Stubborn Senile Grandpa Help
April 7, 2008 10:18 AM   Subscribe

Senile Stubborn Grandpa Filter. My grandfather lost my grandmother 5 years ago. My mom is the only one around to take care of him now. They live in Michigan. Since my grandmother's death, his mind and body have deteriorated considerably. My mother and I think he is getting / has dementia.

My mom decided it was best for him to sell his house and move into senior living. He resisted this with great force, and every day he would change his mind about moving. My mother finally convinced him to move into a 'senior apartment building'. The day he moved in he said 'Get me out of this f*cking place'. He wanted to move back into the house. He is borderline incapable of taking care of himself. We hired a caregiver to come in and cook dinner for him daily and clean for him ( Who we suspect is now trying to cozy up to my grandfather for his financial generosity). The caregiver is still in contact with him.

2 months ago he fell and bumped his head. He was put in a nursing home for two weeks, and then it was decided that he would move into a assisting living facility. He moved in three days ago. Today he tells my mother 'I am getting out of this f*cking place, I hate my bed, I have my own money, I am going to buy another house, and leave this place'. My mom is extremely upset and at her wits end. She is spending a considerable amount of time and effort dealing with this situation, trying to take care of him, and dealing with his inability to see that he cannot take care of himself anymore. He is extremely stubborn. He still insists he can drive, and it is just a matter of time before he crashes into a tree. My mom doesn't have the heart to take his keys away from him. Put simply, he is a stubborn, miserable, impossible man. He refuses to get tested for dementia or alheizmers.

How can we deal with this situation emotionally and tactically? We are running the risk of him going out and writing a check for a new house, crashing his SUV into someone, or giving all his money away to this temptress of a caregiver? My mom is emotionally and physically drained. If I had my druthers I would take his keys away, and freeze his assets. But legally, I don't think this is a possibility. What can we do to keep him safe, and maintain my mothers sanity?
posted by kaizen to Human Relations (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Freedomboy at 10:26 AM on April 7, 2008

You should go to the yellow pages and look up your local Area Agency on Aging. (They're sometimes called something slightly different depending on your location, but they'll usually be found in the "blue pages" section of the phone book, the part that has government and local resources.) AAAs are local government-funded agencies that exist to help individuals and their family members/caregivers figure out what resources are available and how to deal with common problems that arise with aging.

They'll either be able to help you or direct you to resources that can help you. In particular, they'll probably be able to tell you a little bit about your mom's options with respect to the driving issue--in many states, they have programs that are meant to deal with this very, very, very common situation of an older driver who doesn't want to give up driving but is probably not safe to be on the road anymore.
posted by iminurmefi at 10:30 AM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

In fact, you don't even need to find a phone book to locate your AAA--you can look it up (as a "general aging resource") on this website.

I've have the opportunity to meet more than a few people working at AAAs in different cities, and they are unbelievably helpful people with more resources and answers than you can shake a stick at. I'm amazed that more people don't know about them--they're a very, very helpful resource.

Good luck!
posted by iminurmefi at 10:37 AM on April 7, 2008

I would take his keys away, and freeze his assets. But legally, I don't think this is a possibility.

Actually, it is a possibility. It's called either receivership or conservatorship, depending on the state. Someone is given control of everything for his own protection. Consult the agencies mentioned above, and get local legal advice.
posted by JimN2TAW at 10:50 AM on April 7, 2008

I meant: "... for your grandfather's own protection."
posted by JimN2TAW at 10:51 AM on April 7, 2008

Seconding iminurmefi. Local social services should be able to point you to the appropriate resources. My spouse's parents have had some problems lately. A social worker stepped in (at her request) and helped a great deal.
posted by bluefrog at 10:53 AM on April 7, 2008

This is such a touchy and tragic area. Unfortunately, in the past 15 years I've had all too much experience with people with family members exhibiting these same symptoms. When I was the office manager of a very small company, our 60-something bookkeeper had a husband with Alzheimer's Disease. She'd found a local "day care" for adults to leave him while she worked, but he was stubbornly against the idea. He was always trying to walk to his parents' house (they'd died many years previous) and would leave the facility and wander off. Turns out that by law, they could not physically restrain him; all they could do was call the police and call his wife. She tried a daily home-care nurse, which was a bust. Both of the two different ones sent by the agency spent their day reading magazines and watching TV downstairs while Dave wreaked havoc upstairs. In this case, I finally suggested that she bring Dave to the office with her every day, and we all helped to keep an eye on him.

Another co-worker's mother was exhibiting similar symptoms as your Grandpa. She could just barely live on her own, but when placed in a senior care facility, she was combative and rude. Oddly enough, her mind had deteriorated to where she didn't remember the names of her grandchildren and had trouble dressing herself, but she still somehow remembered the "N" word when cursing any of the black aides. In her case (and that of my beloved mother-in-law, who is still in her 60s but in the throes of early onset Alzheimer's), the condition galloped on at a relentless pace, and about six or eight months later after the first attempts at putting them in care, they were more complacent.

