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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.

wisecamel Fri 12-Oct-12 13:53:41

YANBU, I don't think, but as DowntonTrout said earlier, you are not helping yourselves get the best care for your gran either. IME, if social care ask your gran about her circumstances and she says, "ooh, it's fine, my grandaughters take it in turns to stay with me and help with everything" then she will be crossed off their list as you are providing for all her needs.

You need to sit down with your family, and your nan and talk about the future. She may want to stay in this home, but she cannot expect 24 hour family care there.

Your sister may want to care part-time, but this is not enough for your gran and her guilt about that is her own affair, nothing to do with you, or your ability to 'match' her contribution.

Similarly, you and your parents have a limit to the amount of care that you can freely give. At present, this does not add up to enough for your gran. Therefore, she has the choice to sell up, and move in with/near to the family or sell up and move in to sheltered housing, or stay where she is and accept paid-for care. Approach it as a family conundrum, include your nan but be honest with yourself about what you can give.

BeyondLimitsOfTheLivingDead Fri 12-Oct-12 14:00:56

I knew a brother and sister (they're my third cousins twice removed or something) who had to care for their aunt when their mother died (who was helping out til then). The sister thought she should go into residential care as she was realistic. The brother didnt want the house to be sold to pay for it which he hoped to inherit! so insisted they should do the care themselves. Which of course he didnt, and the sister did it all, as well as looking after her own kids (he didnt have access to any of his kids. Nice guy...). So the sister went over his head and did it anyway.

there goes my inheritance too wink its a confusing family set up!!

Part of me is wondering if your sisters insistence to keep her in the house is because she doesnt want it sold? I hope your sister isnt as callous as my family though!!

expatinscotland Fri 12-Oct-12 14:02:26

What Quint said but with FishFinger's amendent, 'It's not possible for me.' I'd be very assertive with your father and sister, they're both taking the piss expecting you to be there every Sunday.

Grandma needs a proper carer.

ginmakesitallok Fri 12-Oct-12 14:02:26

If I was in your situation I think that I would be helping out as much as I could in the short term - on the understanding that it wasn't going to be a regular thing and that statutory care needs to be arranged to either support or replace what your parents are doing.

Agree with what wisecamel said about if family are seen to be providing adequate care then your GM won't be a priority for statutory care. My MIL was carer for DPs GF for years - easier for her because he was in sheltered housing. It was only when she finally said she's had enough and refused to drive across for the 3rd time in one night because the silly beggar had pulled his community cord thing when drunk that he started getting more help.

BiddyPop Fri 12-Oct-12 14:04:06

I agree with others about needing the professionals involved. Gran's GP, social care, perhaps physio and OTs. Agree what your gran's current needs are and what she may be likely to need in the future, and agree what the family can do and what the professionals can offer also, IF staying at home suits for all. And definitely taking Gran's thoughts into account if she is still compos mentis.

Is the house adaptable to more assistance for Gran? Like making the step out of the house into a ramp or set of shallower steps for her to cope with? Putting in a stannah lift so she can go back upstairs? Getting a walker or wheelchair so that she can go out and about, or accepting that she is now housebound? Seeing what other help there is locally for her (meals on wheels, day centres to visit once a week even, groups who call on elderly in their homes, as well as professional care either public or private) so that it doesn't all fall to the family.

Does she have a fridge with a freezer? Because while you might not be able to get there too much in terms of logistics, you could do batches of (proper homemade) dinners and small batches of buns/cookies/bread etc that could then be left in her freezer for Gran, family or carers to easily cook or reheat or just defrost and enjoy. Or there may be other things you could do rather than being a person involved directly in the physical care - like get the shopping in (or do the internet shop and arrange its delivery) once a week. Doing paperwork or other organising jobs.....

Asking people to sleep there, on an ongoing basis, without having proper furniture, does sound a bit daft. (Should I ask what happened to your uncle's bed?)

I've been involved in helping to look after my gran, but have always said that I cannot give much committment on a weekly basis as I work FT (more than FT truth be told), as does DH, we have a primary aged DD with (high functioning but existent) SN, our parents live 3 hours away but Gran lived across the city from us only 1 hr away. The (equivalent of NHS) organised the home care package of someone in 3 times a day for an hour to make sure she was up, clean, dressed, fed, warm, had meds and was safe. Family did what they could (my aunt lives near me and visited regularly and did shopping, I used to visit regularly and leave HM freezer meals, DH did gardening and odd jobs, and my mum would be up from the other city when she could - mum and aunt left meals too).

