Co-dependent, non English speaking, medical consumer Grandmother
My grandmother is about to turn 80 years old and the amount of health problems she has continues to mount, while doing nothing herself to take any proactive step. She loves sitting on her ass watching satellite tv all day on the couch, eating her totally unhealthy comfort foods, getting no exercise, but still convincing herself that seeing her general practice doctor and specialists as much as possible is doing something proactive or making a difference. She has a myriad of health problems mostly due to the first two listed primary afflictions and her growing collection of medications:
-- diabetes (primary)
-- high blood pressure (primary)
-- constantly waking up at night to urinate (medication related)
-- overweight at about 5' and 180 pounds(most likely from her diabetes leaving her always hungry but still nutritionally deficient)
-- a protruding belly and gut that only grows with time
-- she had cataracts in both her eyes(stemming from diabetes) but now got surgery to correct both eyes
-- she cannot walk except with a cane and even then very poorly and uneven
-- hard of hearing
-- she develops skin lesions
-- constant aches and pains
-- perennial heartburn and bloating
-- very poor flexibility, movement, she cannot even touch her toes or clean her feet
-- frequent muscle cramps
-- swelled joints
In addition to this she has many negative traits that make dealing with or helping her very unpleasant. She always has to verbalize with "Oooch, Aaach" or "bach" often while getting out of bed, off the couch, to express pain or even for seemingly no reason. Alot of times in the past the second I got home from work and if a doctor prescribed her something she could not self administer like eye drops, immediately after walking in the door she would ask me to give her the eye drops before I could even take off my shoes. She is very adamant and pro-active about checking the mail as soon at it arrives, looking for anything addressed to her and she demands my immediate attention to translate\. Often times she gets even more annoying about this if it is about her insurance or Medicaid and calls someone else to get a second explanation and translation summary. She loves to talk about her health problems on the phone very loudly(hard of hearing) to others, so I have to often hear about her medical problems many times a day over and over. She often insists like some young baby that she cannot drink water when talking her pills or for some other stupid reasons and insists on drinking these stupid flavored beverages because in her mind it "goes down easier", even though they contain unhealthy ingredients like sucralose. Every time I go to the Pharmacist and for some reason she does not receive every prescription right away, she complains and moans how come they have didn't have them all.
My grandmother does not know English, not even Spanish(which many staff members at Doctor's offices know), she only knows Greek. She also cannot drive. These factors mean that her health problems become a family burden, most often mine. I am getting fed up with dealing with this burden, it would be one thing if she knew English and I could just dump her off and wait in the waiting room and she could screw herself more and more by taking the horrible health damaging advice of mainstream medicine. But since her body is increasingly breaking down, we live in the same house, it is not like it is just her problem, but a problem she exposes the whole household to. I also have little sympathy for her, because other than always taking a sort of excitement every new doctor, prescription and medical procedures she undertakes, she does nothing proactive. I have told her for so long to stop drinking coffee, to stop eating bread all the time and she never listens, choosing to continue with the same comfort foods that aggravate the diabetes and blood pressure that cause the myriad of her secondary conditions stemming from these two.
She often goes to Greece to live half the year and recently came back. Now I am not that fed up with her, but I recall that before summer I would often wish to myself that she would just die so I can be freed of the burden she causes. But eventually she will break me down with her impetus and demanding attitude. I wish I had enough money to move out of my mom's house and also dump her into a old folks home in Greece, but I don't ever see myself making that kind of money.
What would you advise to do for someone in this situation? I am thinking of giving her an ultimatum that if she does not start cutting bread/wheat from her diet, exercising at least 10 min. a day and building gradually from there, that I will wash my hands from taking her to the myriad of doctors she sees, translating her mail, etc.
A lot of older folks, especially at the age of eighty act and speak just the same as your grandmother, so she shouldn't be treated harshly for it. Many people don't even make it to the age of eighty, and I think the lack of respect for the elderly, especially here in the United States, is appalling.
Keep in mind that she raised your mother from a baby, which required constant care and work for her. Chances are although she was older already, she also helped to raise you, changing diapers, medications, feeding, sleepless nights, crying, etc.
In my opinion, I think it would benefit everyone concerned if you just accepted how she was and live with it. Wanting her dead or stuck somewhere in a nursing home is very selfish for sure. At this age, people usually don't change their ways. You're also making her last days miserable by hounding her all the time, and making her feel bad about herself.
