How to create boundaries with my increasingly demanding grandmother?

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I'm new to this site and am feeling overwhelmed. I've always been very close to my grandmother who, until now, has been a funny, generous and gentle person. My mother (her daughter) passed away 15years ago. My grandmothers husband passed away 6months ago and things have gotten very stressful. My grandmother calls me daily with fire drills (I'm out of toilet paper! I need yogurt to take my medication!) etc. Sometimes she is sad and crying, other times she is angry and yelling. They are remodeling her senior living and she blames me for the chaos and noise because I helped find the place. I am there on average 4x a week. I shop for her, do her laundry, make her bed, take her to dr., etc. But I also have two very small children and it is becoming increasingly stressful to juggle it all. She is isolating herself from the people in her building, our very small family (I have two brothers and an uncle), her remaining friends because they aren't responsive enough when she calls so she calls me more and more. She refuses to use the building shuttle because she feels too unstable. When I mention setting up a schedule (I.e. I'll come every Monday) she gets really angry. When I suggest we ask others for help, she gets angry. She complains and is negative constantly and it is sucking the life out of me. She has considered moving closer to my uncle (20-30 mins away), but he works full time and has health problems so I know she won't get as much support as she wants there either (is it even possible to give them what they want?) Although I think it is a better place, and my uncle will be closer I know I'll still be her main emotional support person because she feels most comfortable with me. Whether she moves or not I need to create better boundaries, has anyone found a system that works? How do you handle the rollercoaster of negative emotions? I love this lady dearly and I want to do what's best. Thank you!

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Sunnygirl1, I think that's true. It's becoming clear what all my grandfather was doing, now that he's gone, we are seeing just how much independence she has lost. I'm concerned because she seems to be showing signs of paranoia lately too. So when I've brought up additional help or assisted living she becomes hostile. I'm going to step back more, and hope she can see the need too? I suppose working with her doctor might be necessary as well. I'm sure it's a common scenario, but I don't think she will cooperate easily in getting assessed or in changing her living situation. So tough. Thanks for your insight.
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It sounds like your grandmother actually needs more assistance than Independent living provides. If you are doing all her laundry, changing her linen, doing her shopping, taking her to doctor visits, then, living where she is doesn't provide her much care.

Since you already have your own family's obligations, I'd explore Assisted Living where the STAFF can do most of these things for her. She may need to establish a support system that can help with her daily care inside the facility. Then, you can just enjoy spending time with visits with her on your schedule, instead or working so hard.

This is your life and the lives of your family. I'd take a deep breath and arrange to have her assessed to see exactly what she needs. If she truly doesn't need help with those things, she can do them herself and if she can't do it, she can move somewhere where she can get that help.

If she is overstepping her boundaries, demanding and expecting too much and robbing you from time with your own family, THEN SHE IS EITHER NOT THINKING CLEARLY or she is being insensitive. Either way, it's incumbent upon you to set it right.
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Thank you all for sharing your experience and wisdom (I know it was hard-earned in your own caretaking journeys). Your advice really means a lot. I don't have a lot of friends who are caretaking yet--it's really lonely and there's no road to follow. I thought losing my mom so suddenly was cruel, but watching my grandmother change and struggle so much is really difficult. I feel like I'm losing her bit-by-bit, day-by-day, in little pieces, and it's so painful. I can see where I'm enabling some of her behaviors and contributing to the negative dynamics. I do feel guilty if I don't answer her calls, or don't do something for her that would make her day easier, but I absolutely see the necessity of getting a schedule in place and learning to say no, or let calls go to voicemail. This is tough, and you all have my greatest respect. You have given me a lot to think about and draw from, thank you again for sharing!
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Research "caregiver guilt" on the Internet. Almost all caregivers have "caregiver guilt". Once you understand this absolutely normal emotion in yourself, than everything else will start to fall into place because YOUR thinking will be greatly improved in clarity and accuracy. The people who live with dementia are still highly intelligent. Their steadily increasing loss of certain skills, starting with short term memory, does not touch their innate intelligence in how to use manipulation to get what they want at that moment. My wife is now in the advanced stage, has many severe ADL impairments, but she still is intelligent and knows how to try to get me to bend to her will.
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As I think you already know or at least suspect, your grandmother is unhappy and angry full stop. I.e., not with you. I.e., nothing you can do will make up for the changes that have brought her new difficulties to cope with, without any compensating good news to offset them, poor lady. Six months is not very long, after all. Just long enough for her to be coming out of the initial grief, but be left facing the ongoing loneliness. Life must look pretty tattered to her, so it's not surprising that her normal lovely personality is suffering a bit.

