What is my grandmother experiencing?

8 answers | Last updated: Nov 06, 2016
Kem82 asked...

My grandmother has Alzheimer's. She does not speak much any more or say much that makes sense. Sometimes she might mumble something here and there but it never makes much sense. What is going through her head? Is she thinking? Is she bored silly?

Expert Answers

A social worker and geriatric consultant who specializes in dementia care, Joyce Simard is based in Land O' Lakes, Florida, and in Prague. She is a well-known speaker and has written two books, one focusing on end-of-life care and the other, entitled The Magic Tape Recorder, explaining aging, memory loss, and how children can be helpers to their elders.

Your question is one we would all like to know, what are they thinking?  Carers do get non-verbal messages that might let us know if they are pleasant thoughts.  If they are, count your blessings.  However if she seems distressed by her thoughts, try to distract her with something she likes, ice cream a cookie, music. etc.  Occasionally they give us clues with words and you might probe what she is trying to say.  Do things with her so you know she is not bored.  Sorting objects is often a good task and many women enjoy coloring or looking at pictures. 

Community Answers

Joyg answered...

When my husband is anxious or afraid I do as the expert suggested.  But many times he is smiling and seems to be recalling a pleasant experience.  This pleases me greatly because I really believe that as they "fade" they also begin to "connect" with old memories and people on the other side.  They are preparing to leave this eartly world and go some place where they will have peace and be well and whole again.  Try to think of it that way.

I also see people where my husband lives that if you watch them carefully are having a good time from the old days.  One man sits, eyes closed, and fishes.  Another acts out parts of his career as a doctor.  Be very observant and you will see there are wonderful things happening for them at times.

Swreynolds answered...

 I have also found that the simple gesture of caressing their hands or giving a foot massage opens up much release from wherever or whatever.  Selecting a pleasant aroma for both of you is the icing on the cake. 

As Henri Nouwen states" The real question is not "what can we offer each other? but "who can we be for each other?"  Blessings to all who care!

Dear one of mort answered...

Mort is unable to answer the question of what he is thinking. When he appears upset I think he realizes his confusion and loss. It breaks my heart. I agree with the benefits of distraction. I sing old songs (things that were important to us in the 60s)to him. Sometimes, he is able to say the last word of a line. When this happens I believe that he has entered that memory with me.

Helenlackey answered...

Myhusband has Alzheimer's. I know that he lives in the present and is thinking about whatever of interest is in front of him at any given moment. I also know this is a temporary stage and will probably degenerate. But for now, he enjoys the passing bird, a blooming flower, my presence beside him. Sometimes he worries about not remembering ANYTHING! and I tell him he's lucky, he remembers absolutely nothing bad that has ever happened to him....and he smiles and acknowledges he is happy (right now)...I am lucky. This stage of Alzheimer's could be much worse, I know. We pray for all caregivers every night, Thanks for your support.

Bob's wife answered...

My husband is still verbal and he tells me when he is anxious and sad, it is like a black veil comes over his eyes, and he can't remember where he is, or what he is thinking. I try to hug him during this time and then move him to another room or outside, if the weather cooperates. It is good to help him remove the black thoughts. Bob's wife

Jerry@ answered...

My name is Jerry My wife Jean was diognosed w/AD 6 mos.ago We are both 51 and have 2 teenage boys. She has lost her job and we have lost our home due to financial difficulties. I am hanging in there but it is hard to say the least.Knowing things are going to be more difficult has me frightened.I know God will help.I love her so much Thanks for listening. Jerry

Alonenow answered...

Oh gosh, Jerry, you and your family are in my prayers.

I know I should stop feeling sorry for myself, as there are others in much greater need than I am.

My husband has moved to a 'home' because of vascular dementia at age 68/69. Although he still remembers who I am, he doesn't ever remember that I am coming to see him or how long it has been since the last time I visited. I believe he lives in the present, as others on this forum have said, and when I am not there, he forgets about me entirely. He only appears to know me when I am right in front of him. It is heartbreaking, as we cannot live together any more, I cannot move in there with him and I can't keep him at home with me. He has become so thin and frail that I am afraid to take him out of the 'home' even for brief periods of time, in case he should trip, slip, or fall and break something. So my visits to him are limited to staying at the 'home' where there are people trained to help him if that should happen. His family has taken over his care, and insisted on a divorce, because they wanted to control his money, that is, their inheritance. I gave them that, because they appeared to be worried that I was going to spend his money, their inheritance, and I thought it would improve my relations with them. But, they chose a 'home' for him that is far too inconvenient for me to visit him very often. So, it is that I do not see him often, and perhaps it is a blessing to him that he does not remember how long it has been between visits, or whether I am coming to visit at all. He appears to be happy, having company there, activities, and people to take care of all of his needs. Although I do not think he even thinks of me at all if I am not there, every time I see him, he asks me to move in with him, which, of course, is not possible. It would cost twice as much and his family would not like it. I am left alone and sad, and feeling in limbo, and not able to move on with my life emotionally. I am thankful that he is happy, however.

Thanks for listening.