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Frail elderly lady

(24 Posts)
summerholsdreamin Tue 07-Feb-17 12:27:17

More of a clean once a week (2 hours) for a neighbour of my mums.

She is in her mid 80s and has been widowed for last 20 years.

While I do what I can for her, the house is a major safety hazard. She is a hoarder and won't pay for any maintenance/repairs on the house (even though she is reasonably well off). Cables running everywhere, electrics and plumbing out of the stone ages, everywhere you look is an accident waiting to happen.

Most of those issues I try to look past .....however she is also extremely frail and has severe breathing problems. Her bedroom is upstairs and the only way she can get up there is to crawl on all fours as she won't entertain a stair lift. Just listening to her wheeze her way up there puts the fear of
God into me. She clearly can't cope living in the house on her own but almost needs someone to take it out of her hands.

She has 4 grown up children, none of whom seem to have any involvement in her welfare; the closest is a 2 hour drive. They visit maybe every couple of months take her out for lunch and promptly leave. I can't believe they can't see how badly she's coping

She is fiercely independent and stubborn so I don't suppose it would be the easiest conversation to be had but I am worried for her as she is so frail.

WIBU to contact one of the DCs and spell it out to them? She always speaks of them in such glowing terms I can't quite believe they are doing nothing for her.

savagehk Tue 07-Feb-17 12:30:09

Yes, call at least one of them. Probably more of them. And I'd be looking to notify social services (or her GP). She could of course refuse any help but I would want to have tried.

user892 Tue 07-Feb-17 12:39:59

Yes, contact the DCs and if no changes flag it with SS - she's a vulnerable adult. Not sure what can be done but at least you'll have tried. Bless you for looking out for her x

Satishouse Tue 07-Feb-17 12:49:21

It sounds like she doesn't want to change - and she probably would absolutely refuse to leave her home and go into sheltered housing or any such like. She also would hate the disruption of electrical work or the clearing out her hoarded belongings. Please, please do respect her autonomy in this, it is one of the few things she has left in her life. You sound like you are being a wonderful friend to her and I do think you should chat to her family x

londonrach Tue 07-Feb-17 12:50:37

Flag it up with ss. I bet the dc have tried to get things sorted but being independent like you said she refused them. Its easier for someone outside the family sometimes.

BarbarianMum Tue 07-Feb-17 12:53:25

Have you ever tried separating a hoarder from their hoard? By all means ring them but I'm sure they know how things stand, have tried to intervene and realised it was futile.

If she has the legal capacity to decide things for herself there is nothing anyone else can do if she makes bad ones.

harderandharder2breathe Tue 07-Feb-17 12:55:18

I imagine the DC have tried but as you said yourself, she is independent and stubborn. If she refuses help, what are the DC supposed to do? And if they all live far away with presumably jobs and families, what can they do to help practically?

harderandharder2breathe Tue 07-Feb-17 12:55:49

I'm not saying you're wrong to be concerned, just that without knowing the full story, don't assume DC are just not interested/don't realise

brasty Tue 07-Feb-17 12:56:48

Flag it up with SS, she may listen to them. And her children may have tried to change things. My FILs house was a hazard and he absolutely refused to let his adult children sort out anything. One one day had had enough and tidied up some stuff that it was a miracle he hadn't fallen over. He accused her of stealing and wouldn't talk to her for ages.

Then when he went into hospital, he agreed to have a carer in every day. He let the carer tidy, clean and get people in to install disability equipment he needed. And told everyone how wonderful this carer was to have sorted everything out. Very annoying. So don't assume they haven't tried.

DearMrDilkington Tue 07-Feb-17 12:59:23

Have you pointed out some of the dodgey electrics to her? I wonder if she'd feel comfortable having you there while someone comes and sorts it out for her. Maybe she's heard all of the stories of cowboy builders ripping off elderly people and is worried about being taken advantage off.

The crawling up the stairs is madness though! She can't live like that, what if she falls backwards while going upshock. I have grandparents around her age and I'd want to be contacted if one of them were living like this. Please contact them.

brasty Tue 07-Feb-17 13:00:13

Also sometimes parents can be not very nice to their adult children. Visiting every few months and taking her out for lunch, sounds to me like a way for them to visit, but to minimise any difficult times with her. I may simply be projecting, but I know a not very nice parent tends to be nicer when in public, in a place where others can hear what is being said.

TreeTop7 Tue 07-Feb-17 13:02:03

If she's agreed to have a cleaner (you) then she may agree to other help from SS I guess. I'd call them. They will know what, if anything, to do. Then, you'll have done what you can. Her children may not know the extent of the problem - she might be bringing out her "A Game" when they visit, in an attempt not to worry them. She's probably more natural with you.

sohelpmegoad Tue 07-Feb-17 13:17:20

If she has capacity, no-one can take her situation out of her hands, she needs to decide or agree to all decisions.
My Ils were like this very unsafe house electrically, MIL crawled
up the stairs every night, they were "moving " for 10 years every time we broached the subject/offered help, but didn't move until FIL had a stroke.
They moved into sheltered housing and FIL died shortly after. Mil now tells everyone including her lovely cleaner that she was "put in a home"
She is still living independently in her sheltered housing with her hoarding habits going strong. We visit regularly, but cannot affect the way she chooses to live

OurBlanche Tue 07-Feb-17 13:27:21

My mum and aunt had this with Nana, The difference was that the neighbour Nana did trust to come into her house didn''t judge them, he just contacted them and kept them up to ate with her goings on.

