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Home » The Homestead Life

Living with Grandpa and Alzheimer’s

Submitted by on July 7, 2016 – 10:29 pm 19 Comments
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Recovery from Pneumonia

When he first came home from the hospital back in April, my grandpa was fighting pneumonia and required a lot of around the clock care. Too weak to walk or even breathe without help, he stayed on oxygen and needed somebody to do pretty much everything for him. Many nurses and therapists were in and out of the home on a daily basis, and there were several exercises, treatments, and medications that he required throughout the day. He needed help drinking, standing, walking, using the bathroom, etc.

I’ve been so blessed to be able to care for him through the healing process, and am excited to report that my grandpa, whom I affectionately named Dada when I was a baby, is back to his strong self again. It has been amazing to watch him improve so quickly. He is now able to sleep in his own bedroom upstairs, is off the breathing machine, doesn’t need any more Nebulizer treatments, has been discharged from the nurses and therapists, and is up and about on his own.

At first glance, it would seem that he no longer needs anybody to stay with him. I do wish that was the case. Unfortunately, the continuing progression of Alzheimer’s has made it unsafe for him to live alone. The biggest concerns, I think, are that he will get lost or hurt, or will be in serious need of help and won’t be able to call for it. But we also know that he needs interaction and stimulation on a daily basis in order to slow down the loss of cognitive abilities.

Our Days Together

As his full-time caregiver, I am responsible for making sure he is eating well, taking his meds, getting some exercise and stimulation, monitoring his condition… basically keeping him healthy and happy.

My days are different now that I live with Dada, but we are equally as happy and continue to keep busy. Monday through Friday the children and I keep Dada company and take care of things around the house, then Friday night we go home for a little break. Somebody else in the family takes over for the weekend until Sunday night when the children and I return. We’re always glad in the evenings when Jerry, my husband, gets off of work and joins us for dinner. He stays with us until the kids are tucked in bed, then he goes home to feed and water the animals and get the chores done before hitting the sack himself. We have come to treasure the weekends when we can spend a couple of full days together as a family.

The children have probably been the biggest asset to Dada’s mental health. They keep him laughing, playing, and engaged.

Dada playing ball with the boys 5

They invite Dada to play ball with them in the yard.

 

Xia playing games with Dada

They sit on the couch and play tic-tac-toe.

Dada reading to Xia

He reads to them.

Dada tickling Elias

He tickles them.

Dada playing pool

Β He shoots pool with them.

snuggling dada

He watches old Westerns and the Andy Griffith Show with them.

The children love to eat meals with him on the couch. We all go on walks together. Just recently they’ve discovered the joys of putting a golf ball around in the yard. Dada loves golf. The boys also like to give him a wooden toy gun and play dead when he pretends to shoot them. I get a kick out of watching the enjoyment on his face when he yells “Bang!” and the boys fall to the floor, over and over again. Oftentimes it’s like he’s a big kid again. They think he’s great fun.

While he’s napping on the couch I go about the household chores. I cook the meals, clean, do lesson time with the kids… I even turned over a corner of his yard and planted a small garden. He loves walking out there to look at the tomatoes, cabbages, green beans and watermelons growing. It brings me a lot of joy to watch him admiring each plant.

 

Early to Mid Stages of Alzheimer’s

I feel very fortunate that at this point my grandpa is still very strong physically and can function on a fairly normal level. You probably wouldn’t know he has Alzheimer’s if you just chatted with him on the street. He’s pretty good at masking his forgetfulness, answering “yes” or “no” when really he has no idea.

He doesn’t need any help going to the bathroom or getting around. He still knows who I am (although he did call me Lydia the other day, which was totally out of the blue.) He isn’t combative or paranoid, but is generally very agreeable and content.

He can perform everyday tasks, but sometimes requires direction. For instance, he won’t take a shower unless I convince him he needs one. Once I get him into the shower, if I don’t stand there and instruct him on what to do (wash your face, shampoo your head, etc.) he will get in only long enough to get wet and then will turn the water off and get out. He forgets what he’s supposed to do in there, but with guidance he can physically manage on his own.

His short term memory is pretty much gone. He’ll ask the same questions over and over, and forget what you told him just minutes before. He doesn’t remember day to day that I’m staying with him, but in the morning he looks out of his bedroom window and sees my car and knows I’m here, so he isn’t caught off guard when he sees me. Sometimes he comes downstairs in the morning to find me cooking breakfast and he’ll say, “What a nice surprise!” And then he’ll want a hug. He wants lots and lots of hugs. And he hugs extremely tightly. I don’t think he realizes how strong he is. I swear there have been times I thought he was going to break my ribs he was squeezing me so tight. Every time I hug him I remind him to be easy, though it never seems to register with him.

