Losing it

Yesterday I spent half an hour searching for something that was right under my nose. Go on admit it we all do so at times. By coincidence, I was listening to the radio at the time and heard a trail for an item in a programme to be aired the following day. “Should people with Alzheimer’s be tagged?

Since I had no Post written for the day, I decided to use these events as inspiration for a short light hearted piece. The joke was on me and as you know, I am never behind the door at laughing at myself.

Some people replied in the spirit in which the piece was written, while others seemed to think I was being flippant about a serious illness.

Alas, I am well aware of the problems of the ageing mind, alzheimer’s & dementia.

I have helped in the care of family members, friends and neighbours, struggling with the everyday living in confusion and loss of time and place. Keeping someone safe, from themselves and from other outside dangers is a serious business, and that is how I deal with it, but there are times when the load can be lightened by laughter.

Long before we ever heard of the words alzheimer’s or dementia, my granny, succumbed to the latter. Yes, my dearly beloved granny that I constantly talk and write about, who taught us the blessing and wonder of laughter, slowly lost hours, then days and weeks to what we now call dementia.

We began to refer to her as ‘Mad Granny’ within our immediate family, but in our case the word ‘mad’ meant silly or funny. All through our lives she had played silly games and tricks on us, and laughed long and loud. We never left her company feeling downhearted sad or cross. It was impossible. So the slow walk into confusion became as natural as helping her on with her overcoat or handing her a walking stick to help steady her arthritic gait.

There were days when she thought I was my mother. At times if I queried a name of someone she was talking about, she would say “You remember her, she was in school with us!”. Nowadays you will often hear that phrase uttered by my siblings. One day, my mother walked to the window to draw the curtain, there on the ledge outside was a rolled bundle held together with a rubber band. A bundle of bank notes. She had collected her pension from the post office that day, and when mammy ask why it was out there on the ledge, Granny said it was to keep it hidden in case anyone came into her room and stole it! At that stage arrangements were made for mammy to take care of the pension and dole out small amounts of pocket money as needed, It was mammy after all who looked after her everyday needs. One of my Uncles took care of the major bills.

James and Maura lived near me, he was diagnosed with alzheimer’s, and Maura found it very difficult to accept. At time is seemed like she was forcing James to remember things and this only added to his frustration. Regularly Maura called for my help, and I found distraction worked well.

I would lead James to talking about music or the world of wood, the other love and area of his working life as a Joiner. Once calmed, I would return to whatever it was that Maura had wanted James to do, and like a lamb, he did as I asked. It was a sad situation. Their parents and brothers on both sides of the family had been victims of this disease and I could see the early stages in Maura too.

Then there was Amy, deaf as a door post, the hearing aid lived in a drawer beside the foil sealed strips of pills. Amy might remember to take a pill, but you would never know if she did or not. Half a dozen strips would have the foil and tablet removed from one space. The strips being marked with the days of the week never worked for Amy, since she could never find her glasses to read them.

On occasion I was called upon to accompany Amy to a doctor’s appointment. Her daughter was ill, so I would gen up on details the doctor needed to know about. The doctor spoke softly, and Amy would reply with something totally off the rails. It was sad I know, but it was pure comedy and difficult to hold a straight face. I would sit facing Amy and gently take her hands in mine and repeat the question the doctor had asked, in a slightly raised voice. She was used to the sound of my voice and sometimes I got through. I could have talked over her as I knew the answer already, but I needed to treat her with dignity. Between the three of us we worked it out, and Amy was looked after.

She eventually moved to a residential home where she suddenly took an interest in one of the male residents. She called him Walter, the name of her late husband and she spent hours bossing him about and telling him what to do! There were two sitting rooms, so after a week or so the staff made sure that Walter and Amy were never left sitting in the same one.

I could go on, but I think you have the idea.

At times it seems like my whole life was surrounded by illness and frailty, but then that is the reality of life for all of us at some stage. If laughter helps to get me through it, then it is way better than wailing and singing pity me songs.

Now did I tell you the one about…… 😉

23 thoughts on “Losing it

  1. shackman

    At times it seems like my whole life was surrounded by illness and frailty, but then that is the reality of life for all of us at some stage. If laughter helps to get me through it, then it is way better than wailing and singing pity me songs.

    GM – I say fuggum if they can’t take a joke. You attack life with a vigor few can match and I salute you for it.

  2. Grannymar Post author

    Shackman – coming from you, I take it as a great compliment. You are at the cold face of caring 24/7/365.

  3. Ursula

    Please see my reply to your last post, Grannymar.

    I don’t think offspring mired in the fallout of a long life should be banned from, as you call it, “wailing and singing pity me songs”. Let grief rip even before you stand at the graveside. If anything I believe, judging by my observations, those caring for the people who don’t even recognize them any longer ‘wail and sing pity thee songs” for their parents and other relatives. What a way to go. Let’s hope we (or should I say our offspring) will be spared. And jump into our graves both feet first waving a cheerful goodbye able to name every single one who comes to attend the party.


  4. Grannymar Post author

    Ursula – I did see you comment on my last post, but since it was not addressed to me I saw no need to reply to you.

