Hello everyone, I am new to the board and pretty new to elder care. I could really use some advice from anyone who has been involved in a similar situation or anyone who may have more insight on this one.
To shed some light, I became engaged to a man in November, and I now live with him in his grandfather's home. My situation may seem a little unusual or "unique" and I hope someone has been through some of the same things because I am speaking literally when I say, I am so alone on this one.
When I met my fiance I knew he was caring for his 84 year old grandfather. I even knew he had been living there for several years to care for him as he is a widow and from what I have observed, possibly suffering from Dementia. Because both of my grandmother's are alive and keep a good home and healthy lifestyle, my expectations of his grandfather were, well...normal.
I pictured a clean, quiet home filled with family photos and knick knacks. Unfortunately the reality is not so pleasant. The house (which has become my home) is an awful mess. There is havoc everywhere. Dirty counters and floors, expired food in cupboards and the fridge, urine and toilet paper on the bathroom floor, newspaper piled on furniture and tables, the smell of stale food and dog feces fill the house. There is no running water in the kitchen, floor tiles are missing and a piece of cardboard covers a hole in the kitchen ceiling. The carpets are stained and dirty, there is no dryer and the shower has not worked in over 2 years!
The grandfather appears to be a lazy eating machine and a slob, but I feel there is an underlying factor. Could this be depression? Dementia? Something else? I have only began to scratch the surface...
The grandfather is friendly and appears to remember certain things very well (when he met his wife, travelling from his home state to chicago for work, names of his kids, some of his grandkids and what time his favorite shows come on) but sometimes confuses the names of people when telling a story and often is confused by the time and date even when looking at his phone. He does not practice good hygiene. In fact, he doesn't own a tooth brush, he does not use deodorant, and his bathroom mannerisms are very poor.
He owns only one outfit and it is never washed. He smells of urine and seems to not notice or not care. He prefers old beat up house shoes to new ones, and a cardboard box to an actual foot rest. Growing up during the depression must have messed him up because he eats for cheapness and his go to food item is any .89 cent t.v dinner available. He also keeps expired food as not to waste anything. I once tossed out 2 expired, moldy loafs of bread on grocery day only to find them back in the cupboard!
His behavior is also questionable. He stays up til about 3,4 sometimes 5 am and wakes up at around 2-3pm, to me that is not normal as my grandmother is in bed by 10 and awake by 8-9am every morning. Sometimes he sleeps in he sits up all night in his chair and sleeps on and off the next day in the chair. As soon as he wakes up he cracks open a Pepsi, microwaves a frozen dinner and plops down in front of the television only moving to eat, use the washroom and get another drink. Another thing is, he often watches the same shows over and over. Old ones, too. Dukes of Hazard, Mash, most westerns; but believes they are 'new' episodes. This confuses me as I am not sure if they are episodes he has not seen, or he believes these shows are still airing.
Memory going? Simple forgetfulness? Signs of something serious?
One thing that makes me want to scream and pull my hair out is that I do all the house work. I pride myself on being the daughter of a clean freak and following in her squeaky clean shoes. I cannot stand to see a spot on the counter or water splashed all over the bathroom sink. I am used to the dirty counters and kitchen floor, I bite my tongue..messes happen right? I know his vision is poor so I can forgive urine on the floor and toilet seat and food improperly disposed down the toilet and bathroom sink. It'a gross, it smells, but I can handle it. I don't even mind re-filling the toilet paper 2 or 3 times a day even though I know it is being used even when not necessary. What bothers me most is he spits in the bathroom sink and doesn't have the good sense to rinse it out...or even try. Hello, no kitchen sink no shower..what do you think we use that bathroom sink for? Dishes and to wash up before/after work! But the worst thing (for me anyway) is I recently discovered an enormous pile of paper towels, toilet paper rolls, tissue paper thrown into the non-working bath tub. I cleaned it out and filled 2 large garbage bags full. A few days later...seeing that someone had discovered and cleaned his mess, what did he do? He started a new pile. I can't win some days.
Careless? Disrespect? Showing me who's boss?
Another concern I have is what I think is snooping. If my fiance or I go into the kitchen or the bathroom and back into our part of the house, almost immediately after the grandfather is in the kitchen or the bathroom. Believe me, it has happened too often and for too long to be a simple coincidence. My fiance also confided that his grandpa has stolen from him and his other relatives in the past. Pocket knives, year books, trinkets passed down, high school and college rings. Is this paranoia? Somebody who is nosey? A thief? Innocent hoarding?