Each person in a family has their own circumstances and committments. What you need to do, now that care needs have changed (following your uncle's death) is to all sit down in conference with professionals involved and agree on your Gran's real needs (physical, medical etc), what needs to be done to support her and where that can best be done (at home or in sheltered accomodation) and who can do what.

DowntonTrout Fri 12-Oct-12 14:06:54

so not unreasonable for him to be care-provider there, since my parents have their own home and life and have raised a family

And there you have hit on the unfairness of their request. Your parents were busy with their own home and raising a family whilst your uncle did all the caring. Now your mum and dad have had 6 months of it and are struggling to cope and expecting you to pick up the slack. But you, just like they were,bare busy raising your family.

heathrobinson is quite right. The person who it is most unfair on is granny. Not having acces to a bathroom is bordering on neglect.

If she is suffering from heart failure you do know that she will get worse and perhaps need 24 nursing care? This is what I went through with Dad. The incontinence will become a problem and the caring will need to be much more than someone just being there. How on earth can you hope to keep someone clean, who is incontinent, with a bucket? Really it is time to at least get SS in.

It sounds like your mum feels guilty for not doing enough before and is now trying to pass that guilt on to you. It is not healthy and you cannot go along with it.

LookBehindYou Fri 12-Oct-12 14:09:00

A lot of people seem to be viewing this as a battle of wills. The Gran might be frightened of her future and feeling powerless. She needs a loving chat feeling that people are looking after her best interests, not an easy way out. It's fine to suggest SS but it's pretty soulless and who wants a stranger in their home? It's rare for it to be the same person caring all the time. They are often offhand or over familiar. It's not nice if you're feeling powerless and vulnerable.
There are some great sheltered places out there. My MIL has just put her name down for one. She will keep visiting her mahjong gang and play bridge but somebody will know if she falls over.
While you're fighting over who will do what, nobody is giving any ATTENTION to your gran. Perhaps you could all take her for a day out, including a nice lunch and visit a home.

BlueSkySinking Fri 12-Oct-12 14:10:50

Urgent family meeting needed. Obviously the amount of help people can spare depends upon their situation. You with your kids/work/travel have lots of responsibility unlike your sis and parents. And it is mainly your parents responsibility, you should just be providing a little respite. I suggest you approach social services and also get some paid help. Can you agree to doing one half day and sleep over each week? Alternitvley you could look at a home central to all of you so that you can all sleep in your own beds and visit often.

StWinifred Fri 12-Oct-12 14:13:38

It hasn't been mentioned, but I did live with my Grandma pre-DCs, for about a year. So there is a bit of payback I suppose.

marbleslost Fri 12-Oct-12 14:18:34

*I keep coming back to the idea that it's unfair on Granny. Why shouldn't she either have a good care package in place or a place in a good care home?

Washing in a bucket at 100 is a bit sad. *

Most nursing homes will do "strip wash" which involves washing from a washing up bowl with a bath once a week.

Arithmeticulous Fri 12-Oct-12 14:19:28

Did you care for her during that year?

If you are keen to make everything even - throw that into the pot... but personally I'd go with "I have my children to care for, I cannot provide anything other than occasional respite care. You need to obtain professional advice and care."

LookBehindYou Fri 12-Oct-12 14:21:48

FGS, let go of the 'have children' thing. It doesn't mean you can opt out of life.

DowntonTrout Fri 12-Oct-12 14:22:36

At 100 yo with heart failure she is probably beyond sheltered housing. I doubt that anywhere would be willing to accept her.

There are really only 3 options

1 stay in her own home with a full care package and adaptations to the house to give her acceptable living standards.

2 for her to move into your parents home, again with possible adaptations required, but to get some help with care from SS.

3 for her to move into a care home.

However, as she is likely to decline fairly quickly/ suddenly, all of the above would be temporary. Having one move after another would certainly be a bad thing for her. Your parents really need to look at the bigger picture and into the foreseeable future and ensure grannies continuing care - not just in the present.

