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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.

EchoBitch Fri 12-Oct-12 02:29:28

God i can't wait to get old.

StWinifred Fri 12-Oct-12 02:30:49

Oh Grandma seems quite happy.

She seems to have loosened up a bit in her old age.

She sat through Never Mind The Buzzcocks and jokes about horse semen without blushing.

EchoBitch Fri 12-Oct-12 02:40:20

So her son/carer died in July,three months ago?

She must be devastated.

Have you any social services input to help with meals/personal care etc?

alphabite Fri 12-Oct-12 02:45:15

Yanbu. This is too much when you have young children to look after. However YABU about a bed. A mattress won't harm anyone. A bed is just a mattress raised up anyway.

I think you need to try to see where your parents are coming from. They are probably exhausted and you should try to.commit to a given amount of time even if its less than your sister. Maybe 1 Saturday per fortnight. Realistically your gran won't be around much longer and you might regret not helping out.

Families stick together. My mum and dad travelled 3 hours there and 3 hours back every weekend to see my great aunt. They did this on top of a 60 hour week and looking after 3 of us. They did this for 2 years before having to result in putting her in a home as during the week she was unable to care for herself and home help was no longer enough.

Have your parents considered hiring some help?

Wingedharpy Fri 12-Oct-12 02:53:57

You need to call an urgent family meeting to thrash this out as what you have described is clearly not sustainable in the long term.
Your Sister has given her view on what should happen to Granny (ie you should all look after her in her own home) but Sis's circumstances (home working possibility, no children) are very different from yours.
Sis can achieve this care with minimal disruption to her life.
You all need to be honest and put your cards on the table as, although Granny clearly needs to be looked after, it cannot be at the cost of everyone else's lives.
Does Granny actually go out?
Would it really make any difference to her if she was not in her own home as long as she was being cared for?
If the caring does have to take place at her home then the home has to be equipped so that the carers (ie you and yours) are being cared for as well.
Would living with your parents be a possibility?
She could then have all Doctors and future medical appointments relocated to their area so they wouldn't have to keep going backwards and forwards.
Could you and your sister commit to some weekends to look after Granny so that your parents get a break from their caring role?
See what Social Services can offer as well, though, IMH experience, it isn't much.
Good luck. This is not easy.

StWinifred Fri 12-Oct-12 02:59:20

Grandma said to me on Sunday 'I had a letter from <relative/friend>, she's 92, about this had died and that had died, I threw it in the bin, I lost my husband 35 years ago, I've walked in on enough dead people, I'm not moaning about it'.

Very stoic.

Social services were coming round every morning but tbh there's not much for them to do, she washes herself with a bucket, gets dressed, etc., and I don't think she's particularly keen on random strangers IYSWIM, obviously it's better to have family there.

I could pay someone to be with her two days a week no problems, but it's difficult because family is obviously better and also my sister is very sanctimonious. E.g., I call my sister from Grandma's on Monday 'Would you like me to get you anything from the shops? [she's coming round at 6pm, I'm leaving at 4pm] There's milk, ham, salad and a cheese and onion quiche in the fridge.' She: 'What's the date on it' Me '5 days hence. Oh there's some sponge puddings her too' She: 'Oh I want to make her a home cooked meal, she gets a lot of ready meals from our parents, I don't think it's good to eat ready meals there's too much salt' Me: <thinking, I didn't need a lecture from you, I cooked her a lovely roast dinner last night thank you, I'm just telling you what's in the fucking fridge here, and asking if you would like me to pick anything up from the shops> 'Oh ok, so you don't need anything then?'

She then continued at some point with 'I'm going to try and keep seeing our other Grandma the same amount'

So generally quite sanctimonious and basically unless I'm there in person, arranging/paying for a carer, whatever, isn't going to cut it.

It seems that the intention is we keep going with this indefinitely basically, until maybe one of us cracks or something.

Softlysoftly Fri 12-Oct-12 03:03:58

Wow tough situation, I agree with ^, you need to sort this properly. And I agree with your parents it needs to be a specific routine, but a sustainable one, you being away from your kids every weekend is not sustainable.

So meet up and be honest about what you can commit and why.

StWinifred Fri 12-Oct-12 03:12:36

"Does Granny actually go out?"

Well not much, no.

She used to a very active social life for a 90-something year old, I think once a week she used to go out for lunch with a younger friend in her car, but now she can't walk except with a frame and even with the frame the very high chance she will fall over, or needs a lot of help to get into the car makes it impossible for a 75-year-old woman to take her out.

She used to go out on Thursday evenings to an old people's group too, but again it's a major undertaking and I think she's been once in six months, having been taken by my father.

When I was there on Monday she had a hairdresser come round (once a fortnight), a lovely lady who goes round old people's homes and does their hair, and they chat about this and that while she does so, so that's a social bond.

