I have just finished university. Some background information about my situation. My grandma has been in a care home for around 7 years, she has some dementia but I believe it is not all that bad. Over the time she has been there I think it has worsened somewhat, but not much. I do not know her exact diagnosis. She gets simple things muddled up which is common, and doesn't always know 'what she is supposed to be doing', and sometimes she says she must visit her mother and father, especially on her bad days. I do my best to distract her and after my visits her spirits are lifted. She still knows who I am and it's usually possible to have a lucid conversation with her, although her short term memory is bad, so repeating things clearly is necessary, and she often doesn't understand simple concepts, but explaining can usually help at least somewhat.
Her physical health - she has ulcers on her legs and sometimes she cannot walk at all for weeks, other times she can move very short distances on a frame. She stays in her room almost all the time but I have come to learn that this is her preference. She always was quite shy. There was a time I forced her to go in the garden in a wheelchair (she really didn't want to!) and yet she enjoyed it while she was out there, but she prefers to stay in her room (I think she feels safe in there).
There was a period when she lost some weight, I am not sure why this happened and it worried me, but she managed to put the weight back on. She does sometimes have trouble eating the food because of her rheumatoid arthritis, it has deformed her hands. At my request she was given special cutlery to help her and she is on a high calorie diet.
I am 25 years old and I am the only member of the family to visit her on a regular basis (once a week). The rest of our small family has a lot of physical and mental health problems, and will often agitate her if they do visit. They also live in different cities. She gets a visit from each of her daughters about once a year.
When I visit her once a week for a few hours I bring her flowers, chocolates and/or sweets which she enjoys. I tried to set her up with a friend to keep her company but she did not get along with them very well, I think it is difficult for old people to make new friends and she is quite a shy lady by nature, she does not leave her room much or take part in the activities provided at her care home.
I have been talking about going travelling for a while now, my plan was to go to Thailand, then Australia (to have a working holiday), then India. I have recently got back from 3 months in Ethiopia, over this time she seems to have coped well without me, there are just some issues I need to sort out with her bank accounts. However one year is a significantly longer period of time.
My further travels would take over one year, possibly longer if things go well in Australia. I saved enough money by working whilst at university. I have told the care home about my travel plans, as well as my grandma who seems excited for me! But I am now worried about leaving her and feeling guilty. I am due to fly to Thailand at the end of January, the rest of my travels are pending (not yet booked). If I go long term I will also need to move out of my current house, so that adds pressure to the situation because it means I have more things to do within the next six weeks. So I feel the need to decide is urgent...
I have asked lots of people for their opinions, but I just don't know what to do. I am closer to my grandma than my mother, as my grandma looked after me for a few years (my mum has long term mental health issues). I don't know what I would do if I came back and she couldn't remember me, or if I did not get to be with her in her last weeks due to being so far away. As well as this I have just finished university, saved up this money, it is a great opportunity to travel (before I start a career, family etc. and have other responsibilities). Perhaps I will not get this opportunity again? She may have only a few months left or several years left... Either road I take seems like it could be filled with regrets and I am scared in case I don't do the right thing and I have to live with it for the rest of my life... I just don't know how to approach this situation, any advice or relevant personal experiences is appreciated, please help.