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Haleth's avatar

What role should I have in the lives of my elderly relatives?

Asked by Haleth (19538points) October 12th, 2014

A couple years ago I was broke and out of a job, and I moved in with my aunt and my grandmother. Back then they were in pretty good health.

Since then, I’ve found a job that is a great stepping stone to the career I want. I work six days a week, but I’m getting great experience and don’t plan on staying forever.

Their health and mobility have gone downhill in the last few years. They each have many health problems, and my aunt is obese and has rheumatoid arthritis. I started taking both of them to their doctor’s appointments and running all their errands. They’re each pretty difficult in their own ways- for instance, it would take an hour to get granny ready and into the car.

My family is small and dysfunctional. My parents divorced and the two sides don’t talk to each other. Both of these ladies are on my mother’s side. My mother is dead, and she’s the only one of her generation who had children. I have an uncle, but he’s a couple states away and barely in touch. I have a sister who’s a year younger, and she’s been very clear about not wanting to get involved, and she’s overseas in the military. There are distant relatives on the other side of the country, and that’s it. I’m 27.

For the last year my grandmother has been living in a nursing home, so nowadays I only do this stuff for my aunt. My aunt is her primary decision maker, but if anything needs to be done in person I handle it.

My aunt gets groceries delivered in, but whenever she goes out she needs me to drive her. She gets frustrated easily. When this happens, she goes on long rants about everything, talking in circles, going on tangents, and repeating herself. EVERYTHING is TERRIBLE. I have to talk to her slowly and calmly to get anything done.

Last night one of those conversations happened. I made a couple suggestions afterward about how she can make her own life easier. She needs to set boundaries with my granny, and only deal with the big important problems. One day they had a struggle over, I shit you not, a piece of mail from Publisher’s Clearinghouse.

I asked her to find a support group for elderly caretakers and a therapist. And that if she wants to rant, but doesn’t want solutions, she has to tell someone else. From now on I only want to hear about a problem if she actually wants to fix it.

Maybe that sounds harsh, but I need to set boundaries in my own life. I wish I could move out and know they will be ok. I’ve always lived in the DC area, and I really want to have an adventure and live somewhere else for a few years. It would be nice to be their emergency contact without being involved in their day-to-day problems. I do love them. But to them nearly everything is a problem or an emergency.

What are some reasonable steps I can start taking?

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6 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

Can you call your aunt’s primary care physicians and get resources for social workers, paid caregivers other than you and other available services?

You aunt may need an evaluation to see whether she is showing signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s…not an easy thing to do if she is resistant. Again, her doctor is your first resource.

Your responses are loving and reasonable.

I asked her to find a support group for elderly caretakers and a therapist. And that if she wants to rant, but doesn’t want solutions, she has to tell someone else. From now on I only want to hear about a problem if she actually wants to fix it. Perfecy. Stick to your guns.

When my mother started to go downhill, we hired an experienced lay person for several hours every other morning to do what you have been doing for your aunt.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Hard one, leave or stay, the eternal battle. I chose to stay but It takes a lot of inner strength & sacrifice.

zenvelo's avatar

Sounds like you have already started taking good steps, setting boundaries is important for your aunt and for you.

I suggest you find a caretaker’s support group for you! Who is the decision maker for your aunt? Has that responsibility fallen on you by default? If so, I suggest you do your best to make sure her affairs are as in order as your grandmother’s.

And, consider transportation alternatives so that you aren’t at your aunt’s beck and call. If she calls wanting a ride, and you have a conflict, be able to say “Auntie, I can’t drive you then, but I will arrange for para-transit to come get you.”

LornaLove's avatar

Put some boundaries in place immediately. This is so important. I am speaking from experience, my own and my SO’s. That means making clear what time you can spend with them, errands you can run and ones you cannot. I know it hard, but don’t get dragged into their dramas, meaning try and be detached and keep a life of your own. That means friends, going out and enjoying hobbies, if not you will be drained.

Be compassionate, caring and patient and join a support care group for care-takers. Get all the resources you can and use them. Start as you mean to finish and most of all keep a sense of humor and talk out any frustrations you are having with a trusted friend, counselor or clergy.

susanc's avatar

You are a good, good person and you deserve a good, good life full of great fun as well as
the love and appreciation of the women you’ve been good to. Lots of good advice here – much of which you may have thought of already – so use it, honey.

marinelife's avatar

You sound as if you have made a good start. I know from old that emotional dumpers don’t give up when told once so you will probably have to reinforce that again and again with “I told you I was not prepared to listen to a rant about Granny. If you don’t stop, I’ll have to leave and then be prepared to do it.

You are entitled to your own life. Tell your aunt you are planning a move in six months and she will have to make other transportation arrangements.

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