LookBehindYou Fri 12-Oct-12 14:26:56

OP, has someone outright asked the Gran what she would like?

StWinifred Fri 12-Oct-12 14:27:43

"Now your mum and dad have had 6 months of it"

3 months

"Should I ask what happened to your uncle's bed?"

I went in his room and it's largely untouched, but the room is thick with dust, there are books there with clearly 25 years of dust on them. He wasn't capable of looking after himself, let alone his mother, certainly the room hadn't been cleaned in a decade or more.

So I don't know if the bed is necessarily fit for use, but they haven't touched it anyway.

"Is the house adaptable to more assistance for Gran? Like making the step out of the house into a ramp or set of shallower steps for her to cope with? "

Well my parents are pretty hopeless at doing stuff. E.g., their oven door is rotten at home and they haven't replaced it. Their toilet doesn't flush properly and they haven't managed to get it fixed. And obviously 3 months there and Dad is still sleeping on an under-sized mattress on the floor.

I said to Dad after my Uncle's funeral "Take her to your house for a few weeks and get the house renovated while she's there. It's going to be modernised at some point anyway, better to do it now so she can benefit from it." She did go to their house for about 6 days and found it slightly disorienting, but that was it. I asked for her to come and stay with us for a week but they didn't think it was a good idea.

I have asked Dad what he is doing to the house, and he said they are getting double glazing put in. He said they wanted to replace the porch but then they thought that might not be a good idea because if they did that then subsequently they would need to get a ramp put in anyway, so it's a pain.

I have told him several times they need a toilet, and it seems to be a case of 'too major to consider'. The house has an attached 1930s garage and consists downstairs of tiny-tiny kitchen, and a front and back room probably both about 14 foot square. They had the carpets cleaned a week ago, which I thought was odd as they are 1960s and worn through in places, and now already stink of piss again (or maybe it's the sofa), I would have just had them taken out and replaced with lino or something, but well Grandma likes the carpet and it's familiar so.

It's probably too much for her to get upstairs even with a stairlift, she is very unstable - she's not like these people you see jauntily hopping onto the stairlift on the Stannah adverts - so realistically the house would need to be remodelled. I am not sure how long that would take or if they don't want to do it for financial reasons, though I am not sure why, as I implied to Dad, the house would need that doing before being sold anyway.

So basically not much will change, very slowly.

StWinifred Fri 12-Oct-12 14:32:16

"Did you care for her during that year?"

No, she was sprightly then and actually she cooked my dinner (well the same dinner which she was having with my Uncle, and which by the time I got home from worktended to be pretty nasty and I would chuck in the bin, but that) and did my washing (by hand, in the sink).

So I meant by that that she had provided for me in the past, and perhaps I should provide for her now.

kittykarate Fri 12-Oct-12 14:35:10

I haven't got a sensible answer to the family problems, but I think your Gran's living situation is doing her no favours. My Gran was determined to stay in her own place but she was so exhausted by managing her bathroom visits/commode/washing herself that she barely left the house.

Since she's moved into a purpose built elderly flat with a disabled loo and wet room she has been so much more active and steady on her feet.

expatinscotland Fri 12-Oct-12 14:37:27

'FGS, let go of the 'have children' thing. It doesn't mean you can opt out of life.'

How on Earth is she opting out of life? She has a young family to care for.

StWinifred Fri 12-Oct-12 14:37:59

"OP, has someone outright asked the Gran what she would like?"

I don't think a care home has been mentioned at any point. She went willingly to my parents house for a week, but then this current arrangement was proposed and she's happy with it.

She didn't much like the NHS carer she had coming in and felt that she wasn't needed. It's not personal care she needs IYSWIM, but meals, tea, etc., and someone on hand more-or-less 24 hours to check that she hasn't fallen over or something.

She's quite a sociable person and she obviously benefits and enjoys having a member of her family there rather than a random stranger.

DowntonTrout Fri 12-Oct-12 14:38:00

Of course what gran would like should be considered, but may not be realistic.

Having children is a consideration because the OP has responsibilities for them, first and foremost.

It sounds as if your parents are a bit hopeless OP. and also as if they are panicking as everything is too much for them so they can't deal with anything. I certainly wouldn't want to stay, or have my children stay, in a house with those conditions. Your gran should not have to live like that either.