Sometimes he has very vivid dreams, and wakes up living out what he was dreaming. He’ll scour the kitchen looking for the sandwich he was just eating, or insist on calling a relative who he thinks is in trouble, or he’ll want to get in the car and go somewhere, not remembering that he can’t drive anymore. It takes a while for him to realize it was just a dream, or he gets distracted and forgets about it after a while. Sometimes I have to tactfully talk him out of things, or ease his concerns with some concocted story.

His sleeping schedule is all out of wack. Sometimes he’ll go to bed at 9pm, but oftentimes it’s after midnight. Sometimes he’ll sleep through the night, and sometimes he’ll be up in the wee morning hours rummaging through the house or wanting to go somewhere. Sometimes he wakes up at 6am and sometimes it’s after 10am. I don’t try to keep him on any sort of schedule. I just try to be awake when he is, or at least lay on the couch if he decides he wants to watch golf at 4am.

His social filter and inhibitions are gone. He’ll walk by the kids at snack time and will snag food off their plate. He’ll make lewd comments, which is totally out of character for him. He’ll say things about other people out loud that can be embarrassing. And he’ll be silly with the kids in ways he never would have acted before he got sick.

The deterioration really accelerated with the passing of my grandmother last May. Once she was gone there was nobody to cook for him, so he resorted to cookies, crackers, and soda. My dad, uncle, and aunts have been amazing and are working together to do everything possible for him, making difficult choices and gingerly balancing maintaining his independence while still keeping a close eye on him. They take him to doctor’s appointments, and make sure his meds are accurate and filled. They take him golfing (his favorite sport) and out to eat, and to the beach when they can. He loves the beach. My aunt comes and gets his laundry and makes sure his closet is well stocked. My sister and her husband come and stay with him sometimes on the weekends so I can have a break. We all do what we can to surround him with care and love, so that he never feels lonely or forgotten.

I realize that at some point he will need care beyond what I am able to provide. It’s hard not knowing how long I’ll be here with him. It may be weeks, months, or years. We have no idea. Any plans we had have to be put on hold for the foreseeable future. It’s tricky when everything is up in the air and out of your hands. We’re committed to the ride regardless.

Weekend Homesteaders

You can be sure I’m still doing as much as I can to “homestead” in these new surroundings. I’m grateful that my grandfather has a large house on a beautiful lot in a fairly quiet residential neighborhood. There are some woods between us and the neighbors on one side, and a large lake behind the house.Β  I’ve made a small garden here so I can keep my hands in the dirt, and the children and I like to walk around the yard finding wild edibles (though we can’t eat them because unfortunately it has been sprayed).

I’ve been making kombucha like crazy and experimenting with different recipes, which is something new for me. I’m hoping to make some soap again soon. I’m trying to do more sewing as well, something I didn’t have much time for at home.

On the weekends when we go home there is always plenty to do. Although I didn’t plant much of a garden because I knew I wouldn’t be there, we still have a few things coming in. It’s always so amazing to see how much the plants have grown from the previous week! The kids especially look forward to gorging themselves on whatever is coming in at the time- mostly berries right now.

I’ve always loved our land, but I have such a renewed appreciation for our little homestead. Every time I return home on the weekends it’s like a breath of fresh air. I fall in love with the beauty of it all over again. I want to soak it all in. The garden is gorgeous. The trees and flowers are more beautiful. The weeds are totally out of control but I’m okay with that. I feel at peace, and energized again. I feel so free when I’m there.

There is so much to do around the house that my weekends fly by way too quickly. Chickens need to be butchered, food needs to be harvested and preserved, pests need to be controlled (I spend hours each weekend picking June Bugs and Japanese Beetles off our grapevines, raspberry bushes, and roses), the garden needs tending, fencing needs to be mended, projects need to be completed. And I love it all.

So, that’s pretty much what life looks like for us right now.Β  Things are different, but we’re doing good and enjoying the adventure at hand. There have been many heartwarming moments with my grandfather, and some heart-breaking moments as well. You take the good with the bad and try to make the most of every day.

It isn’t easy to be away from home, but at this moment I don’t think there is anything more valuable we could be doing with our time.

19 Comments »

  • Lindsay says:

    You’re amazing. My sisters and I are caring for our mother who has dementia on top of severe brain injury from a stroke. I can completely relate to the difficulty of the not knowing how long before the situation worsens and therefore not really being able to plan ahead and make decisions for my family. I too have been researching the connection between nutrition and brain function and keep finding references to coconut oil. Have you had any luck with this?