    I never banned anything. I write from my point of view and how I deal with life. I have seen more than enough grief in my lifetime and wearing it on my sleeve is not for me. IF you care enough for someone when they are alive, then there should be no need for wailing and putting on a spectacle. Better to remember them quietly and with love.

  5. Ursula

    I am sorry, Grannymar, it was you who brought in the rather dismissive “wailing”. If a friend of mine knee deep in despair over a parent completely losing the plot wants to cry at my shoulder, fine. I’d hardly tell him/her to pull up their socks. People usually do that when they are ready.

    I don’t understand you, and not for the first time: Why is a person expressing their grief making “a spectacle”? We should all be allowed to show grief in our own way. Count yourself lucky that you don’t live in a country where it’s good manners to wail as loud as you can and make a true spectacle of yourself. Unashamedly so. And if you didn’t it would signify considerable disrespect to the dead.

    Anyway, I thought we were talking about the fallout of Alzheimer’s and people ‘losing it’ when still alive. Many a friend I know to whom the demise of their already lost parent nothing but a relief. And yes, then you have a chance, as you say, to remember quietly.


  6. Grannymar Post author

    Ursula – Please stop putting words in my mouth that are not there. I said:

    If laughter helps to get me through it, then it is way better than wailing and singing pity me songs. I have a pillow for catching my tears in the privacy of my own bedroom.

    Others, you included, are free to wail and rail all you want, but please try to do it somewhere else.

  7. Mike

    This is one area where I have been fortunate in that I have not been around anyone who has been impacted by Alzheimers or dementia, though my mother-in-law is growing quite forgetful at time. Even so, the very thought of either scares me as I grow older.

    Your post brought a memory back to me.

    Long separated from my father’s side of my family by circumstances and misunderstanding, 20 years ago my sister and I heard — while visiting Nebraska for the funeral of my maternal grandfather — that my paternal grandmother was in a nursing home about 30 miles away. We decided to drive over and see if it were true, and, if possible, visit. It had been 20 years since I had seen her or been in touch. I thought she was in Oregon, but she had returned to Nebraska to live with one of her younger sons after my grandfather passed away.

    We found that she had lost her sight and was enfeebled to the point of being wheelchair bound. Yet, when told who we were, she immediately started crying. She knew who we were and, even though she had many grandchildren, we were the lost ones. Her tears were tears of happiness. There was no problem with her memory, though she had lost so much else.

  8. Grannymar Post author

    Mike – I am glad that you were able to meet and bring happiness to your paternal grandmother after such a long time.

  9. The Old Fossil

    I just left a comment on your last post since I was one of those in the joking mode. As you know, my former blog began with the death of my friend Lori who died over 6 long and painful years of early onset Alzheimer’s. My wife and I were the ones that introduced Frank and Lori and we were with them during the whole painful decline.

    Like you, we made the most of what was left of Lori’s perception day-to-day and she very much appreciated being treated with rugged good humor, which she shared with all. Sharing with her rather than treating her like a victim for as long as possible helped her.

    We grieved at her decline and loss, but we held tight to life for her just as long as we could.

  10. gigi-hawaii

    Well, when all is said and done, I sure hope I take after my dad, whose mind was as sharp as a tack when he died at 87. My poor mom, who is 96, has moderate dementia. But, she is 96 and will be 97 in March. God bless us all.

  11. Grannymar Post author

    Fossie – I think we have the same approach to dealing with illness and death. The energy is spent on the needs of the patient and bereaved family naturally we are grieving quietly as we travel that road with them. Our laughter is not of disrespect, but a form of tension release and relaxation.

  12. Alice

    How you’ve managed to maintain your humor through all the things you’ve lived through is further testament–in MY humble opinion–of your strength of mind and character.

  13. Brighid

    OMG… you are a better woman than I, but then I already knew that… I would have told them to stuff it if they couldn’t lighten up. Laughing with you!

  14. Nick

    The fact is that however serious and tragic something is, there is always a funny side to it. Which is why paramedics are known for enjoying gallows humour between themselves. Simply allowing the tragic aspects of life to depress us and discourage us doesn’t do us any good at all.

  15. Grannymar Post author

    Nick – I am in total agreement with you. We all have a choice, sink or swim. I am all for swimming.

    Dianne – As they say in the best pantomimes: “It is behind you!”

  16. The Laughing Housewife

    I know from my husband’s ME that it is possible to lose your sense of humour over some things, especially when you are living them, so it was inevitable that someone would pull you up on your last piece.

    I never took it as anything other than the lighthearted post it was, and I know there’s no malice in you. But sometimes, a subject is so close to a person’s heart that they can’t see humour in it at all.

  17. Grannymar Post author

    Tilly – I can be serious when the need arises, but there are some people who never see humour in anything. For me, it certainly carries me through. I never laugh AT people but rather with them.

  18. speccy

    Goodness, I’d be lost if I couldn’t find some humour somewhere in a rubbish situation. It’s not always easy, but I look for the vague something to smile about. I can do plenty of the weepy stuff too, but, while necessary-for me- I’d hate that to be all there is.

  19. Grannymar Post author

    speccy – Sometimes the positive is vague, but it is there and hiding the sunshine of a smile. You do well, and have channelled your grief into something very positive.


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