My caregiving "horror" story with my 103 year old Grandma.

Follow
Share

Hello Everyone,

Found this site last night and spent hours reading the different horror stories. Wanted to add mine to the heap.

Let's see if I can trim it down somewhat.

Ok, 16 years ago my now 103 year old grandmother became a widow again. Could not live independently so my mother sold her town house and bought a nice house (S Florida) that had plenty of space to allow privacy for us all. We rebuilt 2 small bedrooms into one huge one so that my grandmother could have her own spacious sanctuary. There was a small building in back of the main house that the previous owner had built for his game room / computer study. No kitchen, shower or hot water, but still a quasi-guest house. That's where I lived.

My mother and I were co-caregivers in a sense, bur since my grandmother (MG after this) was fairly independent - at least at first - it was mostly companion and helper duties. I'm sure you all can imagine; ALMOST always eating together, going out to dinner on Sundays, playing cards a lot, fetching prescriptions and personal items, explaining various mail items, taking care of her pet dog, and so on. Realistically, giving up about 20 hours per week that in retrospect should have been spent doing something productive for me. I also was responsible for all the man stuff like yardwork and maintenance. Since we lived at the edge of a forest under a canopy of oaks, it was a LOT.

But also there was an unspoken but UNDERSTOOD arrangement that either my mother or I had to be there at almost all times. On call.

One more thing, unfortunately I never developed a great career. I worked intermittently as needed in hotel management but my passion was for developing software. This living arrangement was ok in that regard because I used my leftover time for my computer efforts. However - and this is important - at any time I could have left there and gone to work in a resort hotel that would supply a room and meals and salary in exchange for long hours and being on call most of the time. I've done it before.

Ok, MG gave my mother some money up front for the down payment and agreed that her monthly contribution would be $1200. Sounds like a lot but our house was wonderful, and assisted living would have cost her a whole lot more than that. Just about anyone in their 90's would love being there, especially with 2 servants to wait on her. Besides, MG had a monthly income of about $2000, so it was no hardship for her.

My mother was a great person, and was constantly spending her time and money on MG. Shopping, a cruise, dinner theater, you name it. Wanted things to be good.

Things went sour right away however, when MG got an "I'm paying too much!" attitude. Besides that, she wanted to be the boss on everything. So her mind was like a poisoned echo chamber with "I'm not getting enough for my money.", "You didn't NEED a pool!" (it's a very small one), and other grubby thoughts bouncing around in there all day long.

She would punish my mother for the slightest thing by shunning her and staying in her room for up to 3 months at a time. During these phases, somehow it was understood that I would deliver her meals on a tray and spend hours with her, either watching an evening tv show or listening to her complain about Mom. Her level of logic can be summarized by "I'm praying for Jesus to take me." followed by "Hurry up and go get my prescriptions." 5 minutes later.

To further illustrate the "punishing" mentality of MG, before moving in with us she lived 3 houses away from one of her sisters. They were shopping companions. Once when the sister was not ready to go to a planned Saturday morning flea market outing, MG responded by shunning her for the rest of her life.

MG has 4 grandchildren; me , my sister, and my female cousin (FC) and male cousin (MC). FC has always been her favorite, is an angel, and can do no wrong. My sister is married and is local but spent very little time with Mom and MG. The cousins live in our home state up north.

My mother, who had a heart of gold and always the best intentions, was the "bad guy". So MG relied on me for bank trips which was kind of in-your-face to my mother.

When MG first moved in the deal she made with my mother was "If you take care of me to the end, I promise to leave you what I have." Very clear, and believe me, my mother earned it.

However, my grandmother didn't really honor that arrangement because whenever her savings account got fat, she would go to the bank and buy another $5000 CD for one of the grandchildren. Although FC was the favorite, MG acknowledged that I was the one waiting on her by placing me first among the grandchildren. She would show me the CD's from time to time. Our unspoken agreement was "This is what you get for all that you do for me."