  • Mimi says:

    Dearest Ken,
    Finally read your beautiful blog on Dada and was so proud of you. Your inner spirit is truly a blessing given to you by God. Most importantly, your example to your husband and children will live on for generations. Please try to take some time personal time out for yourself.

    How is it working out for you and Jerry now that you’re both helping with dear Dada?

    Love you to the moon and back!!

    Mimi

  • Bruce Bellis says:

    Dearest Kendra,

    Your soul is an inspiration to all. To give as you do, without asking for why or what is very special indeed.

    Not very many people can stand at the bottom of a mountain and see the path that they must walk and endure, and the one you have chosen with your Grandfather is huge and at great personal expense to you and your family, It is the true meaning of family and you should be very proud. What a great example for your children.

    I truly hope that on your path of life that you are rewarded with everything that you need and wish for. You are truly deserving.

    Thank you for sharing a window of your life for us to look into with awe.

    πŸ™‚ B

  • Heather says:

    This is a very touching entry. Many have commented on the sadness and difficulty of living with someone with Alzheimer’s, and it is heartbreaking I’m sure to watch the progression of the disease. But I would like to comment on the absolutely beautiful portrayal of true love in the care that your family is giving your grandfather.

    So many times, people just put their elderly loved ones in care homes, pay the bills, and visit every now and then. But you’re caring for your grandfather the way he would have cared for you all when he was able. This means sacrifice for you and your family. There’s no way around that. But what a vibrant witness you’re giving to the love of God – with every shower you monitor and every meal you cook!

    I cared for my mom during the last months of her life. She was very sick with vomiting and diarrhea; she couldn’t do anything and required constant care. I was sitting with her during one bout of vomiting when she said to me, “You’re so kind and loving.” I said, “But Mom, that’s the way Jesus loves you.” This was something she hadn’t clearly understood until then, and praise God that He allowed me to be part of that moment and that He used my hands to show His love.

    One last thing, even though this time is hard on your family, I’m sure that your children are learning things about you and about God’s love that will impact them forever. The seeds of compassion, service, patience, problem-solving, unselfishness (the list could go on and on . . . ) that God is planting in your children through these times will no doubt produce a harvest beyond your imagination.

    Thank you for sharing your story. And thank you for being an ambassador for Jesus in this world.

  • Anita says:

    I’m so sorry about your grandfather. I just watched this youtube video featuring Dr, Dale Bredeson who has actually had success in reversing Alzheimer’s Disease and other types of dementia. This is his presentation to a meeting of the American College of Nutrition. It is full of hope an encouragement!

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=QqQ_X3mD16U

  • Michelle says:

    Hi Kendra,

    My heart cries out to our Great and Might Yehovah for healing for your Grandfather and strength, wisdom and knowledge for you and your family. I have come across 2 interesting articles/searches in my schooling to be a master herbalist at the School of Natural Healing that involve lots of sunshine (vitamin D) and distilled water (considered a hungry water that pulls inorganic matter out of the body) that helps immensely in Alzheimer’s patients, as well as diet, and cleansing (which sounds like you know a lot about that from having read your articles). I pray this is of some help to you, however it sounds like your family is doing what Grandpa needs most, giving him lots of love and affirmation.:)

    http://www.herballegacy.com/Alzheimers.html

    http://www.herballegacy.com/search.php?zoom_query=alzheimer%27s

    They also have a healthier you radio program that you might be able to listen to any recordings on Alzheimer’s from the past:
    http://www.ahealthieryouradio.com/

    I have also read an over load of ammonia contributes to Alzheimer’s and how L-Ornithine helps detox it from the brain:

    http://nutristart.com/ammonia-toxicity-part-1/
    http://nutristart.com/ammonia-toxicity-part-2/

    I apologize to inandate you with articles as I know your time is few and precious, but felt the prompting to share.

    Yehovah bless you, Michelle

  • Bev says:

    My husband and I are caregivers to his 93-yr-old mom with severe Alzheimer’s (stage 6, waiting for stage 7 to come). It’s been a long journey. We have kept her in her own home so far–paid caregivers come in during the day and hubby and I have been swapping nights for the last 2 1/2 years. That was when we realized she was not safe living alone. I can relate–it turns your life upside down. But knowing that you are giving them the best care you can makes it worthwhile. I have read tons of info over the course of her disease to educate ourselves on the care she needs and what to expect as the disease progresses. Unless you live it, you cannot begin to understand what it takes to be a caregiver to someone living in Alzheimer’s World. I have wished there was someone who understood the reality of what our life has been but I couldn’t find support groups in our area; so we have weathered the ups and downs of this emotional roller coaster on our own. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. If what I have learned can help someone else, it will be an added plus to this journey.

