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I am desperate about my elderly mother's health/domestic situation

(52 Posts)
justlookatthatbooty Sat 27-Nov-10 13:50:49

I couldn't see where else to post this so it's posted here...

I'll try to cut a very long story short but I'm afraid it will still be long...I'm trying to help my mother and need any advice or experience you can share...

I hope this makes sense, in writing it I realise how much desperation and emotion I feel. It's a life story I've never told , or a fraction of the life story and is very hard to write coherently.

My mother is late in her 60's, but is in poor physical health,with substantial hearing loss (doesn't use hearing aid as apparently none can help herhmm and is therefore very isolated. She has a lot of physical health issues and limps about with a very curved spine. She can barely make it through the day, she is so exhausted. She has the most awful sustained uncontrollable cough and if I stay at her house, I can hardly bear to hear her coughing at night,totally out of control. She laughs it off if I bring it up, or go to her day or night. I've had so many gentle talks, angry talks, tearful talks, she just denies and walks away.

Her saving grace is an iron strength determination and inner fierceness. I have suspected tumours for a long time but she will not have any tests, she becomes utterly deaf if I try to talk about health checks of any sort. 20 years ago I made several appointments with therapists but she either didn't go or walked out. She has had a violent and alcoloholic history but has not been agressive nor alcolholic for about ten years, at least not in action, if in thought.
She remarkably self cured from alcoholism, a process which as a teenager, in the months before my father's death, I witnessed as nothing short of a miracle.
I must say, without wanting to self pity ourselves ( my two great bros and I) , our childhood and teen years were extremely hard going. Perhaps as a teenage woman, I saw, heard and dealth with more then them, and I've never brought certain things up with them, another form of protecting others.

Mum makes it outside most days, and her contact with the world is the community with in she has lived for 45 years but has no friends as such, nor helpful neighbours. The area, once bohemian, is now extremely affluent and she loves the fact that she lives with streetfulls of film star this and presenter that but there is no-one around to help her, no basic decent community help. My father died 20 years ago. She lives alone in our family home which has a high prime location London market value and which is huge, absurdly expensive to run and needs 500k spending on it to become a comfortable home again. She rarely turns the heating on because she can't pay the bills which does not help her repeated bouts of bronchitis ("What smoking darling?" doesn't help either).

I phoned her Dr a couple of years ago to urge him not to just keep giving her repeated prescriptions of antibiotics which she self diagnoses for and which get left on reception but to insist on an appointment with her, to listen to her lungs and heart and make an assessment. I told her she smokes heavily and he said, "Well her file has Ex Smoker stamped on it so that's the truth because that's what she told me". I expressed my horror at his passive attitude and he laughed it off. He told me that he has many patients with suspected tumours and there's nothing he can do if they don't ask for checks. This is honestly what he ACTUALLY SAID. My blood boils when I think about this. As a GP, are you not attending to the communitie's health issues? Are you not responsible for the handing out of drugs and the viability for the treatment? I wasn't asking him to force her against her will, simply to care a little and ask himself, What is going on here? Let's see Mrs *** and have a chat, gently suggest a few good things."

She is totally and utterly broke, no money to buy food or to pay the bills.She's been surviving on scouring the supermarkets at 5.50pm when they mark every thing down to 20p due to Sell By Date. She has grown accustomed and thinks nothing of eating sandwiches etc that she keeps for a week or more beyond the sell by date. I feel so desperately horrified about this. It's awful. She won't listen to any sense and her sense of economy has become lodged deeply in this utterly skint and unpleasant existence.

She's been spending life insurance money from my father's death, living in the totally inappropriate house over the years when it could have lasted a long long time in a nice renovated garden flat, with people to attend to her every need, or to be alone if she prefers. Ok, so it's her choice but she hasn't worked for 40 odd years and is too ill to do so. My two brothers and I are helping her out but with young children of our own we cannot manage to raise the kind of money she needs to stay there and she really needs to face the issue, rather than get rescued from other people's pockets. She wants to put the house on the market in Spring, as she is adamant that it won't sell now, or if it does she will take a 'massive' price drop. She may be right, but the situation seems life threatening to me (she's fallen twice and shattered one arm/elbow/wrist with major surgery and loss of range of movement resulting). She is so utterly utterly stubborn about absolutely everything and has been obviously mentally borderline for most of our lives, though never diagnosed. She's quite sane on many levels (she can think straight) and quite totally nuts on others (imagination goes wild, esp living on own and very obsessive personality (COD), inability to hear, not just on the physical hearing level, totally immersed in herself).

