Looking for advice to help my Mom, the caregiver

myfampgJune 10, 2011

Hello All -- I'm posting in hopes of getting some advice on helping my mom.

Mom is the middle child of 3 and is currently caring for my grandma who is 85.

Grandma was diagnosed with Parkinson's. She became very ill last year and was told she could no longer live on her own. She was living in a retirement 'apartment' community-- no assisting or anything like that, just an apartment for retirement age people. She was paying over $1000/month.

The decision was made that she would move in with my mom and the siblings both promised to help out knowing this would be a challenge because 1. Grandma is not a nice person 2. All of the dr visits, physical therapy etc take a lot of time. So far, in a year, neither sibling has come forward to help and if my mom asks them to help they say they are busy that day etc. One sibling has never been to the house to visit and the other has only come over a handful of times in one year. But here is the kicker... They complain about everything my mom is doing.

At first my mom was very helpful and basically tried to do everything for grandma but grandma being so private and independent she stated she didn't need the help and to stop hovering. So mom backed off and kept a very close eye from a distance. We all know that grandma is just suffering from losing her independence. She cannot drive, she cannot walk without a walker, she cannot pour a drink, she cannot carry her plate to the table so she is rightfully frustrated at her situation but takes it out on my mom. Mom has been (in my opinion) extremely patient and generous but grandma says 'she is MEAN'.

The dr's have told my mom that parkinson's effects a persons behavior. People tend to get meaner and even more 'ungrateful' as time goes on.

My mom has talked to grandma about going to an assisted living facility but knows grandma can't afford it. She does own a home and land but has already given it to a sibling as what they are getting from her when she dies. The other two get what is left of the bank account. My mom has tried talking grandma in to selling the land because that would give her enough money to live in a nice place for another 15 years. But grandma won't sell she just wants to complain.

Mom has no help from her siblings. My siblings and I help every week. I go on the weekends and my sister goes several times during the week but then my grandma says no one comes to see her or to help her.

She has basically alienated us all because she says very mean things. She does not like our kids to come over because they are 'too loud' so sometimes my mom feels like she can't even see her own grandchildren. Grandma has apparently decided she doesn't like my dad all of a sudden and talks very ugly about him which hurts my mom.

She yells and screams at my mom and then locks herself in her room for days only coming out to go to the bathroom or get something to eat.

My mom will try to make peace and attempt to get grandma up and dressed but then she calls everyone and says mom is being mean and won't let her sleep.

Then my mom's siblings who never come around, don't help and won't lift a finger to give mom a break, call and tell my mom everything she is doing wrong and how they would do it if they were the ones caring for her. When she says 'well then please come get her' they say well I have a life and I work blah blah.

Mom feels trapped (she has not said this but I can tell she is feeling it) because her siblings talked her in to taking their mother and made all these promises and then have continued living their lives and never even call to say, how is it going? It's always just accusation.

How can I help my mom? How can I be there for her and to help her get through this time? I know she is probably going to have nothing but bad memories of my grandma because she will care for her for however longer and all the good memories will be drowned by so many years of bad...

Because my grandma has decided she doesn't like me either... I'm a selfish brat and my mom does too much for me.... And she dislikes my kids, I've gotten to where it is very difficult to be around her but I try to remember that my mom lives this day in and day out so I still go over and sit with her and try to find something to talk about.

My dad says he is worried about mom because she is verbally abused daily and doesn't stand up for herself. I've asked my mom why she doesn't stand up to her own mother and explain herself and she says because she won't hear me and I don't want to fight.

So ... What can I do for my mom? Any advice?

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1) Grandma can't stay there, period. What you've described is unmanageable/intolerable.

2) Sit down with mom and dad and get this on the table. Arrange voluntarily or by compulsion your mother or someone else to become guardian or POA or whatever it takes to make decisions on grandma's behalf. If it takes a court order, do that. Be advised that if they're unwilling to do this, your ability to influence the situation will have been greatly reduced. These will be difficult considerations but they must be examined for the reality that they are. If your mom doesn't come to that party, it's a choice she will have to bear the consequences of.

