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My grandparent with Alzheimer's lives with us

Juliet

My advice (is to) go out with friends or spend quality time with a parent or a relative. Just so you can take a breather.

I’m Juliet and I’m 16 years old. My mum’s family is Lebanese and in our culture, the older generations are expected to look after the older family members. We’re not supposed to put people in nursing homes since it’s seen to them as they are unwanted to their children. My brother has 3 brothers and no sisters, so when my grandparents got older they had to move in with us. It’s been hard for me and my Mum and Dad, in different ways. Mum has heaps more work to do and lots of stress, and Dad says he feels like it’s not his home any more. I miss the way it used to be when it was just the three of us. I’ll explain to you why.
My grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease when I was 15, but we noticed something was wrong a long time before that, she showed signs of forgetfulness – from forgetting people’s names to misplacing objects to forgetting she had the stove or the oven on. The hardest thing for me is that the disease has changed her personality and makes her say horrible things about me all he time. I also don’t like the way my grandfather doesn’t accept there’s something wrong with her and keeps shouting at her when she can’t do things like she used to – such as cooking specific dishes. I don’t like spending time at home because of those things. It makes me stressed and angry. Because of this, my aggression became worse by the passing months and I had a very short temper at home. After a while I decided that I needed to let out my anger somehow, so I got a part time job at my nearest fast food restaurant. I started getting 2-3 shifts a week. It got me out of the house and calmed my short temper. I also started hanging out with friends on the school holidays and/or on weekends so I was out of the house for 2-3 hours, this also calmed me since I was around people that made me happy, making me in a happier state when I did return home. Not only that, I did end up participating in a weekly boxing session to let my anger and stress out from not only home but from VCE school work.
Last year we went for counselling and I said that what I worried about most was Mum and Dad’s relationship. My biggest fear was that Dad would just walk out because he had enough of the living environment. It was reassuring to hear Dad say that he wasn’t going anywhere and would be beside Mum and I’s side. I think we all understand why things are the way they are and that we just need to stick together and see it out.
Teens who are going through this experience might find it very difficult for someone they used to dearly care about become affected by Alzheimer’s disease. It was much more difficult for me since I’ve been brought up in a very cultured family and been taught that “family is priority” “to “respect your elders”. It was a devastating experience for me and it was worse because of me being a teenager.
When my grandmother became verbally abusive towards me, I got angry at the stuff she said which turned into hatred towards my grandmother the more she said those things to me. My family found it wrong that I have this feeling towards her and tried talking to me that she was my grandmother. It got me more angry towards her. However it can’t be helped for me to dislike her so much because the one person I least expected to treat me that way treated me horribly.
My advice to teens who are struggling to cope with a family member who has Alzheimer’s disease. I would say to occupy yourself as much as possible. If you’re like me and always at home, go out with friends or spend quality time with a parent or a relative. Just so you can take a breather from the stressful life you have and cherish wherever you are at that moment. Then go back to reality, and cope with it with your new attitude. If you need to do it a few times a day or week, do so. It helps so much to surround yourself with positive people.