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How to deal with difficult elderly relatives?

Discussion in 'Personal' started by Orkrider2, Jul 30, 2015.

  1. Orkrider2

    Orkrider2 Star commenter

    Sorry in advance if this turns into a really maudlin post. It's not intended that way, just looking for a bit of insight into what other people think.

    We're currently trying to convince my nan to go into a nursing home near us. She's 93 and has a whole host of serious health issues which have caused a few family emergencies in recent weeks, but so far, she refuses to leave home. She does have a carer who comes in for an hour or so each day but she expects one of us to come and visit her daily, which would be fine if she didn't live 250 miles away. We've managed to get her down here to stay in a care home (a lovely one at that!) for 2 weeks while her carer is on holiday but she's making it perfectly clear that she hates it and considers that she's been 'thrown in prison'.

    Her health is declining rapidly and I suspect if she went back home it would not be long before some kind of crisis would force her to move either into hospital or into a care home, and me and my family agree that it would be better for her to make that move while she still has the choice. The fact that she'd probably be placed in a home local to her rather than us plays a part too, because we'd then have to work out how to get her relocated and stuff because it just isn't possible for us to be where she is for any length of time due to the fact that we all work full time or have young families. She won't move in with my parents, even though they have ample room, so that's not an option either.

    I guess I'm just wondering at what point you have to take someone's right to choose where they live away from them. Wanting her to be closer to us is a selfish move on our part I suppose, but it's one made out of love and concern for her because we don't want her to be forced out of her home into an environment where we can't visit frequently. The rationale is that the blow of being forced into a home might be somewhat mitigated if she could have her family pop in a couple of times a day instead of once a fortnight.

    Another side of it is my dad's health. Recently she's started phoning him to say she's ill and that he needs to come immediately, which he does (well, as immediately as he can) only to find that when he gets there she feels better and sends him away. Twice, she's not even let him in to have a cup of tea but simply turned him away on the doorstep, meaning that my poor dad has pretty much driven straight for 7 hours, half of which he's wracked with worry about what he'll find when he gets there. It’s aging him and I worry for his health as he’s nearly 70 himself and doesn't need the added stress of hotfooting it half way across the country several times a week (and then having to work extra to catch up on what he's missed, because he still runs his own business). There's no dementia or senility issue either, she's as sharp as a pin and knows exactly what she's doing. She's always been a rather difficult character and I do feel that her motives are selfish and it's a case of exercising control over us to an extent (as horrible as that sounds).

    So, what would you do? Do we take the decision into our own hands and force her to stay down here? Or do we let her live her life as she wants and face the fact that her last days are going to be a lot more lonely and isolated than they need to be and that until she passes, my dad in particular is going to have a lot more worry and stress on his plate than he needs.

    p.s. sorry this is long!
  2. Dunteachin

    Dunteachin Star commenter

    Ah, the clincher for me is when you said she's sharp as a pin and knows exactly what she's doing! No dementia, no senility. It's your dad I'd be worried about! He'll have a heart attack at this rate. It sounds like she's playing games and needs some tough love. Present her with the options and make it very clear that you won't come running; it sounds like she's enjoying having you at her beck and call. Stop that, and she'll soon see sense. It's emotional blackmail, by the sounds of it.
  3. onmyknees

    onmyknees Established commenter

    I think it would be difficult to make your Nan move. For the immediate future, would it be possible to draw up some sort of timetable of when you will go and visit. If it is all laid out clearly, it might give you a bit of control back.
  4. nomad

    nomad Star commenter

  5. Duke of York

    Duke of York Star commenter

    Impossible to answer as it depends on the individual. Loss of independence can be a killer as much as ill health. The words in your post I think you should ponder about, Orkrider, are "difficult" from the thread title and "force her". Try to imagine yourself in her position if your grandchild was using words like that about you.

    How readily would you be prepared to jack it all in and be reliant on care workers if you, at the age of 90, felt you were still in full possession of your marbles?

    The oldest resident in the retirement housing I take care of is 93. He is a delightful and popular character with full compos mentis, despite the fact he relies on a walking frame to get him around and has had to visit the doctor every day this week. He told me today he had to go back there to check on the results of the blood test he had yesterday because the doctor thought he might need to have iron tablets. I told him he needed to make sure they give him the ones that don't make him go rusty and he chuckled about that a fair bit.

    He's a characteristic Welshman who when yesterday, mentioned he was off to collect his newspaper, I asked if that would be the Financial Times and he made as if to spit and told me it would be the Daily Mirror which he has read since he switched from the Daily Herald when it changed ownership to become the Sun.

    He then when on to discuss the Labour Party leadership election with a clarity that would shame contributors on the thread about it on Opinion. Make of this what you will, but if anyone told me this man ought to be in a care home at his age, I'd say they were either bonkers or had an agenda other than his best interests.

