Taking Care Of Grandma

saphire_1975December 1, 2008

My Grandmother has always been very healthy until recently, in the last week she has been treated for a bleeding ulcer, diagnosed with a clogged artery that they will take care of when the ulcer heals, and is currently in the hospital with leg pain. It turns out that she never knew her leg hurt because she had heard that aspirin was good for her heart, and was taking 3 pills every 4 hours, the aspirin gave her the ulcers. She lives in a retirement home but her doctor says that she cannot live alone anymore as she will not take her medicine properly. My family owns a three unit apartment building I live in 1 my mother lives in 1 and my brother lives in the third. My mother is in her 60's and has a bad back so her apartment is handicapped accessible I want my Grandma to come stay at my mom's. My mom has allot of pain but the only care she needs is checked on every day and some small things that she can't do. I figure that between me, my brother, and my sister in law we can take care of them both. I am 33 years old and have a teenage daughter. Does anyone have any advise for me? I really would like to keep her out of a nursing home for as long as possible. But I know that if I move her in I will be responsible for 3 people that aren't good at following directions, Grandma, mom, and teenager. How do I transition into the role of caregiver when she used to care for me?

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It is very noble of you wanting to care for your family and I understand your not wanting to have to place your grandmother into a nursing home but sometimes we have to let go and realize we can't do it all. We're not super human beings. Care givers break down with being over loaded and you need to be truthful about the situation. I'm not wanting this is sound bad, just trying to help out. You are taking on a lot. Do you work?

If you bring grandmother you'd have to keep all of the medicine locked up even your moms cause she might think their hers. Have you talked to your mom? If so how does she feel about mom moving in with her? Is your bother willing to help out giving you time out and how does your sister in law feel?
Remember your not the only one in this, please think of others too. Nursing home are not bad if you find a good one.
My dad is in one because I'm not able to care for him due to my health problems, I'm not going to say it's easy cause it's not. He cry's to go home but like your grandmother, he too over medicated himself.

Did no one know that grandmother was taking 3 aspirins every 4 hours? With her taking this many and this often it sounds like maybe something else might be going on with grandmother.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 7:26AM
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At this point it's not a question of if I should bring her home or not, it's how. My Mom has lived with my Grandma most of her life, so they are both looking forward to living together again. I do work but my SIL stays home with my nephews, her mother was recently diagnosed with MS so she is also adamant about keeping my Grandma here for as long as possible, and my brother will do whatever we tell him to. I just want to know what to prepare for.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 9:00AM
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It's hard to answer your question without more information. Will she be staying in the same apartment with your mother? If so, can your mother help "watch" her for you? It sounds as if she really needs a 24 hours a day watch. That could put a strain on your mother. You need to watch out for that. who will oversee the medications, food, daily care? It will require more and more time and energy from the primary caretaker as time passes. In fact, the same can be said for your mother too. But, that's one bridge that you don't need to cross just yet.

Since your mother wants this, you will have to give it a try. See how it affects your mother's health, as that will be your main problem. She doesn't need too much extra stress. At first, you are just going to have to play it by ear and take it one day at a time.

Start looking around for a suitable nursing home type situation for your grandmother, for she may need it later. That way, you won't have to move her in an emergency situation. Get her name on a waiting list, if you need to.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 11:01AM
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Wow--I hardly know where to start. First you are very lucky that so many of your family live so close. Believe me you all are going to be each others support system. When my MIL moved in with us, we had no idea what that would entail. Unless you live with someone or have daily contact, you can't really know how they are mentally or physically. My MIL has seemed "ditsy" for years but we had no idea she was a danger to herself until she moved in with us. We took it for granted that she would continue to do her own thing, take care of her needs..so on. We figured life would continue for us as usual, work, hobbies and so forth. It hasn't worked out that way at all. It became so apparent that "ditsy" was dementia.
Over the Thanks Giving holiday, family that hadn't seen her in several months were literally floored at how confused she is. She has days that 15 minutes ago doesn't exist.
We are hanging in there because we love her--my husband and I have medical training and feel that we can handle any physical needs she has. We didn't count on the emotional aspect of all this to be so exhausting. Most days I feel very blessed to still have her--she is wonderful and kind and loving. Some days I just want to run into the woods and scream.
I admire your family for taking this on. You sound like a loving bunch. Just don't wear yourself out with it. There is no shame in putting a loved one in a facility if that is where they can recieve the best care. It's not failure, it's doing what's best for them.
Hang in there