My brothers and I have been trying to get her out of her house for 20 years. She can have everything she could wish for and more if she would only sell. She has 'sold' or nearly 'sold' several times, pulling out due to sellers remorse. I doubt that she will ever move out of the house, or that we would have to take power of attorney in order to take control, which is an awful awful thought.

She is however certain that she will put the house on the market in Spring, but she's been saying that for years, gets everything ready, works like mad on every single perfect little alignment of pots and china (in 22 rooms) before she'll allow the viewings/valuations and then pulls out when it gets really interesting.

I want to help her to release some kind of credit on the house but she has absolutely no income. She also wants to release some credit (enough for a year of living there, to see through the sale and no more).

She is now telling me that it's not possible, no-one wants to lend. She makes up a lot of stuff, down to the detail so it's hard to tell what's happenned and what's a figment of her imagination.

I realise the bit below is perhaps for another section of the forum. I'll go in search of money matters...

Surely there is some kind of mortgage possibility available based on the value of the house for someone without income, especially when it's a tiny tiny percentage of the value? Perhaps her age is the problem, no-one wants to lend? She does already have a loan, which my father was encouraged to take out before he died, but which had no insurance attached so Mum inherited it. Poor financial management. She pays the interest on it every month but has no more money to do so.

If she gave the house to my brother (38, architect, self employed but with successful own start up practice) then maybe he could borrow the money for her? I doubt she would do this because she's so mentally stuck but who knows now that she is finally utterly skint. We all have a close (if painfully exhausted exhasperated relationship) and my brothers and I are resolute in helping her, I must say to great cost on my brother's marriages. I live abroad and see her rarely but we are very much in touch by phone although that is getting harder, now that she can hardly hear. She talks, I listen, then we have to hang up because she can't hear me.

I"m thinking, who, where, what can I contact for help, to get some money released for her on the value of her house. On the health level, I don't know, some kind of assessment was due a long long time ago, but is certainly not welcome by her. I really don't know what to do.

TheFarSide Sat 27-Nov-10 14:18:14

I know it's hard if someone you love appears to be suffering, but I think you have to respect the fact that this is how she chooses to live her life.

justlookatthatbooty Sat 27-Nov-10 14:29:54

Thanks Far Side, I appreciate where you're coming from, but she is asking for help. Where it comes to what kind of help she will and will not accept I'll apply your wisdom. But she wants help and I want to help her, so I'm actually asking for any practical advice. In doing so, I;ve told the whole story.

Ragwort Sat 27-Nov-10 14:33:50

I am sure an independent financial advisor would be able to recommend something; have you got any contacts in the UK who could investigate? Would her Bank have an advisor? Sorry, can't offer much more help, must be very difficult for you. Age Concern have a system where they 'buy' the house from an elderly person who can then stay there, all bills paid for etc, but then the house would have to go to Age Concern on her death - which may not be what you and your brothers want? You could try Age Concern anyway for advice?

justlookatthatbooty Sat 27-Nov-10 14:38:04

Many thanks for the tips Ragwort. Off to Age Concern website now. Have tried one financial advisor, but need to find another. Don't think they were that good.

Liskey Sat 27-Nov-10 14:39:28

I thinks its called Equity Release - releasing house value - i know Aviva do it but you'd be best off talking to an IFA about that specifically. I'd second going to Age Cncern though as they should have some useful information/ideaas?

Chatelaine Sat 27-Nov-10 15:05:11

OP I sympathise but you do not take Power of Attorney, you are given it in advance of the circumstances. I do not understand you saying towards the end of your post, that your mother is asking for help, to me it sounds the very opposite. Reading between the lines her GP recoginses this. Therefore until your mother has an accident and finds herself in hopital, when statutory assessments will be made about her ability to cope and return home, your options are extremely limited. One option is to call social services and explain your concerns about her self neglect, possibly they will assess her, including her mental health. Often, if this does not inpinge on anyone else, such as a dependent living in the household then they will not take it up.

nameymcnamechange Sat 27-Nov-10 15:14:01

What help is she asking for?

What does she expect you and your brothers to do for her?

Would she consider speaking to a Life Coach? (am perfectly serious). Life coaches are tremendously helpful in getting people to implement life changes and sort out practical matters.

Could you all help her raise some money by selling things in her house at an auction? That would be a start and not nearly as drastic as selling the whole property.

Am not sure what you expect her GP to do, btw.

malovitt Sat 27-Nov-10 15:15:54

All information regarding power of attorney is to be found here, you must arrange this sooner rather than later. Does your mother need help around the house or with washing, dressing? She may qualify for attendance allowance.

malovitt Sat 27-Nov-10 15:25:04

Her doctor should not be dishing out antibiotics like that without regular check-ups, surely?