She has a nice garden but she hasn't been in it in weeks because of a step outside and generally inaccessible. I think she was taken out on Saturday in the wheelchair by my parents, and I asked if she would like to go out for lunch on Sunday and the implication was that she'd had quite enough excitement recently by going out for an hour-and-a-half on Saturday, so that was that.

I think what with sleeping a lot of the day and then e.g. the hairdresser coming in for an hour then that's pretty much enough for one day for her.

She does have stronger-than-average connections to her local community, but a lot of her friends have died or gone senile. I am not quite sure how often she is seeing people outside my parents/my sister, etc., the lady who used to take her out to lunch I guess probably does not come round as often as once per week.

alphabite Fri 12-Oct-12 03:15:14

Cut your sister a bit of slack. It sounds like she's going above and beyond if she's seeing your other grandma that often too. Just because she doesn't have children doesn't mean she doesn't have her own life. You don't sound like you like your sister very much.

StWinifred Fri 12-Oct-12 03:21:05

"And I agree with your parents it needs to be a specific routine, but a sustainable one, you being away from your kids every weekend is not sustainable."

It's tricky because the implication is that I must be there 104 days a year (2 days a week) because my sister is doing that.

Now if I spent the whole weekend there every other fortnight, that would be a bit less relentless, but then that would only be 52 days a year, and that would leave another 8 weeks to be there on top of that, whereas realistically

(a) we're likely to want to go away for a week over Christmas
(b) we're probably going to go away in the summer to my DH's home country for several weeks
(c) it's not so bad doing this now when the weather is a bit shit but if it's a nice sunny day in May and I/we are stuck in the house all day (and the house is falling apart, small and alongside a motorway - not exactly a pleasant country cottage) then that's not what we would plan to be doing I guess....

ripsishere Fri 12-Oct-12 03:25:51

IMO, she needs input from a physic and an OT. Arrangements should be made for her to be able to manage her personal hygiene better than a bucket.
would she tolerate carers coming into her a couple of times a day? I did some work for an agency. We had umpteen clients who would be helped out of bed, given breakfast, washed dressed etc. They would be visited again at lunch, then dinner then bed time when he morning routine would be reversed.

StWinifred Fri 12-Oct-12 03:40:32

" It sounds like she's going above and beyond if she's seeing your other grandma that often too."

It's not that often, every couple of months maybe, it's more that she never ceases to harp on about it.

"You don't sound like you like your sister very much."

No I don't. She has a totally different worldview, she a sort of militant Liberal Democrat vegetarian type, and me not, she would come and stay for Christmas and then make sanctimonious comments about recycling etc, and we would all (my parents and my family and I) go out for a walk on Boxing Day but then she would stay home.

We would meet occasionally and I would buy her dinner or whatever, and then on one occasion this happened I paid the bill for me and my sister about £200 for lunch for 7, and then later the same day we had a coffees and it came to about £15 and I was watching her trying to wait for me or my dad to pay, rather than just making the point of at least paying for something, ok not the £200 for lunch but at least buy coffee later, anyway the next time we met we went out for lunch with my Grandma and I said she should pay and she said I should pay half, cos there was 4 of us and one of her, and anyway I said she had never paid for anything and that she was cheap. She then said well you make much more money than I do, if I'm out with one of my staff at work I always buy them lunch because I make more than they do, and I said 'you're not one of my staff, you're my sister! My Grandma and Uncle don't earn much but they're always volunteer to pay the bill, it's just polite'

Anyway she was mortally offended by my calling her cheap (five years ago) and didn't talk to me for some time but does speak to me now but only ever to nag about elderly relatives ('other Grandma's son is going on holiday, perhaps you could go round', things like that).

CaliforniaLeaving Fri 12-Oct-12 04:21:31

It doesn't sound like a very workable situation at all, the house and her living downstairs and washing out of a bucket each day is awful.
Holes in the window and no bed in a home that is circa 1930 sounds bloody awful, not somewhere I'd want my kids to hang out while I tried to cook clean and look after a 100 year old woman. I doubt it's been properly maintained and will probably be cold and damp come winter.
I know she's old, I know she likes her home but she really needs to live somewhere better, somewhere warm, somewhere where she has access to a proper toilet and basin and a shower occasionally. I think the whole family is being unreasonable to think this will work. She really needs some outside carers seeing everyone has jobs and you have kids to care for. Visiting twice a week is one thing, but trying to do it all is another.
Family meeting time.

ToothbrushThief Fri 12-Oct-12 04:34:04

It's not sustainable for your family and will lead to family frictions amongst yours and the wider family.

You do need a planned sit down and open conversation expressing your desire to help, but outlining your limitations.

I would also bear in mind how you will all feel if she were to die suddenly or if she survives another 2 yrs. You need to feel you've given her the best of care but it needs to be sustainable and needs whole family agreement agreement to avoid nasty family friction

lovebunny Fri 12-Oct-12 05:44:29

tell your parents and sister that you have a young family and cannot contribute to elderly care.

stop trying to take a 'share' of the burden. you, your husband and children have to come first. your parents and sister have nothing else going on.

you are the future of the family, your health,your relationship, your parenting experience is their future too.