So you can't please her, no matter what you do. So you might as well please yourself. Implement the schedule you've worked out; if she's going to get angry anyway - which she is, because her hurt and anger are nothing to do with anything anyone can change - you might just as well let her, without letting it affect how much time or care you devote to her.

Which is all rather a long way of saying "don't take it personally." It isn't personal. It is still depressing, I know... Just try to stay sympathetic to her various sadnesses, while keeping a clear mental boundary between her feelings and your own. It must be hard for her to be positive and upbeat if she feels as if life is turning to mould.

Do talk things through with your uncle, and the rest of your family, too; and come back here to vent, which really can help. Best of luck to you.
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You asked a very good question: "Is it even possible to give them what they want?" Probably not.

It might sound like a great idea for your grandma to move closer to your uncle and your grandma may be on board with it but once she moves, at some point, she will become unhappy again with a whole new list of complaints because she just sounds unhappy period and no amount of schedule shuffling or yogurt will make her happy. She's grieving the loss of her husband, she's living in a new place and everything's different.

Boundaries are always a good idea but be prepared for your grandma to fight you on them. You're the one who is helping her. You go out of your way. If it's more convenient for you to go and see her on Monday than on Wednesday then go on Monday. You have kids and a household to run and while I know you want to help your grandma too you need some peace in your life without people yanking on you from all directions.

So come up with a schedule, make a copy for your grandma, and don't give in. If you give in just one time your grandma will know that you're not serious and that you can be manipulated. And once you set the schedule beware of "emergencies" to get your attention.
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It seems to me that some unreasonable-ness, being self-centered and stubbornness comes with being elderly regardless of whether dementia is a factor or not. However, the degree of these traits does seem to increase with mental decline. That said, setting boundaries and sticking to them is more or less the same - as using reason doesn't seem to work, regardless. It's hard when this type of thinking and behavior kicks in with an elderly loved one. You want to do whatever it is to make them happy - but as you noted - nothing really makes them happy, because you can't give them what they really want and that is for things to be the way they use to be - back when they felt safe, independent, in control and with all people, places and things like they were when... So you have to learn to say "no", set schedules that work for you and grow a very, very thick skin. Whether they are getting their way on this - they won't be happy with that - and yes, it's probably going to be your fault and she's going to say horrible things to you that you're suspose to take - and still be there with a smile on your face the next time she calls. Set a schedule, let calls go to voicemail, give granny her own ringtone. If granny can afford it, look into hiring a paid caregiver - even if they only act as a companion in the beginning. Granny won't like the hired help to start but she will begin accepting it if you're not running over there every time she's out of yogurt. This will get harder before it gets easier but it can be a long, bumpy road you're looking at. Buckle up now or you're going to crash.
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It is difficult to set boundaries with anyone but it seems like it's even more difficult with the elderly. I had to do it with my grandmother. Keep on the you will see her on which ever day that works for YOU and stick to it. Don't be afraid to say that you will be there on Tuesday and you will be there from 10am until 3pm and leave it at that. If she starts a tantrum over the phone, say you are hanging up and hang up. If she throws a tantrum while you are visiting, tell her you are leaving and just leave. It's hard to do in the beginning but it gets easier the more you do it. If she follows you just keep walking and make sure that you are safe.
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It is a touchy position you're in. You don't want to hurt her feelings or make her mad, but you also have your own life to live. Your grandmother is probably still adjusting to all the change going on in her life. Maybe in time she will start interacting more with the other people there. Until that time all you can do is decide how much you can do and when to do it. Four times a week is probably too much. If you are there to meet her social needs, she may feel like she doesn't need to get out and meet other people. She is more comfortable with you.

I know you don't want to say no to her. It sounds so blunt. You can make sure she has plenty of yogurt on her shopping trip, since that seems to be one of the things important to her in taking her medications. The less critical things you can have a reason ready that you can't go, then tell her you can do it at a later scheduled time.

We can set boundaries without being blunt. We don't say no. We just say that we'll do it when we come next Whatever-day. Maybe you can figure out a way to get her to interact more with her neighbors. If she gets in with someone who uses the transport, she may be more eager to try it. Peer pressure and enjoyment is still strong in older people.
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