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Need Help with Grandmother
July 12, 2000
9:14 pm
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janus
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We need opinions on how to handle a grandmother who appears to have mental health problems. My spouse's grandmother lives alone, is in her late 70s, and is in less than average health. She has three adult children: a son, a daughter, and a younger son. The daughter is my spouse's mother.

The problem is that it seems to me like the grandmother has to know where all her children are all the time. Several times each day she calls her children: at work, at home. If she can't reach one of them she thinks something bad has happened to them, like they're dead or they've gotten into an accident. Then, she calls other family members telling them her thoughts and getting them upset, too. According to my spouse, the grandmother has done this for years and years. We've been married for about two years, so I've only experienced this for a short period of time.

An example: last night we had storms go through the entire area. A nearby lightning strike took out the phone of my spouse's mother. The grandmother (her mother) could not reach the daughter by phone (the grandmother does not drive after dark) and thought that the daughter was in her house dead. So, the grandmother called her sons and also my spouse. Without the grandmother knowing, we went by to check on the daughter (my spouse's mother) and she was just fine; she was in bed sleeping.

Early the next morning the grandmother started calling family members again because she hadn't gotten a hold of her daughter. One son, who lives next door to the daughter, wouldn't go over to check on her so the grandmother called the other son. He went over and found no car and just about ripped the front door off to check on his sister. The sister was out visiting someone. Her phone was still dead.

Another example: The sister occasionally goes out of town for a few days to visit a male friend. She calls her mother once she arrives to tell her where she is and that she arrived safely. The grandmother calls my spouse and her sons to say that that "man is going to kill her," meaning the daughter.

I could go on with other examples. We get phone calls at least once every other week, but sometimes a month will go by without a call like this. I know this sounds very strange, but this is all true.

We would appreciate your opinions on how to handle this grandmother. We want to be respectful of her because she is the grandmother, but this is not normal behavior! Thanks.

July 13, 2000
10:25 pm
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Spirit
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Seems this is an issue for her children to handle. They can have her examined by an M.D. to see if there is any chemical reason for her behavior. Other than that, I'd recommend that all of you keep in touch with her, regularly. Its real tough when our loved ones age and need special care, but that is the cycle of life. Peace to you and yours as you watch over grandmother...

July 14, 2000
9:42 am
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Cici
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I agree with Spirit. Her family needs to band together to help her. In my state (Florida) there's something called the "Baker Act". My mom is a geriatric nurse practitioner, so she's had to hand these over to the social worker before. It's when someone's mental health is called into question by others, either relatives or other important people in the person's life.

If it's determined that he or she is a danger to themselves or others, then they are committed and receive intensive talk therapy and drug therapy.

July 14, 2000
7:43 pm
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heartfelt
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As Cici said in Florida the Baker Act exists as well as the Meyer's Act, which is similar.....seek out those options your state provides and before any action is taken, know that these kinds of difficult decisions must come from nothing less than love.

July 14, 2000
11:39 pm
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Spirit
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Cici: Northern, Central or Southern Florida? Three very differing sections of the state. More than just retiries and alligators...

Janus: Hopefully, your husband's family will understand that you are only concerned for grandmother's wellfare. One always takes a big risk when pointing out that which should be obvious to others. May the peace of Spirit guide you.

July 17, 2000
4:34 pm
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eve
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Janus,

Maybe you could get a third - neutral - party involved to help the family sort out the most important issues. Is the grandmother really the problem? Or is it her children that have the problems. And can the problems be solved by the children alone - or does grandma have to change. (It's always easier to change yourself - trying to change others is often frustrating and doesn't solve your problems). Is grandma a nuisance or a real danger to herself or others. And who wants to change what. Are any of the expectations realistic?

All the others that wrote to you, seem to think that the grandmother is somebody who should be medically examined and kind of be made to see the error of her ways. But I think that there are a lot more issues involved. And not all of them lie whith the grandmother. It seems to be all about control, rejection, power over the lives of the others and the fight for independence.
The grandmother tries to keep a grip on her loved ones by haunting them - or is she just showing her love by trying to care for them? The others try to appease her by proving that they don't need her care. Or to get rid of her by ignoring her. But she wants to feel needed - or loved and she will "fight" even harder if she feels ignored or excluded.