    Possibly the difference between him and the lady in question is regular contact with people. He's lived on his own since his wife died ten years ago, but has never been short of someone to chat to among his neighbours and most of all can get by looking after himself, which retains his dignity.

    No answers here, Orkrider, just a different perspective on the elderly. If you think of them as problems they can become problems. If you think of them as people like you, they might not.
  6. mandala1

    mandala1 Occasional commenter

    If she is mentally competent then it has to be her own decision. I am facing a not dissimilar situation at the moment and it is SO hard.
  7. rosievoice

    rosievoice Star commenter

    No simple answers here, I'm afraid. I have an elderly mum (88) who lives some distance away. She's a stubborn character, becoming frailer by the day, but refuses to relinquish an ounce of independence. I will never suggest she moves into a home, as I wouldn't want to inflict her on unsuspecting carers!

    I believe your nan is playing games with her family, perhaps from feeling alone and vulnerable, perhaps just because she can, but I agree with the posters above that your focus should fall on your father before his mum runs him ragged. x
  8. lindenlea

    lindenlea Star commenter

    Have you ever dipped into this thread Orkrider

    community.tes.co.uk/.../549944.aspx There's masses of info in there and i'll put my response there rather than duplicate the thread.
  9. foxtail3

    foxtail3 Star commenter

    I too would be worried about your father because a seven hour drive on a regular basis is not something I would want to contemplate and he needs to be able to look after his own health. However, your nan is of sound mind and can therefore make her own decisions, unpalatable and inconvenient as they may be for the family. It might be that she hates the thought of moving away from what is familiar and the health problems may be frightening for her. Her desire to control the family by insisting on frequent visits could be part of that fear.

    Who knows how any of us will feel towards the end of life? Perhaps it's the only bit of control she feels she has over her life and decisions.

    I hope this doesn't sound harsh - I know how it feels to deal with an elderly relative, as my mother lived with us for eleven years, whilst I was juggling a full time job, teenage children and a husband working long hours in his own business. It's never easy, that's for sure.
  10. primarycat

    primarycat Star commenter

    Tricky. Probably no one perfect answer. As she has care daily and is sharp mentally can you try talking to her about how often family can visit her, then sticking to it for a bit. Is there any emergency care that can be called on without someone driving to her? I can understand her not wanting to leave her home, but also wanting to see family daily. If she can't have both perhaps it needs to be her choice which she chooses, unless it becomes a matter of her safety.

    Mr PC's grandmother had to move to a home, very reluctantly. Although his mother lived nearby she was unsafe living alone (suicide attempt that left her in a coma for a while) and she had to go from hospital to a care home. She adjusted in time, and accepted she needed to live there. She wouldn't have been happy living alone in her flat either, she wanted to be young and have her husband back with her and neither of those were possible.

    Thinking of you, it's not an easy situation for any of the family.
  11. kibosh

    kibosh Star commenter

    I don't think OrkR meant she was difficult, as in her personality was difficult, my understanding was more that OrkR meant her nan's situation was difficult and complex i.e. one that was causing difficulty to her Dad in particular, but causing concern for the whole family (because they care about her).

    It has to be her choice. If she chooses independence then she needs to know that the flip-side is something nobody is happy with. Your Dad needs to find (perhaps with help from other family members) a solution to the short-leash he is currently on. Not easy, that.
  12. Penny and the bun. She wants to stay in her own home on her own terms but expects everyone else to reorganise their lives to accommodate it.

    You can't make her go into a home. What you can do (collectively, if need be) is make yourselves a little less accessible. If she's playing the "last time you'll see me alive" card with your father, she needs her **** kicking. Being 93 is not an excuse for playing stupid games with your own flesh and blood.

    She has a carer. She may wish to see one of you every day but she doesn't need to. Let her have a day without a visit for a start.
  13. marymoocow

    marymoocow Star commenter

    I think I would be tempted to give her tough love too. My Grandma was like this in her last few years, stirring amongst her children, so that 2 are still not on speaking terms. I refused to play her games and backed off contact. As a result she was always nice as pie to me as she was I think worried about losing me. May be you could give her the hard talking to about her behaviour and it's effects on your Dad. I think your Dad is unlikely to do this as he is too close and is probably too guilt tripped. Could you have her care package reassessed so she has more care visits?
  14. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter


    She goes home and stays there until something happens. Hospital admission. When the hospital wants the bed then she either goes home as before OR her medical needs will dictate she can only be cared for in a home.

    Maybe she'll be in and out of hospital several times. That's up to her. She's an adult. She can choose.

