Jul 11, 2010

Did you Change the Way you Dealt with a Person with Alzheimer's Disease Over Time? Yes We Did

By Max Wallack
Alzheimer's Reading Room

The answer to this question is ABSOLUTELY, YES! And thank goodness we did! However, the lesson did not come easily.

Did you Change the Way you Dealt with a Person with Alzheimer's Disease Over Time
At the beginning of our acknowledgement that “something” was wrong with Great Grams, we had no idea she had Alzheimer’s. We had just returned from a rather traumatic Christmas vacation trip, and suddenly, Great Grams was delusional. She had never been delusional before.

Great Grams had been repetitive, argumentative, and paranoid, but not delusional. Then, suddenly, she was screaming she was afraid of us. She thought she was engaged to her granddaughter’s husband. She was convinced we had taken all her money, and she was extremely agitated and hyper.

Someone suggested that she may have a UTI, which she also had never had before. We took her over to the emergency ward. By then, her behavior was so off-the-wall that they thought she needed to be admitted to a Geriatric Psychiatry ward. Great Grams had visited a Geriatric Psychiatrist previously to get some calming anti-depressant which she needed in order to be able to undergo certain medical tests. Therefore, we agreed to put her in an ambulance and send her to McLean Hospital, where her doctor was.

Great Grams spent about 9 days in the Geriatric Psych ward. Little by little, each day, she started to return to her normal baseline. After nine days, we brought her home. However, I must admit that the family had pressed to have her released that soon because Great Grams was begging to go home.

We brought Great Grams home. Again, we still didn’t realize that she had Alzheimer’s. Now, we thought she had had some sort of “nervous breakdown” as a result of the horrible vacation. Or, we thought perhaps she had had an infection (a UTI did show up) that had been cured.

We all sat around the kitchen table that evening. Do you know what stupid thing we did? We told Great Grams what had happened!! We told her how delusional she had become and what things she had said!! We thought we were being honest and truthful, and that the problem was behind us.

Can you guess what happened? Great Grams couldn’t handle the truth. She went downhill quickly. By later that evening, she was back in an ambulance and on the way back to McLean for another 9 days!!

We learned our lesson the hard way! That’s the last time we HAD to tell the truth to Great Grams. After that, we knew we HAD to tell her what would make her life the best it could be.
Max Wallack is a student at Boston University Academy. His great grandmother, Gertrude, suffered from Alzheimer's disease. Max is the founder of PUZZLES TO REMEMBER. PTR is a project that provides puzzles to nursing homes and veterans institutions that care for Alzheimer's and dementia patients.

Original content Max Wallaxk, the Alzheimer's Reading Room