Guilt... My father is going to jail for neglecting my grandma.

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I'm lost and unsure how I feel or who to turn to. My dad took care of my grandma for 8 years as her dementia got worse. We begged him to put her in a nursing home, but he wouldn't, because she didn't want to.

It got worse and she forgot everyone but him. I was told my visits stressed her out, and I stopped visiting. Phone calls made her anxious, so he unplugged the phone. I stopped calling. I should have been there. I knew she was alone, but I didn't know the degree of it.

A neighbor called because they hadn't seen her, and she was found covered in feces, naked, dehydrated, half starved, and terrified. She didn't have the strength to walk and couldn't remember a conversation as it was taking place. She was blind and mostly deaf.

He was arrested (but posted bail) and we found out and did the best we could. We got guardianship. I stayed with her in the hospital. We found a nursing home for her and talked to doctors and therapists and did everything we could.

I was the only one who could calm her down. She yelled for him and screamed for us to not leave her, but he couldn't see her because of the no contact order. She was so scared. She loved to eat, and gained over 20 lbs. she fell in the nursing home and ended up back in the hospital and I didn't leave her side except for to search for hours and hours for a better nursing home. We found it, and it became her home. I visited her and laughed with her and held her hand, but not nearly enough. I spoke with doctors and nurses and participated in her care plan. I did my best, but it would never be enough to make up for what happened.

Then she got sick, and we made the decision to not treat her. She no longer even enjoyed eating. The one thing she had left. I signed papers and sat with her and cried and talked to her. I laid beside her on her hospital bed when she turned an awful yellow, gasped, and her heart slowly stopped.

Now I am racked with unbelievable guilt, anger, sadness, pity, and everything in between.

My dad has pretrial hearings once a month and each time I wait for him to go back to jail (we had to turn him in for financial exploitation, because we swore under oath that we would do so if we found that he had taken any money... So a new charge has been added and they have asked to raise his bail. If the continuances and attorney changes etc ever stop and the bail is raised, he'll go to jail again unless he can post the increased amount.)

I don't know if I am mad at him, hurt by him, guilty that I didn't do more to help him. I don't know if he's evil or if he was so overwhelmed he couldn't cope or what. I don't know anything anymore, and there aren't any support groups for "my dad left my grandma covered in feces, terrified and alone and now he's going to jail and I don't know how I feel about that."

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So sorry.
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You wrote that your father has pretrial hearings monthly, then returns to jail. I'm totally unfamiliar with this system. In my experience, a pretrial hearing is exactly that - it's held to determine whether or not sufficient cause exists to bind the defendant over to circuit court for trial.

If an additional charge is added, there could be another PT hearing, then trial date would be set. Has that been done?

I've never heard of monthly pretrial hearings. Could you provide some explanation on this? What's the purpose? Defendants are guaranteed a right to speedy trial.

"So a new charge has been added and they have asked to raise his bail. If the continuances and attorney changes etc ever stop and the bail is raised, he'll go to jail again unless he can post the increased amount.)"

Bail is typically raised at arraignment; was it raised or not when the additional charge was added? You also wrote in that paragraph that he goes back to jail after the monthly PT hearings, but if he couldn't raise the additional bail associated with the financial exploitation charge, he'd go back to jail again. Isn't he already in jail?

Could you explain - this is a bit confusing.

Assuming he met the initial bail requirement, why is he in jail? What are the grounds for holding him in jail? He's not a flight risk if he's indigent, and it's not as if he's going to find another elderly person who needs help. And the money he took is already gone.

You mentioned "attorney changes" - I assume he's getting court appointed counsel. Why are there changes?

Clarifications would help as they could also offer another avenue for addressing your guilt.
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"only punched her"????

Look, you're being tossed like a small boat on a violent, epic storm of emotions, ranging from what you think you could have/should have done vs. what you did or didn't do, as well as factoring in the personality traits and actions of your father and the dilemma which he now faces.

You could add up the pluses and subtract the minuses but that isn't going to create a balance and relieve you of the guilt you feel. Recognize that this situation is probably going to haunt you and make you second guess for a long time.

I think it's a pretty fair statement to suggest that many of the people reading your post, or who post periodically or regularly, have been through similar qualms of conscience ranging from wondering if they should have done more, vs. what they felt was appropriate or what they physically or emotionally could handle at the time.

These are NOT situations that are easy to balance, and can leave long repercussions of depression and guilt. Accepting that this is traumatic and won't be resolved easily is the first step toward moving forward.