3) Involve the siblings, if you think it would do any good.

4) "She does own a home and land but has already given it to a sibling as what they are getting from her when she dies."

This is nonsense! Those assets should be used for her own care. Your mother is being financially as well as emotionally abused. Nursing or assisted living care is expensive. Grandma's existing assets should be applied to that.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2011 at 12:51PM
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Thank you! Yes we all agree that grandma's house and land should be sold. My grandfather kept the land so that she could have a place to live and then once she could no longer live there, he expected it to be sold to provide for her. However, one child showed great interest in the property and so grandma decided that child should get it. Grandma could no longer afford to maintain it and to keep the utilities on, so said child took over and uses it as a weekend get away. She tried to get a loan to purchase the property but was unable to aquire such a loan. Then she had this great idea to rent the property out so that grandma would have a little income but she kept a large percentage for being the 'landlord' since grandma obviously cannot manage a property and renter issues. Grandma says it's ok but my mom sees this as a huge problem because mom is having to fund everything for grandma. Shelter, food, clothing, gas for transportation. It's not that she doesn't 'want' to but it's become very expensive and mom herself is already retired.
My grandma has not given over POA to anyone. My mom 'helps' her take care of money things but my grandma is so secretive my mom doesn't even know how much money she has in her bank account. She blindly leads her and hopes nothing goes wrong financially. Grandma won't discontinue the insurance on her vehicle that sits and is not driven. She won't allow it to be sold either.
Mom is at a point of washing her hands and saying I don't care anymore but I know she will regret it one day if she does it out of frustration and exhaustion. I hope that by getting her in to a facility, they could fix their strained relationship but my mom says that won't happen because then she will be 'blamed' for throwing grandma into a 'home' and leaving her.
The other siblings that do nothing, are considered golden in grandma's eyes and of course would never show her bad behavior around them.

I'm going to share your advice with my folks. Thanks so much!

    Bookmark   June 10, 2011 at 4:06PM
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You are in a difficult position because you want to help your mom but it sounds like your mom is so worried about guilt that she is unable to act. You've got to convince your mom that this present situation is truly intolerable. And you've got to make sure she understands that she has NOT failed at all. She is dealing with a very difficult situation and a difficult personality, and she has no support from her siblings. It will not get better, and as the situation worsens, so could your mother's health.

If the siblings haven't helped so far, they probably won't ever help. The real problem is that as your grandmother ages, her health and disposition will likely worsen, so the siblings will be even less inclined to lend a hand.

Your mom needs to begin looking at housing options for grandma. Talk to the local agency on aging to get an idea of what is available. And asolo is absolutely right about the house & land grandma owns. They are her assets to be used for her care while she is still alive.

Unfortunately, your situation is not unique. Many families deal with criticism from siblings who are not involved in the day-to-day care giving. And it is not unusual for the elderly parent to think highly of the absent children and think harshly of the child who does all the work and care. I know that's not much of a comfort.

Your mom needs to make peace with the idea of moving grandma somewhere else. She needs the strength to tell the siblings that the present situation is not working out. She also needs to ignore any additional promises of help or attempts to make her feel guilty. It will take a lot of determination, courage, and strength. That's where you will come in as a constant source of support and encouragement. Good luck.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2011 at 10:45PM
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One option that your mother might consider, is having her declared by the courts to be incompetent to handle her financial affairs. Then, if that works, the house could be sold and her money used to place her in some sort of an assisted living type of arrangement. She may soon need nursing home care.

First, get your mother to see a lawyer, then let the family know what she intends to do. This might be enough to stir some of them to help more.

Your mother must learn to ignore her mother as much as possible. It won't hurt her since trying to please her doesn't help either, it would help your mom if she could look at her mother as a bratty child instead of The Mother that she once was. She needs to say, "THIS is what is going to be done." Then, ignore the reaction no matter how long it takes.

That's easier said than done, isn't it! Grandmother knows how to manipulate your mother.

