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Do we need to be cruel to be kind with my elderly grandfather

(77 Posts)
CountryMummy1 Mon 10-Nov-14 22:41:24

My mum is my grandad's carer. He is in his 80's and had his leg amputated at the beginning of the year due to cancer. Obviously it was a very traumatic time for everyone as we honestly thought we would lose him. However, he pulled through and has made a great recovery. He now has a prosthetic leg and can drive, walk, go shopping, basically everything he could do before. We are very proud of him.

However..... he has always been a bit precious about himself and a complete fusspot. After his operation he led my nan a merry dance. She had to make him a homemade roast dinner every single night as that's all he will eat, fetch and carry for him as he cannot wait for anything, and generally fuss with him as he can't bear to be in the slightest discomfort for even a minute. He doesn't know the meaning of the sentence 'putting up with it'. He has always been like this, although worse over the last few years and very much worse since his operation.

My nan became absolutely exhausted, despite us all helping her everyday and she developed jaundice. She was very poorly and hospitalised before finally being told that she had very advanced pancreatic cancer. She died of a catastrophic stroke in June this year.

My granddad is now on his own. He lived with my parents for a few months after nan died and he is always welcome to go back there anytime. My mom, myself and my sister only live 10 minutes away from him so we see him every day - we either go to him or he spends the day with us.

However, it is now my mom who is exhausted. She had a meltdown yesterday and ended up screaming in the kitchen, I am so worried about her. My granddad now treats my mum like he did my nan. He relies on her for everything even though he is perfectly capable of cooking his own dinner or getting his own shopping. He also makes life so hard for all of us with his constant fussing. If I ever tell anyone about what he does, they can't believe it.

For example, he has one of us going round his house almost every day to change his central heating settings as he can't do it himself. He keeps changing his mind over what time he wants the heat to come on/off. He phoned me a midnight last night and had me go over as he had fiddled with the settings (yet again!) and couldn't turn it off. I was fast asleep as I have a 2 year old and an 8 month old.

Another example is that we have spent 8 months arranging for him to have a new disabled bathroom fitted through social services. As I'm sure you know, it's a difficult, long winded process. The builders were coming yesterday to start it. He sent them away when they arrived at 8.50am as he had a bit of a cold and didn't feel up to it, even though mom was getting there at 9am to supervise them. We now have to spend hours on the phone sorting it out again. He also constantly cancels doctor's appointments we have made if he can't be bothered to go.

He has suddenly turned into a very selfish man, not the wonderful caring granddad I have loved all my life. He never asks how the children are. It was my birthday on Sunday, mom got me a card and present from him, he never even wished me happy returns. He doesn't seem to care that he is making life so hard for us all. I am dreading Christmas as I know he's going to ruin it for my 2 year old who is really looking forward to it. Last year we didn't have a Christmas as Grandad was diagnosed on Christmas Eve and I just feel so guilty that my daughter is missing out.

My sister wants to give him a telling off and explain how difficult he is making life for my mom. She also thinks we should stop 'babying' him so much and make him do things for himself. I am reluctant to as I feel so sorry for him. I'm sure he's depressed but he'd never admit to it or see anyone about it. He doesn't socialise anymore and only sees us.

Any advice? We so need it!!

ClawHandsIfYouBelieveInFreaks Mon 10-Nov-14 22:45:01

You can't give him a telling off. He's old. He's bereaved, he's lost his leg.

It's awful but it's life.

I would take it in turns to leave your phones on at night...so sometimes yours is on and sometimes someone elses. And perhaps soon, it might be time to consider alternative living arrangements for him.

CountryMummy1 Mon 10-Nov-14 22:47:36

We have offered him a place at my mom's house. He would have his own 'suite' - bedroom, lounge, bathroom but he won't move in. We also have absolutely no chance of getting him to move anywhere else.

We try to make life easier for him by organising cleaners, gardeners etc. which he agrees to at the time but then he just cancels them so my mom ends up doing all the work. She is exhausted.

theeternalstudent Mon 10-Nov-14 22:48:09

You sound like a lovely supportive family but it's time for you all to put in boundaries to protect yourselves. Does your father have a social worker? Does he qualify for assistance for carers? It's worth looking into. I'm sure he will be reluctant at first and you may need to persevere.
Also, has he been assessed for dementia? That maybe something else that you need to look into.

I know that it's really hard but you all need to find a way to say no to him and to get in some professional help. Good luck, it's really hard flowers

Parietal Mon 10-Nov-14 22:51:35

people do often become more selfish in old age. you could try telling him off, but it might not have much effect. He might just forget by tomorrow.

