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To be not entirely keen to look after my Grandma

(489 Posts)
StWinifred Fri 12-Oct-12 02:19:07

My Grandma is 100 years old and rather debilitated, although fully compos mentis.

She was being looked after her by her son, who had lived with her for decades. He had a heart attack in the 1980s and I think the strain of looking after his Mum did for him, and he suffered a fatal heart attack in July.

Since then my parents has been looking after her, in her home, which is a largely original 1930s house.

She went to stay with my parents in their own home (an hour or so away) for a few days a month or so ago. She found this a bit disorienting but they were grateful to get home; this was curtailed when she had to go back home for medical appointment.

A few weeks ago my parents wanted to go away so they asked if I could help, I said she can stay here (in our hours for a week), but there's no way I can go there because of various prearranged commitments locally, school, etc. They didn't think this was a good idea.

My sister proposes early on that she should stay in her home as she has been in the area since birth. My sister has been with her partner (she doesn't believe in marriage I think) for a decade and has no children (doesn't believe in this either). Her idea was that we (my parents, my sister, and I), should look after her a couple of days per week each.

Due to work/childcare I can only do this over the weekend. Last weekend I headed there at 6pm (takes about 1hr 45 to get there) on Saturday and got back home at 5:30pm on Monday to pick up the kids from school. My sister was there from 6pm Monday till 8am Wednesday, working from home Tuesday, and I think planning to on Wednesday also in future, though she had a meeting on Wednesday so left early - in future she might be there until afternoon/evening though.

My father said he thinks I shouldn't go every week on Saturday as it would be disruptive to our family. I haven't made any commitments.

Anyway he called on Tuesday to ask what time I was coming on Sunday, and I said I didn't know I will let you know at the end of the week. He called me today at 11:30pm to ask the same, sorry I don't know, does it make any difference? Well we were thinking of going away for a couple of days, he said. Oh really?

He then sent me a rather nagging email saying they would appreciate a routine, and also could you come round and stay with the kids during half term to balance your sister's 'input'? (My DH has work to go to, locally, so it would be me + kids.)

I replied saying sorry I can't give you a routine after only one visit there, it ain't routine yet, and I'm not about to promise to match my sister, what she does is what she can do, and she's got her circumstances and she mine, and actually I didn't really feel the house was suitable for kids when I was there.

Grandma can't make it up the stairs, so she sleeps in the living room, and there's no toilet down stairs, so there's a commode there. She's got severe incontinence so lots of pads to dispose of, plus the commode to empty. She tends to fall over and she can't be left alone at home for more than about 2 hours. She needs her breakfast, lunch, dinner prepared, plus tea, drinks, etc.

They've been in this house for nearly 3 months now and they have no bed, just two very old 'small single' mattresses on the floor. Apparently they ordered a bed from Homebase but it takes 3 weeks or something? Anyway, I thought this was ridiculous, so when I was there on Saturday I went to a local shop and they said they could deliver a bed on Wednesday. Passed this information on to my father and apparently he couldn't get through to them on the phone, so er, still no bed for me to sleep on this weekend.

There's another empty bedroom for the kids (but no bed) but the window frame is rotten and there's a hole in the window.

My DH doesn't like this arrangement at all, and thinks Grandma should go live with my parents, and that it's their responsibility to look after their mother.

My father OTOH seems to think that its our collective responsibility (the four of us being her only direct descendants), and on that basis I should tell him what I'm doing and when, and not only that but try and 'make up' days that I haven't done (when compared with my sister) because childcare in the week is not practical.

I have told him several times that my DH is not really happy about the situation/disruption to family life (e.g., last Monday and foreseeably all future Mondays was disrupted because I had to get up at 7am to give Grandma her breakfast, after she was up till 00:45 watching TV the night before, and then I had to cycle 12 miles to get to the station to get home, and was way too knackered to cook a meal for the family, or to work with my DS on his 11+ preparation), but rather than taking the attitude that 'you are helping out, thank you very much', it seems to be more a case of 'why aren't you doing more'.

I am not really sure if IABU to be resentful of this attitude.

My parents have never told me what they are doing in advance, they will just do it on the day, and I have followed their lead, so if they want to know for instance what we are doing in half-term, I will tell them the day before, because that's when I will know myself. If they want to go away or something, then give me the dates and I will try and help, but it seems like they just want to go and do some gardening at home, ok well you don't need two weeks notice for that do you, and actually perhaps you can get a bloody bed in before I come round again.

gussiegrips Tue 06-Nov-12 11:29:26

St Win how are things? Hope all is settling down and the family stress has calmed.