Can you get her GP to do a home visit next time you are there? We had a heart nurse from the British Heart Foundation and she got everything sorted out for Dad straight away.

Alibabaandthe40nappies Fri 12-Oct-12 14:43:12

'FGS, let go of the 'have children' thing. It doesn't mean you can opt out of life.'

Of course it doesn't mean you can opt out of life. But it does mean that you can opt out of caring for elderly relatives who live 2 hours away, meaning that you need to stay overnight and therefore leave your children. Especially when there are other viable alternatives - nurse/other family/carehome etc.

I adored my Grandma. When she got too frail to look after herself, she went into a nursing home. Which meant that all her physical needs were taken care of, and family could concentrate on making her life enjoyable when we saw her - which was 3 times a week for my Mum who lived a mile away, once or twice a week for my uncle who lived 60 miles away and didn't work, and once a fortnight for me who lived 40 miles away and worked full time.

QuintessentialShadows Fri 12-Oct-12 14:47:02

I think some of the people saying YABU has an idealistic view of what caring for an elderly person involves, and no real experience.

Your family is doing your gran a great disservice not getting her the help she actually needs, instead they are fretting and fafffing about getting family in, which wont help your grandma long term.

MerylStrop Fri 12-Oct-12 14:47:57

OP, no-one else in your family is being sensible

So it's going to have to be you

Call a summit meeting with all parties, including Granny and come up with a workable plan. Maybe get the GP there too.

And I would go this weekend and start to talk to Granny about what she actually wants and needs and whether those two things are actually compatible

And let your sister be as self-righteous and she likes and get away with it. It doesn't matter. Your Granny's wellbeing and your family's happiness does.

LookBehindYou Fri 12-Oct-12 14:55:30

Yes, dc are a responsibility but family life and other responsibilities continue. The kids won't be damaged by not coming first for a while. Would they really It is unpleasant to use the kids as a get out clause and a huge amount of people have said that the sister should way in because she doesn't have kids (ie. less important life), which is just rude. I think emphasis should be on a nursing home for mum if the parents aren't willing to do what they need to do. But this won't happen overnight and so everyone needs to pitch in while it's being sorted. This is family life and good for the kids.

Downton, it might not be realistic, but it is polite and will go a long way in starting a conversation about needs. Would you appreciate people not even asking you and just making huge assumptions and plans without you being involved?

rockinhippy Fri 12-Oct-12 14:55:46

I agree with others that for all your sakes, GMs especially that her staying in her own home is a bad idea, putting all the tooing & froing with you & your DPs & DSIS aside, SHE could have a much better quality of life with the right sort of sheltered housing.

My Parents are younger, but DM is severely disabled & DF was struggling, DB who live half a mile away is useless, unless it involves money for him, he rarely sees them & I am at the other end of the country & TBH don't have a great relationship with my very Narcasistic/poisonous DM, & even if I were closer I would worry about exposing DD to DMs toxics ways, also my own health problems make it nigh on impossible - so they were in a similar situation.

They moved into a lovely assisted bungalow owned by THESE PEOPLE They have all sorts of properties around the country, some rent, some part rent part buy etc, they have everything you need on site, including medical staff, entertainment, social clubs & a quality restaurant & as DF put it, it was like living in an All Inclusive Hotel, but with better accommodation smile

DF loved it there, though DM hated that he loved it & was making friends, running the Kareoke etchmm & they ended up back in there old home, though they've now had help from OT & SS & cope much better. but the Hannover Properties & ethos really is fantastic - your DGM could really enjoy living there

DHs Grandmother ended up in a similar type of situation when her nephew & carer died, she moved to be closer to us & DMIL & she ended her days there as a very happy active lady, loved her little well equipped for her needs bedsit as she said it was all she needed & loved the social life & weekly outings she had with the place she lived smile

Honestly I think you ALL need cutting some slack - its wrong of DSIS to push extra care on you & rob your DCs, but its equally wrong of you to presume your DSIS has no responsibilities therefore has the time & energy - I have more time & energy as a Mum, than I did pre kids when I had a very full on work life.

Speak to your DGM, look into the assisted living places I link to above & see what DGM thinks, if she's as stoic as you say, I bet she'll jump at the chance as I'd lay bets she hates being a burden on any of you wink

good luck

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