Tuesday, August 19, 2008

When Your Kids Are Worthless...

you'd better hope you don't have Alzheimers.

I just filed a report of elderly abuse and neglect on behalf of my last remaining grandparent, my grandmother in Hometown. Widowed almost 20 years ago, completely abandoned by two of her children, emotionally, physically, and/or financially neglected by the other three, she is unsafe in her own home (to which she doesn't even have a key).

During our visit to Hometown this weekend, Hubby, the girls, and I visited her house, and I was devastated by what I found: a woman wasting away, alone, and in complete denial of her condition. We smelled something burning and eventually found a coffee pot still plugged in and starting to smoke. I noticed the feces-stained panties crumpled in a corner of the living room. I checked the refrigerator and freezer only to see that they were virtually empty.

When she explained a picture of her grandmother to Hannah, she mentioned that her mother lives in such and such town. Her mother died almost 10 years ago. She'd forgotten that I had a second child. She repeated the same story - word for word - three times within the space of 5-7 minutes. The story was about her sister, Edith, who has been spreading lies about her, telling everyone at the nutrition center that she has Alzheimers (which, of course, she emphatically denies).

I went to the store Saturday evening and bought $200 worth of groceries and supplies for the house, took them over on Sunday morning and unloaded them for her. I also took sticky notes and wrote messages to post as reminders (i.e. "Remember to turn off" on the coffee pot). When I noticed her trash can (which didn't have a liner or bag inside) was full and started to empty it, I soon started gagging on what was either raw shit or dead something in the can. I washed the can with liquid dishwashing soap, but there was no bleach to be found. I explained to her that I'd gotten her some trash bags and she should use those now, which she seemed to think it was a great idea....I have little hope that she'll remember, despite me leaving the bags on the counter.

There's a lot more to the story, which goes all the way back to all but one of her children turning out to be completely worthless human beings. At this point, I can't sit back and do nothing, but my hands are tied as to how much I can do. I have no power of attorney or legal standing. Who does? My father...yeah, that one. He sits back and sends money to my aunt, which she's supposed to use to buy groceries for my grandmother. Yeah, doesn't happen...This would be the same aunt who let me smoke pot at 12 years old. The same aunt who was previously married to a man convicted of shooting a sheriff's deputy.

I'm just sad, pissed, extremely frustrated, and feeling horribly guilty. My heart is breaking for the woman who let me play with her makeup and eat chocolate ice cream 24 hours a day. She was always my favorite grandmother; she even watched Hannah one day a week when I went back to work after Hannah was born. Nobody deserves to be neglected like this, and I'm pissed that I can't change the situation. I feel guilty for choosing a career path that will very likely forever prevent me from closely caring for aging family members. In the same way that parents are held accountable for the safety and well being of their children, I think grown, capable adults should be responsible - to some extent - for the well being and care of parents who are mentally or physically incapacitated. I don't know what to expect from Adult Protective Services, but I'm afraid they won't be able to help until she's literally running around the middle of a highway or something. Until I hear more from them, however, I'm in a holding pattern, seeking information about resources and advice for handling Alzheimers patients in denial.


mgm said...

AcadeMama, I am so sorry to hear this and am saddened for you and your grandmother. It's terrible that she sin't able to recognize she's not getting the care she needs and can't stand up for herself. I know you're probably beating yourself up for not being able to do more (or everything) but I think she's incredibly lucky to have a granddaughter who's looking out for her grandmother the best that she knows how.

Both my paternal grandparents suffered from Alzheimer's and, though my grandfather died before I was 3, I know what it was like with my grandmother. Luckily, she passed away before Alzheimer became severe and she had good care from both my father and his sister. But I lived 800+ miles away at the time and felt horrible that I couldn't do much for her aside from visiting on the rare occasions that I went home for a visit. I can't imagine how helpless you must feel, though.

I hope you find the help and services that she needs.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry! It is really hard to feel helpless like this. Calling in the authorities is the best thing you can do, though -- it is the surest way to insure that she gets care. I really hope they can help your granda get the services she needs. We're going through a similar situation with an elderly aunt. Thank God she has two siblings who are willing to shoulder some responsibility, because her three kids are worse than worthless. She's just a relief check to them. It's rotten. She's in a home now, and that's absolutely the best place for her. The kids are freaking out because one of them lives in her house, and now it will be part of her assets that will be sold to pay for her care. 50+ yo man -- should have gotten off the couch and found a job years ago. A huge tangle of disfunction all around, and a lot of it of my aunt's making, but still... you can't let her lie in filth because her kids can't cope. I really hope things improve for your grandma! Not like you have the $$$ to step in and make it all better, either -- it's hard enough to be a young family, but also to be in grad school, too. Hang in there, and be the best advocate you can be for her care!

Jennie said...

I'm so sorry. One thing you might be able to do is get her signed up for Meals on Wheels, or something similar. My mother delivers for them and it will ensure someone visits regularly and that she has something nourishing to eat. Also, that person could be an objective observer if it comes down to you needing 'witnesses' of the neglect.

Tenured Radical said...

Horrible. Your complaint should, at minimum, get a social worker in there.

Have you considered a family conference, with a gerontologist? It sounds like dealing with your family is no walk in the park, but that living with not being able to change things isn't great either.

Good luck.