And my reaction to the grandmother would be: gentle whith her feelings (don't say: you are talking rubbish again - say: so you are concerned about your daughter, that's nice of you), take her feelings seriously, but not the "fiction" she uses to transport that feelings. And be firm about the "facts": nobody is in mortal danger, the "children" are adult and lead a live of their own. And let her know about where everybody is if it is so important to her. e.g.: Maybe you can scedule a time plan for your family to call the grandmother (e.g. son 1 calls her mondays, wednesdays and saturdays in the afernoon, son 2 every evening, the daughter calls in the mornings every other day. Your spouse calls every thursday at noon). That would show her that you all care, give her something to look forward to and the calls would be "quality time". Maybe you could also find little tasks for the grandmother. For example: my grandma always was the one who reminded me of the birthdays of my nephews and nieces. She did that very well and I was grateful, because I'm lousy at remembering such things (of course my time planner could have done it, too, but ..). If you ask something from her she will have a purpose and will feel heaps better than when she is just doing things and nobody really wants them.
Just my two cents. Eve

July 18, 2000
9:24 pm
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janus
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Thank you all so much for your replies. There is much to think about and discuss with our family. We believe that she is not a threat to anyone except for the harm she is causing to herself due to the worry. Her youngest son sees her almost every day; the daughter several times per week and speaks to her several times per day; the older son only infrequently.

This is such a complicated situation, so I imagine there's more than one thread going on, like control, maybe a chemical imbalance, family history of behaviors, etc.

For our part, we try to keep her involved in our lives like stopping by for visits and having her over for dinner, but we both work so it's not easy. Having aging relatives is difficult to deal with. Keeping love at the center puts all things in focus.

I'm not sure if our state, Georgia, has something like the Baker or Meyer's act, but I'll check that out. Thank you for the suggestion. She has been committed before for a brief period, so this wouldn't be a new thing. It's do drastic, though. But we need to keep her health in mind.

I like the idea about tasks. She has a lot of time on her hands, but is in poor health do to a myriad of medical conditions. She has such a good heart and would cook you dinner every night if you asked her! I'd have to be creative here because she doesn't have much dexterity to make craft things, but she likes to cook and does it so well. So, we'll have to work on ideas here that are not taxing for her but are enjoyable to her. Any ideas?

July 19, 2000
5:25 am
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Hi Janus,
I think Eve' advice was absolutey right.

There is a world of difference between needing to be committed and the symptoms your grandmother is displaying at the moment.

My grandmother is now in care due to Altzheimers (sp?) and youa re right to look for signs of that, but I think that the things your grandmother does are typical of elderly people who no longer have family living with them to care for, they can't turn that instinct off!

If she likes to cook then why not ask her if she would make cakes and cookies for the family or maybe for local charities or hospitals?

Does she live alone? if s she may be lonely, a visit from soemone is great but if youa re alone it is only a small part of the dya gone with the rest if it filled with nothing but your own company.

she is trying to keep being part of the family and needs reassurance that she is still important. She is clearly very worried that something bad will happen to people she loves and that is an insecurity thing, the bst thing youc an do is to follow eve's advice - reassure her but point out to her the realitys.
And keep visiting her!
Peace
Hazza

July 19, 2000
10:17 am
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Cici
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Spirit...I think it's in Nothern and Central for sure (my Mom has been a geriatric nurse in both places), I don't know about South FL, but I'm pretty sure it was passed by the state legislature, so it must be statewide.

Belive me, I know there's more to florida than retirees and alligators! I've lived here all my life, just in different parts of the state!

July 19, 2000
12:36 pm
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eve
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Janus,
you could ask her to write down her special recipees for you.
My grandmother also wrote down a family history, about the times when she was a young girl. It was quite interesting to read and it brought her mind back to a time when she was full of life - even though it were hard times (war was on in Europe, her younger brother died of tuberculosis...). She also liked to take care of her great-grandchildren, and my sisters were very grateful for their afterternoon off. I guess it depends on what she still can do and what she wants to do. Best wishes for all of you. Eve

July 20, 2000
9:56 pm
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Spirit
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You could set her up with a tape recorder if writing isn't an option. She can tape her recipes and little antidotes, you and your husband can put them together and make a book out of them. What a treasure for all family members to pass down the generations. You have a very good heart. Love is expressed through actions, and your love for grandmother is very evident. Peace to you and yours, and hugs to grandmother.

Cici: I've lived here for three years, and I love it! May be the lightening capitol of the USA, but there's no beating the greenery, the people and the sweet tea! I'm smack dab in the center, less chance of a hurricane, ya think?

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