FolkGhoul Fri 12-Oct-12 06:10:11

It sounds harsh (and I'm sure feathers will fly) but I agree with lovebunny.

Your situation isn't conducive to caring for an elderly relative in the way required.

You need to do what everyone else has said, and get together for a family meeting. You need to establish exactly what care is required and exactly what everyone is capable of doing.

And that doesn't need to be equal.

I don't envy your situation. Having been there (on a much smaller scale than you are facing) I know just how unpleasant these situations can become.

Bilbobagginstummy Fri 12-Oct-12 06:19:28

What about sheltered accommodation in her local area? Or a home with people to do the caring?
Expensive potentially, but surely worth serious consideration as her domestic situation sounds dreadful: you seem to be blinded to that by familiarity. (not a criticism)

It has to be a sustainable set-up and this isn't, I agree with everyone else.

Perhaps you could ask your grandma what she would like to happen now (apart from having her son back, which is sadly not going to happen).

BeckAndCall Fri 12-Oct-12 06:30:34

Sorry, but you have to put an end to this situation. She may be 100 years old but you could be faced with this every weekend for the next 3 or 4 years - and that's your children's family weekend gone forever.

I say this as one in a very similar situation - the drive is less, only an hour for us - but it puts paid to any family life when either myself of DH is away for a day every weekend and can be called to the hospital at a moments notice.

Family may be best from Grandma's point of view but the main stay has to be outside help - for us that's an agency coming in twice a day. Visits are still regular from us but it means it's not all about changing sheets and emptying commodes - time spent can be social, rather than attending to personal hygiene needs.

We've had five years on and off of a really difficukt time trying to do the right thing for our wider family and a particularly demanding last six months and each month we think ' oh, it'll get better soon' and it never does. Start making a long term plan that doesn't involve missing a family weekends on a regular basis, because you don't get that time back.

thecatsminion Fri 12-Oct-12 06:40:27

I don't thin you can keep going like this, so overall YANBU. I'd do the family meeting thing.

But, I think it's unfair of you not to let your parents know, one way or the other, if you can do a weekend. If they're crap at working in advance then say that to them, don't retaliate by doing the same. Could you sit down, look at your diary for a few months, work out what you can do and go from there?

HecateLarpo Fri 12-Oct-12 06:45:25

Caring for an elderly relative is a really big job. Your parents do need short breaks. I have been part of a family team providing 24 hour care for an elderly family member and it is hard. you all have to be in it together, each contributing what he or she reasonably can. People have to recognise each other's situation. Of course someone with young children isn't going to be able to put in the same number of hours as someone without children.

But I can't blame your parents for trying to get a routine in place. It's really good to know when you're the one there, when you can plan to do something else because X is there 10-6 on Wednesday. When you're in this situation, last minuting can be very stressful

Make no mistake about it, when you are caring for an elderly relative, your life revolves around them and their needs. and it's tiring.

There comes a point when you have to look at the person and their needs and be rational about it. Can they realistically be cared for at home.

In my grandmother's case it was no. She had altzeheimers and eventually went into a home. In my grandfather's case, he had cancer and we cared for him in his home until he died peacefully one evening with his family there.

I think you should say that you won't be doing any nights there until a bed is provided for you. I also think a rota would be a good thing, so everyone knows where they are and can plan round it. I think that recognition of the needs of your young children is needed. And I think that consideration should be given to how reasonable or realistic is it to keep your grandma in her own home, as her care needs increase.

spidermanspiderman Fri 12-Oct-12 07:27:54

This would not be fair on your children at all. I think that when they are saying she is a collective responsibility because she is family, they are completely ignoring the fact that your children are family too and therefore the same sweeping statement could be applied to them too.

Are they planning on coming to stay at your house and look after your children when you go to watch grandma? Didn't think so! You and your dh are looking after enough family on a full time basis to put in a lot of time for grandma!

spidermanspiderman Fri 12-Oct-12 07:29:28

Do not forget, as they have, that your children are family too!

Longdistance Fri 12-Oct-12 07:41:35

You have your own family. Yes, occasionally chipping in with help is good, but this whole facade is just taking the biscuit.
My gran, when she was unable to look after herself, old her house, and moved in with my aunt. She was 90, and was unable to cook for herself, clean, wash and so on. Is this not an option for her?

ArthurShappey Fri 12-Oct-12 07:42:35

Your relationship with your sister aside. You cannot spend 104 days of the year away from your children looking after your grandma. It is not fair on you DH or your children. I'm sure your grandma would be horrified at the thought.

She is your grandma and very elderly anything you can do to help is great, but your sister seems to be turning into a 'who loves grandma most?' competition and that is not fair, your circumstances are very different. If your sister wants to do this that is her choice. Ultimately IMO the care of your grandma should lie with your parents and not with you and your sister.

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