StWinithread Sat 01-Dec-12 02:23:57

Just to update you on this.

The house has new windows, and a few other things, e.g., a new bed for Grandma (not a special adjustable one or whatever, just a bog standard single, although they've screwed handles onto it, so that's slight progress), and there's something to stop the chair slipping as well.

Also there is now a double and single bed upstairs, though my late uncle's bedroom is intouched and a fairly nice back bedroom is still full of junk, and torn carpet, so not really somewhere anyone could live in.

Otherwise much the same, lots of silly things like still no washing machine, which is ridiculous as her clothes don't seem terribly clean.

I went there three weekends ago at my parents request on the Sunday afternoon, cooked dinner and left the next day, that wasn't too disruptive (well it was, but just one night, slightly less draining anyway).

Previous weekend to that one Grandma had hospital appointment, and my Mum wanted to escort her, so I wasn't needed.

When I was there that weekend Grandma mentioned follow-up appointment the next Monday, so I assumed that they wouldn't need me that weekend. Turned out that was the case, though my parents didn't bother to tell me, I made a point of calling them on Saturday to ask what was going on, my Dad said he had called earlier in the week but no answer, funny an e-mail too much trouble.

Following weekend I couldn't make it due to DD's birthday party commitment, and told him so by email.

He replied saying 'I fully understand', which was nice of him as I wasn't asking for his understanding, just telling him, and then 'can you come Saturday evening next week, rather than Sunday', which seems like compensating for me not being there that week... And the following weekend he said he had work commitments, could you be there Saturday/Sunday and I will see if your sister will change to Thursday/Friday.

So I called him and spoke to him, the 'work commitments' was just a load of waffle basically, he just wanted me to give him more time off, but anyway, I said 'ok, but just to let you know the following two weekends I'm busy'.

I also mentioned to him about Christmas, would they have Grandma round at their house, but from what he said my Mum is paranoid about her medical care, which is silly because she seems quite robust at the moment, apparently the local doctors/hospitals have her medical notes, but wouldn't near my parents' house, which is all very well but to go round there for 3 or 4 days they aren't likely to need acute care and wouldn't see a GP over Christmas anyway.

I mentioned also that I was thinking that it might be nice to rent a house for Christmas, for us all, but I looked at the cost and it was about £3k, so thought better of it. He was clearly not interested, which is all very well, but I'm not going to spend my Christmas in a living room that smells like a toilet, and is in fact a toilet, and a tiny cramped kitchen to cook in. Obviously taking the steps needed to provide a non-squalid Christmas are entirely beyond his ken, and any sense that it might be desirable to do so is outside of his field of view.

Following this conversation he comes back by email the next day and the plan apparently is now that my sister comes round BOTH following Thursday/Fridays and obviously then I have to get there earlier on Saturday than I would if my parents were there, because we both have other places we should be so to speak. Not terribly impressed with that, felt like it was a reaction to me telling him I wasn't going to be there the following weeks, wished I hadn't bothered.

In the end my sister didn't turn up till Friday last week, not quite sure why, my Dad was vague. Got to Grandmas' on Saturday, she was quite well, apparently she slipped in the morning on Wednesday, no harm done, but my Dad had to lift her up, so this I think probably freaked my Mum out, she is very bad at coping with any kind of stress at all. Grandma in very good humour/health from what I could see. Perhaps this was why my sister didn't go on Thursday. Or maybe it was because my Dad got his wires crossed about her coming both weeks on Thursday. Who knows.

I mentioned to my Dad about getting someone to look after Grandma, and from being confident/assertive in asking me to go over there this invariably turns him all mumbly. He said 'we've got a carer in now once a week', said as if this was progress. I asked 'Can she stay overnight'. A bit mumbly again. Anyway, I asked Grandma about this and apparently the carer just goes in for an hour on Fridays to make sure she's clean, etc. This seems like a good idea to ensure she doesn't develop skin problems or whatever, but it's clearly no progress towards getting someone in whose responsibility it is to look after Grandma, several days a week.

Anyway, going over today (Saturday) again, my Mum, slightly unusually, emailed me about this, 'what time are you planning to get there? could you please text me when you arrive?' er, what, why? Am not sure if she is checking up on me or just super-paranoid.