All you can do is stop doing things for him. Don't go round at midnight, just tell him is has to wait. Don't arrange things. If he cancels the gardener, then don't do the garden etc. That is the only way he will get the message.

CountryMummy1 Mon 10-Nov-14 22:51:57

Thank you. We have always been a close family and always look after each other but this is the hardest thing we have ever done.

He has seen a social worker who got him all his extra benefits etc. so he is very comfortably off. It isn't a financial reason that he won't have any help.

I am certain he has some dementia as he does very odd things and is very forgetful. Again, I'm not sure how we go about getting him assessed for this as he wouldn't believe he has it.

flippinada Mon 10-Nov-14 22:52:38

I didn't want to read and run; it sounds like you are all close to breaking point.

I don't think your sister is BU. Sorry to be blunt here - you describe your grandfather as lovely but he comes across as the complete opposite. He actually sounds like a very selfish, demanding, self centred man.

I get the impression you feel like you can't say no to him for fear of the repercussions - would you say that's true?

missymayhemsmum Mon 10-Nov-14 22:55:30

YANBU to say how you feel and that you worry about your mum, his daughter. It also sounds as though no-one says 'no' to him. Have they ever? what happens if they do? Perhaps your mum needs to be a bit firmer- if he cancels cleaners and gardeners the cleaning and gardening doesn't happen.
Presumably having the bathroom done has involved occupational therapists/ social workers. Have you talked to them about helping your grandfather get his independence back?

CountryMummy1 Mon 10-Nov-14 22:56:04

No, there would be no repercussions. He honestly was a really lovely man and still is sometimes. He just seems to be so self centred these days with no thought for anyone else. He will get flashes of awareness when he will say "I'm sorry I put you to so much trouble" and "I don't know what I'd do without you all" but then forgets about it soon after.

We just don't want to upset him as obviously he's been through so much and probably feels as if life isn't worth living anymore...but we can't go on like this.

flippinada Mon 10-Nov-14 22:57:05

I see other people have been kinder about him than me!

PP have raised the issue of dementia - that might be a possibility.

CountryMummy1 Mon 10-Nov-14 22:57:57

He does actually have all of his independence back physically. He is very active and can do everything he did before he lost his leg....he just chooses not to..or he can't cope with doing it anymore

flippinada Mon 10-Nov-14 23:00:13

Sorry if I sound harsh - my own mum was treated in a similar way by my late granddad who was a similar type and it was a tough time. It sounds very challenging

Lots of sympathy and hopefully others will be along with more helpful advice

WalkingInMemphis Mon 10-Nov-14 23:02:13

You can't give him a telling off. He's old. He's bereaved, he's lost his leg

I disagree.

Not that I don't feel sympathy for him, I really do. But as soon as you say '80's' most people think of a little frail old man/woman, possibly with their mind starting to fail (for want of a better way to put it) who must be treated like a child.

Many 80 year olds aren't like that. I have a nan and a Godmother in their mid 80's - their health is definitely more delicate and my Godmother is deaf as a post bless her. But although I would/do give them more leeway due to their age, they're both more than fit enough (mentally) to be spoken to as an adult.

Someone needs to talk to him, and IMO a 'mild' telling off wouldn't go amiss. He needs to realise that calling you at midnight to go and fiddle with his central heating is not acceptable (and if he does, you need to stop going! Tell him you'll pop round tomorrow for goodness sake).

We try to make life easier for him by organising cleaners, gardeners etc. which he agrees to at the time but then he just cancels them so my mom ends up doing all the work. She is exhausted

Regarding this^. I would organise a gardener to turn up and crack on, and deal only with your mum. No need for him to knock on your Grandad's door and risk being turned away. Your mum needs to stand up to him regarding things like cleaning. Arrange a cleaner for a regular time/times and your mum needs to tell him bluntly that she is tired and cannot keep cleaning for him. He has to let the cleaner in, or it won't get done...or your mum will give the cleaner a key to let herself in if he won't cooperate.

None of the 'telling off' has to be done in nasty way, but it does need doing, and firmly.

Aeroflotgirl Mon 10-Nov-14 23:04:43

You all sound wonderful, Mabey you need to put your foot down. He treated nan like that, now you all. Contact SS in his SW if he has one to see how they can help him in the home.

Corygal Mon 10-Nov-14 23:07:32

He's ghastly. He might be ill and old, but you all know you can't on like this. You, his family, have rights too, one of which is your health.

Carer burnout and breakdown is no joke, and from what you're saying your mum is well on the way to collapse.

I'm assuming you're all too tame/knackered to start saying no to the old charmer. But there are other ways. Take Grandad to the doctor and get him assessed for dementia. Tell the doctor what he's like - GPs can be brilliant in these situations. Do not let Grandad dodge the assessment.