He makes funny grunting noises when he walks, as if it is literally a struggle. He has a nose whistle (like wheezing) at times and shortness of breath. His feet and ankles are known to swell possibly from lack of circulation or exercise on his part. I have also been told it could be CHF. I can't be sure as the grandfather refuses to see a doctor. I have tried and tried, but he will not go for it. Does anyone have any information on getting him to agree? Do doctors make house calls? Would that cause him to become angry?
Going back to the Depression era, the grandfather has a good amount of money saved up but will not spend it to repair anything in the house. Not to fix the floor, the kitchen sink or the shower. It's as if he doesn't notice or doesn't want to pay anyone to do this. My fiance and I are strapped for cash as we cover our expenses as well as the grandfather's, however he does pay for the groceries.
This part is quite disturbing and I feel quite bad that I have not taken action as it goes against what I and my fiance are against, animal abuse.
The grandfather owns an 8 year old weener dog. The dog is the friendliest, most loving dog ever but you would never know it. It spends all day barking and growling, why? He is locked in a cage in the grandfather's bedroom and is not allowed outside...ever. It has never been to the vet, for a walk or even in the backyard! It is let out only twice a day for food and water and to use the bathroom (on a stack of newspapers) When the grandfather becomes tired of the barking he goes after the dog with a fly swatter and a broom stick. The poor thing can be heard barking and yelping. My heart truly breaks for this dog and I cannot go against my fiance and call someone to collect the dog as this would only add to our problems.
I am really scared because I am new to all of this and find myself resenting the grandfather and wishing he would just....well, you know....
Sorry but I am not done. My fiance often brags to people he takes care of his grandfather. He should be proud as he is doing something a lot of people (and what his own family) won't do. However, with the house in poor condition, his grandfather's health and diet lousy. Allowing someone who is clearly suffering from some sort of disorder to make his own decisions when they are constantly the bad ones is nothing to brag about. I don't want to sound like I am ignorant as I am not suggesting we try to control a grown man. But his behavior and decision making is that of a child. I wish my fiance would stand up to his grandfather and encourage him to make better decisions and to follow through with them. It is almost as if he is afraid of this man. The grandfather is a kind soul. He does not yell or cuss. He would never toss his grandson out, but yet, my fiance will never voice his opinion to his grandpa. I am the one who hears all the venting and ranting.
I am just the fiance. The co-pilot. Who am I to come in and expect to undo 10 years of bad choices. To fill the lack of knowledge and limit the old man's freedom? What can I say or do so my fiance will toss out the expired food? To do his grandfather's laundry? How do I ask him to approach the grandfather for money on repairs to his own home?
My fiance often shares my frustration but he also adds to it. He tells me how sick he is of his grandfather's bad behavior and poor health choices. Then he makes excuses for his grandpa when I confront him. I just need some answers. How can we get help for someone who doesn't care for it? I don't think he has the sense to tell us why he doesn't want to see a doctor. My fiance has been dealing with him and living in these conditions so long he no longer cares to try as it gets him nowhere.
We have been sick several times from the spread of his grandfather's germs as he gets sick often and doesn't wash his hands or dispose of his own tissues. He touches all the handles and buttons we do. How can we protect ourselves? How can we help the dog? How can I help my fiance become a better caregiver without nagging? I don't want the grandfather to feel I am trying to take over or myself to feel like I am his mother. Please help...
All I can say is WOW! From what you described it sounds like a dysfunctional situation combined with dementia on the part of the grandfather and denial on the part of the fiance. Are you really sure you want to tackle this incredible job? To be perfectly honest... I would be running for the first exit I could find!
Grandfather's refusal is not an excuse for unsafe and unhealthy choices. There is obviously something very wrong and you don't let someone that makes those poor choices continue. You mentioned that you didn't want to take away his freedom or independence... but how can you let him continues to live in such deplorable conditions? What you described does sound like some form of dementia... but you have to get a proper diagnosis to know for sure. It's not a matter of "asking" if he wants to go. You make the appointment, load him in the car "for a ride", and just turn up at the doctor's office. You tall him whatever is needed to get him there... even that the appointment is not for him.