So basically no progress. My sister apparently hasn't booked her train tickets (potentially expensive if not booked in advance), to see her partner's family over Christmas. I am not exactly sure why not, but I can only imagine she thinks she might have to look after Grandma on Christmas? Don't know. To be clear, I would like to see my parents + Grandma for Christmas (Grandma refused for the last number of years to come round when invited for Christmas, it turns out apparently this was because of her incontinence, which she wasn't managing properly, and hence turned down these invitations), but will not spend it on a sofa that stinks of piss and covered in sanitary products, and if my parents imagine that they can spend Christmas in their pleasant home while we look after Grandma in squalor, they can think again - there's no way we're spending Christmas night there.

So all in all pretty much 'as we were', basically I will say 'no I can't come', when it's inconvenient, my Dad will change the subject or make excuses why he hasn't arranged for paid care, and otherwise they are still expecting me to come whenever possible, i.e. all my weekends when I'm not running around after other people.

CleopatrasAsp Sat 01-Dec-12 03:30:22

Look, stop enabling all of them, just say 'no' and cope with the fallout as best you can. You can't always please everyone and have everyone think well of you. Your main duty is to your own immediate family - particularly your children. These 'arrangements'don't work for you and you have to be brave here and put your foot down. If your sister is seen as a saint as a result, don't worry about it. My guess is that in time she will quickly tire of 'caring' for your grandmother anyway. If you bow out your parents - who seem pretty useless - will hassle her more and more to take up the shortfall and she will soon get fed up with this.

Your grandmother proper care and I think your parents are being quite cruel in not organising it properly. She shouldn't be living in such insanitary conditions and going to toilet in a bucket for a start, that is quite disgusting. If your parents and sister won't agree to sorting this whole mess out properly and getting paid carers involved then just refuse to do any more yourself. At the moment you are angry at having to do it but you're still doing it which leaves you open to further requests and the whole things just keeps on going and going.

CleopatrasAsp Sat 01-Dec-12 03:35:34

Please excuse typos, that last paragraph should start: 'Your grandmother needs proper care; and the last sentence should say, 'the whole thing just keeps on going and going'.

myBOYSareBONKERS Sat 01-Dec-12 06:24:37

I agree with CleopatrasAsp

LunaLunatic Sat 01-Dec-12 07:14:42

So you don't want to spend time in squalor (sofa stinking of urine etc) but it's alright for your grandma to live like that? To think she has lived a century and is now having to live in such a state because no one (including you OP) will have the nous to find her a care home. Sorry to be harsh but you are equally responsible, you are well aware that your parents can't or won't move her, so why aren't you arranging it? I can't imagine my GPs living in their own filth, I can't imagine ever allowing it, it would horrify me to see them lose their dignity like that. No you shouldn't have to take care of her, as others have said it is quite an intense and even specialised task, and you have a family to take care of. But someone needs to care for her, she should be in a professional care home imo where she has access to proper care and is at least afforded the dignity of not having to poo in a bag and sit in her own urine on the sofa. I'm quite shocked by this I honestly am. Poor woman.

lovebunny Sat 01-Dec-12 07:43:25

get social services round, get her house up for sale and put granny in a care home where she can be looked after. best for her, best for you. if your parents are worried about their inheritance, let them do the caring and you bow out. tell them that from 1 Jan 2013 you withdraw your services. be clear, calm and contact the authorities.

WelshMaenad Sat 01-Dec-12 08:32:57

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

schoolgovernor Sat 01-Dec-12 09:12:07

Please can you answer a question? Why haven't you (ie you, not your parents or sister) called her GP and Social Services? Why?

Nanny0gg England Sat 01-Dec-12 10:24:27

Yes WelshMaenad, her grandmother won't probably have many Christmases left.
Why should they be spent living in discomfort when it really isn't necessary? Why should the OP's family life be put to one side, however much she loves her grandmother, just because her parents are too tight/disorganised to sort out proper care?
If I ever get to that age I would like to be cared for properly in comfortable, clean surroundings by carers who know what they are doing, and to see lots of my family in a happy social situation.
I don't want my children wiping my bottom for me and I don't want a commode in the living room.
I don't agree with your assasination assessmemt of the OP and I haven't got parents or grandparents left. I hate all that emotive 'I would put up with anything if they were still here' crap rubbish.
You'd want your GPs to live like that just so they could meet your children would you?
Really?

