Help with 90+ Year Old Grandmother...(long)

cindyb_vaJanuary 31, 2006

Hi all!

I have been a member of this website for some time and usually post in other forums. Today, however, I am posting here in hopes of some good advice with regards to my grandmother.

Background: My grandmother has lived alone since the mid 1980s when my grandfather passed away. Her only child was my mother, who also passed away, ten years ago, after a long battle with cancer. She lives in a small ranch house in a working class neighborhood. Many of her neighbors are also elderly.

Her closest relatives are her two granddaughters; me in Virginia and my sister in the MidWest. The fastest either one of us could reach her in an emergency would be about five hours.

Up until a few years ago, my grandmother was very spry and able to "do on her own" quite well. However, age has finally started to catch up with her. Last year, we hired a woman to do housekeeping for her on a bi-weekly basis.

The Bad Stuff: She has become so deaf she cannot hear the phone ring when the television set is on (she keeps the set so loud). She has started to become forgetful about paying her bills. Her health has deteriorated significantly, although it is not one particular thing.

The Good Stuff: She has a nice circle of church friends, who average about 25 years younger than she is. She plays bridge and she is content to stay in and watch TV or read for her amusement.

She is adamant that she does not want to go to a retirement community, which she refers to as a 'nursing home'. We have taken her to several nice retirement communities to show her that they are not truly nursing homes, but she is a stubborn bird and insists she wants to die at home, in her own bed.

My question to you is we ever force the issue of getting her to leave her house? If so, how do we know when it is time to do so? I know that if my mother was alive, my grandmother would be living with her or my mother would have made her go into a retirement community long ago.

She has had numerous times over the past year where my sister and I have found out that she was in the hospital, but is now home and "okay". It is very frightening to us that she [obviously] hides this information from us until after it is over. We worry about her.

Any advice/insight you could give would be highly appreciative.

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Cindy, I would suggest keeping in close contac with her,either by the church family who has contac with her, or call some of the friends who she has and ask them to check on her perodically, even maybe daily. Have them call, and if she does not answer,the phone as you say she doesn't hear, then have them check on her by stopping by. Alert her neighbors as to your concern over her and possibly they can detect if something seems out of the "ordinary". If she was in the hospital on different occasions how did she get there and back with -out notifying you all? I can understand she does nto want to lose her' independency" no one however does, but there may come a time when you simple have to take matters into your own hands and explain to her the circumstances and apply what ever you have to do to keep her safe. Does she have a call buttton, where if she did fall or needed help she could get it. This may be a solution for her as well as you all so you can rest assure about her safety. If and when you call ,and get no answer, then perhaps someone closer to her can check, either the church members or some of her neighbors. At her age, if she has no health issues which you say she has a few, sometimes things can deterorate bery quickly and she need medical attention. That is where the "call button"could be of assittance as well. These are my suggestions ,of what I would consider. However I never had the problem, as i had my MIL in my home and took care of her for 5 years before she passed on. Much Good Luck to you in solving your delimea....HUGS Gabby

    Bookmark   January 31, 2006 at 8:37PM
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Oh, do I ever feel for you! Gabby's got a great amount of good advice.

ALso try to think ahead, as in, what happens next.... You and your sister and anyone else you can bring into this, all need to be on the same page.

I moved my (then) 92 yr old Mother from Arizona to CA a few years ago, and into one of the those dreaded senior complexes just a few miles from my home. She just passed away in December, but I had the priveledge of being with her often in her last years.

What I learned is that things start going down hill. Every time an elder faces an illness or any set-back, the recovery is never 100%, they always seem to be a little less than they were before. I found that I had to become the "parent" in our relationship, and really make some hard decisions. It might be like an intervention, but you and your sister, and your grandmother's pastor or friends might need to confront her (gently of course) about making this change in her life.

I was driving down to Scottsdale (725 miles) every month before i moved Mother close to me. In the last 3-1/2 years, we were able to enjoy lunches out or at the dining room of her complex. I could take her to the doctor, or shopping, and I was able to be there in 20 minutes when there was an emergency. Which there was, more and more often.

You also need to consider legal matters, from her property. will, a trust, powers of attorney, and medical matters. So she takes a fall at home. Does she have a "Do Not Resusitate" order inplace? Does she want to be kept alive by any and all means? Who signs the papers when she's taken to the hospital if she cannot? Who talks to the doctor if she has a stroke and cannot talk? Did you know that you need to have her permission on file with her doctor for the doctor to talk to you? Who is prepared to make all those decisions? Can you or your sister write and sign a check to pay her bills if she cannot do so?

All matters to be considered.

Bless you for being there for her. She'll need you more and more as time goes by. Ad know that there are many of us here who have shoulders for you to lean on!


