Hmm, well, this might get quite long.. I just need to talk to someone about all this.
So three years ago this October my grandad died.. and my grandmother, having been married for almost sixty years, and having come from a very large family before that, really couldn't cope on her own. She could manage all household and personal tasks and what not.. but she got really lonely and frightened.. so two years ago she moved in with me and my parents.
It was all fine..ish for a while. But in the last year or so she's been getting very confused and forgetful. She can't remember that this is her home now, and she often doesn't know who my dad is, and very often she thinks I am her daughter and has no idea who her actual daughter is. But she has no problems with dressing/washing/eating etc, and she can make cups of tea, do crosswords and tell me how to cook, clean and bake things when I ask her for help. Some days she seems totally fine, and other days, she cries all day and asks me who I am and who my mum is over and over again. Is that normal for dementia? That she seems to get better sometimes?
She's obsessed with houses and where she used to live, and asks me again and again where we are and what happened to her old houses and why she isn't there any more.
She gets very very anxious. She will not be alone, not even for half an hour. If my mum is at work, I have to sit in the living room with her every waking hour till I can get her to go to bed at 11.30ish.
My dad is not much help. She’s his mother in law, and he’s not a very caring person to start with. He doesn’t like her and doesn’t want her living here and he’s often mean to her. Trying to talk to him about this is entirely hopeless. He just shouts at me. So it’s almost entirely coming down to me to take care of her. She doesn’t need any help with dressing or washing or those things, but she’s very demanding emotionally. She needs me all the time. I can’t go out, or even just upstairs. My friends have stopped asking me to go out because they know the answer is always no.
I don’t mind really, I can do it, it’s just that, I’m eighteen and I’m going to university in October, and I don’t know how my mum or grandma are going to manage when I’m not here.
My grandma cries every day saying how much she’s going to miss me and how she won’t cope without me. She’s always saying she’s going to move back to Wigan (where she lived until she was about 60) and that all her friends and family would visit her all the time and she wouldn’t be lonely.. but all her friends and family are dead. She has me and my mum, and one niece, and one friend. We don’t have any family, or neighbours, and my parents have no friends because they’re both so busy… and there’s just no one to help.
No one she used to know from her old village call or visit anymore, because she’s confused and repetitive, and I’m so angry with all of them. It wouldn’t kill them to phone once in a while or to invite her to the odd thing they used to. I’ve come close to phoning them myself and telling them what I think.
She phones her niece sometimes, and I’ve heard her saying really confused things, or leaving very odd answerphone messages, meaning her niece now hardly ever phones because she doesn’t want to deal with it. It annoys me so much. It’s so selfish.
My mum is extremely unhappy. It’s alright for me really, because when it comes to it, I’m moving out soon. But my mum is here every day, with no breaks, ever, and absolutely no one to help her. She has her own health problems, and a job, and her own interests which she can never pursue. She’s always in tears and snapping at me and I have no idea how she’s going to cope without me. She says when I’m not here she doesn’t want to come home.
My grandma is not officially diagnosed with anything, and there’s no way we could get her to a doctor, because she doesn’t think she has any problems, she just blames everyone else, saying her daughter ‘hasn’t phoned her for years,’ or ‘has moved to Canada and never come to visit,’ and ‘all her relatives have abandoned her.’
She accuses us of having taken the money from when she sold her house, when really it’s in an account belonging to her, and having sold her furniture, when it’s all in our house, and ‘never speaking to her,’ when I sit with her literally every minute we both have and talk to her for hours. She won’t go to any day cares or clubs and we’ve suggested a befriending service to her for when I leave, but she was horrified, saying ‘she doesn’t need a babysitter.’
But if she’s alone for an hour she’s crying and panicking and very confused. The only way to keep her on an even keel is to constantly sit with her.
I’ve read about these ‘care assessments’ that you have to get before you can get help, but there’s no way my grandma would agree to that. She thinks she’s fine. When people talk to her, she can come across perfectly normal, if you don’t know what she’s saying just isn’t true, or is all muddled. Without being around her for a while you wouldn’t necessarily notice anything wrong. And she doesn’t remember being forgetful, or that this morning she didn’t know who I was, so there’s no way to address her about it.
It’s destroying my family. I never speak to my parents really, only functionally and to get instructions. My parents hardly talk, and when they do it’s just my dad complaining to my mum about my grandmother. And I’m starting to get angry with every single one of them.
I don’t know if this is selfish… but I’m only eighteen, and I don’t feel like I should be taking care of everyone like this. All my friends are being young and jolly and going out, and I’m on a 24/7 loop of Antiques Roadshow and explaining ‘No, I’m your granddaughter.’ I’ve hardly done anything I intended to this summer, when it was my A Levels I could barely revise, and every time I go out even for a little while, I just come home to crying and guilt-tripping. My best friend, the only person I could really talk to about this, just moved to Brazil, if I ever try to talk to my mother it just becomes a competition over who has it worse – and I always lose, and I’m just feeling… really alone.
I’ve asked my mother to try and get us some help, but she says we can’t afford it. She won’t look into anything. My grandmother won’t have any help, unless it’s me, and I just… ugh. I’m so fed up.
I mean... We've had quite a good day today, she's been pretty much normal and knowing who and what everything is, and I've got her watching Ken Dodd now.. It's so great to hear her laughing, like she used to. I really miss when she used to take care of me. She's been more or less her old self today, and that's been great.. but days like this are often followed by really bad days
I just... I don’t really know what to do to make things better.