I know it's hard, very hard, but your mother must put the needs of herself ahead of her mother's. She can't change her mother, it's only going to get worse.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2011 at 10:51AM
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Hi! I'm back for an update.

It's been almost a year since I posted this asking for advice and so much has changed.

The property that my grandmother owns is now in litigation. One of those 'golden' children is suing because they say it was 'promised' to them. So now grandma even has more of a headache because she has legal fees, depositions and an upcoming trial that she is having to prepare for. Of course her lawyer says that there is no case and that they will not win. However it cannot be sold until litigation is complete.

My relationship with my grandmother has gotten much better AND she is actually enjoying spending time with me and my family to give my mom a break. She comes over and sits and watches tv with me and the kids make her feel like a million bucks with all of their coloring and 'gifts' that they make for her. My older daughter enjoys helping to fix grandma's hair and likes to help her open doors and things like that. Smothering my grandma with love has seemed to work in the last few months.

Her relationship with my mom has gotten better. She is still pretty mean but she no longer calls the other siblings to complain about my mom. She will snap at my mom but quickly apologizes. She has seen the devotion that my mother has for her and I think that has really changed her. As the weeks and months go on, my grandmother becomes even more confused about things and that is very frustrating for her but she leans on my mom where this time last year she would lash out at my mom. She actually enjoys being around my dad too. Our family dog passed a few months ago and my grandma took it pretty hard. We didn't realize how attached she had become to the dog but she tells us that in the afternoon the dog would go in and sit in her room and watch the kids walking home from school through the window. They bonded which is not something my grandmother is good at. The passing of the dog seemed to bring her closer to my dad which has really surprised us all.

She says I love you a lot. She says thank you to my mom. I've caught her calling my mom honey and sweetie which are not names my grandmother ever uses.

One sibling has stepped up. Well his wife has stepped up but at least my mom has help now. My parents have been able to travel on three vacations which they had not done in over a year and they were travelers before my grandma moved in. My grandma stays with my uncle and wife for several weeks and actually misses home. That's right she calls it 'home' now.

The situation is not perfect but it seems to have gotten better. With her acceptance of how her life his now, she seems to be much happier. She doesn't want to go to a home and so I think with the fear of that happening she has straightened up a bit. She still has those moments but she seems to realize when she has been ugly and shows remorse. She actually sits in the living area with family instea of shutting herself off in to her room. The dr's say she is doing well. She had a scare not that long ago but seems to be much better now. I'm not sure what changed my grandma but she is not the miserable old lady she was last summer. She is a much nicer person who allows her family to love her and help her.

Just wanted to give an update.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2012 at 11:48PM
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I just came across this thread and want to thank you, myfampg, for giving an update. My personal situation is just beginning and I come to this site, often, for information. Thanks again, and I've very glad things are better for your Mom, and you and your family, too.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2012 at 6:23PM
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I just read this post myself. My husband's family had a problem when his Grandparents got old. Grandpa fell and passed away, leaving his Grandma alone. They had three kids, two daughters and a son. The three kids got together and agreed to take Grandma into their homes on a rotating basis. (All had extra room.) Grandma first came to live with my DH's parents, his Mom was the middle child. They kept Grandma several months, then she moved to the older daughter, then when the son's turn came his wife refused to take her in. Everybody stopped speaking. Granma went into a Nursing Home and died there at over 90 years of age. Her three kids never reconciled. MY DH had some contact with his cousins and Aunt and Uncle but was afraid to tell his mother he had kept in touch. When his Mom died, Uncle was notified but was too ill himself at this point to make the trip to her funeral. It's sad they couldn't get along any better than that. There was never any home or property-Granparents had always lived in apartments and had little money. Just plain sad. Let me just add one thing- it appears this woman will soon need custodial care. Your Mom shouldn't be burdened with this all alone. Please contact local Nursing Homes or Assisted Living places, tell them you need help and want to speak with a Social Worker to see if they can get her qualified for State Medicaid, which would pay or partially pay her bills.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2012 at 2:05PM
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