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.

Awkwardsquad Fri 12-Oct-12 08:14:20

Your grandmother needs a proper social care assessment. Call the council.

She needs a carer.

Our neighbour who has no close family has carers going in twice a day to get her washed/dressed and ready for bed. She has meals on wheels providing lunch and dinner. My parents then pop in a couple of times most days, or are always on call to sort out problems (when they go away I become a contact telephone number). My mum works and there is no way she could manage all the personal care - mum and dad between them can do all the admin/support/helping out in crisis/shopping for milk bread etc, but they couldn't do the personal care as well.

The care package was sorted out by SS. I would start by talking to them.

OneHandFlapping Fri 12-Oct-12 09:36:01

The burden of all this care on your whole family is too much, and it would be selfish of your Grandma to expect it. To put it brutally, it is time for her to go into some sort of supported accommodation, and her house needs to be sold to pay for it.

Has anyone discussed this with your Grandma?

SeveredEdMcDunnough Fri 12-Oct-12 09:40:47

Wow...nearly 2 hours drive is a LONG way. With children as well - and once they have commitments and clubs and activities/parties at the weekend it certainly won't be something you can do.

I would find this situation unfeasible. We do have a relative who lives similarly - alone, downstairs, can barely make it to the kitchen or loo let alone anywhere else.
My parents take her out once a week in the car and one of them calls in every evening to help her, do some cleaning, sort out essentials.
She has I think a carer to come and help wash her hair, do her bandages and so on.
My folks seem not to worry too much about it - the have active lives despite being over 60 and are both working.
Every time I have offered to do something, they have refused to allow it as I have two children and another on the way now and they just prefer to keep in control of it all themselves.

I would second asking SS to some and assess her for a care package. IN the old days when people shared homes between generations, this sort of family pitching in thing could work well - you all lived together, didn't have to travel etc.
Living so far away is going to be a nightmare.
Good luck. And don't push yourselves too far.

RuleBritannia Fri 12-Oct-12 09:46:10

How old are your parents?

I agree, it sounds like your grandma really needs to be in a care home or some kind of sheltered accommodation where care is provided, just so she can get the kind of care she needs. She can't continue to live in her own home, especially if the windows are rotten and have holes in them. She needs to be safe, warm, clean and comfortable. The situation right now sounds intolerable for everyone involved.

You can't commit to being her carer every weekend, and your parents and sister can't do it on their own.

gussiegrips Fri 12-Oct-12 09:50:57

Oooh, I've got a sinking feeling about this...

Has anyone asked Grandma what SHE wants? There's lots in your posts about the family dynamics - but nothing at all mentioning what she thinks

My concerns are:

she's falling - what is being doen about that? WHY is she falling, is it medication making her woozy, is her balance too poor, is she frightened of falling, is her frame not right for her...falls are really serious in the frail elderly - get her GP to arrange a falls assessment as an emergency.

she's washing out of a bucket What? Really? That's not awfully dignified, but is she managing to do that herself? Fab, but get the woman a naice baisin and flluffy towels and some pretty soap.

continence - is that under control? She shouldn't be flooding and then sitting in wet, her skin will break down, she'll get infections and that could be devastating for her health. Her GP and community nurse should be managing that.

family stress - it is possible to have paid carers and family input. Who said she wanted you lot wiping her bum anyway? Might it not be worth getting a package of care in place to provide the basics, and the family top up with social visits, roast dinners, naice soap and whatnot? If this continues all that is going to happen is she will realise there is strife regarding her care, and she will feel like a burden. And no 100 year old should be a burden on society.

Caring is Very Hard Indeed. Your family will not be able to sustain this - and it does not have to. Get your GP to visit and show what your family is managing and ask what else is available.

She might be interested in a day club, she might be interested in having Crossroads come to visit and let the heat off you guys. She might be keen to do some balance exercises and get her blood pumping.

Where in the world are you? There might be some services I know of that would help.

You are completely right to flag up what you can manage as opposed to what is expected. The worst scenario is when families try to do it themselves, can't manage it and their loved one gets poorly because they are simply frail and slighltly mismanaged.

You sound very loving of her. That doesn't mean your life can be hijacked to look after her - it'd be very sad if your feeligns towards your gRandma changed because of this imposition.

