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My grandmother has been going downhill physically and mentally recently; when I talked with her in the spring she was confused and unsure what was happening (while in the hospital for knee surgery, kept thinking she was out of the country on a cruise). She's recently started hallucinating animals and people in the house. This morning she tried to sit down in a chair my grandfather was standing in front of, and they had to take her to the hospital (she turned out to be not physically hurt, probably, as my grandfather said, because she landed on top of him).

My grandfather thinks this will clear up once she starts getting dialysis. That's probably pretty unlikely.

I have been not calling them. I know I should be. I don't know how to answer in line with my grandmother's shifting misunderstandings of what reality she's in, and I don't know what I'm supposed to pretend to my grandfather but I can't say what I really want to say which is "for god's sake please move into assisted living before one or both of you gets severely hurt or becomes sick from moldy food".

My dad's angry at my two brothers for not doing more to help. My grandfather won't accept help anyone but my father. My one brother is chronically and increasingly depressed, working a fast-food job (he's in his 40s, has most of a college degree, and has held much higher-paying and skill-requiring jobs in the past), and stopped cleaning his house a couple years ago, and doesn't take out the trash often. He has lived without hot water for six months because he can't afford to replace it, and he can't afford to make a dent in his increasing credit card debt. My father's angry at him because he doesn't have motivation. My father's angry at his other brother who has the job he has because he doesn't want to have more responsibility. I'm not sure what the job is, but he's a good father to his two kids, and they're not having money troubles.

I would offer to my father to help get the grandparents moved in August (when I will be between work and school) but I haven't because that would imply that he'll be the one doing the moving.

I can't take care of it myself, but I feel like I should be doing more. At least calling them on the phone. But I don't know which reality to uphold or how and I really hate that shit. And they're just going to die and they'll be sad and alone and I'll have abandoned them right before they died.

I couldn't cope with having my grandmother live with us when she broke her hip and then she went home and eventually died, and I was angry and frustrated because she was so slow to talk to and because I was thirteen and going through a very bad years-long period of anxiety, irritation, and mild depression. My mom went to visit her twice a year and made my sister and me go along with her so that she could use us to help her get chores done. She didn't want to be there either. I think she went because she thought she ought to even though it made her kind of angry. But the point is, my grandmother was miserable and lonely and I saw her at somebody's house that was doing assisted living for her and she didn't want to be there and there was basically nothing left. And then eventually she died. I was glad for her.

My mom thinks that me and my sister are going to take care of her in her old age, and she was saying how difficult Dad would be to take care of (true) and that she would probably be better, and I couldn't say "I do not expect to ever be able to handle taking care of either of you" so I said I thought she probably would be better than Dad, and I could tell she was offended I hadn't rated her more highly. So all of this stuff happening right now with my grandparents is going to happen again with my parents except it will be worse. What I want is for my parents to provide for their own retirement, like I am trying to do for mine; but probably I'm going to have to save up money to put them in assisted living which they will hate and they'll hate me because I put them in a nursing home and if I didn't and I put them in my home with and I fell apart they'd be angry at me for not pulling myself together.

I'm too tired and upset to make this into a short post for responding to.

But the actual problem is that I'm not calling my grandparents on the phone.

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Often older people with hallucinations and confusion are reachable, if you can begin from their starting point and still talk to them and remind who you are. My mum nurses an old lady who was a waitress. This lady will not talk to my mum, unless mum gives her a sponge, and my mum takes a sponge, and together they wipe tables in the nursing home. In this lady's head, she is still a waitress. My mum helps her clean tables and also talks to her to find out how her health is and how she is doing. You could say that this is colluding with her waitress delusion, but in reality it is reaching her where she is mentally, and still talking to her and getting the necessary info my mum needs to makes sure that the nursing home cares for her.

Is that relevant at all?

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I couldn't say "I do not expect to ever be able to handle taking care of either of you"

You have to. You have brain cooties. If you are able to take care of yourself, you are doing great! I really do not understand older people who expect others to be able to take care of them. They have their whole lives to prepare for being old. It's not like getting old is a surprise or anything. I am 43 now. I have an autistic kid I will be caring for the rest of his life. If my mom or dad called and said "I need you to take care of me" I would die laughing.

That's not to say I would leave them on the street, but I barely have the money to take care of me. How am I going to take care of them? They get social security ever month. They qualify for medical care. I haven't had health insurance in over 15 years and my income varies from month to month. They are both able-bodied now and should be putting money away for the times they aren't. Of course, my dad is going out to casinos and taking boat trips while wining and dining a new girlfriend. And mom is traveling all over the country with her galpals. Nothing wrong with that, but you lose your right to bitch about not having any money later if you spend it all now.

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I'm with Wifezilla. It is not your responsibility to take care of your parents.

