My grandmother has dementia

While growing up, I was always my maternal grandmother's favorite. She was a sweet and kindhearted woman with few bad things to say about anybody; the worst sentiment that she seemed to hold towards another human being was that they simply didn't understand how what they were doing was making other people feel. She was a product of her generation; the good housewife, the good mother, but she did run a tight ship, and knew when to put her foot down... at least, as I've had it described to me. I never experienced anything but a gentle warmth and a tolerance from her. She loved having me around. I was able to relax when I was at my grandparents' house, much more so than when I was at home. At home, I felt like I was always being scrutinized for the value of my actions. Not so around my grandparents. I had three older cousins, and seven younger, plus a sister, but like I said, I was her favorite. 

I never really had a plan, never knew what I wanted to do with my life. I'm approaching middle-aged now--no more than a few years away--and I still don't know. I'm slowly starting to reach a point where I'm standing up on my own in a way that isn't dependent upon fickle superiors at entry-level jobs. I've always worked a variable schedule, with a fluctuating amount of hours, often split between two or three part-time positions, and I've never done anything that I enjoyed. I've never even done anything that felt satisfying, fulfilling, or worth the time that I was spending on it. I've never been what I felt to be fairly compensated for my work. I don't think I'm alone in that, of course, but a person needs to look out for themselves first--nobody else is going to, and I know myself better than anyone else does in any case.

I stopped talking to my grandparents about ten years ago. It wasn't deliberate; we grew apart. I became a little more withdrawn than I was when I was a child. After years of being told that I was awkward, that I made people uncomfortable, I started believing it--despite the evidence to the contrary: successful relationships, several good friends, and a good time being had whenever I went out with friends to grab dinner or to catch a movie. I think, maybe, that I'm the only person who's been really unhappy with myself, but it's hard to shake the notion that I'm an enormous disappointment to the people who've stood by me... and few have done so as solidly as my grandparents, in particular my grandmother. I think my long silence hurt her, though I was never reproached for it. Not by anyone.

A number of years ago, my parents told me that she had dementia now, and that she was getting worse. They asked me to write her a letter. I sat down and wrote a three-page handwritten letter, perhaps the third one I'd ever written in my life--it's just not my thing. I sent it to them, and was told that it was too complicated for her, so they weren't including it with the rest of the family's letters. I haven't written a letter to anyone since; that hurt. It hurt a lot more than I understood, at the time. It still hurts. I told my grandmother about my first successful long-term, live-in relationship in that letter. I told her about making friends, finding work on my own, going to school to continue my education, and doing all of this without anybody's help. I was late to that theater. Later than most. 

Apparently, there was a fight between my grandmother and my grandfather not long after this. She didn't remember who he was. She accused him of trying to kidnap her when he came to visit her in the nursing home where she's being cared for. She had to be strapped down to avoid hurting herself. She has a boyfriend there now. She's forgotten more than 50 years of marriage to my grandfather. My parents went to visit her a while back; I asked if I might come along, but they said it would only be painful as she "wouldn't remember me." I have no contact with my grandfather. I'm a grown man; I wish my parents would be supportive of my decisions, for once. I'm tired of feeling like I'm being wrapped in a blanket, like a pillow is being thrown in front of me so that I trip and fall onto it at every turn, only to be told that my falling clearly demonstrates the need for its being there. 

I just found out that she has pneumonia, and has been motionless and largely unconscious in bed, slowly drowning in her own fluids, for the last two weeks. It's the third time that's happened, only for her to turn around and suddenly make a "recovery." I think that calling her brief, fitful turnarounds a "recovery" is a sick joke that somebody ought to be beaten for making, I really do. It's excruciating, imagining her slow death... its being averted... her dying again; this time, we've been told to wait and "expect bad news," but on further investigation I'm told she's no worse off moment by moment than she's been before. 

Someone should unplug her. Someone should put a needle in her arm. She deserves mercy. She's my grandmother, and I've let her down, and now she's lingering on in pain, and I just wish she'd die already. My grandfather, her husband; he's going through cancer treatment. It's in remission, but it'll come back, then go into remission again... he's mobile, and living independently, and apparently doing "alright" for a man in his 80s. I feel like they're both clinging to life, lingering on, after ten years of no communication, waiting for me to do something to prove the worthiness of my existence. I also feel like I'm shit for making their suffering about me somehow, but I can't help the feeling that I've let them down. It's a disgusting feeling. 

I wish that my grandmother would die, and find some peace. I'm not sure who I wish that for, but I wish it. This needs to end. 

User Comments

It sounds like you had a rough time with your parents not understanding how you felt. I know it hurt, but I'm sure they wanted to help. There are a lot of new treatments and therapies coming out for various forms of dementia; I wish you, and your grandmother, the very best for the future.