This life of waiting on Grandma and watching my mother being disrespected went on for 11 years. At one point MG just announced that she was moving out. She had tricked her sister back home into inviting her for a visit. When MG arrived with all her stuff, the sister was shocked. She tolerated MG for about 3 months, pushed her off to another sister, who in turn lasted about 3 months. Then MG called me - and NOT my mom, which would have been the honest way - and asked if her room was still available.

And so she returned and life resumed its former state. But to the horror of my sister and myself, my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. For 10 months I alone took care of 2 helpless old ladies. My mom was in and out of the hospital 5 times, and had all the useless x-ray and chemo treatments. As she reached the end, she said to me, "Well, if I don't make it, at least you'll have a new start." Meaning the CD's in my name, which after 11 years were up to about $39,000.

During this period of sickness, MG hardly ever asked about my mother at all. As ugly as this sounds, she is a religious hypocrite and might even have felt that "God was punishing" my mother for something or other. She never went into my mother's room to talk to her or express any kind of love or sadness. She did not attend the funeral or pay even one cent of its expense.

When my mother died, there were legal fees and funeral expenses, but without her Social Security check, I could not pay the mortgage and other bills. Over the years, MG had punitively cut her contribution from the agreed $1200 per month, to $1000 or even $800 depending on her whim. Since our mortgage alone was $1800, and I had not been working at all the last 10 months, MG's $1000 was not gonna cut it.

So after consulting with my sister and her husband, I cashed in one of the $5000 CD's in my name to pay our bills. The idea was "Pay the bills now, explain it to nasty granny later." Please understand that my sister and I were in INCREDIBLE grief because we loved our mother so much. It was not possible to reason with MG since she probably thought our bills were $300 per month - like maybe in the 1920's - and that my mother had been getting rich all those years. So I just postponed it a couple of months.

Anyway, when I did explain things to MG, I was immediatedly condemned as a thief. I didn't explain this yet, but while watching my mother die, MG had promised that she would give all the CD's to the grandchildren in the coming year as they reached their rollover dates. So what was so criminal about me using some of what was supposed to be a reward for 11 years of service to pay our grubby bills?

MG arranged for my brother-in-law to take her to the bank the next morning and put the remaining CD's into her name exclusively. Wow! I watched in horror as my online banking dropped from $34,000 to zero right in front of my eyes. What an an incredible reward for the 10 months of hell I'd just gone thru.

Of course the other grandkids all got their CD's in the coming year.

Well, in hindsight I can see that besides punishing me, that was her sneaky way of entrapping me into taking care of her for the duration.

Those next 5 years were a horror story which I will continue if anyone is interested.

This discussion has been closed for comment. Start a New Discussion.
Find Care & Housing
15

Comments

Show:
These old people do not need doctors, lawyers, etc. they need a priest who can do an exorcism!
(2)
Report

I have my own horror story, but it is a long one since it covers nearly 25 years. That is how long ago my mother had a stroke and I began helping with her care. I was the most likely one since I am the middle child and the peacemaker of the family. I am the one with a heart, and was also sucked in with promises of how things would be, but why would I doubt what my mother tells me--it is my MOTHER, and thought I could trust her but, unfortunately, her favorite child was #1 son and is to this day, no matter what he does, how much he hurts me or the situation or her! My best advice to somebody new to this role is to walk slowly, don't make any major changes right away and see how things go, and assume the ill person is going to live another 20+ years! So be sure to have a Plan B in mind. I was a homeowner from age 24 to age 58, held a job for over 20 years and had a good savings and retirement going for me. I quit my job at age 50 to become semi-retired and be able to care for my mother on a full-time basis. Once I ran out of money, it happened that she received a large increase in income due to my father's death. I am now treated like the step-child, am the butt of the family gossip it seems, due to not bringing in enough income to support myself and, now that the shoe is on the other foot, I find that family cannot necessarily be trusted to do the right thing, not even your own mother! My siblings steal from our home and, in a nutshell, do most anything and everything to make my life more difficult. Though I believe it is a result of their own guilt, I am beginning to question whether they really do feel any guilt at all. The youngest sister (#4) has cerebral palsy since birth, and I am the only one who sees her, gets her on holidays, used to on week-ends sometimes, but am not too stressed out and depressed to be taking care of her. Besides that, it seems my mother is jealous of her getting any of my attention! Give me a break, I am sooooo tired of all the crap and trying to ignore what is going on. Pray for me, too, please.
(1)
Report