<hug> don't tell, though

LillianGish Fri 12-Oct-12 10:10:35

I agree with those who say you need to get a care package in place so she has carers going in twice a day and then any help you, your sister and your parents supply is the icing on the cake. Talk to social services and find out what is available - they may also be able to supply equipment to make caring for her easier. I think you need to be honest about what you can commit to, but can totally understand why your parents want to have some sort of rota so they can have a break themselves. Don't take this the wrong way, but this situation will not last much longer - she is 100 when all is said and done (and frankly I think you'd be hard pushed to persuade her to move at that time of life if she really doesn't want to). I don't think you are being unreasonable at all, you sound like a lovely person who loves her grandma, but as other have said you have a family and a job as well.

ArtfulAardvark Fri 12-Oct-12 10:25:42

You know we are all looking at dealing with a similar situation at some point and it is one which concerns me.

I do find the contrasting opinions regarding how we care for our dependant children compared to how we care for our dependant elderly perculiar. It is OK to get our children looked after professionals (in fact we are frowned on if we want to stay at home with them) but NOT ok to get professionals to look after a pensioner (confusingly we are expected to put our lives on hold and do it in person)

I do feel you need to get some outside help - I am not naturally a carer (a trait inherited from my mum!) it is obvious you care about your gran but I really dont think you are wrong in thinking this situation is unsustainable long term without having health implications for all of you doing the caring.

I do feel it is important that your children have an enjoyable childhood too, am I right in thinking the scenario you are describing takes them away from their home and friends every weekend?

Arithmeticulous Fri 12-Oct-12 10:49:41

Sounds like your parents and sister are forgetting you also have children to care for.

CassandraApprentice Fri 12-Oct-12 10:59:16

Definitely try and get something else sorted - outside care, more realistic expectations on your contributions, sheltered accommodation, day time old peoples groups - have an elderly relative you goes twice a week picked up and dropped off get a meal out and gives families a couple hours break.

There are a lot of comments saying it won't be for long - well in both mine and DH family what happened is elderly relatives sort of went in stages one after other. My parent had six years of caring as 4 GP slowly went downhill one after another and their siblings talked a good role but didn’t do their fair share. It took a huge toll of them and their health.

You have to think about your DC needs and your and Dh relationship being adversely affected if you do take too much on – as well as your health.

Family meeting armed with alot of additional suppport information and your DH there to ensure you don't get guilted into taking on to much - could be a way forward.

One of my GP was very against a home but after a hopsital stay had to go into one and then loved it and wished they'd done it years earlier - took a huge amount money which trouble one of my Uncles who was in another country not providing any care but wanting his inheritance angry. There are nice one out there - they are hard to find and do cost.

HecateLarpo Fri 12-Oct-12 11:30:26

very good point, gussie. I simply assumed that the family are doing all this because they have discussed it with her and she does want to stay in her home with their help.

StWinifred Fri 12-Oct-12 11:48:00

I sent my Dad a slightly snippy email last night in reply to his call last night at 11:30pm. He has replied saying "I am working on the assumption that you are able to come over here each Sunday, hope that's correct?" and "I don't like having to ask or harass" and in reply to my suggestion that the house wasn't somewhere that I would want bring my DCs, ask what I would do to improve it, as if it wasn't obvious that bedding, window frames without inch-wide holes in, etc., would be pretty fundamental.

Am not really in a hurry to reply, but it's something like "Well actually I am not sure that (a) I'm going to spend all my future Sundays coming there tbh, even looking at the weather forecast for this weekend it seems like it might be a nice day, and I'd rather like to be going out into the countryside for a walk, especially as we are spending Saturdays looking round schools and (b) last week I was there Saturday, that might be possible this week also if it would help, but it rather throws a spanner in the works if you are going to imply that I need to match my sister or something because then I'm thinking, 'hmm, if I go there Saturday then that's one less day I have to do in future', which is not really a recipe for harmony"

HeathRobinson Fri 12-Oct-12 12:11:39

I'm really surprised that your parents are expecting you and your sister to do any care. Social visits, sure, but not care.

I wouldn't expect it of my grandchildren (if my kids decide to have kids).

StWinifred Fri 12-Oct-12 12:18:06

My sister has suggested and pushed for this arrangement tbh. I think Grandma was assuming she would go live with my parents.

LookBehindYou Fri 12-Oct-12 12:18:20

Your grandma is family. Would it kill you to look after her and give your presumably elderly parents more of a reliable hand? I imagine they are finding it a huge strain and will have lots of emotions of their own. You don't stop loving your mother intensely just because they're very old.

thecatsminion Fri 12-Oct-12 12:22:41

I think you're being rotten about this Sunday tbh. Caring all the time - fair enough, you can't do it. Humming and hawing about whether or not you can visit in two days time because it might be a sunny day isn't fair on anyone.

boschy Fri 12-Oct-12 12:23:55

st winifred I do sympathise (am in slightly similar position with my aged mum at the mo - tho I am the only person close by).

