Sunday, November 2, 2008
My Visit to See Grandma
My grandmother will be 88 next month. She's spent the last 18 months in a nursing home in the Bronx after being diagnosed with dementia. Fiercely independent, she'd lived alone in the same a one-bedroom apartment in Harlem for over 50 years.
Last week, I got a call from her doctor that she'd fallen out of bed and broken her forearm. She had to be taken to a nearby hospital for x-rays and returned to the nursing home two days later. Today I finally got down to visit and she looked incredibly small and frail. Her speech is getting worse (she mumbles most everything she says) and she just seems to have lost her spunk. I don't know what to do with that.
My house is exactly 70 miles away from the nursing home. I'm only able to get down to visit about once a month. She's always happy to see me (although she calls me by my mother's name), but I really don't know much about her day-to-day in the hours I'm not there. Her best buddy is her roommate, Ms. Nancy, whose house my grandmother thought for the longest time she was actually staying in. I've thought about moving grandma to a nursing home upstate, but because she had adjusted and seemed comfortable, it didn't seem necessary. But now Ms. Nancy is in the hospital and has been for about a month and my grandmother just doesn't seem to be thriving like before.
Dementia is such an ugly thing, robbing its victims of their memories and even their words. I hate most that it seems to make its victims complacent; my grandmother and most of the other people on her floor seem totally oblivious to the lives they had before they had to pack up and move everything into a 10' x 20' room.
So what will the next visit be like? How long will it be before she no longer knows my son's name or even remembers me? Perhaps this is scarier for us - the family that knew her well before the brain synapses began to fail - than it is for her. We can kind of guess at what is coming. She has no idea...