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 12:20PM
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Falldown, you described the situation with my mother perfectly. She, too, had been "ditsy" for years. But it wasn't until we moved her in with us that we both realized it was dementia and fairly advanced at that. Add to that her almost total bowel & bladder incontinence. Surprise! When you don't live with a person, you don't necessarily pick up on how needy they are.

Saphire, everyone has given you good advice. I think your main concern should be for your mom's health. I can tell you from my experience with my own mother that the physical labor of being a caregiving can have a negative affect on one's health. It's been a year since I moved my mom into an assisted living/memory care facility, and I still suffer from back pain. In fact, I'm heading off today to see the doctor once again about it. It's a permanent part of my life now and the direct result of caring for my mom. Yet, when my mom moved in with us, I had no physical problems and thought she was still able to function without a lot of help.

You said your mom is already dealing with back issues. Moving grandma in with her might put her under unanticipated physical & emotional stress that could undermine her own health.

I think you and your family have to be realistic about grandma's care. Situations change, people's needs and abilities change. You should not make promises that you might not be able to keep. You should be flexible enough so that if circumstances change, you're willing to re-think your positions.

Agenspuffin has given you good advice about looking right now for a good nursing home in the area. Get grandma's name on a waiting list and then you'll have somewhere to turn when and if the need arises.

We all hate to see our loved one's health and mental capabilities deteriorate. But we're pretty much helpless. We cannot turn back the clock.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 3:36PM
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Saphire, some other thoughts: As Barb mentioned, you need to have a locked, inaccessible (to grandma) cabinet for ALL medications,including your mother's. I know that both Barb & I have had experiences with our parents misusing medications. It's pretty typical for the elderly. Include all over the counter medications too -- just about anything that you can purchase from a drug store. Use the same precautions you'd follow if you had a 2 year old crawling around in the house. Last year I read about an athlete poisoning himself with the over use of Ben Gay. So go through your mom's medicine cabinet carefully and scrutinize everything. Your grandma already has proven that she needs complete supervision with her meds.

See if you can install some sort of intercom system between the apartments. That way if your mom needs help, she could much more easily contact either you or your brother's family. Radio Shack might be a source of help.

You might want to look into special call buttons and emergency phone services. With her bad back, your mom should not attempt to pick grandma up after a fall. Call 911 and just wait for the help to arrive.

To save wear & tear on your mom's back, work out a bathing schedule for grandma that will always have someone else assisting. Do the same for laundry & house cleaning. It could be one of your family members, or you could hire someone to come in for a few hours each week to take care
of those needs.

Regarding transitioning into the role of caregiver, there's no easy way. With your grandmother, you can always blame the changes on the hospital doctors. Just say that they're the ones who ordered this kind of oversight. You'll probably have to repeat yourself a dozen times each day for a while. For your mom, you'll just have to tell her that the inconveniences to her freedoms are for grandma's sake. Without her cooperation & willingness, grandma would have to be sent to a nursing home. Good luck with all that. It's really hard because most elderly absolutely hate giving up any of their independence. It's understandable but it doesn't make it easy on the caregiver.

Check out web sites that carry assistive devices. I'm linking one below. These places carry lots of products that can be most helpful when dealing with mobility challenged individuals. Some of these things could make life a whole lot easier for your mom and the other members of your family while you're taking care of grandma. I have several others websites saved if you need more.