Nana had absolutely no intention of letting us know how she was. For decades she would go on holiday and not tell anyone, be gone for weeks and then moan becaus en one phoned when she got home.

When she got beyond holidays and was growing ever more frail she just didn't talk to any of us... as we had abandoned her!

So we all relied on a neighbour. He told us what was going on, when she needed meds, money etc. Without him we could not have had any relaible or meaningful contact. We wouldn't have been able to go to her when she was ill and eventually dying.

Please, don't judge them You have no idea why the relationship between here and her kids is how it is. But do make contact and offer to keep them in the loop! Their repsonse to that pffer will let you know all you need about their ability to care for her!

CMOTDibbler Tue 07-Feb-17 13:50:04

You could be describing my dad. He sounds like he'll die any minute, crawls up the stairs, the house stinks etc. Mum has severe dementia

But he has capacity and is a stubborn old fool. They have a cleaner and a carer (plus daily district nurse visits), but won't pay for more and has only agreed to what they have when they were threatened that one or the other of them couldn't be discharged from hospital until it was in place. Refuses a stair lift.

We've had loads of arguments about it, and if your parent refuses to do things, what can you do?

If she has money, SS can't make her have carers/adaptations etc, and in general, people with capacity have the freedom to make their own decisions, no matter how bad.

I've had people tell me I should make them do something/be there more/ tidy the house and it is infuriating.

sparechange Tue 07-Feb-17 13:58:48

My grandmother was very like this.
After she was widowed, the house became a shrine to my grandfather and his way of doing things.
Nothing he touched/wore/read/ used to ever be thrown out or even moved to a different place or room, and if something broke, it had to be mended 'the way he could have done it'
She even collected things that he would have liked

We did her shopping and paid her bills but the only way we could maintain any sort of relationship with her was to not try and move or touch anything at home. She would become absolutely hysterical of the suggestion, and even going upstairs to check everything was ok would end up with accusations of us going up to steal her jewellry.

Don't assume they don't care and don't know about the situation. Old people can be very stubborn and set in their ways when they want to be!

summerholsdreamin Tue 07-Feb-17 14:18:42

Thank you for your replies and am sorry if I sound judgemental. Of course I have no idea what their relationship might be like.

So many stories sound similar to hers. Like a PP described, her house is a shrine to her late DH - books, pictures, clothes, broken mementoes she can't bear to throw out.
Have also just realised he is buried in the village cemetery which may be another reason for her to cling to her house.

I think I will ring her DD in the first instance out of courtesy and to see where the land lies.

GETTINGLIKEMYMOTHER Tue 07-Feb-17 14:49:54

Maybe her children have tried in vain to organise help.

It's quite common for fiercely independent/stubborn old people to refuse help, however badly they could do with it. They don't want strangers poking around their house, and they may well be very wary of social services, fearing that they will interfere, pry into their private affairs, and start imposing this or that 'for your own good'.
And it's impossible to force care on anyone who hasn't been proven to lack capacity.

If you think the lady may have a fear of social services, it might be worth pointing out that nowadays they are so strapped for cash that it can be hard to get them to do anything much, even when it's badly wanted. Let alone the putting anyone in a home unless there is literally no other option. I think it's often fear of being shunted off into a home that makes old people so wary of social services.

It's usually a case of dementia, but Inhave heard of many people who've tried in vain to persuade parents or other relatives to accept help. What can you do if they won't even allow carers or social services into the house?
Sadly, sometimes you just have to wait for the almost inevitable crisis to happen, while praying that it won't come to that.

SpackenDeDoich Tue 07-Feb-17 14:56:37

No YWNBU to speak to her children.

summerholsdreamin Tue 07-Feb-17 16:26:25

So I have just come off the phone to her eldest DD who thanked me profusely for ringing (huge relief!)

She didn't sound surprised when I raised my concerns and said the family realised that something had to
done. However I also got the impression that the four siblings are more or less assuming each other is taking responsibility confused

Anyway I gave her some specific examples of my worries and she said she would visit her DM over the next few days.

I really hope they are able to have a full and frank conversation about the future and set out a plan.

I have also said that she (DD) can ring me anytime if she needs any updates or has concerns)

Thanks so much for advice everyone
- so glad I rang.

savagehk Tue 07-Feb-17 21:36:52

Good news and I hope something improves.

SaucyJack Tue 07-Feb-17 21:48:12

Does she have money?

The problem in a lot of these situations is that the elderly person in question has too much money to be entitled to state help, but they are unwilling to spend their own money on care/adaptions and make the choice by default that they would rather suffer.

It's terribly frustrating for all involved, but there is very little SS can do if she has the means and capacity to help herself- but won't.

Cherrysoup Tue 07-Feb-17 21:55:31

Sounds like my mil. She refused to have the broken stairlift fixed unless SS did it. Won't go into sheltered accommodation, is frequently taken to hospital. She has mild (?) dementia, we organised a daily helper to go in and ensure she's eaten and taken meds. It's so hard, I'm not going to drag her out of her home screaming, but it's only a matter of time before she hurts herself. sad

Hairyfairy01 Tue 07-Feb-17 22:16:04

The local fire service can do a free home safety check for her if she's willing. How is she getting down the stairs? Would she consider moving her bed downstairs? Could a community physio come round to assess the stair situation, maybe offer her a mobility aid? Occupational therapists maybe able to put another stair rail up, make chairs easier to get out of by raising them etc. People can help her but she has to be willing to accept the help.

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