You simply cannot commit to the level you are being asked, and I second getting SS involved. If you contact the elderly care department they should be able to do an assessment and work out what help grandma needs and how it can be best provided. Then you can see what she is entitled to, and how/if it needs to be topped up and work out the best way to do that.

You need to think about your young family as well as the old ones.... and do not let your sister guilt trip you.

boschy Fri 12-Oct-12 12:24:25

thecats - she was there all last weekend? she has 2 young children...

Honestly, (and speaking form the perspective of having cared for elderly parents)

You need to get social services involved in her care. There are lots they can do. Speak to age concern for ideas?
Help to get out of bed and dressed, and break fast made, meals on wheels for dinners, etc. Her local church can possibly arrange a visitor once a week, etc.

It is not your responsibility to take part in a care schedule for a 90 year old grandma who lives far away.

But, relatives, and the elderly themselves can manage to heap on a lot of guilt and feeling of duty.

The best you can do to help your grandma is actually to stand your ground and encourage your parents to get a care package in place for her.

Email your dad something along the lines of:

"Dear dad, I am not able to take part in any regular care of grandma. It is not convenient for me and my family, the most I can do is a visit maybe once a month, but this should not be relied up on as part of her care, but as me visiting my grandma. I am not in a position to take on any care duties. If you and mum and sis feel the burden, you need to get social services for the elderly involved in getting a care package in place for grandma"

Or something to that effect. Make it clear from the outset that you are not prepared to do this.

thecatsminion Fri 12-Oct-12 12:29:42

Boschy - I know, it's a horrible situation. But the OP could just say she's not going this weekend, straight out, which would at least let her parents know they need to get someone else or do it themselves.

boschy Fri 12-Oct-12 12:36:39

true cats, but that's where the guilt is coming in and paralysing her. I think quints email is a good one.

Just got off the phone from my mum, who is guilt-tripping me. My DB and SIL left this morning; her cleaner is going in to see her at 1pm; DD2 will be there at 4 and DD1 and I there not long after. The district nurse will also come this pm. I will go back to help her up to bed tonight. Then tomorrow morning I will go and get her up... and repeat until she recovers enough (had knee replacement) to regain her independence.

These arragnements are not enough apparently because she has been alone for 1.5 hours this morning.... it's gonna happen I'm afraid.

lurkerspeaks Fri 12-Oct-12 12:41:38

No is a complete sentence. Ignore the guilt tripping. If you don't want to do it / can't do it. Don't.

I've said no to a similar request from my family recently about my Gran (convenienly for the person asking I'm in the same city. She lives 500 miles away). The person asking was pretty pissed off that I said no but I have a very busy full time job, a tonne of committments outside of paid work that further my career which is important to me. So I'm happy to pay for help but I can't do it personally. I suggeted that if she cared so much (she is a SAHM) I would pay for a flight for her and her children once a month. Funnily enough this didn't go down very well.

My Mum is also about to go into a nursing home because we can't sustain her at home any more (she is 63).

Viviennemary Fri 12-Oct-12 12:43:23

YANBU. She needs proper care. I don't think you should be coerced into this by your sister. She hasn't got children to look after. You have. Also you have offered that your Grandma can stay in your house. But have been told this won't do.

I don't think it's fair to take children to stay at her house if that's the proposed arrangement. If it was for a week in an emergency you could probably agree and leave your DH to look after your children and go and stay with her. But any regular commitment is going to be very difficult. Your sister sounds a proper nightmare. Don't be bullied by her. I agree there comes a point when a person's needs has to be looked at and a decision to be made if the family can continue to reasonably take on all the care duties themselves.

DontmindifIdo Fri 12-Oct-12 12:43:37

I would be honest, you can't spend every sunday away from your children - so tell your Dad that - it's not fair on your DCs and not fair on your DH.

I think the e-mail suggested by QuintessentialShadows is excellent, just because your sister can do care, doesn't mean you can. You have other care commitments already, you care for DCs.

Your Grandmother might not want to live with your parents, but realistically she's not coping in the house on her own and you can't provide 24 hour care between you. Washing out of a bucket (I assume of cold water??) isn't acceptable. Having urine on her skin is bad for her. Social services need to get involved, if it's not practical for your other family members to provide care (and not just popping in, someone needs to live with her, either move into her house or she can move in with them), then she might need to go into a home.

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