Hello, my name is Maria Prescott and I’m 26 years old. I’m originally from Sumner, grew up in Rainier and now live Gig Harbor. This is my story of caregiving for my grandparents, both of whom were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
I hope that by sharing my story, people who become caregivers for their grandparents or another family member will see it can be well worth it. You’ll feel great about it at the end, knowing you did something for them.
I was taken in as an infant and raised by my grandparents, Reid and Rita Prescott. I was an only child, so it was just the three of us.
Grandpa Reid was basically my father figure since I didn’t have my actual father in my life. I looked up to him for many things: from childhood advice on how to do my homework, to adulthood decisions like finding the career I have always dreamed about. I have a learning disability and they were very good at pushing me to work hard and always showing me how proud they were of my accomplishments. Graduating from high school was a top priority and I’m so thankful for the support they provided me. I enjoyed every waking moment with my grandparents. We were truly a family.
Grandpa and I liked to ride bikes together. We started in an effort for him to get healthier after he had triple bypass surgery. We biked every single day after school. When I was 15, we decided to take the Rainier to Tenino bike trail and we went all the way to Tenino. We didn’t tell my grandma we were going that far and didn’t bring enough water. We eventually had to call her and tell her where we were. She was shocked we made it so far together. My grandpa shared a lot of his fond memories of logging with me as well. We would go grocery shopping together, and he would often wait for me to get off the school bus and make sure my day was great. If it wasn’t, he would want to know what was going on.
After I moved out in 2012, my grandparents had in-home care from my mom, Laurie, and her girlfriend, Kim. During that time I was constantly communicating with my grandparents by phone and mail, and visited when I could get a ride to them.
I hadn’t heard the term ‘dementia’ before and I first heard it from the doctor. I didn’t want to believe it. My grandpa didn’t really start showing signs of it until my grandma got really sick and was put in a nursing home with little hope of coming back. It was very emotionally hard on the two of us. My grandpa was also diagnosed with prostate cancer during this time. It was incredibly hard for my grandma and me to hear that news on top of all that was happening.
I think it’s important for me to express that there are not enough facilities that take state Medicaid insurance. DSHS gave me a listing of facilities that took Medicaid insurance; I called each and every one to see who had an opening for him. I really didn’t want to place my grandpa in a nursing home, but the doctor insisted I did before he got worse.
In October 2015 I got a call from Puget Sound Health that they had an open bed. At that point my grandpa and I needed to fill out admissions paperwork so he could get admitted to the facility. This was super hard on me. I kept thinking, “He’s never coming home again.”
After two months of him being there, I had to do something proactive. I did some browsing online because I wanted to make sure he really had dementia, and I found the Alzheimer’s Association link for what I could expect. The site is a great resource for anyone that has a loved one battling dementia. Some signs I noticed in him were behavioral and muscular, meaning he lost his ability to walk.
I knew that someone had to become my grandpa’s power of attorney, to be a quarterback for him and make sure he’d get the right care from the facility. I called my Uncle Mike and grandma and asked if either of them wanted to take it on. Both said it should be me. So I got the papers, asked Puget Sound Health if they knew any local notaries in the area, which they did, then grandpa and I signed. At that point, he was still cognitively aware enough to agree.
As months went on, I was with him every possible weekend to catch up on life and do some sort of activity with him, as well as call my grandma so he could speak to her. We would call him every night or they would call me.
He had an accident and hit his head; we think it was a mini stroke. His condition became worse after that. During that time he was at Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia. I remember the doctors pulling me off to the side and telling me we needed to put him in hospice care. They referred us to Assured Hospice, also in Olympia. I also called the Alzheimer’s Association to get some help from the counselors. At this point I was very emotional and wanted to make sure I was doing everything right. They were very friendly and helpful for me during this difficult time and guided me through what I needed to do.
Since my grandpa was in hospice care, his cancer treatments were cancelled, but the facility ensured each patient was as comfortable as possible. They checked on him twice a week to make sure his vitals and everything were okay; this was back in September 2016. I spent his birthday with him the previous July and in my gut I knew that it was the last birthday with him. The cancer was getting worse.
In October 2016, I got a call while I was at work that he had pulled his catheter out again and he was going to St. Peter Hospital to see if they could get it back in. That night I spent time with him in the emergency room. He kept looking at me and I kept saying “I love you grandpa, please be strong.” He was eventually released and went back to the nursing home.
A couple days later he started having problems with swallowing and wasn’t drinking a lot of fluids. I still called him and went in to visit him. I was the only one who could understand what he was saying. In November 2016, he had progressed to the point that he wasn’t eating or drinking at all. November 19th around 2 a.m., I got the call saying my grandpa passed away. I didn’t want to believe them. I called my grandma and mom to tell them. I tried going to work the next day, but because everyone who knew me really well asked about him, I had to disappear and just cry in the bathroom.
My grandma is now fighting dementia and Parkinson’s disease, and is living in an adult family home in Tacoma. I plan to stay by her side as well, just like I did for my grandpa.
I am very grateful for my grandparents. If it weren’t for them I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to care for them as they did for me. I am returning the favor they did for me, by making sure they both were fed, clothed and had a roof over their heads.
Thank you for raising me and bringing me up the right way, and teaching me what’s right from wrong. I love you both.
I also want to say thank you to all the providers that took on my grandpa’s care and Assured Hospice in Olympia, WA, for spending the time with me and my family for guidance, and to Puget Sound Health in Olympia, WA, for giving him the care he needed.