.)

Sparring Partner has had enough, too. He will drive home over lunch to make sure they are eating and almost always finds Aitch sitting in the living room in front of the TV with a glass of soda (which we don’t allow her to have, much less have in the living room, much, MUCH less in an open glass!) eating marshmallows out of the bag or he’s picking up a dozen tootsie roll wrappers littered across the house. It’s like grandma just doesn’t give a shit.

My mom use to talk with so much scorn about the people who would end up in the nursing home "batshit crazy and not knowing what day it is" and claiming she would never want to end up that way, and yet here she is, one step away, and it’s pissing me off. My mom and dad despise each other (another long story) so they only live in the same house, refusing to help each other. Dad’s not going to remind her to take her medicine; mom won’t ask dad to remind her to take her medicine. I’ve offered to buy my mom a pill dispenser that has an audio alarm, but she doesn’t want it. Won’t use it. And sure, I can threaten that she can’t come up and spend the day alone with the kids, but what good does that do when she doesn’t even remember the threat?

The thoughts I have about the situation are selfish and ugly. I am already feeling the crushing weight from what is going on with Doodicus, and frankly I just want someone else to just make it all go away.