Different Strokes for Different Folks – The Grandparent Dilemma

Despite the fact that I love both of my remaining grandparents very much, I can’t deny that they are two of the most stubborn people in the world making it very difficult for my family to efficiently care for them. While we are going out of our way trying to provide them with the help they so desperately need, my grandparents consistently attempt not to accept it, but I feel that after these past few weeks they simply have no choice.

My grandfather has certain mobility problems due to Parkinson’s, and my grandmother has faulty memory and attention problems due to Alzheimer’s. They live together in a one-bedroom apartment located at a reasonable distance from my house; if I need to get to them in case of emergency, distance-wise it’s not that difficult.

In their youth, they were both rather impressive people. One was a chemist and pharmacology professor, and the other was an encyclopedia publisher and avid photographer. They were really good-looking, popular, successful and respected members of their fields. I can’t even begin to understand how difficult it must be for them to let go of their independence, but I do understand that the time has arrived.

As a family, we have been insisting that my grandparents enlist the help of a home attendant for years. While we managed to get several of them to go to their house, they were usually sent home early as my grandmother completed everything before their arrival. Then about a month ago, my grandfather’s already declining physical health suddenly took a turn for the worse.

He became even more disoriented, unbalanced and unsteady, and two weeks ago he fell while trying to walk to the bathroom. Two days later my grandmother called us from the hospital revealing that after his fall, my grandfather was unable to move, eat or drink, but she didn’t want to worry us, so she withheld the information until the call.

After my grandfather was subsequently admitted to a rehab center, my grandmother went to see him everyday despite not feeling well herself. Confrontational and disobedient, she argued with us when we asked her to stay home. Still, she ventured out grocery shopping on Monday, when she proceeded to collapse. Unable to speak, coordinate or express herself, we thought she had suffered a stroke.

Otherwise known as cerebrovascular accident (CVA), a stroke is caused by a rapid loss of brain function due to a disturbance in the blood supply to the brain. There are many side effects; some notable ones include an inability to move one – or more – limbs on one side of the body, an inability to understand or formulate speech, or an inability to see one side of the visual field.

They can cause permanent neurological damage and are the second leading cause of death worldwide. Of course, the risk of stroke is also significantly higher for people over 55 years old, especially if they have suffered from Atrial fibrillation or have high blood pressure, which my grandmother most certainly does have. She also consumes massive quantities of salt that, as you may know, have been associated with an elevated risk of stroke amongst many other health problems.

As of right now, my grandfather is still recuperating in rehab. It seems that his worsening condition was caused by a serious kidney infection brought on by unnecessary and dangerous overmedicating. It also turned out that my grandmother did not actually suffer a stroke, and as her condition is still not completely clear, she is being closely monitored.

While my grandmother’s speech recovered, and she is now back to her stubborn and coherent self, I very much hope that she will accept the help that she and my grandfather need, as my family and I can’t stand to go through this again.–Liz Belilovskaya

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