Hey Ish, you have lost a lot I am so sorry. Perhaps it is time to just get back in the swing of things, she's a 103 for heavens sake, she's still playing games, for lack of a better term, she's still controling hand her over to your cousin get the heck out now and save yourself. I know a lot easier said than done but doable if that is a word. It is in my life. Cut the losses and literally get a life, I don't mean that as a put down I mean that as encouragement, We are all praying for you, You should not have to be cheated, it is enough to take care of someone like that and you have seen first hand the effect it had on your mother guess what honey you are next if you don't make some changes. My mother stays in her room all the time going thru her boxes which she refueses to unpack its her stuff its not much her entire life is in those boxes, I say break it out enjoy it use it you aren't taking it with you. I use the good china every chance I get but she is just withdrawn but always was it is nothing new it just drives me nuts cuz I'm an extravert and am surrounded by all these introverts. anyway this isn't about me Take what you need to start your life, I don't know what kind of agreement you have finacially with these people but if its a deficit pull out. let them have it there are more important things in life than money yes we all need it to live on and my credit has been screwed to but I am working on it just have to answer the dagone phone and work it out, not talking to them is the worst thing to do but I know the feeling of dread when the phone rings. We are all here for you now is the time for change isn't that what our president says well you are the president of your world as I am mine and I am making changes and boy some people are really gonna be surprised. Guess what ? They'll deal with it. They may not like it but they'll deal with it. Good luck and here is a special hug just for you. did ya get it?
(0)
Report

Ishmael, your story brings tears to my eyes. I hated to even bring up your mother's death, because it is, I'm afraid, a very likely scenario. Of course, no one will ever really know, but there is the likelihood of truth. Constant, unrelieved stress causes our bodies to pump out a lot of toxic hormones (meant to get us away from a REAL threat, quickly). We are not meant to live that way. But we do. And that takes a toll on our bodies.

Please keep us posted on how you are doing. You've given up so much. Your story underscores what most of us never think of at the time of an agreement (indeed, we'd find it insulting to our elder) - get it in writing and get it notarized. This won't help you now, but your story will help others. Meanwhile, we care and want to know how you are doing.

Carol
(0)
Report

Wow, 2 weeks since I posted.

First, thanks to all who took the time, not just to respond, but to read the story and consider the totality of my predicament.

Squishe, maggiesue, MindingOurElders / Carol, LovingGrandaughter, Anne, and neonwocky. Each of you added something of value for me to consider. Thanks.

Second, I apologize for not following up sooner, but I am really starting to lose it. Everything is crashing down at once. The credit that I had worked hard to build up is now completely trashed, I'm in debt beyond my worst nightmare - afraid to answer the phone, and our family house is days from foreclosure. All because I trusted my grandmother to be fair and reasonable.

Ok, one thing I want to point out right away is that I really hate the fact that the deal I made with my grandma (MG) - promising to take care of her to the end while she promised to leave me what she had - is viewed as an INHERITANCE. That is just unfair. "Inheritance" has all these connotations of unearned jackpots, which in many cases is true.

My situation is nothing like that. It is a very poorly thought out (by me) deal that is more accurately "deferred compensation". And it is not even legally guaranteed in any way. Because MG is dishonest, I face the possiblilty that she has some sneaky secret arrangement or will with my female cousin (FC). Because of the "deferred" feature of our arrangement, as time passes I become weaker and weaker financially, mentally, and physically. But MG gets to watch her savings keep growing.