    Bookmark   February 1, 2006 at 11:04AM
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Helene had also has some very important good advice, that I did not consider. See, two heads are better than one....HUGS Gabby

    Bookmark   February 1, 2006 at 7:36PM
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This would be a good time to ask her to tell you about special friends at her church. Get their names and the name of her pastor. Tell her that you need to know who to thank for watching out for her. Don't let her think that you are going behind her back. Maybe you could get to meet some of them. Tell them of your concerns. You need for them to tell you when they think it's time for a more structured kind of living arrangement.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2006 at 9:12PM
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Thank you all so much for posting. Lots of good advice here. :)

In answer to some of your questions, we have already "buttoned up" her legal and financial issues. She has a DNR in place and power of attorney, living will documents are already in place. She does have a "life alert" button, but she doesn't use it, because she doesn't want to be "a bother". She also refuses to call 9-1-1 and often ends up in the hospital after a neighbor or a friend becomes concerned and visits her, finds her in a bad way. Again, "I don't want to be a bother" is her typical response.

We are in constant contact with her church friends, but sadly, they hide stuff from us too. When we "catch" them doing it, they say they are only doing what my grandmother asked (Q: Why didn't you tell us she was in the hospital? A: Because your grandmother asked us not to...)
So, that's a pain on one hand, but on the other, it speaks volumes as to the loyalty of her friends.

Getting her pastor involved is a GREAT idea, unfortunately she does not like the current pastor at her church. I might be able to get in touch with the previous pastor, who she thought the world of, so that is a fantastic idea.

Again, thanks very much for responding. You have been a help.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2006 at 12:11PM
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Oh, dear, she sounds just like my Mother. They found her on the floor one morning---I had insisted on Assisted Living just so someone would be coming in to check on her more often. SHe had fallen during the night when she got up to go to the bathroom, was not wearing her Life Alert button, and she had lain there until morning, unable to get up.

She was taken to the hospital. She had pneumonia.

Make sure that you have copies of all those DNR and powers of attorney forms with you all the time---- you never know when someone will call. Ask her if she wants to add someone who lives closer by to be on that paperwork, too. Make sure that the DNR order is posted on her refrigerator, which is where a EMT will look for it. Make sure that her doctor's office has these papers as well. I had to provide my copies for doctors and hospital more than once, even tho I knew I had provided a copy down in the ER, it didn't make it upstairs to her room with her paperwork when she was admitted a couple of hours later. Try to line up someone to check in with her every day, maybe a couple of times a day.

Sigh. She's a tough one. I had one like that, too! Keep up the good work, and plan to visit her a lot more often. If she sees you often on a regular basis (without you responding to an emergency), just to take her to lunch or out shopping, she may open up to you a little more.

Good luck---- this isn't easy!

    Bookmark   February 2, 2006 at 6:05PM
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About all you can do is keep repeating, repeating, and repeating again...Worrying and having things happen to her is far more BOTHER than just being on top of things to prevent them from happening. We can understand her not wanting to be bothersome, but try to convince her that not knowing what's going on in her life is even more bothersome.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2006 at 6:56PM
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Excellent advice from fairegold and I would agree with it all.

My husband and I cared for my mother for ten years - she lived in a self-contained apartment in our home - until her care required more than I am able to give. As she grew more frail, more home support was required but even with someone coming in several times a day it got to the point that still wasn't enough.

She's 92 and in very frail health. My biggest concern was for her safety when she began to boil pots dry, didn't hear the smoke alarm (hard of hearing) and took a nasty fall. I got not a moment's peace for the last several years, worrying unless I was right there what she was doing/would do next.

I consulted with her doctor whose support and experience helped to find a suitable placement for my mother in a care facility. In her case it's between a hospital and a home; it's staffed with nurses and a doctor always on immediate call. When I told her I could no longer give her the care she needs, the predictable "I don't want to go into a home" reaction followed.

I sat her down calmly and said it's not about what she wants or what I want, which would be to stay with me until her last day. It is about what is going to keep her safe.

It was a very difficult decision. Six months into it I know the right thing was to relinquish her care to the professionals. She knows she's not to get out of bed without assistance but got up anyway by herself for a nighttime bathroom visit; she was found on the floor after falling and has fractured her spine.

She has settled in fairly well and admitted she feels safer where she is because she's never alone and that used to frighten her (and worry me to pieces!). It is very sad to see her empty apartment and all her things, knowing that she won't ever return there.

It isn't easy but often doing the right thing is anything but!

Best wishes Cindy and good luck.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2006 at 6:42PM
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My ailing Mother refuses to move in with me and my husband. I was constantly worring about her. I purchased an emergency alarm for her to get some piece of mind. After doing some research online, the best deal I found was called a Medi Mate. I Had never bought one of these before so I didn't know how to compare. They charge by the month ($24.95) with no contract, so I thought I would try this one out. It was really easy to setup (I'm not very technical savvy).

I purchased in Feb and my Mother has only used it once, thank God it was nothing serious. She had fallen in the kitchen and twisted her ankle. She did not want to risk hurting it further so she pressed the button. The operator called me and I was able to come take her to her own doctor rather than calling an ambulance.

It is at I hope this can help someone else as much as it has helped me and my Mom.

Here is a link that might be useful: MediMate

    Bookmark   August 23, 2006 at 3:15PM
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