ssd Sat 01-Dec-12 10:35:12

op, your poor poor grandma, no one to really care for her and her situation, everyone concerned about what suits them and leaving her in squalor

my mum has recently died, she was in her mid eighties, not far off your gran. I set up huge amounts of care for her and she was well looked after, right up to the day she died. The warden in her housing complex told me mum had felt loved, but said lots of the residents there didn't feel loved. I'm guessing your gran doesn't feel loved either. How sad, to die not feeling loved...and you and your family have the power to change that and all that's whats happening is arguments and shoulder shrugging.

your poor old gran

HoleyGhost Sat 01-Dec-12 10:39:10

It doesn't necessarily end. She is 100, but in good health. This could go on a few years. By then one of the OP's parents might need care.

The children should be the first priority.

DontmindifIdo Sat 01-Dec-12 10:55:58

Can you talk to your sister? I know she's got the whole martyr thing going on, but could you sit her down, say that you feel your gran needs 24 hour care, and unless someone moves in perminately with her, you can't see how that can be provided within the family. Say that you and your DCs can't, your mum & Dad don't want to move your gran in with them and you can't ask your Sister to do it. Ask her if she thinks the inheritance is more important than your Gran's happiness and health. Suggest you both present a united front to your parents to insist that your Gran either goes into a full time care home or moves in with them. (the state of the house is such that you couldn't expect a paid worker to move into it).

Give them 1 week to make the decision and then say you will start talking to social services, looking for homes and start getting the house sold. You could rope your sister in to looking for homes, suggest she might know what the best criteria is (play on her "I am the most self sacrificing" side to get her to target it in this way).

I hope my DCs when I'm that stage will be able to see past the inheritance and use my money to give me the best quality care possible if they aren't prepared to do it themselves. You don't get an inheritance unless you are prepared to offer end of life care for free. Your parents are being selfish and grabby trying to have both the money without the responsibility.

Mosman Sat 01-Dec-12 11:17:37

This is just wrong, is the GP or community nurse ever called to the house because all hell will break loose when they see how she's living. Be proactive and ask for help, phone age concern ASAP.
You love your grandmother so you must take control of this situation on her behalf

StWinithread Sat 01-Dec-12 12:07:08

I believe social services concluded the situation was being 'managed'. I think they have bigger priorities tbh - she is being fed, and cared for, so compromised dignity isn't really a big deal for them I think.

diddl Germany Sat 01-Dec-12 12:15:33

Did they actually look or take your parents word for it?

TBH your parents are doing what´s easy for them-not what´s best for your GM-who is by the sounds of things a vulnerable adult-that should be of concern to them.

Have you contacted Age Concern?

musicalendorphins Sat 01-Dec-12 12:22:01

Omg. Please make arrangements to move your grandmother into a nice home where she will have all of her needs cared for. There will be other residents and it sounds like she is social and will enjoy that. Her clothing, bedding and all that will be laundered, and her meals prepared. My MIL is in a nursing home, and has excellent care. I would never in a million years let my MIL be without a toilet and not be able to be bathed or showered.
Please, just go check out some homes and get her moved into one as soon as possible. Take a lot of pictures and some videos of her garden for her to look at and show people, but her garden is not enough of a reason for her to live in there really bad conditions.

DontmindifIdo Sat 01-Dec-12 12:41:48

OP - you can and must go over your parents' heads to social services, say you think your grandmother is at risk. If your parents aren't prepared to take her care seriously, then they have forfited the right to be in control of what happens.

If you love your grandmother, don't leave her like this.

ethelb Sat 01-Dec-12 12:52:34

OP I think you are being given a really really rough time tbh. Did your parents look after their grandparents? I don't think they did. And certainly not when they had children.

I think that a lot of social rules regarding looking after elderly members of your family were developed when people died at 70 after quick illness and women didn't work. It's shit that we arent' able to look after our relatives how we would like, but I htink people on here need a bit of a reality check.

She needs 24 hour care due to her frailty but is otherwise in good health. She's not going to go anytime soon and eally needs to go into a home. People who's parents get this old and frail just don't get inheritances. Tough shit tbh.

Jamillalliamilli Sat 01-Dec-12 13:10:15

St W, I think you are all too caught up in the family dynamics, and you can’t see the wood for the trees anymore.

