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Should 13-year old visit very sick grandma?

(19 Posts)
aloha Fri 18-Mar-05 20:04:20

My MIL is ill and getting sicker. She recently moved into residential care as she wasn't coping at home - had lots of falls, and was getting dehydrated and undernourished. We suspect she has early Alzheimers and she won't eat. She pretends she is eating, but she isn't, has been losing weight drastically for about a year now and only weighs 51/2 stones (she's about 5'7"). She also has osteoporisis, diabetes, high blood pressure and arthritis. She is 80 and obviously we are beginning to think she can't go on like this.
I am persuading my dh to visit her after Easter (we live a four - five hour car journey and I had dd five weeks ago) and wonder if my stepdaughter, who is 13 and quite sensitive but also quite sensible and caring, should go with him. Dh thinks it might be too upsetting for her as her grandma is now so thin and has periods when she isn't really herself (though is quite lucid most of the time). I can see his point totally, but also wonder if a/it would be a good thing for his mum who was a devoted grandparent to her first granddaughter and did a lot of caring for her when she was younger and is immensely proud and fond of her etc etc and b/ would my stepdaughter regret it later if she didn't see her grandma before she died. I'm not sure she realises that she might die, even though we have discussed it.
What do you think? Encourage her to go (obviously not force her if she really doesn't want to) or discourage her from visiting? Does anyone have any experience of this situation?

HuskyGirl Fri 18-Mar-05 21:40:59

Hi aloha,
When I was 13 my grandma died then when i was 14 my nan died. I visited my grandma and not my nan, but my parents decided that i was old enough to make my own decision after telling me all the facts and what to expect etc. i chose not to see my nan because she was extremely ill and i didnt want to remember that way, but my grandma was normal in appearence etc and i got to see her and say goodbye. The most important thing to me has been that when i think back now it was me that made the decision so i have been able to cope with it, not sure how i would have felt if my parents made the decision for me. At 13 i feel that the best way is to discuss the reality and what to expect then agree the decision, just my own personal opinion though as everyone is different. Hope this helps x

piffle Fri 18-Mar-05 21:50:21

My gut feeling would be to allow her if she would like to.
My DS is 11 and if it was his Granny then yes I would encourage him to see her.
Good luck with whatever route you choose and I hope it is not to difficult and too sad a time for you.

LGJ Fri 18-Mar-05 21:51:01

My Nana died over night, and my Grandad six months later in hospital. (broken heart).

I never got to say goodbye to either of them, and now,25 years later, I probably miss them out of all proportion, if that makes sense.

Allow/encourage DSD to make her own decision, I for one, resent the fact that even though I was only 12, the grown-ups knew my darling Harry was dying and didn't involve us.

tortoiseshell Fri 18-Mar-05 22:00:28

I think I would encourage her to go - 13 is old enough to understand that she may not be herself, and I think she would regret it if she didn't go.

What a sad situation for you - hope you and your dh are ok.

whatsername Fri 18-Mar-05 22:02:46

I would definately encourage her to see her Grandma.

soapbox Fri 18-Mar-05 22:08:23

Aloha - I agree with the others - let her make the choice.

I'm sorry that you and DH are going through this at a time when you should be enjoying all the joys that a new babe brings!

At 13 you are on the cusp of adulthood and ready to embrace all that that entails. The reality of serious illness and death may well be one of those rites of passage. Only your DSD can tell whether she is ready.

My grandmother died when I was 15 in a home with Alzheimers and I regret not seeing her before she died and felt exceedinly resentful of my DM who had prevented me from going!

I'm sure if they were once close she would value this opportunity to say good-bye should the worse happen.

Ags Fri 18-Mar-05 22:13:48

I was 5 when my much loved Grandfather died of cancer. He was in hospital for weeks and at the time children weren't allowed in to hospitals in Ireland.

However, my Dad got permission from the matron for me to visit but my cousins had told me that the man in the bed next to Grandad had had his leg amputated and I was too scared to go as I had 5 year old visions of a bloody amputated leg!

Grandad died days later and I have always always regretted not seeing him. I loved him so much. Actually I believe this also started a long childhood phobia of doctors, hospitals, illness and death which gave me many many nightmares.

