Yesterday my grandmother called her apartment where I am currently living, and she seemed surprised that I picked up the phone--"no worries grandma, how are things going?". Startled, she had forgotten about the purpose of her call. I ran her through the couple of things we had spoken over the day: the fact that she is in three days of isolation at her residence, that there will a social worker visiting her tomorrow...
She interrupted me: "Oh I remember now! Brian called (grandpa's friend), he told me that you two had a conversation last night" and I went on with the story of the 20+ badges on his sleeves.
My grandmother suffers from dementia. I was afraid I would not have the patience to handle it. As a child, I had an aunt that suffered through it, when I went visiting my cousins (which was almost every weekend) she would look at me intently and ask who are you?, "I'm Mark, the son of your niece Esther", I'd answer. She'd be satisfied and go off. An hour later she'd come back and repeat the same question, and after a couple of times I'd be exasperated and answer "I'm nobody", to which she would shrug and leave all the same.
My grandmother is currently in much better shape than this, but sometimes our conversations go around in circles--"Are you coming today?", "No, you're in isolation", "Oh, that's right, when are you coming then?", "On Thursday, two days from now", "Why can't you come today?", "Because you're in isolation grandma", "Oh that's right", "So are you coming today?", and so on. Some days are better than others, the more stressed and tired she is, the less her mind recalls short term memory. To get her out of the loop, I often resort to asking a question which answer needs to be fetched from many years ago.
Funnily enough, the more lucid she is, the more she complains about her memory. You forget that you forget, and though she vehemently denies having dementia, sometimes asking something will make her question her sanity. Upon being asked what was the name of the card game she won so many tournaments with grandpa she said "Oh dear, I can't remember the name of the game right now, I ought to remember that!".
In many ways the situation reminds me of the dreaming state. In dreams we will often chase after something, in the middle of the chase we may think what was it that I am chasing?. Or we may have a very important mission to accomplish and then be distracted by some minor event in the dream. I find my experience writing down dreams very helpful in dealing with these memory lapses, it's as if I encountered someone in a dream state, and I'm a character who knows what the dream is about, I can quickly go through all her current worries and she snaps back enthusiastically "yes! that's it! I'm supposed to meet with the social worker today!".
Today I signed up for a card at the Westmount Library so that I can read more about dementia. My first loan is Creative Care which I hope will assist me in my quest bringing grandma back to the apartment, in about two weeks time.