    And you have to make your own choices. These may include driving up and down or may be calling the hospital to see how she is and saying that you are regretfully unable to visit and that you know no more than they do how she'll cope on her return home.

    I'm sure you all have busy lives and have a responsibility to keep yourselves sane for the sake of your own families. There's nothing wrong with muddling through when you're elderly. There have always been elderly people maintaining their independence and dignity at the cost of living in squalor and loneliness. You drop down dead at 70 never having had to deal with a decline or you soldier on and on and on half-dead. That's the way it is. If you've troubled to be pleasant to your family then you've a chance they'll tread the path with you. Otherwise you run the risk of them falling by the wayside. That's life.
  15. Tigger1962

    Tigger1962 New commenter

    Such a difficult situation with an elderly relative who is also guilt tripping your father to make these emergency dashes to her home every time she claims to be "dying"

    You say she gets some sort of daily home help - one option when she rings claiming to be sick/dying is to call to home care organisation's emergency number and get them to go and check her before you father embarks on these 7 hour drives. This will mean that he can reduce his trips to actual emergency situations and also reduce the stress he is under. It may also be that she reduces the calls if she is not able to manipulate the situation in the same way
  16. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    It's absurd. What use is a relative who has to drive hours to get to you? It's clearly not an emergency.

    I'd be honest with her: Mother, you'll have to ring 999 if things are that bad. Then the hospital can update me and I'll see if I can face the drive up there. But I doubt I will as I'm knocking on a bit (hadn't you noticed?) and I just can't face it at the moment. Let's see what the hospital says.
  17. Knocking on a bit? You're only 70, ***.
  18. housesparrow

    housesparrow New commenter

    Sadly yes, if she has full capacity then the decision is hers, but looking at this with the impartiality of the observer, what Bill and others have said about tough love is correct to stop the guilt tripping. The only other solution could be for her to agree to move to very sheltered accommodation and nearer to a relative as well. My Mum was very ill and lived a 4 hour drive away from us, it was impossible to keep going up there to help her with jobs and children of our own. Luckily she agreed to move to a lovely flat run by RSL www.retirementsecurity.co.uk and lived there for the last 12 years until she passed away. Her quality of life improved massively, she recovered from her illness, people to talk to as well and for me the benefit was that if she needed help I wasn't the first person to receive the call - the staff would call the GP or an ambulance, fix a leak etc etc and then let me know. When she died she was found the very next morning. There are other very sheltered schemes eg McCarthy & Stone. Of course it doesn't come free - you own your flat but have to pay a monthly service charge for the extra services such as gardener, handyman, manager, cleaners, care staff - but the brilliance of this scheme is that the person can maintain their independence and only access however much they need of the help. A care home it mostly definitely is not, each person has their own flat and they can come and go as they please, her community arranged social evenings together and a boxing day buffet but door to door salespeople, trick or treaters etc are not allowed into the complex which is an added bonus for vulnerable elderly people.
  19. My mother was only 69 when she was forced by ill-health out of the home she'd live in all her married life. Moving her out was the worst weekend of my life but I accept not as hard for me as for her. I had thought nothing but death would get her out, and the help she got from my locally-living brother and his wife (she dumped him later but i shall always be grateful for the suppor tshe gave my mother at the time), and the community nursing team was superb.

    The home she moved into was nice. It didn't smell funny, the food was nice, the room was huge, (MUM: the food was nice, OK?) but all the other people were really proper old and quite a lot had misplaced their marbles.

    You wouldn't want to be there if anything else was available. OP's nan has something else availble. But everything comes at a cost. Do the family want to pay that cost for what can't be all that much longer, so they can polish their haloes? I dunno.
  20. DogsareNOTstupid

    DogsareNOTstupid New commenter

    It's obviously a very difficult situation. When my father-in-law was getting frailer we asked him if he'd like to relocate, but still live independently, in a flat near us. He was a two-day drive away. He declined as he still had friends and his church. When he became ill from cancer, OH basically went to live with him for most of a year, with only brief trips back home. His father, who was a lovely man, simply refused to go into a permanent care home, and OH is still plagued with guilt that his father died when he went in for respite care for two weeks.

    I think that what the others say is right. There has to be some tough love. Expecting family to travel that distance every day is really quite overly demanding, in my humble opinion. I would decrease the visits, as others have suggested get someone closer like a care worker or ambulance to get there first if it really is an emergency. Then, after the visits have been decreased, ask her if she would like to relocate closer to her family so that they can visit more frequently.

    What of your father though? Is he willing or able to be a little tougher? I know my OH suffered terribly over his decisions. It is so difficult when they get old because the guilt can be quite crippling if you are left thinking that you've done the wrong thing. You have my absolute sympathy. It sounds hellish for everyone.

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