    • Kendra says:

      I wish you the very best, Bev. It’s so good that you and your husband can work together. I’ll probably write more about my grandfather as the disease progresses. I welcome any comments, insights, advice, or thoughts you may have to share. Blessings to you.

  • Meghan says:

    Do get a copy of a book called “The 36 Hour Day” which covers everything you could need to know about caregiving for a person living with Alzheimer’s. I’ve found a cheap copy of the revised and updated book here: http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/161980702487?lpid=82&chn=ps&ul_noapp=true

    There are so many things you need to know and this book will help you to learn them quickly.

    God bless you and your family for these amazing sacrifices to be so loving to your grandpa!!! Is there any way you can just move him into your family home so your can still have some normalcy with the family’s life? It’s so hard to homestead when you aren’t there :-).

    It helps to simply tell them, “You are dreaming, it’s not true” when they get into the fits and then distract with a substitution like, “Lets go watch Andy Griffith” or “How about a popsicle?” Sometimes a hug is helpful sometimes it’s the opposite so do be careful to ask if you can hug them before you do :-). It’s tempting to treat them as children but they aren’t predictable – they are adults with a misfiring brain that is bouncing all over a lifetime of memory…hard stuff!

    Also, music is a big helper if you can find THE song that calms them, a song that just takes their mind to a dreamy place – maybe played at their wedding or other intense memory and then put that song on as soon as a stress fit happens. Music is one of the last things to go and if they were raised Christian, you can use old Christian hymns to bring on a calm place – whatever was familiar to the young child they were.

    Scents help the brain make connections too. Use lavender to aid calm in the bedroom and citrus to bring on more energy. Often they are another pathway in a clogged brain.

    Some will respond to the cajoling and distraction, some will respond to the stern-demanding mom voice (where you use their first and middle name in a command like, “Stop!”) – you just have to find what works best with your grandpa to help snap him out of that place that his brain is in and back into this place. I’ve found that telling them, over and over, “It’s just a dream”, will break through the best as we all understand the disorientation of vivid and “real” feeling dreams.

    Best of luck, and all of you should read that book. It’s a life-saver to prepare you for, and help you solve, the many bumps in the road that are coming. It’s a horrible disease but this man has the best of all possible circumstances with so much love around him! He is truly blessed by you and the rest of your family which tells me a lot about how he treated all of you – obviously he is/was an amazingly good man :-).

    Also, you can get a lot of nutrition down by using the Vitamix and making fruit, veggie and nut/seed mixes that can be turned into popsicles or watered down with almond milk to make smoothies. Add a bit of stevia to sweeten and you won’t have too much trouble getting him (and the kids) to drink them. Loads of nutrition and I’d add in some coconut fat for good measure :-). All of the nutrition is readily available due to the pureeing but use small batches as the Vitamix heats and damages the enzymes so do the nuts/seeds with some almond milk first and remove. Then add small amounts of the fruits and veggies and whiz quickly so the enzymes stay intact. You can easily hide cucumbers, kale or even spinach behind berries and apples… you could strain (lightly) and drink or just partially freeze and make it like ice cream so all that fiber gets in too. Just some ideas πŸ™‚

    Blessings,
    Meg

  • bobbi dougherty says:

    It is so nice to be able to spend time with our elders! I am caregiver to my 92 year old mom. While she doesn’t have Alzheimers, she is heavily affected with Dementia. She does well most days and remembers some things from way back in her childhood, but other days is bad. Mostly can’t remember how to turn on the microwave, etc. She gets frustrated more lately and angry even. Can’t blame her. She has always been very independant all her life so you can imagine…

    πŸ™ As a caregiver, I can tell you that you HAVE to take those breaks. You need time to yourself. I take time, but not nearly enough. This is hard, but I wouldn’t change a thing. You are a great granddaughter for doing this for him! xoxo

  • Kristie says:

    I also have a grandfather with Alzheimer’s, and I go over about 15 hours a week to help my grandma with anything they need. I can so relate to being asked the same questions over and over. πŸ˜€ But my grandpa is a wonderful, kind man, and I love to get the chance to spend time with him.

    I think it is great that you stepped up to care for your grandfather. Unfortunately, many times, people in his situation end up getting sent to a nursing home. You are doing a wonderful thing!

  • Grandma Susan says:

    Bless you, Sweetie!! Prayers for all your family continue.

  • Charlotte Moore says:

    It is heart breaking to see someone with this terrible disease. I stayed 1or 2 days a week with my aunt for 3 years to help her daughter and grandson that was the full time caregivers. It is so sad at times. You truly have a full time job.

    GOD BLESS!!

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