How can I help my grandmother take care of herself when I'm not around?

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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.

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Your grandmother is very lukly to have you. I also tokk care of my grandmother, but I was so young i did not know how sick she was. I wass there to watch over her and we play the piano and cooked things. When my mom came down with altizimers/dementia I knew a lot about caring giving by then. I was a mother my self and had taken care of grandmom. However when the eldery get so sick they don't even bathe themselves is is hard. They forget there medicines.I bought mom to live with me in Florida after I had to take her out a nursing home her docotor placed her in new York after a fall she had. I was the durable power of attorney and caregiver and health epoxy. I did not know how much affect the caregiver with a person with altizmeiers goes though. She would not eat, was living up north her house was a mess before I had to sell it . I called in Florida state elder care. Also each state may have different programs. I know it is hard to find a good person to be with grandma. I had social workers/heath aides/ nurses sitting watching Tv with mom when I walked in sometimes. I also smell pee no one was doing there job. Before I bought mom to leave with me in Florida I looked into day care but we found a assisitng living that was able to take her in. I did search for months and did look into about ten differrent places in case I had a problem. It does do a toll on your own health. Yes you can call protective services, but be there when they come. When I had to call them when I was in new york one time for a visit. Mom placed a pot of water on the gas stove for tea, I was in the bathroom nearby with the door open. However the window was open and the water had burned away and also the pilot on the stove went out. First I could smell the burnt pot then the gas.I called the New York fire resuce first, after I got mom outside and shut the stove off and opened the windows. They had to call in protective services. They spoke to mom and asked her questions ( she had no idea of what had happen.) There are good people out there don't worry. take care of your self and pray. My mom lived two happy years in the assisting living with family and many friends. They treated her like family. I was there all the time and even did sleep overs. I stayed with her went she was in the hosptial and sleep over there and at the end I was there with her and her went with diginity not hook up to any tubes or machines. She is at peace know. You can do only what you can. you are a great granddaughter for looking over her.
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You can't take care of her. This problem is bigger then. Call protective services and then pray. Good Luck
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It sounds as if there is animosity between people in the family already. I admire you for standing up and trying to make a difference. And you may be the medicine Granny has been needing this whole time.
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.
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Dear beijing,
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.
Chandracap
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You are a good soul, but please don't forget to have your own youth. There are many, many sad stories in this world -- and many of them are about people suffering the consequences of their own choices. You can't solve them all, and you didn't make those choices. You may not even be able to solve this one that feels so much closer to home. Now, there are bits of this story that the people who are already involved should have in hand: for example, your aunt who has Power of Attorney can change the credit card and bank account numbers so that the numbers your gran gives out aren't meaningful. And here's a perspective on the "big accident" idea that you may not have thought of. One time I was trying really hard to prevent a friend from ending up homeless -- everything in my friend's story was pointing in that direction, including her mental illness and the choices she was making. It was pointless to try to distinguish between choices that were influenced by the illness and choices that weren't, or to try to decide which to "blame" her for and which to "accept." I learned that that is largely a distraction, because either way, it was the upshot that mattered -- she was doing stuff that made her own situation worse, plus her situation was getting worse all by itself..... just as in the story of your grandma. At one point I sought the help of a social worker, who offered practical advice and listened to everything I was doing to try to keep my friend from going "over the edge." In this case, over the edge meant losing her apartment, but of course there were a zillion bad things tied up with that, which I was trying to prevent. Finally my social worker friend said, very gently, "People often exhaust their resources trying to stop someone's situation from hitting bottom. In this country, we do have social services. We do have Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, disability, and such things. We do have urgent care centers that poor people can use without paying. Our safety nets aren't perfect, but at least they exist. We should appreciate this because they don't exist everywhere. And I know it's hard to stand by and resist the impulse to do everything in your power, but often those services are really needed, and they don't kick in until the situation does hit bottom. That's when the resources that good-hearted people are able to extend can really come in handy. I've watched it happen many times that people thought they were helping but what they ended up doing was draining their ability to help, while postponing the services the person really needed. In other words, hitting bottom is awful, but sometimes it's the only thing that turns a situation around so it turns out to be the best thing that could happen. And if you don't have the power to stop it, then using up all your resources to just delay it it can turn out to be the worst thing you could do. Ironic, huh? But think about it. And try to use that fact to give yourself permission not to crucify yourself over this. You're being very kind, but at what cost -- not only to yourself, but perhaps even to her?"
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.
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