The Yomiuri Shimbun Dear Troubleshooter:
I’m a man in my 30s. I was recently relocated by my employer, so I began to live at my grandmother’s house. I’m worried she doesn’t respect my privacy.
My grandmother, who is in her late 80s, almost always stays home. While I’m out for the day at work, she writes down the names of the senders written on letters addressed to me, the details of my payslips and prescriptions, the titles of the books I’m reading, and suchlike. She also took my stationery items, miscellaneous goods and even accessories I bought to give my girlfriend out of my room and kept them in her room. I learned of her deeds from images taken by the built-in camera in my computer, which I set up to operate after I noticed items in my room had been rearranged.
It feels a bit creepy as I have no idea why she did this. I also feel angry with her, but I don’t dare ask her about it as I am indebted to her. I suspect she may be suffering from dementia.
I’m at a loss as to whether I should warn her to stop doing it or pretend not to have noticed it.
I, Ibaraki Prefecture
Dear Mr. I:
Your grandmother is so old that her ability to think and remember has probably decreased. She acts normally when she is with you face-to-face. However, she perhaps has difficulties in properly combining memories, and when she is alone, she begins to fear and suspect someone may be in her house doing something.
You shouldn’t get angry as her condition is caused by her old age. It is nothing creepy, either. I suggest you explain the situation to your family and also seek out a comprehensive regional support center for the elderly in your neighborhood to ask how to cope with this matter.
Needless to say, you should also take self-protection measures. Leave items as they are if it is OK for her to see them, while not leaving items in noticeable places if you don’t want them to go missing or be taken away by her. Doing this will help relieve your stress.
Your grandmother needs considerable time to accept the change in her environment caused by starting to live with you. If she continues to feel stress, anxiety, fear and suspicion every day, her condition will become worse. To avoid this, you should smile at her to have her acknowledge you are her grandson and tell her words of appreciation as frequently as possible.
If she enjoys being with you, she will probably feel no fear and suspicion and calm down. I hope you take this matter as a valuable experience to enrich your life and keep working.
Megumi Hisada, writer