It seems you have a good, open and caring relationship with your stepdaughter so will be able to discuss it with her. Explain that she has the option to go and see her Grandma and discuss how she might feel taking into account the best and worst case scenarios. I'm sure you and dh will be able to support her whatever decision she makes. Best of luck to you all.

milge Fri 18-Mar-05 22:14:35

I would also encourage her to go and visit, if she is adamant that she doesn;t want to, then don't force her. If she does go, maybe take loads of photos of the two of them together, and treat this as a goodbye, so that if she survives for longer, your sd has already said her goodbyes?

ionesmum Fri 18-Mar-05 22:15:32

Aloha, just want to add my sympathies too. I agree your stepdaughter has to choose fo rherself, but at thirteen she probably has little idea what to expect, so please make sure she knows. My family were crap about illness and death and I can remember going to see my great uncle in a nursing home aged 12 and not being able to handle it when an old lady got really upset because she'd peed on the floor and then going to my aunt's funeral aged 13 and being absolutely terrified that I would have to go and see her dead body.

suedonim Fri 18-Mar-05 23:43:22

I'm sorry to hear about your MIL, Aloha. Wrt to your stepdaughter, I also think she is old enough to make up her own mind once she has heard the facts. When my dad was dying (of cancer and pneumonia) my 11yo dd visited him up until the last week. It wasn't scary and didn't upset her, she took it in her stride. I wouldn't have wanted her to see him in his final 24hrs, though, as he was a poor soul by then (I wish I hadn't had to see that) but your mil doesn't sound as though she's at that stage.

Perhaps if your stepdaughter is unsure, your dh can offer her a 'get-out clause' by telling her she can go and sit in the car if it's too much for her. Then she wouldn't have to make up her mind until the last moment and would feel less pressured into making a decision. Thinking of you all.

KarenThirl Sat 19-Mar-05 09:19:04

I think I'd let her go too, but it must be her own choice and she shouldn't be pushed into it if she doesn't feel comfortable. Explain to her that it will be her chance to say goodbye and it will help her grieve, then wait and see.

JoolsToo Sat 19-Mar-05 09:44:53

I think I would just ask her if she would like to go - explaining the situation and giving guidance and answering any questions.

I think at 13 (especially today's 13!) it should be ok and her and dad can support each other.

happymerryberries Sat 19-Mar-05 09:49:26

My mother has dementia, she seems worse than your MIL. The children do see her about once or twice a year. TBH I had all the same worries that you have mentioned. But it always goes quite well. Mum loves to see them, has no idea who they are (or me for that matter) but she just love to see children. I would ask your step daughter what she thinks.

tallulah Sat 19-Mar-05 12:55:22

My own grandma died last october. we went up to see her the day before & it was a real shock- she'd shrunk away to nothing & was huddled up in this huge hospital bed. We asked the children (13, 15, 17) if they wanted to go and see her, having explained how bad she was. They all decided not to, and TBH I'm glad they didn't. She didn't know we were there. Leave it to your dsd to decide herself.

aloha Sat 19-Mar-05 20:32:46

Thanks for all your responses. We'd definitely NOT force her to go or not go - there's no question but that she will be able to decide herself - but I think her decision will be very much influenced by how the information is presented and she could easily be encouraged either way. I worry that she might always regret not saying goodbye, dh worries more that she might regret seeing her grandma looking very ill. I think her instinctive, panicky reaction (esp as she has no real experience of illness and death) will be to say no, but I am not sure she understands that this will mean never seeing her grandma again. Being very pregnant when the crisis with MIL arose over Christmas, and subsequently having a tiny baby I haven't been able to travel to see her myself yet, so don't really know how bad she is, but the main change is that she has become very, very thin. I think it might be upsetting for her but will it be 'too' upsetting? I have talked to her this w/e and explained that her grandma is 51/2 stone and may die and she went very quiet. I think we'll let her think about it a bit as dh won't be able to visit until after Easter anyway.
We're OK, dh obviously sad, but the real crisis was at Christmas, when she was in hospital for a long time. But sadly she might have to go back in as her weight is still falling.

aloha Sat 19-Mar-05 20:33:41

I am pretty certain she would know they were there btw.

JoolsToo Sat 19-Mar-05 20:34:20

its a fine line between regret and not a nice last memory iykwim?

Newbarnsleygirl Sat 19-Mar-05 20:47:20

My Grandad was diagnosed with Cancer in May 2000. He was eventually needed to go in to hospital for an operation the following March. Dh and I had booked to go away at the same time.

I saw him before I went and his operation was the day before we came home. When we got back we were told the operation was a success and he was doing well but all my family said not to go and see him because he was on alot of drugs for the pain and to leave him for a couple more days.

The following day before I went to work we got a phone call to say he had a heart attack and died. My mum, dad, nanna, Auntie and I all went straight to the hospital and they all told me to go into his room to see him.
I really didn't want to go in but they said he just looks asleep.

I regret going in to that room now as that is my final moment with him and I can't get that memory out of my head. I'll never forget that.
I wish I had gone when everyone told me not to. Regardless of how he was.

Sorry for being so sad but my view on it is if your sd wants to go I would let her.

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