October 29, 2010 11:18 AM   Subscribe

Grandmother in a nursing home. Elderly grandfather caring for her and denying help from others. Grandma not getting the care she needs. What can we do?

My grandmother has been in a nursing home/rehab facility for the past year, after a debilitating heart attack and stroke. She is bedridden and cannot care for herself. She can barely talk and cannot eat. My grandfather - who has a history of physically and verbally abusing her, and just being a controlling, miserable man in general - is her caretaker. Their children (my mom and uncle) are too far away to be actively involved in her daily care. My mom has made extensive arrangements to take them both under her care where she lives. My grandfather has backed out of all such plans, refuses to move, will not accept any help (not a paid-for home aid or even a cleaning lady - we're sure their house hasn't been cleaned in a year) and generally rejects the involvement of any other family members in the situation. My grandma had expressed a desire to live with or near my mom in case of illness. When she's able to express herself, she says she would like to be with my mom. My grandfather ignores this.

This has been hard enough to deal with, as you can imagine. I live close enough to see them on a fairly regular basis, but any and all help is rejected. (I will cook for you! I will clean for you! I will stay with her if you need to go to the doctor! I will drive you someplace if you're not feeling well! I will make some calls for you! I will sort out your bills! All denied.) When I spend time with them, it's clear he would rather I sat quietly and not touch her or fix anything or help out in any way. He spends much of that time talking about how much he does for her and how hard it is on him. The word "martyr" comes to mind.

Last month, my grandfather decided to move her to a different nursing home, because it is 20 minutes closer to his home. He consulted with no one but the nursing home social worker, whom he basically ordered to place my grandma elsewhere. We were not aware of his plans to move her until the day she moved.

The last nursing home was perfectly fine - they cared for her well, she got all the therapies she needed, and she was in a specialized unit with attentive nurses. Her new nursing home has no such unit and it's clear he didn't do his research before placing her there, that it was a decision based on his convenience alone. To say the care there is subpar is an understatement. I have witnessed somewhat harsh handling of the residents during visits with her. This morning, my grandfather arrived at the home at 9am and found her on the floor (she'd fallen off the bed), spitting up, crying, with a few disconnected tubes. It is horrifying. I am horrified. This is a woman who, despite her deteriorating health and terrible situation, still smiles and reaches out to hug me when I see her, still tries to make me laugh, still very much wants to live. My heart is completely broken.

Naturally, despite the fact that I'm a social worker who has worked in the medical field, I've been ordered not to get involved by my grandfather. He has been attempting to advocate for her by making huge dramatic scenes at the nursing home. My mother has spoken with the social worker, who seems oblivious. My mom and uncle's involvement in finding a new home for her, caring for her themselves, advocating for her in the slightest, is rejected by him outright. They feel completely helpless. As do I.

What can I do? What can we do? I am at a loss. I know it's a difficult situation, so any suggestions at all would be appreciated.
posted by blackcatcuriouser to Human Relations (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not any kind of lawyer or social worker, etc., but I have friends in a very similar situation, and they are looking into having the husband declared mentally incompetent. To me, the lack of cleaning would be an indicator of an unsound mind.

Also, do you have any witnesses to your grandmother's expressing her wishes to be with your mom? Because I would think that legally, no one can stop your mother from taking her, if that's what your grandmother wants.

One word of advice - don't be afraid to stand up to your grandfather. He doesn't own your grandmother; he's merely married to her. She is still a free adult, legally able to do as she chooses. And it sounds like she chooses to be cared for by someone else.
posted by MexicanYenta at 11:36 AM on October 29, 2010 [5 favorites]

Can you connect with the socialw orker at the nursing home, the other facility or hospital? Or call vulnerable adults/adult protection in your area to screen the situation? Just because you're forbidden to be involved doesn't mean other social service people are too, especially if there are legitimate health and safety concerns.
posted by ShadePlant at 11:36 AM on October 29, 2010

You can report the nursing home to the Dept of Human Resources/Elder abuse and neglect people in your state. This could take a little research to find them but generally nursing homes are licensed and you may be able to complain to the licensing people.

If your grandfather is mentally competent and not directly hurting your grandmother there isn't much you can do without making a formal complaint of abuse or neglect.

You have already deduced that this is your final answer but are unwilling to follow through because of the enormous blow-up and possible end of your relationship with grandfather.

God Bless You for caring! What a sweet soul you must be, thank you for reviving my faith in people.
posted by AuntieRuth at 11:41 AM on October 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

Try consulting with a lawyer that specializes in elder care. IANAL by ANY means but it seems to me that if your grandmother is legally in her right mind, her health care decisions are in her hands. If she states that she wants to live with her daughter, that should be her choice. Alternatively, depending on where you are, you could possibly get your mother or uncle power of attorney over your grandmother's health care, and then your grandfather would have no way to stop you from moving her to a better facility.

This situation sucks. I'm so sorry. I'm glad you care, though, too many people in nursing homes have no one to advocate for them.
posted by coupdefoudre at 11:51 AM on October 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

Here's a link to the New York State Office of Long-Term Care Ombudsman. These are the people who can help you and your family.

Some companies provide counselling on how to handle issues like your family is facing. Concern EAP is the provider that provides elder care advice and services where I work.

Good luck! My heart goes out to you and your loved ones.
posted by rw at 12:20 PM on October 29, 2010

Most states have ombudsman agencies for seniors in long term care (LTC). If your grandmother is not in New York, then look for the ombudsman in the state where she's living.
posted by rw at 12:24 PM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Why is everyone in your family acquiescing to your Grandfather when your Grandmother is the one suffering?

That seems truly out of whack.

Act in her best interests. Act now.
posted by jbenben at 5:08 PM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Do what needs to be done. Ask for forgiveness, not permission.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 12:16 AM on October 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you suspect elderly abuse, look into the adult protective services in your state, and report it. They'll likely have to follow up if your report raises enough questions.
posted by namesarehard at 7:29 PM on October 30, 2010

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