I have phoned my elderly father's doctor when I have had concerns & he has called my father in for a chat/examination. I thought that was pretty normal, maybe I was lucky.

Age Concern are brilliant, contact them for advice (as others have said).

Sam100 Sat 27-Nov-10 15:31:59

Before you start thinking about equity release or talking about it to your mum make sure you read up on it and be aware that usually any form of equity release ties you to living in that same property until death. So it is not really a suitable product for your mum if she is finally serious about moving as having taking the cash she will then not be able to leave the house and will run into even more problems.

In reality - if the house does need extensive works on it then waiting until the Spring for the fair weather buyers is not going to make much difference as they are not the sort of people that would take on a project like this.

pippop1 Sat 27-Nov-10 15:41:02

However if it's in an area e.g. Notting Hill where there are amazing properties and very few left which are not improved to the nth degree, it will sell very well and be snapped up by a buyer who is happy to spend loads on it.

I wonder if it could be sold to a developer who can make a ground floor flat for your Mum and (say) 3 flats above to be sold or even rented out? I guess a local estate agent might know that kind of person.

Chatelaine Sat 27-Nov-10 15:43:46

And of course all this needs your mother's consent.

justlookatthatbooty Sat 27-Nov-10 17:09:05

Thanks for some genuine and helpful comments here.

Thanks namechange love the life coach idea. Have tried a few forms of this over the years, going to people with her and having them come to the house and maybe it's time to give it another go. slightly puzzled about your not being sure what I expect from my GP?
Do you mean that you think the practice of doling out drugs without seeing and possibly examining a patient is normal in the UK? 4 years in a row? 6 times or more a year? It looks like malpractice where I'm living, absolutely unacceptable practice over here, but it's quite possible that the NHS has sunk to worse places than I even imagined.

PipPoP yes the property falls into this kind of category ....local real estate agents have been helpful, it would help further if she could take the sale to the end once and for all, She wants to and doesn't want to at the same time. I do understand. She and my father lived there as students and it was totally delapidated and they managed to save it from being demolished. They put their hearts, souls and everything they had into rebuilding it themselves and had a really hard time of it, so to sell now is like selling their life's work. They've never had a spare quid in their lives and it makes me so sad that at this point in her life she can't quite make the move to be comfortable and finally enjoy all her hard work. But that's a psychology and one that many post war generation members suffer from (or enjoy depending on how you look at it).

Thanks Malovit and Sam for the tips and links, Age concern were great on the phone just now. Really helpful.

Naturally Chatelaine, your comment that all this needs my mother's consent is stating the obvious. My mum, despite having driven us nuts over the years, is a dear soul. I wouldn't dream of trying to whip her house away from her or take control of her affairs unless she becomes totally incapacitated as happened with two sets of grandparents. Perhaps I was stating my fear of seeing this happen again, a what if situation, rather than imagining I would wake up one morning and take control as if it was my life to control.
It's possible my OP wasn't very coherent, because I have two small ones clambering on me and it's hard to come with out only some of the details (to spare on too much information for the reader to cope with). It's a very long story and my post is essentially saying, I am desperate, mum is desperate what can I do to help?

Chatelaine Sat 27-Nov-10 17:24:24

I know from experience how heartbreaking it is to stand by and watch someone dear, stubbornly struggling to keep their independence, after you have offered assistance. It is a positive move to have contacted Age Concern (Age Uk). If her welfare is at risk, this is the important first step.

whitecloud Sat 27-Nov-10 17:40:54

Justlookatthatbooty
Just to say I can really feel for you. My parents wouldn't go to the doctor or ask for help and it was torture watching them go downhill. Don't think the doctor should dish out repeat prescriptions without seeing her but if she won't see him he can't force her. We found this out to our cost. I think the elderly just lose touch with reasonable reality if they live alone or in a close knit couple and lose touch with the outside world. It is very hard to witness.

Think it is great that you have contacted Age UK and can get some kind of support and advice from them. My parents had an inordinate fear of being "put away" into a home without their consent. Impossible now, tthough it would have been thirty or forty years ago. Maybe that is influencing her thinking about asking for help?

Hope she agrees to sell the house and live somewhere more practical and cheaper and that you manage to resolve some of her problems.

