New Tricks for an Old Dog

The other day, I took Gran with me to visit my mom. Mom has this antique Chinese checkers board that she leaves out on display, so we play more often than most people. I was wondering with Gran’s memory loss if she would be able to play.

Some things to note: Gran has always been COMPETITIVE. She plays for blood, regardless of the game. Once in high school, I was playing an innocent game of Spoons with her and my cousins. I laid my card down ahead of hers, so she clotheslined me, moved my card, and put hers down in its place. This was all pre-dementia.

Overall, she did well at the game. The problem was with me, who thought she needed more handicaps. At one point, I said, “That’s ok if you took your finger off the marble. You can continue to jump,” to which my boyfriend cried out, “Hey! The same rules apply to everyone!” But she has special needs, I thought.

By her next turn she wouldn’t dare take her finger off the marble. She’d hold it down, and look all around it for a “hopportunity.” Then she’d switch fingers and check for moves on the other side of the marble.

After every move she would say, “That’s it. I’m done. I quit. You can stick them up your butts.”

“You can’t quit in the middle of the game,” we argued.

Ten seconds later, she’d ask eagerly, “Is it my turn?” and reach overtop my mom to make her move out of line.

For the longest time I couldn’t always see the reward in caregiving or the point for activities. If they forget everything, what does it matter? The biggest takeaway is that they can learn something, even if it is for a moment. They are still people, who need interaction and to be a part of family events. In the end, she didn’t win, but perhaps I was the old dog in need of knowledge.

Here’s Gran in the heat of the game:

 

 

 

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Granny’s Got Game

 

My dad owns a local tavern, and the other day, while my boyfriend and I were waiting on The Queen of Hearts drawing, I convinced him to play some pool with me. Shortly into the game, I wandered away from the table, and grabbed my grandmother and coaxed her into playing.

“I haven’t played pool in ages.”

“So? You’re better than Michael and me combined.”

It was true. After I hit the 8 ball in a pocket on the first play, I handed my cue stick to Gran to play for fun. She tried hitting everything, and eventually, after it finally stuck that she was aiming for striped ball, she cleared the table.

It was a great moment. As as a child,I grew up with pool because Gran had one in her basement and she would always have pool parties for her brothers and cousins. My grandfather on my mother’s side would come over to play and it was a recurring event for years.

Those days are now over, yet a tiny fragment remains. She may have lost her memory, but it’s nice to see she hasn’t lost her game.

 

The Adventures of Gran and Lindsay

 

 

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Dementia has two sides: the friendly outer shell and the deep inner circle. Oftentimes, I hear, “your grandma is so much fun,” but this is only partially true. Sure, she has funny comments, but sometimes I think they think we’re like Rick and Morty fighting off intergalactic monsters with light sabers. Or maybe, that’s my idea of a fun time.

The reality is that dementia is all about the inner circle. This is the black hole that will inevitably suck you in. You take your loved one out, and they are compliant. Say for instance, you take them to the doctor’s office where they are always sure to behave when you want to doctor to see what you see daily. With Gran, I take her to church and she’s charming and cute, luring everyone in with her smiles and comments.   As soon as we arrive home, I will hear, “This is the last time I’m coming; the way you people treat me!” (She still thinks she’s only a guest in our home.)

This post isn’t meant to show Gran in a negative light; she cannot help what she does. This post is meant to inform about the inner circle. For the longest time, I did not believe in this inner circle. Long before I took care of Gran, I would stop in to check on my great-great aunt (longevity is kind of our thing), and she was always polite to me, which I reported to my cousin Kay. Later, when she was in a nursing home, I stopped in to visit once again.

“Oh thank God you’re here. I’m ready to go home,” she threw her hands up in the air.

“Aunt Judy, I cannot take you home.”

“Why not?”

“Uh, I have to work.”

“Well, call Donna.”

“Donna isn’t feeling well.”

“I see how you’re going to be. You’re not even going to try,” she said coldly, and she wheeled herself away.

Of course I couldn’t remove her from the home, but to my aunt, I was someone she knew who was not helping her. Once again, I reported my visit to Kay, who replied, “Welcome, to the inner circle.” I was finally part of the club.

For those of you who caregive on regular basis, hang in there. Being a part of the inner circle is rough. If only Rick and Morty could pull you out. Until then, be sure to apply for assistance.

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