Resources for primary caregivers -- what can I do for my mom?
May 9, 2010 1:21 PM   Subscribe

My grandma has dementia...but it's my mom I'm worried about. How can I help a caregiver from afar?

A few months ago, my grandmother had two strokes in rapid succession. Since then, she's been living in either an assisted living facility or a psych ward -- my grandmother is pretty much in a perpetual state of hospital psychosis, so there's a lot of kicking/biting/refusing to eat/etc.

My mother is the only person who's able to take care of Grandma. She's managing the estate, paying bills, visiting every other day, transporting her to and from doctors' appointments, etc. She's also maintaining a full-time job and handling the cooking/cleaning for the house.

I live about 500 miles away from my mom, and she's already made it clear that she doesn't want me to take a leave of absence from my job to come home. So what can I do to help ease my mother's load without actually being there? What sorts of programs or services might be available to help her? A nurse who could take Grandma to the doctor and stay with her during the entire appointment would be amazing, but we don't even know if those kinds of services are available.

I've thought about gift certificates for pre-made meals, cleaning services, spa days, etc. -- but that's so short-term. Getting stuff off her plate feels like the best gift I could give.

My mom and grandmother are in NE Ohio, in the Youngstown area, if you have any local tips. Thank you.
posted by harperpitt to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
This is a similar question I posted a while back. Good luck.
posted by greta simone at 1:36 PM on May 9, 2010

That must be incredibly rough on your mom. I don't know if you could shoulder the financial burden, but hiring someone else to be there, at least part-time, would probably be a huge help. I'm thinking either someone who will cook and clean, or a nurse/personal care assistant who can do the more hands-on stuff with your grandmother. I'm sure you could find someone who would help with the doctors' visits. Here's a directory of Ohio home care providers.
posted by oinopaponton at 1:42 PM on May 9, 2010

When my mom & gramma were in almost the exact same situation, my mom got a home health aide for her, for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Between my gramma's medicare and my late granddad's veteran's benefits, the cost of the weekday aide was paid in full. For weekends, if my mom needed an additional aide, she had to pay for it out of pocket.
posted by elizardbits at 1:48 PM on May 9, 2010

Just for clarification - Is your grandma currently in one of the assisted living homes, or in a psych ward? Or is she at home with your mother now? Is there a reason she can't continue to be in an assisted living home? Or does your mother not want her there?
posted by barnone at 2:11 PM on May 9, 2010

This is a pretty good starting point.
posted by barnone at 2:12 PM on May 9, 2010

She's in the psych ward right now, but will be transferred back to the assisted living unit when her meds get stabilized. She won't ever be returning home -- there's just too much brain damage from the strokes.

I think everyone's happy for her to be in assisted living; unfortunately, that doesn't handle the estate planning, trips to the doctor, etc., plus the general stress.

Thank you, everyone, so far. This is all great.
posted by harperpitt at 3:25 PM on May 9, 2010

I found this but it looks like the website for Youngstown is some .com site now so it might be wrong. It still lists phone numbers that look good.

Can you set up auto bill pay for your mom's household expenses? She'd still have to deal with the doctor bills but it'd let her just give a quick check to make sure the other bills are right to the others. A weekly cleaning service seems like something that would be very helpful.

If your grandma is violent, can the doctors give her a mild tranquilizer? Not enough to zone her out but enough to make her calmer. You can hire home health aides but I'm not sure how many would be willing to take some one who kicks/bites to a doctor appointment. If she's going to assisted living, they sometimes have a bus that will take people to doctor's appointments. You could call the office to see what services they offer.
posted by stray thoughts at 7:06 PM on May 9, 2010

A cleaning service sounds like a fantastic idea. And for your mom, who is doing the heavy lifting, a certificate to a nail salon or massage center for a nice pedicure or massage. Audio books on tape to listen to. Letting her get away from it all in small doses.

Here is a website, Share the Care, which gives guidance to well-meaning relatives and friends who want to help, but don't quite know how, or who all wind up bringing ten casseroles. Good luck to your family!
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 8:12 PM on May 9, 2010

I hate to give out medical suggestions, but from experience I know that sometimes these patients are slung from provider to provider, without much input and conversation from caregivers.

One thing that I've seen work in elderly family members is a small dose of an antipsychotic drug. OBVIOUSLY you'll have to talk to one or more doctors about this possibility, don't try to figure out anything on your own. But as a point of entry into the conversation, you might inquire whether a small dose of haloperidal or another option, might be a useful experiment in this case. This article talks a bit about risperidone use in the elderly. For several elderly folks that I've known well, a small dose of this dialed them from being SO frustratingly aggressive and self-harming (to the point of refusing medicine, bathroom issues, starting to get rather violent with caregivers) to merely a little stubborn and definitely less-paranoid-aggressive folks. It didn't otherwise make them "stoned" or "flat" - it just dealt with some of the more psychotic delusions they must have been experiencing that were leading them to be so hostile and reactive. Again, this is not a suggestion that your grandma must be 'drugged' but simply a suggestion that you bring up whether there are pharmaceutical advances that might be helpful in the provision of her care and wellbeing.
posted by barnone at 10:04 PM on May 9, 2010

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