Another way to describe it would be "a swindle"! That's how its working out.

Now, it seems to me that there must be thousands and thousands of seniors aged 90+ who are in nursing homes now but could easily live at home - let's say in an inexpensive manufactured home park - provided that they had a grandson or grandaughter who would be willing to give up their entire life to wait on them.

But who would do that? To give up completely on a job, friends, going out for anything but groceries, in short, sustain a complete loss of your freedom, and then become impoverished to boot is not a very attractive option. I don't think you would find many takers.

For me it is 4 years lost wages and opportunities and the fun of being bossed around like a child. And living under constant threats.

My "inheritance", should it ever materialize, will be a net loss of well over $200,000.

Anyway, I want to respond to some of the specific points that were made in my next message.

But one thing right now, I was really struck by Carol's extreme awareness of the potential negative impact on the caregiver. Without me saying much about it, she suspected that my mother's cancer and death may well have been related to the constant stress, anxiety and depression resulting from what my sister calls MG's "polisoned mind". I don't doubt it at all.

I know that pre-grandma, my mother was more open to walking in the park, going to the beach, or fun relaxing activities in general. With grandma, she ended up lying in bed watching tv a lot, a kind of depressed withdrawal. The unrelenting petty nastiness, combined with the responsibility to almost always be at home, had worn her down.
(0)
Report

Hi Ish, boy what a story! Well honey it could be worse, three yrs ago I brought my parents to live near us in another state. My father was an alcoholic all his life my mother the martyr. Not a good childhood, I've been taking care of my parents since I was 7 you say 7 I say yes, you would be surprised what a seven year old can do and take care of three siblings one with muscular dystrophy. It makes my skin just cringe when I hear my mother tell me what a great mother she was WHO IS SHE TRYING TO CONVINCE? Anyway long to short Dad fell broke his pelvis, had hip replacement it dislodged twice finally went home contracted MRSA, back to hospital hip out rehab two weeks IV's every morning before work, get him up make his coffee, clean his butt and everything else mother is too tired to do and in such pain and a drama queen to boot. Dad has stroke 5 weeks later dies a week later I being the capable person I am made all arragements paid for all flowers, funeral, transportation. have not seen a dime except for my niece who paid her part on the flowers, no one has reimbursed me for a thing. My brother has not returned any of my calls my sister cannot come visit mom. Mom moved in with me 1 year ago. I know work a full time job, take care of all her needs she never did drive, she never goes anywhere, my husband is on the road all the time and I might add I took care of his mother to when he was on the road all the time. My son hates his grandmother because she has nothing to do with him which in turn effects my relationship with him my only child, my other son died 27 years ago at the age of 13. There is no inheritance. I knew that and still took on the duties. If this is really bothering you as it seems it might be best to take grandmother to assisted living and let her pay her own bills. Sell the house get a job and start living your life. I am not being judgemental because I know how much many people can suck your life from you. I am at peace because I am a child of God not a pretend Christian an active one. Rosaries won't help you Its a relationship with God that will. I will pray that you can come to some sort of arrangement that will be suitable for you both but at 103 if her mind is still as sharp as you say she should know what she is doing and how it effects you which comes thru pretty clear Its up to you if you want to be her puppet. I choose to do what I am doing and that is the difference. So I try really hard not to complain and I try to encourage whenever I can. I will say a prayer for you and I hope this experience has not made you too cynical, I found myself being very cynical at one point and did not like me one bit. So I changed that. Being sweet and helpful does not mean you are a floor mat there must be some rules and boundries but you have to set them or she will (has) also there are attorneys that can help you but since all the money has been dispersed I doubt that is the way to go unless you can start from scratch. At her age she really needs to sign papers for power of attorney. perhaps that is something you can look into if you continue to take care of her. I hope all turns out well for you
(1)
Report

