I am the teenage granddaughter of a woman with dementia. She will not bathe herself or eat properly. In fact, I really have no idea when she last bathed. As for the eating, she is convinced that, as an "old person," she doesn't have to "eat as much anymore." She drinks milk, wine, and Ensure, and occasionally eats crackers, yogurt, or fruit cups. Gran lives by herself in a rough neighborhood (she moved there so many years ago that it has gone from respectable working-class to pretty rough). My father or aunt visit her at least once a week to check on her, but they both work and do not have much time to take care of her. She is on several nursing-home waiting lists. We have also hired an aide who cleans the house and drives her to her bars so she can maintain her old routine. (Gran is an alcoholic and also smokes heavily, which we think caused the dementia. At this point, this is not something we can control. She becomes absolutely impossible to deal with when denied her wine and cigarettes.)
As much as they try to help her, my father and aunts (one lives away and one lives in this city where she can help us with Gran) are all bitter about how poorly my grandmother treated my grandfather when he was going through Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. She neglected him a lot. I was much younger at the time, so I don't feel as angry as they do about what happened because I didn't really experience it.
My father thinks that the only way she will be able to get to the nursing home is if she gets injured, goes to the hospital, and the doctors get her to the front of the line at the nursing home. Right now, before she has some catastrophe, I want to try to get her to bathe and eat at the very least, but I can't drive yet, my adult family members are at their wits' end, and they have other emotional inhibitions to taking care of her.
Oh, and did I mention she gives her credit card and checking account numbers to anyone who passes her house? My aunt has power of attorney and handles the financial matters, so that at least is under control, mostly. Her immediate neighbors look out for her, but there's only so much they can do.
The only thing I know to do is to start driving ASAP. Then, I can drive down, bathe her if necessary, attempt to cajole her into eating, check on the house, etc. But I won't be able to do that for at least a year, and even then my parents may not let me drive there because it is a very rough neighborhood. By the time I finally have a license, she may have had the "big accident" that my dad predicts will get her into a nursing home.
Advice please? Magic spells? Anything at all is appreciated.
I say GO FOR IT, if you think you can help your Grandmother, then you are a gem for wanting to do that. Too many people are ready to stick an elder in a nursing home because they become "too much to handle". My motto is, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Sure there are times that become unbearable, but, as you will learn, those stressful times come from people usually in our own families, insulting us, saying we should do this or that, or we aren't doing enough. I will tell you that if you take this on, do it by YOUR rules, set guidelines and boundaries with everybody involved because if you don't, they will step in at every weak moment to discourage you into thinking you can't or aren't capable of taking on this job. I am proud of you for stepping up to the plate. Just remember, you have guardian angels to protect you so don't let fear even have a glimpse of a chance to grasp hold of your heart. If you need encouragement, I'm here to talk to.
God bless you little one.
This seems sooo deja' vu for me. I went through the same thing with my Mother. I am not a medical professional, but a person who has been there. First, let me say that you are one heck of a Granddaughter to be so concerned with your Grandmother. She is very lucky to have you. Please do not take this responsibility onto your shoulders. You have your life to live. When we took the keys away from my Mother, she would walk 2 miles through a bad part of town to buy wine, and wouldn't remember any of it. There are a few things I want you to know. 1. You can't "make" or coerce her into doing the right thing, taking a shower, etc. That is the most important thing here. You can try all you want, but reasoning is completely out. 2. It's the disease, not your Grandmother. Just be patient and love her, that's the best thing you can do. My mother is a completely different person now. 3. Unless someone in your family has legal guardianship (I live in GA, this is the way the law is here, check with your state) they can't "make" her go into a nursing home against her will, even though she is incompetent, and it would be in her best interest to keep her safe. If your Aunt has Power of Attorney and there is an "incompetency" clause (If a Doctor deems her incompetent, your Aunt is automatically her Guardian) It has to say that in the power of atty papers, as mine do. Other than that, your Mom, Sister, etc will have to take your Grandmother to court to petition the court to be her guardian.
It seems so hard to protect the ones we love. You will be a great support system for your parents. I wish you the best of luck and please understand a lot of this is out of your control.. It's hard to see our loved ones like this. My heart goes out to you and I will be praying for a safe, good solution for your Grandmother. Hang in there.
p.s. My Mother is now in Assisted living, and safe, and doing well.
This really influenced me. It didn't stop me from helping. It just made me better able to accept that sometimes you can't help enough to prevent that "big accident" and the "big accident" may be the thing that really, overall, turns the situation around in a way that I couldn't. Just a bit of perspective -- I hope it helps you let go a little.