Dementia patients are usually not very nice, which might explain his increasingly impossible behaviour. Once you've got the results, call social services and get a carer's assessment for him. Get the social worker to deliver the results, and explain to him what he can and can't do.

In the meantime, buy in help. Get him a carer, and use the answerphone a bit more.

Most of all, prioritise your mum over him for now - she's the one at risk of more health problems, not grandad. Do the basics for him until the GP and caring services give you a way forward.

Suefla62 Mon 10-Nov-14 23:08:28

I think you might have to let your sister talk to him. The same thing happened in my family. My Uncle had heart problems and refused to do anything for himself and my Aunt worked herself into an early grave. He then expected the family to care for him like my Aunt had done. His daughter stepped up and tried until she had a breakdown. My cousin had to have a few words with him and made him realise how unreasonable he was being, fifteen years later he's still with us and is the nice man he once was.

asmallandnoisymonkey Mon 10-Nov-14 23:08:29

Totally, totally agree with walkinginmemphis. They make some good points. If he wants taking care of to the level he is then you all need some outside help too. Caring for someone else is one of the most exhausting things you will ever do and it's not fair for you lot to burn out because he's being quite selfish about things.

WineWineWine Mon 10-Nov-14 23:09:23

He has been through a huge trauma, but that does not mean that he can make life so difficult for everyone else. He needs some boundaries and you can't be at his beck and call all the time. While you also react to his every whim, he will not do anything for himself that someone else can do. Force him into doing some things for himself, it will actually be good for him.

Aeroflotgirl Mon 10-Nov-14 23:09:37

Start saying no to him. No to going and sorting out his heating settings at 12, no to making his meals. He could have meals on wheels, carers coming in during the day. Talk to his his SW GP a boy a dementia assessment,

Coolas Mon 10-Nov-14 23:10:07

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

overthemill Mon 10-Nov-14 23:16:20

Agree with those who say stop pandering to him so much. He is old and he is disabled and he is grieving but he can begin to look after himself or accept help from the professionals. Of course he will need some help - men of that generation had everything house related done by their wives ( thinking of my own cantankerous 85 year dad now) and he may benefit from some help sorting stuff out. So go round sort out heating and if he can't change settings until next time you go round, tough. Social services can help a lot. GP can do home visit too if you ask him/her. And he CAN move - sheltered housing would be possible for example. I wouldn't have him move in with your mum- she needs her space.

MidniteScribbler Mon 10-Nov-14 23:16:48

My 80 year old relative lives with me, so I know exactly where you are coming from. When she first moved in I played the dutiful carer, did everything for her, but realised I'm not helping her (or myself). Now I'm a bit firm with her. If I'm going out, I don't wait until later so I can cook her dinner. I buy some sausages and oven chips and tell her they are there for her to cook. If I cook a big meal, I sit back and say 'right your turn to do the dishes'. If I put a load of laundry through the machine for her, I'll dump it in a washing basket, carry it out to the clothes line, and tell it's there for her to hang up. She's getting pretty good now about things as I didn't ask her to do various things for herself, I just tell her where they are for her to do it herself.

You need to be firm. No, you can't come over at midnight and sort out his heating. No. No roast dinner everyday, either take a plate of leftovers from your own meal the night before on a plate for him to reheat in the microwave, or leave the basic ingredients in the fridge for him to make himself. Force him to actually make some choices about caring for himself.

generaltilney Mon 10-Nov-14 23:19:21

Presumably he's grieving all his losses, and that's very sad - he sounds quite unable to express it in any way but causing you constantly to go round to see him. I would get all the carers together and talk about what you feel is reasonable, with reference to the nighttime calls about central heating etc; often we end up pushing ourselves to do things that don't need doing because we fear our other relatives' disapproval - The Aunts in my case. If you have agreed some boundaries between you, then stick to them - and no recriminations if something goes wrong when one of you has decided not to go over there - e.g. he loses his covers and gets a chill. I like the idea of the phone system so that only one of you is 'on call' at any time.

babyboomersrock Mon 10-Nov-14 23:21:22

Also, I note you say he is still driving - now has a prosthetic leg and can drive, walk, go shopping, basically everything he could do before. We are very proud of him.

If there is a suspicion he has dementia, it's urgent that you have him properly assessed so that he isn't risking other people's lives.

It's a difficult position for your family to be in, but you need to protect yourselves. He's probably really scared now, after all he's been through, but don't let him manipulate you - you can all be supportive without being doormats.

CountryMummy1 Mon 10-Nov-14 23:48:08

The driving is an issue! None of us think he is safe but he said he's fine to drive. He said it's his last bit of independence and noone is taking it away from him so what can we do. If he won't get assessed?

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