We moved my husband's parents out of their house and into ours when my father in law had a major stroke and became paralized, couldn't speak, feed himself, incontinent, wheelchair, etc. They were both in their 80's and although it was a difficult situation, we're happy we made their last years pleasant, and with family, not strangers in a care facility.
I say, take a deep breath, look at the big picture, and change your attitude, you'll feel soooo much better, and so will your grandma.
__________________ "We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals." ~Immanual Kant~
I can't have sympathy with people who do nothing for their health but consume more meds and medical procedures which always fail and cause more health problems that a third party will have to deal with, since they know they cannot drive themselves to appointments or interact with the doctors and staff. My mom ever since she came to this country has been expected to translate and deal with problems by my grandparents who never made a rudimentary effort to learn English. By now my mom has been taking care of dealing with problems for my grandmother more than the other way around, and my mom resents my grandma even more than I do. My grandma has a long history of expecting people to deal with her baggage.
When I was young my grandma did help raise and babysit me. But little kids are pleasant, vital and good to be around (except for the bratish qualities they develop from our possessive marketing society) while older people are decomposing, have bad skin and are often a negative experience when you are in prolonged contact with them.
After making the initial post to this thread, I was little surprised to see my grandmother eating another piece of white bread. I honestly would not care how bad she screwed herself up health wise by sticking to her bad comforts, if she was the only one the burden fell on, but that is not the case, sadly, given the situation. All she has to do is sit around, while I drive her around, deal with doctor staff and all the specialist doctors, explaining and translating.
It wears on you psychologically when all one person wants you to deal is their health problems and be a sounding board for the complaints, that they themselves caused with their unhealthy lifestyle.
You frustration is understandable. But I suspect your grandmother is equally frustrated if not more so. Considering that she is at a point where she can do very little for herself and which is a fact that I�m sure she is quite aware of. I would suspect that because she no longer can do many of things she once did this is making her very angry and bitter. Unfortunately she is taking this anger and bitterness out on everyone around her and you seem to be getting the brunt of it.
I would suggest that you try consider where she is coming from and do not take anything she says or does personally. I realize that may be easier said then done, perhaps just attempt to ignore her when she is going on and on about her latest ache or pain.
As far as getting her to change her diet, that sounds like it�s a lost cause. It�s like the old adage of you can lead a horse to water but you can�t make him drink. So at this point I would not worry about it, let her eat whatever she wants and whatever happens happens. You at least gave her an option.
This is obviously a trying situation. But don�t forget to take care of yourself. You can eat a healthy diet and exercise, whether she does or not.
Take time out occasionally to have fun, go to a movie or eat out, whatever. Do anything that will allow you to get your mind off this problem, at least for a little while.
Your feelings on this situation are quite understandable.
This is an opportunity for you to learn compassion for her and for your self... taking each day with a humorous attitude and making sure you find time out of the house as well.
You will not be able to change her... but I do suggest that you let her know how she makes you feel. You have the right to tell people how their presnece impacts your life. Just because she is old and sick does not mean that she should have all this power over you. When she pulls crap let her know it. You require respect too. All people do. It is not disrespectful to let someone know what a jerk they are when they are doing it. It is a reality check and I suspect that people have been coddling to her for a long long time and she has learned that these behaviors gets her what she wants... this is a result of a highly disfunctional family and many years and many people have been involved in creating this situation.
Along with this reality check you have no right to be mean or abusive either. A straight forward reality check is all that is required. You need to clarify your needs withing yourself and make sure your needs are met. You will not get it from her. You have to hold your own ground. .... like tell her that when you come home you are not going to read the mail to her right away. You are first going to get something to eat, makea a phone call, take a nap, whatever it is you need to maintain your center. Then when you are ready you will read the mail to her. Ditto on all her demands.. but it would be nice to try to do some nice things for her also,, those that are not done due to demands but from true need or your ability to give kindness.
Think of it this way... the more she continues her bad habbits... the shorter the time she will be with you. Every person has the right to pick their poison. You should support her in being who she is and you should support yourself in your own personal needs as well making a clear definition on what those are to her and not buckling under her crabbyness or demands.
__________________ "The nurse should be cheerful, orderly, punctual, patient, full of faith, - receptive to Truth and Love" Mary Baker Eddy