I do hope your fiance has the necessary legal papers such as POA (financial and medical). If not these will be necessary for him to handle his grandfather's affairs.
In order to get these two things done your fiance is going to have to step up, stop making excuses, and act on the reality of the situation. You don't let a toddler play in the street just because they want to and you don't let grandfather live in deplorable conditions, getting sick because of it, just because he thinks it is what he wants to do. I will say there is not much you can do until your fiance is willing to step up and do what needs to be done. He is probably in denial, having been in the situation as it developed, and it may take some tough talk from you to get him headed in the right direction.
I would demand that the necessary legal papers be accomplished, grandfather get a proper diagnosis, and the living conditions improved... or I would be out of there. You don't have the authority to do anything but you do have the leverage to make it happen. The worst thing you can do is to let it just go on. If that doesn't work... call in adult social services and let them make an assessment. Tough love....
Thank you for your comments. I am navigating the site to try and find some info on how the POA thing works. I am thinking of asking my fiance to help me get his grandfather in for an eval or pull a fast one and invite a "friend" (social worker) over to give my fiance a much needed push from a professional stand point.
Those are all good ideas As for the POA... it is usually done by an elder lawyer. Be sure that he gets both financial and medical POAs. The grandfather truly need a good physical especially if he has CHF and has swelling and wheezing. That is a sign he is having medical issues. When you get him to the doctor be sure to ask for a MMSE... Mini Mental Status Exam. That will let you know of there are cognitive problems that need a follow up. Getting a third party professional there to give your fiance a push is a good idea... he definitely needs a push
Wow!! I certainly can't find anything that is good about any of this. If your fiance says he's taking care of his grandfather, he must be mistaken. Taking care of him would be to make tough decisions that no one likes to do. If he doesn't have the money to do it and can't get the POA to help out then how is letting his grandfather live like this ok either?
How is this fair to you? I couldn't live in conditions like that and I'm surprised your fiance is ok with this either. How is this fair to the dog. That's too much too!
If elder care was contacted they'd make him go to a nursing home and take his money to do it. They don't leave you a choice. If someone else reported him, your fiance would have no choice. When someone cannot take care of themselves to this point, they are forced to make the decisions no one else will, including the grandfather who is obviously in no capacity to take care of himself.
Some serious decisions need to be make by your fiance regarding his grandfather. You need to take care of yourself too. Don't get sucked into all this without some knowing how to go forward.
I hope someone on this board can help make some recommendations reg. POA's and his options. My thoughts are with you!
Just wondering, do you think I should tell my fiance I want to invite a social worker or just go ahead and invite one and see how it goes? If I don't tell him, he can't refuse the help. But I also don't want to cross the line and upset my fiance or the grandfather.
You don't want to upset your fiance or his grandfather? They are living in deplorable conditions which are unsafe for all of you and you don't want to upset them? They are in denial and you don't want to upset them? I say turn that apple cart upside down! We rarely change directions unless there is a life altering event that changes the momentum. We tend to hang on to the status quo. It is only when we have good reason to change that we embrace the changes. We still fight it even then.
Mom was only diagnosed after she overdosed Dad and landed him in the hospital. Until then it was ok... moving along with the momentum of life. My sisters sailed along afterwards thinking Mom and Dad would be ok at home. As long as it was tolerable they were satisfied with the status quo. It gradually got worse and worse but that momentum was still there to go forward... until the Dad that Mom shocked us all with that life altering event. Then they had to move and it happened. AL was not a good fit but they were there and the momentum was moving. It was only after Dad was found in a busy street at 6 am when it was 13 degrees that the life altering even shifted the momentum and they entered the locked unit. We just think we can make it for one more day. That it is ok if we can just make it one more day. In the mean time it gets worse and worse... until that life altering event
To create change you make that life altering event happen. Yep, upset the apple cart
Rics....to quote an old TV show from a long long time ago,
"what a revolting development this is!"
You have certainly walked yourself into a mess not of your making. But, now that you are a part of it, you must take responsibility as well. Let me ask you a question. What do you think the authorities would say were they to walk in right this moment? Down here in Florida if authorities walked into an elderly persons home and found the deplorable conditions grandpa is living in, they would take him out and take the responsible adults into custody. I don't mean to say that you are the reason things are like this but they won't know that. They will just see you as a responsible adult doing nothing to care for this man. I honestly don't mean to scare you but you have to be aware that you are now a part of the equation.
