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22 Mar 2003

Alzheimers
My Grandmother has Alzheimers and is being put in a home on Monday. What I have managed to read about the disease and what I understand is she should not be taken out of her environment. Is it possible that she may die if kept away from the people she still remembers.
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Expert
CyberShrink
cybershrink

01 Jan 0001

Dear Nicole,
This is a sad and difficult situation however caringly one tries to handle it. In general, none of us usually appreciates leaving the environment we're used to, when it's not our choice to be leaving ; and such a move can be especially dificult for older people. The impact on someone with Alzheimers will depend much on their current state. They may be aware enough to be troubled by the move ; or no longer fully recognizing what's happening around them. With someone with Alzheimers, a disease which will progress and get worse, it may be unavoidable that they need to enter a home or some form of institution to be cared for ( it can become unbelievably stressful for families to care for them at home ) ; and perhaps better for them to make such a move while still aware enough to understand much of what is happening, and to be able to settle down in the new place while they can still understand enough to adjust to it. In this sort of situation one may be seeking to make the least bad choice, as there may be no good and happy option available.
Now, the home should not be "keeping her away from people she still remembers" --- they sould welcome family and friends to visit her. It's up to the res of you not to forget her, and to visit her when you can, and help keep her happier memories alive. What often happens with a dementia is that one keeps, rather late, older memories, for things that happened earlier in life, while losing short-term memory. So they may reminisce about their marriage, but not remember what they had for breakfast, or even if they had breakfast. They may remember you as a child, and not remember whether you visited yesteday.
To the extent the home allows and encourages it, it can help for her to ake with her some of her things, not merely clothes --- perhaps a favourite chair, an ornament or two, some family photographs, especially of the past, not necessarily the most recent ones.
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