[info_box]Guest Blogger #7: Kristine Dessinger. Kristine (aka Kiki) is the full-time caretaker of Grandmapotamus. In her “free time,” Kristine enjoys playing with her niece Katie and her nephew Micah, visiting friends, learning Mandarin Chinese, leading worship, and participating in outreaches to victims trapped in the sex industry. She is passionate about the nations, worship, and mentoring.[/info_box]
I have a very non-crunchy kid. She is 87, and she’s my grandma. Her idea of a good meal includes anything fried, processed, sugared, or sweetened with artificial sweeteners. I can visualize the looks of horror on your faces right now. Oh, and did I mention that she’s a redhead? Let’s add hair dye to the list of toxins she adores. My kid has some memory problems. Sometimes she can’t remember her family members’ names, her name, her birthday, the day of the week, or what she just said. It is very frustrating for her and for her family.
We now have a home with 3 generations living under one roof. “It takes a village” to care for this red-headed grandma. Of course, that’s normal for the majority of the world. I believe it is important to honor our ancestors and care for our aging parents and grandparents.
One thing Grandma has not forgotten is her intention to keep feeding her family members so we will not “look poor.” So while I am trying to eat healthier foods and limit my sugar intake to 15 grams per day, she is telling me that I need to eat some of her food. About 5 times per meal she will say that she has more food than I do, and I need to eat hers.
Like most kids today, my kid does not like green vegetables.
I’ve tried cooking many kinds of green veggies, and she just doesn’t like them. Perhaps she has an aversion to the color green because I can sometimes get her to eat carrots and beets. I’ve also heard that as people age, they tend to lose their taste buds. Either way it does not help her condition to have a vitamin deficiency. In contrast, it is believed that a baby’s taste buds will adapt to whatever foods they are fed. Dr. Susanna Block says, “Babies who learn to enjoy complex flavors as their palates develop will form good eating habits for life.”
Another thing that Grandma has not forgotten is her intention of marrying me off before she dies. I believe it is her one remaining goal in life. She recently tried to match me up with the onion sorter at the grocery store. He was, after all talking to me (because I asked him a question). He must be interested. Forget the fact that he’s at least ten years older and works at the grocery store. Then there was the radiologist we met this week. He asked her questions about World War II, and she was his friend for life. Forget the fact that he was already married. We are, after all, about the same age.
I recently took my kid to visit her sister. Packing for my kid is fun because I have to help her pick out matching clothes, go through her suitcase to remove duplicate items, and pack her cranberry juice and prunes. It just goes to show that you never outgrow your juice box or your dried fruit snack.
And then we have the joys of bedtime.
Your kid doesn’t want to go to bed. My kid doesn’t want to stay in bed. She gets up anywhere between 2:30 – 5:30 nearly every morning. She makes her bed and gets dressed, and then realizes that it’s still dark outside and no one is awake. So she goes back to bed fully clothed.
It’s difficult to see my grandma this way. She was such a take-charge kind of person (and still tries to be) who adored me. She was a nursing home administrator and is used to being the boss. Now I’m her boss, and she’s not too happy about it. When she was a nurse, she dispensed pills to the patients. Now I have to dispense her pills to her. I’m sure you can imagine what a huge fight that was. She wants to spend all her time reminiscing about the past. I want to spend my time imagining the possibilities of the future and doing what I can in the present.
The worst day so far was when I took her to the doctor to get her memory tested. When she realized what was happening, she was furious. She started shaking and crying at the same time. She kept saying, “You think I’m stupid.” She also said, “I never thought you would do this to me.” It was very upsetting for both of us. I was trying to get her some help, but she couldn’t understand that. I went home and cried that day. I probably did not handle the situation well, but I’m learning as I go.
Mental illness is something that no one can seem to accept. It doesn’t help that her best friend had Alzheimer’s Disease. Alzheimer’s destroys nerve cells in the brain. This causes memory loss, behavioral changes, speech issues, and problems with thinking and reasoning. There are several prescription medications for Alzheimer’s. My grandma’s doctor prescribed Aricept, but because she is now in the insurance coverage gap, it will cost her $220 per month which she is not willing to pay.
I just started looking into natural alternatives.
These natural supplements include Ginkgo, Phosphatidylserine, Acetyl-L-Carnitine, Citicoline, Lecithin, and Thiamine (B1). Poor nutrition can affect memory because green foods are necessary for maintaining healthy brain cells.
According to this site, citicoline “provides key developmental structure and functions like stem cell proliferation, lifelong memory function, and brain and spinal cord development.” I would like to try citicoline on her, but she already takes so many pills that I don’t know if I can possibly get her to take 4 more pills per day. I intend to research any liquid forms that are available. Perhaps I could add it to her “juice box.”
Apparently, heavy metals can also play a part in memory problems. Heavy metals can prevent the cells from functioning normally and can block neuron repair. Heavy metal cleanses are available for those who have this type of toxic overload.
It is also important to build up the spirit of a person with mental illness. A dear friend from church gave me a pamphlet called “Daily Spirit Blessings” by Arthur Burk and Sylvia Gunter. She has seen improvement in Alzheimer’s patients when these blessings are spoken over them for a period of time. I will occasionally read the Bible to my grandma and then read these blessings over her. She seems to enjoy and receive it. Another one of my friends has visited patients in the mental ward. She has seen dramatic changes come over the mentally ill when Scripture is read. Patients who were previously agitated or aggressive become peaceful and calm.
I know someday soon my kid may get to the point where I can’t take care of her anymore. She might get violent. She might walk down the street and get lost. She might forget who I am. But until then, I will try to enjoy the time I have with her and create memories (that hopefully) will last.
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