Grandpa's mental health might not deteriorate on the same scale, so your mom needs some relief in caring for him. I urge you to contact your local Michigan Alzheimer's Disease chapter to find some support. Perhaps they have a referral network of reliable home health care workers that might be of assistance. It's a sad fact that many so-called health care aides take advantage of the elderly, so it's important to find someone that comes with a sterling recommendation.

I wish you and your family all the very best.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:58 AM on April 7, 2008

Some more resources that may or may not be helpful:

The National Alzheimer's Assocation has a tip sheet with concrete ideas about how to approach someone with dementia about not driving anymore. I realize it's pretty easy for outsiders to just say, "Take the damn keys away!" and I sympathize with the fact that it's a delicate situation--you don't want to totally alienate your grandpa when you'll probably need his trust to convince him to go and get screened by a good geriatrician, to put his assets in some form that will protect them (and him) if his dementia gets worse, and to set up a care plan. Ultimately it's pretty important to deal with, though; if he does have dementia, it's not going to go away (in fact, it will probably get worse) and if you don't stop him from driving now, it's probably not going to get easier in the future. Maybe taking the linked sheet to your mom will be helpful in getting her to start that process in a way she feels like she can deal with.

Also, if you're seriously worried about this caregiver taking financial advantage of him, you should be able to contact your state or county Adult Protective Services (or Elder Abuse Services) agency. A caregiver that suddenly starts to get big financial gifts from their elderly employer, especially if that employer is suspected of having dementia or other cognitive impairments, is going to definitely raise the "abuse" flag at those agencies, and so they may be able to stop that from happening or help you figure out how to protect your grandpa.
posted by iminurmefi at 11:12 AM on April 7, 2008

My mom doesn't have the heart to take his keys away from him.

Please tell her she is putting other people's lives at risk. There are things more important than her embarrassment.

Other than that, this is a horrible situation that's going to become more and more common as people live longer. I went through a much milder version of it with my father and my wife and I are now going through a much milder version with her mother (she's in assisted living and doesn't like it but isn't threatening to move out and get her own place). There are no good answers.

Incidentally, we got Dad's driver's license revoked and my mother-in-law's kids took her keys away. These things are awkward but they have to be done.
posted by languagehat at 11:56 AM on April 7, 2008

Quick note: depression in the elderly is sorely underdiagnosed, missed and mimics various dementias (confusion, memory loss, etc). It's treatable so it's worth having him evaluated by a geriatrician and specifically asking about it.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 12:22 PM on April 7, 2008

We went through almost the same thing with my father so you have my deepest sympathy. The Alzheimer's associations were very helpful. And we did find a financial adviser who specialized in elder care. That helped us martial financial resources and understand our options. Eventually, my father went from his house to a retirement village to an assisted care facility to an Alzheimer's facility. That happened over a span of about nine months. It was the best Alzheimer's facility in his town but yet it was what it was and it was the only answer there was to save my mother and the rest of us. Two things pop to my mind. One, often there is no good decision to be made. There is only the best desicion for the situation. Once you get by thinking there is going to be a miracle here, you can better handle it. Two, pay special attention to your mom. She's caught in the tweener world of taking care of children and parents. The pressures are unbelievable. The slide to dementia is sad and draining. There is no good side. My heart goes out to you and yours.
posted by lpsguy at 12:37 PM on April 7, 2008

The Alzheimer's Association has a 24-hour helpline (1.800.272.3900). They really know what they are doing and might be able to give some good advice and resources in your area.
posted by easy_being_green at 2:16 PM on April 7, 2008

For legal help, go to the directory at this site. These are lawyers with experience in dealing with these issues.
posted by megatherium at 2:20 PM on April 7, 2008

If he has a doctor, speak to his doctor about writing a letter to the DMV. Only California and Texas are mandatory-reporting states, meaning that the doctor *has* to write such a letter if in his judgment the patient isn't safe to drive; but in other states the doctor is permitted to write such a letter. When I lived in NY I reported a couple of my patients to the DMV there - they were *not* safe to drive, I'm talking about people who were completely blind and unaware that they could not see - and their driving privileges were always revoked swiftly.
posted by ikkyu2 at 2:30 PM on April 7, 2008

My stepmother hired her favorite caregiver to take care of her mother, and moved her mother in with the caregiver and her family. I think this was a lot healthier and happier for her mother than living in an institutional setting.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:49 PM on April 7, 2008

if he's a danger when driving, call the dept of motor vehicles. Your state may have mandatory retesting for older drivers, or a program where family members can anonymously turn in senile drivers.

Your grandfather should be tested for dementia. If he is impaired (as opposed to just stubborn) then he may have additional options for treatment and care

Sometimes, it helps to have an outside trusted authority (like a doctor) explain to the relative what's happening and what they need to do. It can be easier to accept than when it comes from a relative (especially a younger one).
posted by zippy at 5:57 AM on April 8, 2008

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