This threads brought back many memories of having to stand up to my ‘in laws’ to provide my ‘MIL’ with proper care to stay in her home as she wanted. Her family wanted to pretend things weren't as bad as they were, or blame and complain about each other and her, because that way they could excuse their lack of action, and what had happened to her, instead of just being honest and saying times have changed, we don’t have the time or energy. But they felt guilty about it, so tried to minimise her needs to fit their lives, and didn't want her spending money ‘in case she needed it for later.’ (it WAS later!)

It got me labelled the martyr, because I couldn't join the family dynamic and watch her suffering. It pissed me off but I’d rather be the martyr, than part of enabling systematic neglect of a vulnerable but independent elderly lady.

I got a fair bit wrong, but can look back and know at least she spent her last few years clean, dry, warm, comfortable, cared for, and loved, and slid out exactly how she wanted, and whatever I screwed up (loads) she got that from it. My children get to remember her the same way. We get to remember her happily.

Will you and your children honestly be able to look back and know whatever you got wrong you did your best by her?

Is there anything people on this thread can do to help you to help her?

My biggest ally was the district nurse, she’d seen all this sort of thing many times, and that’s who I’d plead with you to talk to about the conditions your Grandma’s surviving in. Things don't have to be this tough for her.

Jamillalliamilli Sat 01-Dec-12 13:51:38

Re reading my post, its a bit muddled, I'm trying to say if someone’s prepared to be ‘the martyr’ then don’t label them, whatever you think of them, bite your tongue and support them to provide her with full time good care.

If no one’s able and/ or willing to provide it, then recognise that, and stand up to the ‘we all must do our bit to help out’ as not good enough to meet her needs at 100, and help her use her money to live out her end days comfortably, wherever that is.

I don’t agree with forcing her into a home if it’s not what she wants, but there’s no question she needs a great deal more care and better quality of life than she’s getting, however that’s achieved.

If reports are true we’re about to have the worst winter since she was born. Her care may be being ‘managed’, but not acceptably, and you need to alert the local authorities to that.

OP, maybe you could break this down into different options, cost them up, and discuss with your family and grandmother with actual plans in place, rather than just saying, "Couldn't we get a toilet installed?" Obviously this means you doing some legwork, but no-one else seems prepared to. Also discuss finances and who would pay.

E.g.:

1 Grandma moves into care home/sheltered housing
a) Willowtree House, £X per month, own room, shared facilities, 60 residents and days out provided
b) Oakland Gardens, £Y per month, shared room, lots of bingo nights
etc.
c) Buys a flat at Fabby Retirement Apartments, independent living but handymen and carers available (maybe this wouldn't be an option in her case)

2 Grandma stays in her house WITH ESSENTIAL UPGRADE AND CARERS and visits from family but NOT essential care

Upgrades:
a) toilet, £X to buy and install
b) if upstairs is unused, clear out all the furniture and shut it down, at least it's not accumulating dust
c) porch/ramp/whatever else is needed, £Y

Carers:
a) personal care daily, at a cost of £A
b) housework - cleaning and cooking, at a cost of £B

3 Grandma moves in with your parents (sorry if I've missed any discussion on this). Occasional respite care from you and your sister.

If your parents won't do this, you need to. If they are too lazy to fix their own toilet or get a washing machine installed, of course they won't instigate any major changes for your grandmother. If they won't do this, shame them? (If they have any shame.) Point out your grandmother is living in squalor because they are so ineffectual.

WelshMaenad Sat 01-Dec-12 17:09:56

God, no, NannyOgg. I took far better care of my grandfather than the OP and her family seem to be taking of this poor old lady, and I completely agree that she should be receiving daily homecare from an appropriate agency, however dubious the OP finds the motives of lowly carers. I just found that the 17 paragraphs of selfselfself stuck in my craw a bit.

Mintyy Sat 01-Dec-12 17:19:35

Its rather upsetting to read that your grandmother's circumstances have hardly improved. I do wish you would be a bit more dynamic about this op. You appear to be happy to leave your grandmother living in inadequate conditions because you don't want to fall out with your parents? Its not really on, poor lady.

Horsemad Sat 01-Dec-12 17:20:54

OP what is the reason for your parents refusing to get appropriate care in place for your GM?

Are they worried about their inheritance being eaten up by fees? Or are they genuinely oblivious to the conditions she is existing in?

You are able to change this OP, YOU OWE IT TO HER.

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