Sunday, November 09, 2014

Grandpa's wild ride

Friday night. Meg and I were having dinner with Mom.

Grandma calls. She thinks Grandpa is lost.

Last year, when Grandpa started exhibiting signs of dementia and Grandma started having a lot of anxiety about not knowing when and where he was, my dad installed a GPS tracker in his car. It's been helpful (my grandma can look online and know when he's driving home from his boat, for example) but, on Friday night, that damn GPS tracker and its $20/month subscription fee really proved its worth.

So, Grandpa was driving home from his boat, which he stores somewhere an hour away. He got all the way home -- like, within a mile -- and he got lost. He drove past his subdivision and got very turned around.

After seeing that he had been driving around for more than an hour, my grandma called my mom. Crying.

And Mom and I got in the car to find him.

Meg was at home, logged in to the GPS program, updating us on where he was. Go north. Turn right. He's at this intersection.

I drove. Mom looked for his car. We live in the suburbs. There aren't many streetlights. It was dark.

At one point, after almost an hour, we finally caught up with him. Oddly, it was at the intersection where my mom and dad's house is. As soon as I stopped at the light, my mom jumped out of my car to knock on his window.

He turned right (away from her house, away from his house) and drove away before she could get to his car.

Determined not to lose Grandpa again, I abandoned my mother on the side of the road. (200 yards from her house, if that makes you feel and better.)

(Meg immediately left her post at the computer and went to pick Mom up and follow me, following Grandpa.)

I tailgated Grandpa. It probably made him nervous. I was just trying not to lose him.

He finally pulled onto a side street. I followed him. I threw my car into park and jumped out and knocked on his window.

"Grandpa! Hey! I saw you driving!" I pretended like it was just a coincidence. I didn't mention the GPS. He doesn't know the GPS.

"I'm just trying to find the house," Grandpa said.

"It's so dark outside," I told him. "Why don't you turn your car around? My mom will be here soon."

Meg and Mom heard everything. I had them on speaker. The phone was still in my hand. I didn't even realize it.

Grandpa turned around and Meg dropped off Mom. She got in the car with Grandpa. They followed me to Grandma and Grandpa's house. Mom said he didn't have any idea where he was. She kept pointing out landmarks. He was still confused. He missed his subdivision. (Again.) Drove right past (again), even though my mom told him to turn left. Even though he's been living there for 55 years.

We got him back home. Grandma was crying. He really needed to pee.

The whole thing was awful.

He was lost for 2.5 hours.

We can't tell my aunt.

I'm absolutely sick about the whole thing.


Kari said...

Oh my! That is quite the evening. Yes grandpa may be having memory issues -- but also make sure he has a physical exam and a medication review (which your mom has likely already booked).
It hurts so much when our older relatives start to falter. Sending lots of hugs,

JBean said...

Oh this was upsetting just to read so I can't imagine how going through it actually felt. My grandmother had Alzheimer's and it was really upsetting to see the progression of that disease. I obviously don't know your grandpas medical situation but hopefully he will see a doctor and at least get checked out. You're a good granddaughter to go out looking for him!

Lynn said...

Sorry about this! I did hear of someone who was taking a medication that made him exhibit these symptoms...when he stopped taking it, the problem went away. It's always possible.

Anonymous said...

It breaks my heart to say this, but-- your grandfather needs to not be driving right now, and your family probably needs to start having some tough conversations about either caregiver assistance in your grandparents' home or some sort of assisted living arrangement.

These are really hard conversations to have-- my own family is having them, too. I think they're essential, as much as they suck. Not just in terms of "we can't keep doing X," but also in terms of "Y is fine right now, but if it reaches [defined point], we need to be ready to Z."

A said...

His mother had Alzheimer's so this is sort of something we have been expecting for a while. He's not on any medications (even though he needs to be on one for his high blood sugar -- which can also make your memory foggy, I think?) because he refuses to take it.

My mom handles most of their healthcare and I'm sure they'll be making a trip to see a doctor soon (the stories that come from those trips are always pretty amusing).

Eventually, my grandma's going to need help (which she will refuse) or he's going to need to move (which will probably kill them both) but we're just getting to that point. Thankfully, my mom is close by and she's not going to pull any punches.

The ability to drive at all is likely next and soon and will be a huge battle. But, yes, it's probably time.

Sabrina said...

Oh dear, how sad and terrifying. I 'm glad he's ok. How lucky for your grandparents to have so many relatives nearby!

Danielle said...

This is one of the things that really suck about getting older, or watching your loved ones getting older. My grandparents have all passed, but my best friends grandmother has started to show memory lost and frequently forgets who her granddaughters are and such. Its sad to watch. Hope something gets figured out, good thing you guys have the GPS on his car!!

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to revisit this post-- I'm the anonymous from before.

I would really strongly recommend your family push for a primary care visit and possibly a referral to a neurologist asap. With your mother, Meg, or you along to provide information that your grandparents might minimize or not discuss at all. I'm not a doctor, but that degree of confusion plus a family history of Alzheimer's sound like red flags.

I'm saying this not only because the current situation sounds unhappy and possibly dangerous, but also because as far as I know, the current Alzheimer's medications only slow the decline. He can't gain back what he's lost already, but he can at least not slip as quickly if he takes the medication. If it's Alzheimer's, the longer he waits for diagnosis and treatment, the worse his starting position is. It is a horrible, horrible illness that I wouldn't wish on anyone.

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