Dear Sir (CallmeIshmael), LovingGrandaughter is a very wise lady, and also very correct. Prayer is the way to make some changes here, and if you ask him, God WILL show you the way. As Carol (also a very wise lady) said, this is a horror story! You know what a precarious and extremely difficult situation this is. We can encourage you along the way, but you really need God's help to navigate through these troubled waters. I suggest you call on him today. I, and probably many others, will be praying for you, as well. Take care, and let us know...
(0)
Report

Ish, WOW!!! I thought my situation was bad, but your story is far worse and I am praying for you. Five years ago I moved my grandmother to live with me from another state because of her failing health. She has a son and a daughter (my mother) who who chose to allow me to do this. In my mother's defense I choose to take my grandmother so that my mother would not, because physically she was ill and could not take care of her. I also chose to do this because my grandmother has always mistreated my mother to a certain extent. My mother has never been able to do anything to make my grandmother happy or proud of her. She has done everything under the sun to gain my grandmother's approval to no avail. I knew that my mother would be miserable and her health would suffer greatly. Consequently I took my grandmother in.
Granted, I have 3 children at home, a husband who lives and works in anther city because of his job and I am active duty military. My husband is 2 hours away now, but when this began he was 6 hours away. The inital agreement was that my grandmother would come to live with me until my mother retired (in a year two max) and then my mother would relocate to my city. We both would then share the responsibility of taking care of her. My uncle told us from the begining to put her in a nursing home, sell off everything she has, basically make her destitute and put her on Medi-Caid. Let the state take care of her. Of course I couldnt do that to her. She had always been there to help my mother, who was a single parent with two children.
So I moved her into my son's room and moved him into his sister's room. She began to pick on my middle son. Telling me how to deal with him, discipline him, and in her eyes he could do nothing right. Everything that went wrong in our house was his fault according to her. He began to resent her and so did I. I was tired of her telling me how to run my house and raise my children. It was obvoius that her way didn't work that well because her son never calls her and has only been to visit her 3 times in the 5 years she has been her with me. He refuses to call her because she has problems with her speach and it is very difficult to understand her. He says it is a waste of time. He is her favorite of both children. She only trusts him with her money and major decisions. Even though I am spending my money on her and bought a house to accomodate her. In the begining she was helping financially, but eventually that stopped.

I was running myself ragged trying to take care of her, my kids, my husband, my home, and work. I finally had to say enough!!! My relationship with my kids and my husband were suffering. My children were begining to resent her and me. I could not let it continue. I found an assisted living facility and moved her there. She had an accident there and ended up in the hospital. After leaving the hospital she was admitted to a nursing home/rehab center and has been there every since. It was hard for me to leave her there, but I realized that she had lived her life and I had to be able to do the same. It didn't mean that I did not love her and would not continue to be a very vocal advocate for her. It just meant that I had to raise my children, work, and take care of my husband. I also had to realize that I could not go to the nursinghome every day. I had to find a balance and she had to understand it. It is hard for her and I understand that, but I have to be concerned with my health and my family.
All I can tell you is to pray on this situation and ask God to lead your steps. Ask him to remove any malice in ou heart, so that the decision that you make will be the right one for everyone involved. Once you make that decision stick to it. It will be hard either way. Good luck and God speed.
(0)
Report

Ishmael, good luck getting some financial help. So many caregivers are told they will be compensated for giving up their livelihood to care for elders, but that is soon forgotten. Sometimes it's true forgetting and confusion. Other times, it's deliberate. You've got a true horror story, and an example of the primary caregiver dying before the person who is being cared for. There's no way to know if your mother would have gotten cancer if her life had been different. But when we are stressed, our immune systems can't function well. To say your mother gave her life to her mother is not terribly over the top. It's time to take care of yourself and let other family members contribute.

Carol
(0)
Report

Karma. The things we do for Karma sakes. :) MG take care of Ish. Family, take care of Ish. Ish take care of Ish. :)
(0)
Report

This discussion has been closed for comment. Start a New Discussion.
Related
Questions