What should I do if my grandmother refuses to eat or see a doctor?


She is 90 years old and has been in bed for nearly a month. She eats barely enough to sustain her. A cup or two of food a day. She is very small (86 lbs) and is losing weight from not eating as she should. I've tried nutrition shakes, supplements, her favorite foods all to no avail. She will only ingest small amounts. She outright refuses to see her doctor and is getting weaker by the day. There is no illness related reason for her decline. She says she just wants to die.

My sister whom is her other caregiver won't take her to the doctor saying that she needs time to gain weight and Gram says she will begin eating. I would take her myself but have cerebral palsy so I cannot drive her to the appointment even if I could manage to convince my grandmother to go.

I feel like NOT taking her is bordering on neglect, but honestly have no clue what I should do to help her and legally protect myself. My sister and I have gotten into a huge fight over this issue. Anyone ever been in a similar situation? What is the proper course of action?

Thank you a ton!

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What JessieBelle just wrote is very similar to what occurred with an uncle a few years ago. He stopped eating, talking, sat in his chair and waited to die. It was horrible for my aunt, who pretty much allowed him to do it, after consulting with his doctor. I do believe JesseBelle is 100% correct in that you most definitely qualify for medical assistance to come to your home to assess her--and that a hospice stay might be the answer. Hospices are wonderful & Jesse is right; they don't mean that death is near. They are fabulous healing places.
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I faced this same situation with my father. He wanted to die and ate less and less the last 2-3 years of his life. He didn't want to go to the doctor. He just wanted to be left alone in his chair to live out the rest of his life. It was torture watching him go downhill and neglect himself. I also worried about the legal implications.

One thing that we did not realize about my father was that he had severe mixed dementia. Because of his personality, list making, and preservation of certain high-level functions, we did not suspect. If your grandmother's change was rather sudden, I wonder if she might have had a vascular accident that affected a certain area of her brain.

Have you checked her temperature and blood pressure? They might be able to give some indication about her condition. With her weight so low, if her blood pressure or body temperature is low, you might qualify to have medical help come into your home. At the low weight, she may qualify for hospice -- I am not sure of this. Hospice doesn't mean that the end is near. She can get better, then Hospice can discharge her. I know that you do need some help and it would be nice if they could come to you, given your situation with your sister.

Please let us know what happens.
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She was at the doctor just over a month ago and she was given a clean bill of health. I worry about her so much. She couldn't get up off the toilet by herself last night, I had to pick her up.

I don't want to be charged with neglect and I worry with her weight loss and even if the lack of nutrients are affecting her judgement. When I bring up the subject of the doctor she either screams at me to leave the room, or flat out ignores me. The weird thing is two months ago she was fine. She ate, moved around, and was social. Now she is voluntarily bedridden, won't eat and won't get help. I'm worried, frightened and frustrated with the entire situation!
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I wish your GM would see a doctor, or that you could find one to come see her. You say there is no illness, but I guess that can't really be known if she has not had a recent examination. Depression is an illness and it sounds like that is a possibility.

If your GM is "in her right mind" then she is entitled to decide whether or not to see a doctor and even whether or not to eat. My concern that if she is not really herself (because of depression, for example) then she may not be making an informed decision.

Could you both appeal to her to get a doctor's opinion before she makes any final decisions? If it is possible, do this as soon as possible. Don't wait for weight gain.

It sounds like you and your sister both want the best for your grandmother. I hope that you can argue about your views about how to help GM without turning it into a personal fight. You have some difficult times ahead, and you need each other now.

Please keep us updated about what is going on. We learn from each other.
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