Over the weekend, my family came together to begin the process of moving my grandmother to a long-term care facility.
She is in the middle stages of vascular dementia, caused by a series of mini-strokes that have cut off blood flow to parts of her brain over the years (with symptoms that aren’t all too different from Alzheimer’s).
We organized and boxed up treasures and junk, and years of papers, magazines, photos and clutter, getting her home ready to list on the market. Right now, we don’t have the luxury of time to sit around and read the notes that my mother wrote home from college in the ‘70s (though, I did skim it and laughed at how she sounded as a teen), or look through the photos of their early lives; we’ll get to that when things are more settled.
Now that we’re to this point, it’s begun to sink in that cognitive diseases are extremely hard to deal with for patients and caregivers. It will take a group effort from my grandmother’s family and friends to help her – and each other – through this emotional time.
I began looking online for resources to help us make informed decisions going forward. The Alzheimer’s Association has a lot of great information, a 24/7 helpline, programs for education and support, access to local support groups and online message boards. Most hospitals around have caregiver support groups, and there are several books available on the topics of caring for those with dementia. The National Institute on Aging also offers a wealth of knowledge about cognitive diseases.
One really interesting thing I’ve found is an online community for friends and family to sign up and see a shared calendar of activities, lists of medications, doctor contact information, a place to share announcements and more.
We are getting to the point that decisions about my grandmother’s future have to be made – typically without her input – which is hard for my parents, aunts and uncles: to make major life choices for the person that gave them life.
But, being prepared ahead of time with proven resources and a bit of organization will be one of the more important things that we are able to do for my grandmother. If you’re in a similar situation, I urge you to do some research and find these answers for your family as well.