My grandmother refuses to be assessed for dementia

The Yomiuri Shimbun Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a female university student in my 20s. My grandmother, who is my mother’s mother and lives alone, seems to be suffering from dementia. But she doesn’t want to be assessed for it.

She has been living on her own for three years. She frequently goes out by train or bus and enjoys chatting with people she meets.

She looked forward to attending an annual alumni meeting to see former classmates. But it is not held anymore as it had fewer and fewer participants. My mother, who lives near her place, sometimes visits her to check how she is, and finds she is in low spirits.

Recently, she caused trouble for someone, which made us suspect she is suffering from dementia.

I lived with her when I was in high school, but I left her place to go to a university outside the prefecture where we lived. As my mother can’t live with her, she will keep living alone unless I find a job near her place to live with her again, but I want to get a job outside the prefecture.

I really want her to have an examination for dementia. I also want to discuss her future, even if she is found not to be suffering from it. But she insists she is not suffering from dementia and stubbornly refuses to have the examination.

Only my mother and I can help her. What should we do?

I, Fukuoka Prefecture

Dear Ms. I:

You are a very sensible person and seriously concerned about your grandmother. I admire you. But remember this: The key player in caring for your grandmother is your mother, and you are her supporter. First of all, you should concentrate on studying and finding a job. It will eventually mean repaying your mother and grandmother for their affection and kindness for you.

Families of those who may be suffering from dementia often face difficulties in having them take an examination for it. I suggest you seek the advice of a comprehensive regional support center for the elderly in your neighborhood about your problem.

I have another idea. You don’t have to tell her it’s about dementia, but just recommend she apply to be eligible for receiving services under the nursing care insurance system as an elderly person living alone.

I don’t know how old she is, but more than 30 percent of people aged 75 or older have been qualified for nursing care service or some forms of support. If she can go to a facility that provides day care for people like her, she may enjoy it, as she has fewer friends her age.

There are also an increasing number of “community cafes” for people caring for their family members and those being cared for to meet and talk with each other. I suggest you go there to share your problem with other people.

Keiko Higuchi, critic

(from March 20, 2017, issue)Speech

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