“Lionel stopped calling me,” my grandmother said to me last week.
“…and I’m lonely.”
Lionel, my grandmother’s boyfriend, has been calling her 5-10 times a day since he moved into the Alzheimer’s unit at an assisted living home earlier this year.
Then last week he just stopped.
Forgot that there was someone he was supposed to call that day.
Since Lionel moved out her house, my grandmother has been at a complete loss as to what to do with herself.
This boredom has led to long phone conversations with scammers.
And sending money to scammers.
“Grandma, why in God’s name are you talking to these people? When they call you, just hang up!”
“Oh, I know they’re silly, I just like entertaining them.”
What’s she really not telling me, and what my mother has shared with me, is that deep down, my grandmother really thinks she could be “the next millionaire!”.
Having been a business owner for 35 years, I’m absolutely floored that my grandmother has fallen into this trap, and I’m in complete denial that her mental processing may be slipping.
I attribute it to her generation who doesn’t understand the concept of mail and phone scammers; if someone calls you to say that you are in the running to win a lot of money, they must be real, right? No one calls to tell you that just for the heck of it.
She’s promised me that she’s only sent it $5 or $10 here or there to Publisher’s Clearing House or similar companies, but I can’t tell if she’s telling the truth. My grandmother isn’t one to lie, but she is one to put up a front.
I’m scared of what the future holds for her, and for Lionel.
Being advanced in years is one thing, being old is another.
Being old is on the slide in to homebase.
“I’m bored. I don’t know what to do with myself. All my friends are dead,” my grandmother often tells me.
“You know that you can call me any time or day, I’m here, grandma.”
“But you have your own life now!”
“Don’t be silly.”
“I feel so old and ugly. I’m disgusted with my body. It won’t do what I want it to do.”
“Grandma, you are beautiful! Everyone thinks you are beautiful!”
“They are stupid. Beautiful is young.”
An avid exerciser, her chronic back pain has made it difficult to go to the gym, and since her former gym partner, Lionel, is no longer able to attend, she no longer goes.
She voluntarily goes to a twice-weekly physical therapy program that she religiously attends. I’m proud of her. This is the only thing she will do to help her back pain, since she absolutely refuses to take any pain medicine. I know that pain medicine would help her spirits, but she won’t do it. And we can’t make her.
We can’t make her do anything.
We can’t make her understand that she should just ignore phone calls and mail from companies guaranteeing her a million dollars.
We can’t make Lionel stop forgetting who she is.
We can’t make her friends come back from the dead.
We can’t make her stop getting older.
I feel so powerless.
It is such a gift that you two can have “real” conversations like that. I never had an adult relationship with any of my grandparents. I’m glad she has you, and you her.
Thank you, Heidi. I didn’t have a connection with my Dad’s parents and my mom’s dad died when he was 60. My mom’s mom is like a second mother to me.
Awww…I can relate with my own grandmother, who left this life almost two years ago (next month). It’s hard to watch, and to know that we will likely be there too some day. Thanks for sharing, Lauren.
I’m sorry about your grandmother, Shelley. It IS hard to watch and think about. Watching your loved ones get old has to be one of the worse things we can go through.
My dad is entering the more advanced stages of dementia. I worry about people taking advantage of him (basically no short-term memory), and I know that one day he might not know who I am. I completely understand how you feel.
I’m so sorry, Sharon. I can’t imagine going through that. Dementia and Alzheimer’s are terrible diseases. I hope you have support with this.
Watching loved ones grow old is my biggest fear. I was young when most of my grandparents passed away, and my final grandparent, my grandmother, died two years ago now. But in my mind she was always old. She lived a very full life and we had a very nice relationship, but it wasn’t deep or open like you and your grandmother’s. Cherish it. Love it. Encourage her to have hobbies. Life is beautiful and death is scary, but aging can be beautiful, too.
I’m sorry about your grandparents, Adria. That is how I was with my Dad’s parents. My mom’s mom owned the store my mother worked in and I grew up in, and she lived (and still lives) across the street from us! She is like my second mom. We encourage her to have hobbies, but her hobbies always were taking care of others and entertaining guests. Now that she doesn’t have that, she doesn’t know what to do with herself. We suggest she should read, do crossword puzzles, etc., but she admits that she has zero attention span. I think she has ADD.
This is heartbreaking. It’s awful having to watch your loved ones get older. One of my grandmothers just moved into a home because my grandfather couldn’t care for her and her dementia. He misses her terribly. I’m closest to my mother’s parents, and I hate seeing how not only their health is ailing, but their attitudes about life. I haven’t written about any of it because I don’t know who reads, and I don’t want to upset anyone.
YOU sound like an amazing granddaughter. It’s so hard though.
My grandparents all passed a long time ago …before they invented dementia and Alzheimer’s. The oldest was 94 when she left and was as mentally sharp as I ever remembered.
My stepdad was another story …no, actually it was the same story, over and over and over again. But he was happy where he was.
Just remember you can only control your attitude in this situation. That doesn’t mean you have to like it. Just being there for your grandmother has to do wonders for her. I can just about guarantee that means a lot to her.
I watched my Dad go through a steady 2 year decline until he finally passed away from pulmonary fibrosis among other heart & lung issues.
I’ll never forget my initial frustration but will always remember how we grew closer when I stopped trying to fix him or be evasive with him about the inevitable.
Some times we talked & sometimes we’d just sit, but we were together & I think that’s very important.
I learned firsthand how sickness reminds people too much of death & how they keep their distance. As if they’ve no language to speak, no acknowledgment, just an easy denial & those awkward excuses for not calling or stopping by.
How lucky your Grandmother is to have you. Cherish your moments together.