Last week I received a letter from a young lady in North Carolina that I’ve never met, thanking me for advice that I didn’t know I’d given her. The author, a teenage girl, felt she’d “lost” her mother to caring for her grandma who has dementia. I’ve retyped the letter below (with minor edits for clarity/brevity and intentionally omitted names for privacy).
Dear Mr. Eldercare101:
Thank you for the work you do. You helped save my family. About 5 years ago my grandmother, who is 80, starting showing signs that something was wrong. My parents took her to a few doctors and seemed more depressed every time they came home. One day at dinner dad told me that grandma had dementia and it was the reason she was having trouble remembering things. I didn’t really understand what it was but I remember seeing a look on mom’s face that I’d never seen before. She was also really quiet-which at the time was not like her (unfortunately, it soon became pretty normal for her).
Grandma used to meet me every day after school and would wait with me until mom got home from work. One day she forgot to meet me. Grandma was getting worse. Mom stopped working soon after that. Mom, who used to always laugh and make jokes started to change. Soon she became quiet and would get angry all the time. After a while it seemed like we only heard her voice when she was yelling at someone (even Dad). Mom and I used to talk about stuff but soon she didn’t seem to have time or interest in anything other than caring for grandma. I tried to help around the house but she never seemed happy with the way I did things. Dad kept telling me it wasn’t “personal”, but it sure felt like it. Dad said mom was just tired but I heard them argue a lot about the way she treated me. Eventually, dad told me that mom was just depressed.
Dad wasn’t around too much either because he got a part-time job to make up some of the money we lost when mom quit her job. Now when mom and dad talked it almost always ended in an argument. I couldn’t decide which was worse-the quiet or the arguments.
Mom’s doctor suggested grandma go to a nursing home but mom freaked out so bad that she had to spend the night in the hospital to “get some rest”. When I asked dad if grandma would be moving away he said “no”, because mom would feel too guilty. The worse grandma became, the worse mom became, the worse our house became .
Then things changed and started getting better. Dad heard you on a radio interview talking about Adult Daycare programs and how they help people. You said older people could get care during the day and go home at night. Dad and the doctor convinced mom to try it out. A van picks grandma up in the morning and brings her back in time for dinner. She is around a lot of people during the day (not just mom) and seems to like it.
It’s been about 7 months since she started going there and things are getting back to normal. Mom now has a part-time job and is happier. She is not quit her old self, but she is now much nicer and not so tired and angry all the time. Her and dad are getting along better and not arguing like before. This year I even bought mom a Mother’s Day card (I didn’t the last 2 years). Thank you for telling people about Adult Daycare Centers. It helped our family start to be a family again.
Derrick McDaniel (A.K.A. Mr. Eldercare 101) works with caregivers to help them get the absolute best care possible for their loved ones while simultaneously caring for themselves, their families, and their careers.