When pms and pre-dementia collide

grizzly bear

If it’s a day or two before my period and I’m running late and I already have a million things to do including pay bills for Grandma but she can’t hear me when I ask for her checkbook so the third time I yell “Where’s your CHECKBOOK?” and she tells me not to yell at her then spends the next 15 minutes trying to figure out where she hid it, I’m pretty sure I look like this.

Several days every month I’m noticeably more aggressive, angry and anxious — in other words I’m PMSing.

Meanwhile Grandma grows more fearful, disoriented and suspicious by the day. She’s never been diagnosed with dementia on any of her frequent doctor visits, but you only have to have a conversation with her to see the telltale signs. Some days are better than others, but when her bad days and mine collide, it’s like poking a bear with a stick: No good can come of it.

Last week the planets aligned for just such a clash. It started when Grandma asked me for the same groceries three days in a row because she kept forgetting I’d already bought them. At one point I threw approximately 40 rolls of toilet paper on the ground in front of her to prove she wasn’t on her “last few.” By the time I’d stacked them all back on the shelf I was royally pissed.

A few hours later, the tension ratcheted up another notch when her doctor’s office scolded me via voice mail — first because they had to leave voice mails then three more times for her Warfarin levels being wrong. I decided she wasn’t capable of following the complicated prescription regimen by herself anymore, and I confiscated her multi-bottle stash of pills.

I feel I need to preface what happened next. For the past year or so Grandma has made appointments she didn’t need, hung up on Life Alert courtesy calls because she forgot she had the service, called 911 when she was cold and accused a service company of talking to her impersonator. I deal with the repercussions every time. So when I think it’s necessary, I listen to her phone calls. Sometimes it’s the only way I really know what’s going on.

To make a long story short, when Grandma called her friend the next day and — almost whispering — told her she urgently needed to see her, I knew the current battle of wills had reached critical mass. I’d refused to buy her groceries, blocked her calls and stolen her medicine, and she was getting the hell out of here. I called her friend back and told her everything that had transpired then asked for her advice. She offered to come down and smooth Grandma’s ruffled feathers, and I thanked her. I told her not to be surprised if Grandma had her bags packed when she showed up.

With Eileen’s help, the next day we managed to temporarily allay Grandma’s fears (although she did confront me in front of Eileen for stealing her entire box of oatmeal cookies). Mercifully, my hormones slid back to threat level yellow and the drama died down.

Grandma’s Warfarin levels were acceptable this week, so I know I did the right thing. This morning she zoomed upstairs on her stairlift to find out why she hadn’t had her eyedrops by 9:30, but by this afternoon she’d thanked me for the neatly organized insurance statements, doctor’s appointments and paid bills I handed over to her this morning when she asked. As I said, some days are better than others. Tomorrow she may accuse me of stealing her checkbook again, but I’ll have my hormones under control and we’ll work it out.

Until the next clash.

Image credit: isselee / 123RF Stock Photo

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