When mine got old, I felt a moral responsibility to take them to doctor's appointments and help out where I could, but I never expected to have them live in my house, or take care of them 24/7. That's an unreasonable expectation on their part.

Your job is to take care of you.

Suggest to them that they save up their money and start investigating assisted living if they are frail in any way. If they are middle-aged (40s & 50s), don't spend mental energy worrying about this now. It's not going to happen for 20 years or so. And it's THEIR problem, not yours.


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I'm with Wifezilla. It is not your responsibility to take care of your parents.

If you don't, then who can you trust them with to do it? What is the likelihood that there will be enough money in the estate to liquidate toward "eldercare"?

Of course, "taking care of" may include putting your foot down and refusing to have them foisted off on you by your other relatives. If it's a bad idea for you to be the one doing it, calling it a familial responsibility won't improve matters.

I never expected to have them live in my house,

Sometimes it can work out well for all concerned. When I spent a few months as a "boomerang" some years ago, my father ended up admitting that it made him feel a bit better knowing that my mother wasn't being left alone in house in a deteriorating neighborhood... (He worked an insanely early day shift. At the time my temp job was second-shift) For younger and middle-aged parents, having a live-in grandparent can be a help with the kids and even the finances. It's even more "traditional" than the "Nuclear Family"

Or it can be Hell On Earth. Make noooooooooo mistake about that.

Your job is to take care of you.

That should be Rule #1, whether you're raising children or re-raising parents.

If they are middle-aged (40s & 50s), don't spend mental energy worrying about this now. It's not going to happen for 20 years or so.

Do NOT bet on that unless your parents were the clean-living paragons of moderate living, blessed with excellent genes, that are mostly a cultural hallucination molded around 1950s television shows.

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  • 2 weeks later...

i want to be helpful to you, but i don't really know what to say.

we all react differently to what happens to our loved ones when they get older. as they forget and their worlds go out of focus, we just can't stand to see it. i took care of my grandma as her live-in caregiver from when i was 15-18 and again when i was 21, yet after she did end up having to spend a few years in a home before her death, i couldn't go to see her. watching her and seeing her degenerate was just too much for me. i remembered the lively and energetic woman she was and not the very confused and lost woman sitting in the wheel chair. i couldn't see her suffer. i couldn't see her forget me.

your grandma might think that you're younger than you are, or that you're a different relative, or maybe not remember you at times as her mind starts to slip more. it starts to be, and you've probably heard this, as though their minds are like swiss cheese. it is so hard to go through aging with them.

remember that she's happy in her world. your grandfather will have a harder time than she will in dealing with her decline, being that his mind is still there. let him believe whatever he wants. you don't have to say anything when he starts on about how it is her dialysis. you don't have to agree or disagree, just let him be. i used to let grandma believe whatever she wanted, because it made her happy to live in her delusional world. as long as no one is being harmed and they're happy, i say why bother rocking the boat.

in terms of what to expect of yourself in caring for elders who need care, i'd look at a lot of factors. for me, i knew from when i was a little girl that grandma would need me one day, and like she was there for me i'd be there for her. she did prepare for retirement and had the assets to cover her ass, but i was there anyway because i wanted to be.

now, there are a lot of reasons to go the other direction and get them outside care. outside care can be more advanced and experienced, so you know they're being cared for by pros. we all have our own lives and this world is stressful enough without having to worry about taking care of elders who have so many needs. this isn't selfish, it is reality. it is often best to let pros handle it and focus on seeing them when you want, that way you're emotionally prepared. when she didn't know me anymore was when i broke. it is a lot easier to cope with that point when you're not being forgotten on an hourly basis.

it can be healthy emotionally either way you go, or unhealthy, for everyone involved.

rather than calling, can you go visit? i'm someone with phone anxiety, so i always go to visit. it makes me feel better too when i can just hold their hands and sit still rather than have to fill up silence on the phone. actions speak louder than words. when you don't know what to say, don't say anything and just be there. don't expect them to be the young and energetic people they once were; recognizing the reality of the aging process and that you may not even be remembered is important in preparing for it.

i think it is good for elders to not have any expectations that anyone will move in with them like i did with grandma to be their caretaker. they should have enough in assets to cover their asses. under certain circumstances, and i feel when it is voluntary and not essential, it might be a good idea to do what i did. i know i'd never trade those times. i wouldn't even trade the times i caught her "reading" the newspaper upsidedown or when she'd flip out over elian gonzalas (remember the cuban raft kid?) and need ativan. ;)

there are also always inter-family dramas and political happenings when parents start to age and the children are caught in the stress of not knowing how to deal with it on an emotional or practical level. just don't let yourself get caught in it. remember you're there for your grandparents and not to get sucked into their games.

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