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Haleth's avatar

How can I help my relatives have a better quality of life?

Asked by Haleth (19499points) August 17th, 2010

About six months ago, I moved in with my aunt and my grandmother. My aunt is 55 and has been out of work on disability for about five years because she has bad arthritis. My grandmother is 78; we’ve just gotten her a walker and one of those chair lifts that takes her up and down the stairs, so she’s getting around better recently.

Both of them, if they’re left to their own devices, will spend all day sitting around watching TV or sleeping. I have some days here and there where I do that, and afterward I’m left feeling bored and restless. It really bothers me that this is their entire life. They go out for doctor’s appointments, but that’s about it.

My job keeps me really busy, but I try to do whatever I can. There are a lot of things (like lifting heavy stuff around the house or running errands) that I’m glad to do, but I think my help limits how active they are. I’ve offered to take my grandmother out to church or the library, but every time I have a day off, she says she’s not feeling well enough. My aunt is overweight, which keeps her from having an operation to mitigate her arthritis. I asked her if she wants to go swimming together, because it’s a low-impact exercise that won’t hurt her joints. She said she would think about it- we discussed this about three months ago. Whenever I can, I make healthy meals for us.

My grandmother is in her late 70s, so it’s natural that she’ll want to live a quiet life. My aunt has a medical degree and could be getting so much more out of life. This really upsets me, but I try to stay positive.

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9 Answers

BarnacleBill's avatar

It sounds like you may have to bring activity to them. What about having a regular family game night, do something like bake and have the neighbors over. A lot of times, if you ask sedentary people to do something, they will say no because the effort seems like too much bother. Work on getting them to sit out in the yard if the weather’s nice—perhaps have dinner outside, or turn the radio, fix a pitcher of lemonade, and sit out there and read. Or do a little gardening, and get them to come out and supervise.

wundayatta's avatar

This kind of lassitude sounds like a bit of depression. The good food is important. Try to make sure they get to bed at a regular time. Getting exercise is the key. I guess you start with baby steps. Getting them to walk around the house. Then outside. Then around the block. You get the idea.

It’ll be tough because of the physical pain. So maybe the doctor could do something to help with that.

You’ll probably have to educate them as to what is happening to them, and why it’s important to break their habits. Whether they will believe you or not, I don’t know. But it’s worth offering and offering, over and over. Maybe they’ll go just to get you to shut up. If you’re committed to doing what it takes, you’ll be persistent. You do it until someone breaks. Let’s hope it’s them who break.

YARNLADY's avatar

How kind of you to think of them. My suggestion is to ask what they are interested in, and then try to find a way to fit that into your plans.

Frenchfry's avatar

That is a wonderful thing your doing. Have healthy breakfast on the lanai. Don’t rush them too much but little by little introduce them to the outside. Buy one of those pools for the back yard.Have a barbeque, and play croquet. Start a garden and ask them to water it for you while your at work. Good Luck… I hope this was helpful.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

@Haleth, I so admire your choices to enhance the quality of life of your aunt and grandmother. You must be an extraordinary person.

augustlan's avatar

What a good person you are! I agree with @BarnacleBill about bringing the activity to them, at least at first. Don’t ask, just plan something and then tell them about it: “Oh, by the way, Bob and Jane are coming over to play Yahtzee Friday night!” Also, try to have some things around that will at least engage their minds, if not their bodies. That Brain Age game, Sudoku books, etc.

partyparty's avatar

You are obviously a very caring and concerned person. As @BarnacleBill says, bringing the activities to them seems like such a good idea. Have you spoken to your aunt’s doctor about help for her? Perhaps she could have physiotherapy, which might help. Good luck… oh and stay positive. You are doing such a good job helping your family.

Mephistopheles's avatar

I really sympathise with your situation. I have a grandmother (quite a bit older than yours) who was also completely housebound until she moved into a home late last year. Even now she incessantly complains about everything and anything, refuses to socialise and always kicks up a fuss at the faintest suggestion of going outside. I don’t resent her in the slightest – getting old is tough.

Whilst I don’t have any medical training, I’ve always thought that she might suffer from depression, and the same might apply to your relatives. As somebody who’s suffered from depression in the past, let me tell you that there are no easy solutions to such a problem. Lows can last for weeks and are near-impossible to snap out of. That said, I have one piece of advice for you:

Be insistent! I can’t emphasise this enough. The only way we can ever get my grandmother to go outside is to wrestle her into her wheelchair and whisk her off to the garden before she can escape. If your grandmother refuses to go to Church, then tell her that you’re going to take her and won’t take no for an answer. Same with your aunt and swimming. Put them in wheelchairs, offer to go for coffee afterwards, whatever it takes to make them go outside. It’s called tough love – make them feel as if you really care for their wellbeing. Letting them trap themselves indoors, no matter how comfortable you make it for them, will only let their psychological and physical health stagnate and decline further. That simply isn’t an option.

BoBo1946's avatar

@Haleth they are lucky to have you!

@BarnacleBill great idea…i vote for your answer.

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