How do I approach my grandmother and grandfather about my grandmother possibly having dementia?


Hi My name is Amanda,
I recently moved back in with my grandparents because I noticed that they were both becoming more tired and just run down from the people they were just a year before. My grandparents are the kindest amazing people and have always been there for me and have taken care of me since I was little. So now it's my turn to return the favor. I noticed that my grandmother often repeats herself, her sentences don't make since all the time. She will use random words in a sentence or often forget the word she meant. She sometimes forgets how to answer the phone or use the remote to the TV. She has always been an anxious woman and is sooooo concerned about us all but recently she has become more anxious. She often talks down on herself calling herself stupid and why did she do that etc. I am 27 and she freaks out when I do the dishes or help her in any way or when the newspaper doesn't come on time. I'm not sure if she has been diagnosed because she has so many doctors I can't keep track of who any of them are. My grandparents are very private people and don't share these serious things with me so how do I even start to address this with them? Do I ask my grandma about this? How do I ask my grandfather about this? How do I help without indicating that they need the help. My mother is in denial and won't talk about the reality of the situation so it's up to me to be here. I am just so upset at this realization that I don't know where to start or who I can turn to. Please any help anyone could give me would be sooooooo much help.

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Say that you were raised to help with the dishes so it is you turn - if you are living with them then of course you help - ask grandma which chores she would like you to do or can you pick your own - watch which ones she is starting to have trouble with & do those - because you are too much like her [use a bit of flattery here] to just sit & be waited on

However doing these may be part of her routine & with dementia some people hate a change of routine - maybe do the 'once in a while' chores like weeding, windows, wall washing etc that would not be part of her routine
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Reply to moecam

Amanda you sound like an awesome granddaughter. Your grandparents sound like they are both gems, so I guess it runs in your family. I agree with everything jeannegibbs posted. I think a "soft sell" approach is best. It might be likely your grandfather knows, but has chosen to overlook it as a way of delaying the heartbreak and overwhelming sadness of losing a spouse to this awful disease and knowing what is ahead for his dear wife. Don't tell grandma she repeats the same stories, don't get frustrated when she forgets words or doesn't make sense, don't correct her... those things only make it worse for everyone. Tell her she's a good grandma, tell her she looks pretty today, tell her you love her. Keep an eye on things and jump in to help where you see it's needed if you can. Unfortunately, their needs will increase as the disease progresses. As for convincing your mother or other family members of what is obvious, I wish I had advice but I've never had much luck with that either.
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Reply to GingerMay

I am not a doctor so what I say is not official but most doctors unless a gerontological or cognitive health specialist are not able to give a definitive assessment of any type of dementia. With that being said, it sounds to me like your grandmother has the same affliction as my mother who lives with me as her caretaker. It is a condition called Aphasia which starts out as just confusion of words and inability to remember names and correct word usage at times. As time goes on, the person loses perception of numbers, places, and relationships. For instance, my mother uses one noun each day (or month) to substitute for whatever she is talking about; one day it is "car" or "brother" and for the past few weeks it has been "water". That means whatever she is talking about, such as a dog or the neighbor will be referred to as "water". Place names are the same; she calls everyplace whether it is Ohio where my brother lives or Leesburg where she used to live or Las Vegas where she and my father loved to visit is Toano, her hometown. The worst is the inability to understand numbers so she calls a $20 bill a nickel, cannot use a remote for the TV because she cannot determine the different numbers, nor can she repeat her address, phone number, or birthdate to doctors or authorities. She no longer can read nor write or make decisions based on either/or choices. My mother has advanced through these stages over a 10 year period but it sounds as if your grandmother may be in the beginning stages. If you could take her to a specialist who deals with these issues, it could help you make decisions about her care and that of your grandfather.
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Reply to Catneal

Hi Amanda,
When my Mom started acting like your Gma (actually worse) I was told to have her checked for a urinary tract infection. I bought an Azo UTI test kit and had her pee on the strip. Very simple. It was positive. Once treated by her Dr the mind cleared up so much! Do this asap. Research this site for UTI effects in seniors. You'll  be floored at what it does to them. Let us know how it goes.
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Reply to Pepsee

Amanda, hopefully you can persuade your mom or mom's siblings (?) to get involved and help you with all the above. The whole process and experience will exhaust, age you and take over your life. You sound like a very caring person, and I hope you will get some reliable help for all you mention. You will need it.
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Reply to anonymous144432

Jeannegibbs you are awesome! Yes my grandpa can turn off the oven etc. He is sweet with her because he loves her so much, however I can tell that he gets upset by repeating himself and upset that he can't make her feel completely feel better. I'm going to start researching and staying in connect thank you so much! Amanda
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Reply to bitner90

I think I'd start with Grandfather about this. Keep it casual. "Gramps, does it seem to you that Gramma is getting a little more forgetful lately?" That gives him a chance to say, "Well, the doctor says she has mild cognitive impairment, so I suppose she is." or "We all get forgetful as we age." or "No, I haven't noticed that at all." or "Mind your own business." His answer may give you some clues about whether they are in denial, or they are aware and are handling this the best they can, or just what their attitude is. But if they are very private people they may not want to open up to you.

I think at this point the best you can do is deal with what you see. When she talks down on herself, reassure her. "Of course you are not stupid, Gram. You just made a little mistake. That means you are human!" Help her when she can't do something. "Oh, this darn remote! It just has too many buttons, doesn't it? Let's see, to change the channel I think we press this one. Do you know the number of the channel you want to watch?" Try to make life easier for her. Get a very simple remote. You can say you got sick of trying to remember all of those buttons so you got this. She can use it too, if she wants to.

Be patient with her language problems.

When she objects to you doing the dishes, say, "Oh, Gram, I'm glad you came in. Sit down and keep me company. I was just thinking about the time we had that picnic up on the hill. That was a good time, wasn't it? But I think Billy had a toothache ..." "Gram, how old are you? Well, don't you think it is time to retire just a little bit? Grandpa retired years ago! You can at least retire from doing the dishes every meal." "Of course you can do the dishes! You've been doing them since before I was born. But tonight is my turn. Should we put some music on?"

Can Grandpa keep an eye on things, do you think? Would he notice if she left a burner on or left the water running? Picking the wrong word is one thing, doing dangerous things is something else altogether. Watch for signs of poor judgment or forgetfulness that cause problems. One sign might be lots of spoiled food in the fridge, or worse yet, serving it!

You could start learning about dementia, what to expect, and how to deal with various common behaviors. Come here often ... there is lots of experience to answer questions!

You might benefit from reading the book, "Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End" by Atul Gawande. It deals with maintaining quality of life as we age.
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Reply to jeannegibbs