The second thing to recognize, and I know it's not easy, is that what's been done or not done is over. You can't go back and change it. What you can do is LEARN from the situation, and use those lessons learned to move forward.

That applies to anyone. If we don't learn from situations, we don't adapt and don't move forward to a position in which the next crisis can hopefully be handled differently.

So all you can do is focus on the current situation, how you NOW feel about your father and whether you want to help him through this legal trauma.

It happened; there's nothing that can be done now to change it. You really need to try to move to focus on the here and now as well as the future.

This isn't intended to be harsh advise; it's what I've seen successful people do to avoid being trapped in emotional guilt and self questioning.


I wouldn't normally suggest this, but if you're really uncomfortable and don't want to testify against your father, you can advise the prosecuting attorney that you're not comfortable doing this. You can be made to testify, but you can also be declared a "hostile witness". That might give you some comfort that you're not "turning against" your father. And it might relieve the recrimination he probably feels.

I also wouldn't stop at getting a psych eval just because your father wouldn't want one. He can be ordered by the court to get one; that's it - no choice. Talk to the prosecuting attorney or better yet, your father's defense attorney, and raise the issue. Be firm about this.

I see some valid explanation in some of the issues and events that occurred; make sure your father's attorney knows about these, especially needing the money for himself. I'm not saying it's justified; but it is an explanation.

And since you do feel guilt for your own role, think of ways you can address this. Grandma is gone, but your father is still here. How can the two of you reconnect as father and daughter, if that's what you both want?

Again, I'm not saying this is easy, but the trauma you're experiencing will continue if you're not able to recognize that recriminations only serve to lock you into the position you're in now.

I'm also wondering if you've sat down and discussed your feelings about the entire situation with your father. If so, how did he response? How does he feel?

Back to the issue of jail or prison time.....the more evidence you can provide of his mental instability, the more it could be likely that he might be ordered to get psych help, in a mental facility, rather than prison time.

Another factor is whether or not this is a first offense, as well as whether the neglect was a directly contributing factor to her death, and/or whether or not the other illnesses from which she suffered were co-morbidity or terminal factors.

Channel that guilt into trying to ensure that your father gets a fair shake from the justice system.
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Littlelost - you are a stay at home mom of three - your first focus needs to be on your immediate family - you, your children, and your husband. And yes, you need some alone time too to charge your batteries.

Bottom line -you offered, your dad refused. Your dad made himself responsible for your grandmother's care but then neglected her. His choice, his fault. He could have reached out for help - if not to you, then to the local area on aging, to a hospital, whatever - rather than neglect her. You are not responsible. Your dad is.

Bless you for helping your grandmother in her last days. But you need to let the guilt go.
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Thank you both for your replies. I was having an especially bad night last night and needed to vent.

My dad hasn't had any mental evaluations and I don't think he'd agree to any. Sometimes I feel awful for him, and other days I hate that I can't hate him like everyone else does.
One of my earliest memories is of him beating my mom. I remember thinking he had stabbed her, but he had only punched her. (He's 6'4 around 300lbs and she's 5', about 120, so that you can imagine just how awful this is.) I don't know when exactly this stopped, but it did. He was never very nice, though, and not much of a father. That's why my sister can easily write him off. I just don't want you picturing this amazing man taking care of his mom and slowly getting tired and stressed. He'd do anything for anyone, and people generally love him, though. He has had a drug problem in the past and I found cocaine residue in my grandma's house.

I bought him dry shampoo hair things for grandma at one point, after I had taken her to get her hair washed and cut after a stroke. I could tell it wasn't being washed properly, and I told him I'd come wash it and help her bathe and even just pretend to be a nurse, since she no longer remembered me. He said if it got to that point, he'd have to put her in a home and refused my offer. He said he used the shampoo caps, and they worked well, but then he ran out, so he just cut her hair to make it easier to wash. I told him he should've told me, and I would've bought more!... I found the unopened box of shampoo caps in his closet.

Those things all make me think that it wasn't just stress. It was laziness. But then in the same breath I think of how hard it must've been. I watched grandma one weekend a couple years ago so that he could go camping. She panicked, thinking I kidnapped her. She rearranged my furniture and then fell down the step into my garage early in the morning (the one door I didn't think to block.) I told him I couldn't take care of her at my house again. It was too hard on her AND on me, but that I'd come to their house to sit with her anytime. He never asked for my help again. He had no break for 2 years and wouldn't accept help. How can I fault him when I know that? I stayed with her in the hospital 24/7, and nearly had a breakdown, and that was only a matter of weeks, and I had the help of nurses! How could I ever expect him to be able to do that every day, every night?