Here is a link that might be useful: Dynamic Living

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 4:41PM
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Let's take a step back. Have you talked to the her doctor? If not please do. see what he says about bring her home to your mother. I know you say your SIL will be there to help but she has young ones to care for and after having cared for my dad for three years I've watched him go down pretty fast. Having a loved one live with you even next door you may not see signs of something going on with them.
My dad fought me on going to the doctor even when his legs started swelling up. I told him I didn't think it was right and should go to the doctor but he wouldn't here of it till he made up his mind to go.
By waiting till he got good and ready to go he could have died and if he had I would have felt guilty and carried the guilt for a long time. His heart was only beating 20 beat a minute - normal is 80 beats a minute.
He had to have a pacemaker put in and he's doing better but his dementia has gotten worse. I think everyone has some type of dementia, what it is, is the brain growing old and shrinking and your grandmother sounds as if she might have a little having been taking 3 aspirins every 4 hours that is not normal. If she has dementia some become combative. They do things not even knowing what their doing.
So seat down with the doctor and ask question about your grandmother's state of health.

Everyone here has been a big help to me, I have cried my heart out to them over my dad. They are the greatest.

BTW, There is no easy way of caring for a loved one when they become elderly or very sick, there's no magical answer what is best for you and the family you do what is best for all not just one person and it can be painful.
Best regards, Barb

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 10:25PM
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Thank you all for your help, I spent all day at the hospital it turns out her leg pain is only a circulation problem from not moving her leg the whole time she was in the hospital. Shouldn't they have moved it around? But anyway my Grandma and uncle want me to stay with her, this is not possible. She lives in a studio type apartment I love her dearly, but, if I have to stay in 1 room with her things will get ugly and I admit that I cannot care for her by myself I will burn out. They think that it will only be for a week but, she is not going to magically start taking her medicine properly, and lets face it this is the start of the trouble not the end it. There are intercoms installed in all of the apartments and my mother will not be doing any of the physical work, just share her apartment and some of the mental load. Thanks again for the advise and the link I will check it out. I am sleep deprived and my head is spinning there are so many thoughts and concerns racing through it, so thanks most of all for reading.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 10:53PM
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You are taking on a lot of responsibility. I'm the caregiver for my husband. If you are certain you want to do this, the first thing you need to do is find a place where you can be alone, run around like crazy, yell, cuss, throw something or whatever it takes for the frustration you'll have.
First, is your mother's apartment large enough for the 2 of them with 2 bedrooms? I'm sure your grandmother will want at least some of her things. Will you be able to set it up where both are happy?
The medicine has to be kept perhaps in your apartment where no access by grandmother. Make sure the doctor goes over all her medicines with you. In her defense about the aspirin, look at the TV commercials stating how aspirin can keep you from having a heart attack. Not really a good thing. Too much aspirin can also eat your stomach lining!!! If her memory is not real bad, you may want to talk to the doctor about Aricept. It is not for everyone. It helped my husband and my mother with memory problems. It is not a cure.
If your mother and grandmother are on medicare, talk to medicare about help with someone coming to the home to help with bathing and personal care. Talk to the council on aging as to possibly a volunteer coming to the home a couple of days a week to visit and maybe help with doctor appt's, hair appt's, or just going for a ride. That would take some of the load off. It may be the volunteer would even take them to a senior center for activities once a week.
Have the phone in their apartment coded for speed-dial for 911 where all they have to do is push 1 number for help.
Sorry this was so long but my heart goes out to you.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 4:59AM
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Amen to "lock the medications up" and double Amen to the "find a place to be alone...cuss" They can seem so lucid and two seconds later you'll find them with a handful of asprin or vitamins ( or anything else) trying to swallow them down. It is worse than trying to babyproof your home because they think they have it under control--things like that make perfect sense to them. Their thinking process and judgment is not what it should be. I catch my MIL running around the house naked and when I ask her whats she's doing, she looks at me like I'm crazy. It makes perfect sense to her.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 10:57AM
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All of the above is excellent info. I would also stress the personal space for you and that there are 2 bedrooms in your Mom's apartment. Definitely use outside sources for bathing, med checks and other routine review. A visiting nurse can see things the family won't just because of their training and a fresh eye. It also provides fresh faces. There are other respite care services out there and council on aging is a great source of info.
If you start feeling resentful, you need to either consider a different living situation or at the least, more respite care and personal time. I cared for my mom as long as I could before it became physically impossible for both of us. It's very difficult but the peace of mind is worth it. Doesn't mean you've abandoned. I do her laundry, take in her own soap, shampoo, lotions etc to make things as personal as I can.
My best to you and your family.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2008 at 1:06PM
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