QuintessentialShadows Sat 27-Nov-10 17:42:48

Seeing as she is "poor", ie has debts and no sufficient income, will she be eligible for "meals on wheels"? Then providing she has a microwave, she would be getting a hot meal daily?

nameymcnamechange Sat 27-Nov-10 17:44:26

I simply meant that the doctor can't do anything with your mother if she won't make an appointment to see him. How can he see her and have a little chat? But do raise the issue of the antibiotics with him again.

justlookatthatbooty Sat 27-Nov-10 18:05:20

Thanks Chatelaine, whitecloud and quintessential.
nameymcchange is her telphoning the surgery to ask for a prescription of penicillin for a self diagnosed illness not an opportunity for a little chat? He has never once in the last four years and over 20 rounds of drugs suggested that she come to the surgery and see him. Generally confused as to how anyone can say there's nothing anyone can do? They can suggest an appointment? Give drugs in person, not via the receptionist? It's a no brainer.

nameymcnamechange Sat 27-Nov-10 18:08:11

I'm not arguing with you booty! As I said, I think you should raise the issue of the antibiotics with him again.

justlookatthatbooty Sat 27-Nov-10 18:11:12

Oh ok, thanks! smile just got confused about your comment that How can he see her and have a little chat? Seems so obvious to me. Perhaps it's a lost in internet translation thing. No worries and thanks!

QueenofWhatever Sat 27-Nov-10 18:14:53

Haven't read all the details in your OP (sorry, it was a bit long), but you can discuss your concerns with a social worker. However, be careful and think about how your mother might react. She sounds vulnerable and as if she's neglecting herself.

I don' get why she is so short of money? Does she receive a pension etc.? She may benefit from speaking to a benefits advisor. Age Concern can help with this.

The reduced food thing etc. - it could be an extreme case of what is not uncommon in a of of older people. My ex MIL was comfortably off but only bought value items from Asda.

As others have said, she can choose to live her life this way hard as it is for you to see. Does she want you and your brothers to help her in this way?

I mean this kindly, but it sounds like you are deciding what is best for her and that this has been going on for many years.

Chatelaine Sat 27-Nov-10 18:15:13

Could it be that your mother does not tell you the whole story?

justlookatthatbooty Sat 27-Nov-10 18:40:21

She seems to make everything transparent on the practical side, so I don't think there are any lurking secrets on that side but personally she is incredibly secretive, suffering alot from shame I think, on a personal level. She shares very little about her relationship with my father and with her parents and seems pained about both relationships. Practially though she has sat down with us and we've looked through every single document and bankstatement at her invitation. She telephones us daily imploring us for help. It's just that when it actually comes to giving help, she argues and argues about what is right. We do get somewhere though, it just takes a while, but when the buy comes along with the cash she can't sell up. Just explaining the 'wants help but doesn't want to use it' thing.

QueenofWhatever she gets a state pension but the costs of living in her house and paying a relatively small mortgage which she inherited after my father's death are staggeringly high total costs in the 2000k monthly region. So the widow's benefit and state pension count but she's been surviving off the life insurance which is now all gone.
For a great many years, when her mental illness was at it's height, she wanted us to do everything for her, make every decision, every move, she couldn't leave the house alone and was totally dependent on us. Totally. I have never really known how to help her, because she never actually takes any practical measures, advised or self directed. More recently, since living alone entirely, she has become more and more stubborn. She has fallen down the stairs in the night, shattered her arm and shoulder and lay for an eternity on an unheated floor of the house in the dead of winter and was found semi conscious and hypothermic. It is at this point, with these things happening that me and my brothers have taken a firmer approach to pointing out her options if she wishes to avoid recurrence of such unfortunate accidents. I disagree that we are deciding what's best for her and that it's been going on for years.Wholeheartedly. But I can understand how you might kindly, draw this conclusion, as it's hard to present the whole story, because its so so long.

Thanks everyone, it really does help, all of this.

QuintessentialShadows Sat 27-Nov-10 18:47:56

I am having a similar situation with MY parents.
My mother has moderate alzheimers, high bloodpressure and bone marrow cancer. My father is paralyzed and in a wheelchair after a stroke 8 years ago. They live together in a massive ramshackle house, and they are refusing to leave.

The want help. Lots of help. But not the kind of help I am able to give. They are expecting an awful lot, and there is very little practical I CAN, and am willing to do. The help THEY want is pretty somebody to come and DO all their housework, snow shovelling, lawnmowing, ie all the practical things THEY would do in their own home if only they were able to.

The kind of help I can, and am willing to give, is help them move to a nursing home, get the healthcare for them that they need, help my father get a hearing aid, sort out orthopedic shoes for my mum, a panick alarm, etc.

MY kind of help involves them realizing that they are in fact at the ends of their lives. The help THEY WANT is help to bury their heads in the sand and continue the status quo.

It is a lot about refusing to accept their age, their vulnerability, and that the inevitable will happen. They are not able to see that the inevitable will happen sooner, and more dramatically, if they are allowed to keep their head in the sand.

Very little to do when it gets to that point with sick and elderly parents.

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