As for the exploitation, I am also torn. He didn't buy a farrari or something. He bought a house (a small, fixer upper) for him to live in after she was gone, because he wouldn't be able to stay in her house. He bought a truck for his business so that he could take odd jobs to bring in some money... He gave up his company four years ago because he couldn't leave to go to work for 8 hours a day and leave her at home. Had my grandma been taken care of, I wouldn't have a problem at all with the money he spent of hers. However, because she didn't live in the house and wasn't driven in the truck, that's illegal and he will likely face 15-30 years in prison because of it.

My sister and I are also witnessed for the prosecution. If he doesn't accept a plea deal at some point, I'll have to testify against him. So on top of all of these mixed feelings, I have to help put my dad in prison, for what could conceivably be the rest of his life.

I know I need counseling, but I don't know where to start, and I just don't have the time or motivation. I'm a stay-at-home mom of 3, and there just isn't time for me. When I have the time, it's so hard to not just enjoy some alone time, instead of going to some dreaded doctor or counseling appointment. I know I need to, but I just feel like I CANT. Just going to the doctor feels like this huge, heavy weight that I don't feel like dealing with.
Everyone says how STRONG I am. How they would've broken down, but that's not really an option. If I could break down, I would. I want nothing more than to disappear for a week or so. Not leave my bed or see anyone or tell anyone how I'm doing, but I can't do that.

Everyone also says it's not my fault. I shouldn't feel guilty. But I KNEW she was there with no one to talk to but him, and I KNEW he wouldn't just sit and talk to her. I knew she wasn't as clean as she should be. I knew she enjoyed talking to me on the phone and I should've made him at least let me talk to her on the phone. But I left this huge burden (the sickness is the burden. Not my grandma.) on him, and I welcomed the opportunity to not have to deal with it. I never thought he'd leave her alone in a room with no food and little water, laying in filth with maggots in her wounds.... But I knew that for months she was in that house with no one to talk to, depressed and alone, saying she wished she would die during her few semi-lucid moments. How am I less guilty than him?
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Hugs to you! No, I don't suppose there are support groups for "my dad left my grandma covered in feces, terrified and alone and now he's going to jail and I don't know how I feel about that." At least I hope that is not a common enough situation to have lots of need.

But you are in need. Have you seen a therapist or counselor yourself? You have been through very traumatic happenings. You deserve all the support you can get to get emotionally back on your feet. And who knows, maybe there are support groups that would be helpful. Your therapist would know!

The fact that your father financially exploited the situation is heartbreaking to me. That he was overwhelmed as a caregiver is one thing. That he apparently took advantage of his mother is another altogether. But, I certainly don't know the circumstances. It is now up to a court to judge his level of guilt.

Your level of guilt, however, is much easier to judge from what you have written. It is very low. Yes, it would have turned out better if you'd ignored your father's wishes, distrusted him, and intervened in your grandmother's life. But how could you possibly have known that? So, maybe a little guilt for being the dutiful daughter (son?) instead of investigating further. Accept it and forgive yourself for it.

No guilt whatsoever for how you handled it once you knew.

Please, forgive yourself, and seek some counseling to help you deal with this very big trauma in your life!
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I can't help wondering if the long years of caregiving affected your father not only emotionally and physically but also mentally. He may have been completely beyond his ability to cope, and abandoned your GM because he was so overwhelmed he just couldn't handle the situation any more.

Has he had any recent medical evaluations, including a neurological or even a psychological evaluation?

I think I would feel enormous pity and sadness for him - he was in a situation that would be hard on anyone, and apparently your GM's attitude isolated her from the rest of the family, so it isolated him as well.

If you've read similar posts, you'll find that sometimes people in your GM's situation do limit their contacts, isolating themselves as well as their caregivers. The caregivers are kind of sucked down into a whirlpool of isolation, depression, despair, loneliness, and sometimes despondency. It's a uphill climb to return to some semblance of normality.

I don't know that I'd put your father on the spot by asking him about this though, especially with the criminal charges pending, but I would try to get him some mental help to at least evaluate his situation. If he is mentally ill, and incapable of defending himself, raise that with the attorney. He can plead extenuating circumstances.

His attorney can also ask for a psych eval, and your father would could be interviewed by a court appointed psychiatrist.
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