Learning a New Way to Be a Granddaughter
For World Alzheimer's Month, a writer shares what she learned after her grandfather was diagnosed.
And while "Downtown," as folks like to call South Central these days, isn't Boyz N the Hood, it's definitely not The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Still, with a trustworthy caregiver cooking his meals, cleaning up and monitoring his medicine from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, my grandfather was stable. He didn't want to move.
He'd just lost his wife, and simple things like counting his change before leaving the grocery store had become a problem. One of the key treatments for Alzheimer's sufferers is to keep their living space clean and household items in the same place, from food to soap and towels. Routine provides ease in a life filled with confusion.
I didn't think it was a good time to move him away from his comfort zone, either, but my mother wanted him closer to her. She worried about the dangerous things that often happen in poor neighborhoods, like robberies or scams from those who go door-to-door to prey on seniors.
After numerous conversations, we all agreed that he'd stay in Los Angeles until he was unable to live alone. Eventually, however, the traveling back and forth from Northern to Southern California to oversee doctor's appointments and handle errands around the house she'd grown up in took a toll on my mother. She, one of 15 million Americans (pdf) who provide unpaid care for a person with Alzheimer's, was constantly exhausted and unable to focus at her postretirement job, and she saw her husband only sporadically.
Hiring a Caregiver
Fortunately, we continued to employ the wonderful caregiver who had been managing both of my grandparents before my granny's death. But then we found ourselves looking for a weekend employee, and finding someone the family trusts not only with an Alzheimer's sufferer but also with the care of a house, finances and a car is extremely tough.
My mother handed me that duty when I traveled to Los Angeles in 2010 -- I'm a freelancer, and if I have my laptop and my cellphone, I can work anywhere -- to care for my grandfather and give her a break. I wasn't new to this hiring process; before my granny passed, I'd brought on and trained a weekend nurse for my grandparents through a company called Aftercare, but this was different.