Yes, you need to upset a few apple carts.
First off...if fiance is a pig, hand him a broom and tell him to get to work! Cleaning the place up would be a good start...good old fashioned elbow grease...buy some big trash bags and start filling them up! Grandpa doesn't like someone mopping a floor or cleaning his toilet?...Too bad...hand him a bowl of ice cream and tell him to sit down and watch The Price is Right.
I have found that sometimes these patients need to be treated like children. Oh there will be kicking and screaming but the deplorable conditions aren't going disappear by themselves.
And that poor dog! At least get it a few doggie treats and sit by the cage with it. Talk to it and let it know there is someone who loves it. Offer to walk it.
I know you are at a loss...it is probably so overwhelming for you...but try to look at it one task at a time. Yes, call social services and tell them you need help. Get it on record that you are trying! Tell fiance if you like...then do it. Start there...let them help you from that point.
You can not allow the dog to live like this any longer..The dog has no choice!! Its cruel and down right animal abuse!! Buy a leash and collar and at least take the poor dog out for a walk and fresh air!!
This whole picture is wrong and its time some one cleaned up the whole mess. What does your boy friends parents say? Are there any other family members that are aware of what is going on? This is not taking care of gramps. This is in close to elder abuse by allowing him to continue to live this way. Its time for someone in the family to step up and take control.
The Following User Says Thank You to gardenandcats For This Useful Post: breakfree27 (06-07-2011)
I agree with Meg. The longer you live with them in these conditions, the more you are exposing yourself to charges of elder abuse and animal abuse. You are going to be held responsible as a caregiver if you're living in this home.
Personally, I'd dump this fiance and get the heck out of there - calling social services on my way out the door. If he takes care of his grandfather so poorly and brags about it, just imagine what kind of husband he'll make and how well he'll take care of you if you ever get sick. If he thinks these living conditions are acceptable, what kind of home can you expect to have with him someday? If he doesn't smell his grandfather or worry about his health, how will he take care of himself when he is elderly too? But that's another issue.
Does the Grandfather get Social Security? Where is it going? Is it being applied solely for clothes and food for him? If your fiance is using his grandfather's money for your fiance's food, etc., it looks even more like elder abuse. Do you and your fiance pay rent, which might be used for home repairs? Is your fiance fixing things around the house, and actually helping with his grandfather's care?
If you insist on remaining in the house, I would suggest (1) getting the grandfather to a doctor (and dentist) for medical attention. Priority. (2) contacting senior services in your area, to see what resources may be available to this man. (3) evaluating his financial condition and prioritizing his needs and home repairs using his own assets and income. He might be better off in senior housing than in his own house at this point. Some senior housing, particularly the lower income housing, has a long wait-list. (4) get your fiance to review the family situation. It's his grandfather, so see what he's actually doing to care for him. How many hours a week does he spend helping with personal care, repairing his grandfather's house, driving him around, or whatever else he does? Start keeping a log of assistance provided, which could help if the issue of elder abuse arises...which frankly seems very likely.
Meg's posting is wonderful. She's a lot more helpful than I am, since she actually gives you suggestions to try to fix the situation. If you're determined to stick this out, then I agree with her on both the tough love approach and treating the Grandfather as a child during his complaining. And you'll earn your halo and wings a little early. Good luck.
Last edited by Beginning; 06-07-2011 at 04:40 AM.
The Following User Says Thank You to Beginning For This Useful Post: ninamarc (06-07-2011)
Your fiance needs to hire a private caregiver from a home care co. Usually professional people know how to take care of the elders with dementia or problems.
It seems it is dementia but there is no diagnosis. For now, you need to clean the things around him. Wash his clothes everyday - change him every day. Now, this is lots of workload for family, so hire a caregiver.
You are not married to him yet. This may be a long shot. The grandpa may live up to 100 and it will take a long time. My father-in-law who is 90 has late Alzheimer's. We have taken care of him as POA/Trustee for at least 7-8 years. It is a long time. It could kill your relationship and your own health. It is hard to balance it out. So we hired home care people and now he is in a residential home. Diagnosis is important. Ask his GP to get a specialist to diagnose him.
