I’ve been helping to care for my grandmother for about a year and a half now. I try to research solutions to problems that occur due to her vascular dementia. However as her dementia progresses, it’s getting harder and harder to find answers on the internet. Many of my problems stem from her current fixation: asking about my aunt 24/7. Sometimes she won’t mention her more than 2 times during my visits, or she will fixate on trying to see her, to the point she doesn’t want to do anything else. Sometimes she will think my aunt has abandoned her, or won’t believe me when I say that she will see her again within the week. There was even one occasion that she woke up totally distraught, asking me to help her, asking me if my aunt is still alive, and has anyone seen her. Trying to distract/console her only gets her more worked up. The only solution has been to call my aunt and let her talk to my grandma. I can’t always do this because my aunt has to work, or she’s simply at home, and needs a break. (I try to tell grandma that she has her own children that she needs to take care of.) Grandma sees my aunt every other day, sometimes more, yet it never seems to be enough. My aunt has written notes so my grandma knows that she is thinking about her, and has given her stuffed animals to hug, and talks to her on the phone.but that’s not good either. She’s always convinced that she hasn’t seen my aunt in years, and that they have so much to talk about because it’s been so long. Sometimes she’ll get up from the couch, and when I ask where she’s going, she becomes distressed and says that I told her we were going to my aunt’s house (of course, I did not). I tell her the truth rather than distract her, that she has to wait, and that my aunt needs to work/parent, and that just totally deflates her every time. She immediately becomes sullen and stops smiling, reacting, or speaking. She barely even wants to move. Sometimes she takes her anger out on me (which I understand, and try to be as patient with her about it as possible), or she’ll get angry at my aunt, asking why my aunt doesn’t bother to visit her, or make time for her. I’ve even heard her singing a song about how she’s been looking “Up, down, left, right, and all around” for my aunt. As her dementia progresses, her clinginess gets worse. Today she refused to let me wipe her off after she used the bathroom unless my aunt came over.This resulted in a two hour period of me trying to clean her as she ran from me, trying to get her to stop leaving the bathroom, trying to stop her from making a mess, trying to get her to hold still, and giving up and letting her lay on a towel while trying to research what to do. I finally just firmly made her get in the shower (which I felt awful about, since they cause her so much stress.) and tried to clean her as quickly as possible. I’m starting to get worried that this is a sign that this situation will get worse, and her attachment will impact literally every aspect of her life. I want to continue caring for her. Overall it has been a joy, and has given me something to do. I feel determined to not get burnt out, or give up, and try to help her with this as much as I can. Has anyone else had a situation like this, or can offer any advice? Anything is appreciated.
Since a phone call with your Aunt seems to work, you want may to try a recording of your aunt's voice telling your grandmother she's at work now and will come by later or tomorrow to see her.
Another suggestion is to walk away and allow the situation to cool a bit. Does your grandmother wear an incontinence panty/underwear? If so, sometimes it's better to give in for the moment, in this case allow her to leave the bath before she gets cleaned rather than having a battle trying to get her clean now. Depend on the incontinence panty to contain the mess for a few minutes and try again to get her clean and change the panty. Beware of battles in the bathroom itself too. The echo effect can make our voices louder and the louder volume combined with the confined space may make escalate your grandmother's confusion and resistance. It may be easier to clean her up in a larger bedroom using disposable wipes.
You know rationally that your Grandma can't see, find or should call your Aunt all day. But sadly, she can't. Maybe try to engage with your Grandma's emotion around it? Does she miss her? Worry where she is? Not remember the last visit?
Is there a nice photo of them together? Can you ask about the photo? Where were they? What did they like to do together? Or even better, a photo album she can look though & relive some happy memories/feelings.
If the *call Aunt* is still on reply, maybe talk about what Aunt is doing, she's at work now, she's shopping, she's coming tomorrow. Then redirect into another activity as best you can. It takes so much patience. Just keep looking for glimpses of your Grandma - she will still be there despite the problems.
If this is new and a distinct change in grandma's mental status, it might be that she has a UTI, which can cause psychiatric symptoms.
Bit if this is simply an advancing of the vascular dementia, then it may be time for some meds for anxiety and agitation.
Have you watched any Teepa Snow videos on talking to dementia patients?