Until your fiance gets proper help, you should consider leaving him. It would be a very long haul.
The other thing is, sometimes the family may be ignorant about how to care for the dementia elder. The key is don't let the elder decide for himself about caregiving. He is incompetent obviously. He is sick. It could also come from the odd personality, but either way, he needs better caregiving. BY saying he is stubborn or lazy and etc., it is like try to make him responsbile. But he can no longer help himself anymore.
You need to treat him like a child as Meg said. Sometimes the family does not understand because they don't understand dementia. We often don't realize the elder cannot help himself until it is very obvious.
At this point, it is evident that something goes wrong.
Get a caregiver or send him to a nursing home/assisted living so he will get better care.
Once you know the problem, you need to solve it by getting outside help fast before the social worker comes to sue you.
Thank you Begining your post was just as helpful. To answer your questions, there is no rent being paid to the grandfather. However my fiance pays the utilities and summer/winter taxes on the home as well as his grandpa's cellphone bill. I am not sure of the arrangement they made 10 years ago as to who was paying what or what care needed to be provided but my fiance says his grandpa didn't ask him to assist, or provide care, just companionship. However, this is 10 years later and care and assistance are needed. I try to do my part providing a clean home and removing unsanitary things from the home best I can. But I am nobody to this old man so I feel it is not my place to put my foot down to him. I go directly to my fiance with every complaint and concern. His family does not help. They don't even call the grandfather. His one sister has a family and full time job which apparently prevents her from helping out - ever.
The grandfather does collect checks. Two a month I believe. My fiance drives him to cash them and then it's off to get groceries. As I mentioned, the grandfather buys groceries for the three of us (also an arrangement made prior to my being in the picture) The rest of that money is hidden. The grandfather will not spend a dime of it other than for groceries twice a month. He has no interest in the repairs.
A plumber once came to the house and was going to repair the shower, toilet and kitchen sink but the grandfather refused his services. He thought the cost was too high. Seeing we were in need, the plumber fixed the toilet for free and tried to cut the grandfather a deal for the rest of the repairs but it was a no go.
My fiance is not intentionally abusing or neglecting his grandpa. On some things I can see his point. Caring for someone who is in denial of his own health problems and mental state is difficult. It can be tiring and feel hopeless. But I also feel my fiance should know better than to give in. Will he give in to our children? I know I won't! But my fiance and his sister will not back me. They just want to get on with their lives.
I am not from the state of Michigan so I am having a harder time locating social workers and senior homes and caregivers as I don't know the kind of health care his grandpa can afford or what he needs. There can be no diagnosis if we can't get him to a doctor. I also know he will not willingly pay for anything.
When he went to the hospital last november (and what a fight that was!) he was a few hours away from death. Because he refused our help until he was in so much pain he had no choice but to go. Anyway, his insurance covered all the costs but a few co-pay payments...he wouldn't pay them! $20 out of thousands of dollars worth of surgeries and this old man threw the notices in the garbage.
I am afraid of the charges my fiance and even I could face, and I am afraid I am in a problematic situation with people who should care, but don't. Or do care, but won't do anything about it.
I am sorry for your situation. However, I feel the need to second what Ninamarc said - you may need to bail on this situation. I think if it all meant enough to your boyfriend, he would take the bulls by the horns and handle it. This is an indication how he will handle things when it's just the two of you or with children involved.
I also want to add that my FIL was difficult too. But his life is simpler and we also had to force him to hire a caregiver. Initially he refused to hire anyone and was stingy as well. But the caregiver from the home care co. was a people person and was able to convince him to hire them to help him out. Later he gets to like them and as he got sicker, he got used to it. Gradually he does not care about money anymore because he forgot too much. Now he still may ask if this concert expensive? But he is so incompetent that he does not care anymore.
The beginning was quite bad too and the nosy neighbor (we asked them to help and take a look at my FIL after he fell) was about to call a social worker on my hubby. But my FIL refused to hire anyone except wanting to come to be with us in another country...
Anyway it was in late 2005. It takes a long toll. Once the elderly gets used to the caregiver, he will like the person because he knows he needs help.
We used the excuse that the authority (the neighbor) has to force us to hire anyone and he was like, OK, do it. The authority issue sure scared him too.