It's apperently very hard to be very old.

My Grandmaman is 97 years old.

She was in a great assisted-living place, but after a few near-miss stumbles and some blood pressure problems resulting from her congestive heart failure, she was hospitalized for a while. As usual, she was Miss Congeniality of the cardiology ward, the darling of all the nurses. Her mind is still completely intact and she can tell dirty jokes like nobody’s business, it’s just that her body is tired. She was hospitalized for three months while the specialists consulted with the family and with social workers, and everyone finally decided she wasn’t healthy or strong enough to go back home. On her own, once she gets up, washes, and gets dressed, she’s pretty much exhausted all her energy for the day, and that upsets her incredibly. She’s always been independent and always had a way of getting what she wants, but not anymore.

Now she’s being shuttled from temporary place to temporary place, until a room opens up for her at a long-term-care facility. Why they can’t just keep her in one place until then, I don’t understand. She moved from the hospital to a small hospital-ish apartment, which meant that she had to end the lease and get rid of all her furniture and stuff from her old place. Luckily my mother and aunts were able to keep a lot of her belongings, even if it means they’re tripping over it all in their own homes. The room had only the tiniest closet, so they’ve got all her favorite clothes organized in seasonal suitcases for easy switchovers, and a big bag with her holiday decorations so she can put up her shamrocks and Easter Bunnies and pumpkins when the time is right. Grandmaman stayed at that place for a month, then this week they told her she was moving to a new place – with only 24 hours notice. Her new place is much more like a hospital, with a loud and confused roommate and a bathroom shared with 4 other people. No activities, no TV, and her bed’s too far from the window to give her much of a view. They put the bars up on her bed and she needs to ring a bell to get up, which I completely understand, since she’s a fall risk, but she feels like a prisoner and that sucks. Last night she rang the bell because she had to pee, and when the night shift nurse came in, he told her “You’ve got a diaper on, that’s what it’s for.” She cried herself to sleep in a wet diaper. She’s lost all her independence, had to let go of most of her possessions, and now even her dignity is being taken from her.

My aunts complained, but who knows whether it’s going to help. At least this is temporary – she’s waiting for a private room to open up at this place, where she will be waiting for a room to open up at yet another place, which, we hope, will be the last one. Moving a 97 year-old around like this is so cruel. Nobody in the family can take care of her, because everyone works full-time and she probably shouldn’t be alone, so there aren’t really other options.

I’m so upset that I’m here in Maryland instead of back in Montreal where maybe I could be helping somehow. At the very least, I could be visiting her and playing cards and trying to cheer her up. She doesn’t have a phone at the new place, so I waited until my aunt visited her so I could talk to her on her my aunt’s cell phone, but she couldn’t really understand me on the fuzzy connection. I miss her, and she deserves better than this shit, and there’s not a damned thing I can do. I just mailed her Easter card - hopefully she’ll still be at that address when it arrives.

Antigen, that is so sad. The person who told her that she was wearing a diaper instead of simply helping her to the washroom deserves to be fired. Was that in a CHSLD? What kind of residence is she going to be in once this game of musical chairs is over? I’m just asking because there might be some volunteers available to visit, play cards, or whatever.

It’s unfortunate that happened, and I would be upset too. But it’s a reality for a lot of places. Late shifts in a nursing home or hospital are *notoriously *short-staffed. Sometimes taking care of one person comes directly at the expense of another–it’s called triage. Point being, if there were other crises happening simultaneously when grandma’s request came in, then the nurse made the right choice (although we can still sympathize, and I definitely do). We don’t have enough information to judge whether that nurse made the wrong decision, though.

Old age is not for sissies. You have to be tough to get old! Best wishes to your Grandmaman.

I traveled with my grandfather once, when he was 92 years old. Traveling with a 92 year old is exactly like traveling with a 2 year old, except a much heavier and harder to maneuver one. When he needed to eat, he needed to eat right then. When he had to find a bathroom, we needed to find one right now. It was an exhausting, albeit rewarding, weekend. It’s also one I would never want to repeat, and I’m an RN. Elder care is most definitely not my field.

The last few years are tough on everyone. My mother passed away about two years ago; she was perfectly okay mentally until her kidneys really started to fail. They ran her through three days of dialysis (no other choice, she was at the end of a long trail of senile diabetes and way too old for a transplant.) At that point, she called in the doctors and said “Let’s talk about hospice.” A week later she was gone.

But in the two years before that, she moved from living on her own to an assisted living facility, was in and out of five different nursing homes in Florida, and we finally moved her to an assisted living facility near one sister in our home state. Four of those nursing homes–every one recommended by a hospital discharge coordinator–were just horrible. At one of them, she called me to say that she could NOT breathe–true, when your kidneys are slowly dying, you stop producing an enzyme that tells the bone marrow to make red blood cells. It was a Friday evening. She was literally gasping for breath while on oxygen. I called the nursing staff in Florida and said “She needs a transfusion, get her to a hospital.” They said it would have to wait until Monday when the nursing home doctor could see her. I wound up saying “Either you call an ambulance for my mother RIGHT NOW or I will–and then I’ll spend however long it takes to get your license as a nurse taken away by the state of Florida for gross negligence.”

Mom made it to the ER where the ER docs said it was lucky she had, as they thought she would have died in a few hours without the transfusion. She left her hearing aids in the bedside table drawer at the nursing home, but they had “mysteriously” disappeared by the next day. This time, I explained to the director there that since my mother was perfectly sane when I had spoken to her and the ambulance crew had reported she had no hearing aids in her ears when picked up, and the hearing aids were worth over $5000, I would be reporting it to the local police as a Grand Theft–and guess what? they were discovered in the office safe 18 minutes later.

When we got her back to our home state, things improved markedly, and here’s why: the quality of care changed from “How much can we soak the old girl for?” to “Mrs. AuntPam’s Mom, how we can help you?” It was seriously night and day. (And even in Florida, we found a nursing home that had that attitude.) So, I would suggest you complain loudly to the director of the place that told your Grandma to pee in her diaper. Threaten to write the newspapers and name names. And keep looking. If you find a really nice nurse, one who seems to be genuinely caring, ask her (or him) where he would send his elderly parent. That’s one way to track down the good facilities.

And here’s a last tip (hoping your grandma lives to a happy 110 years)–at the end, what matters is that she knows you love her. Death is like birth–it ain’t sanitary, nor particularly dignified, no matter how much the hospice workers help with that. The love in the room is what gets everyone through.

Much agreed. If your grandma can ambulate with a walker, including with help/supervision, she needs to be toileting and the most basic standards of patient care dictate that help be available to her. The CNA/LNA was dead wrong. Couple of things to look at: She may be able to refuse to wear the diapers, asuming that she can and will toilet if allowed. Also, in some jurisdictions having all 4 bed rails up is constructive restraint and is ok only for patients that are confused insane or incarcerated. If you do not get immediate satisfaction that this will NOT happen ever again, contact your state Sec’y of HHS and JHACO, who is likely her facility’s accrediting agency.

Sadly this is the case, elder care is very low on priorities with TPTB, homes are short staffed, or take on any tom dick or harry who applies and these people haven’t got a clue how to look after an old person (one girl who applied for a job at a private home near me was disgusted to think that she’d have to do something other than sit around talking to the old folks all day!), training seems to be sparse, so even if they staff are dedicated to their carees, they often don’t know what to do in a given situation (and in Antigen’s gran’s case it was a male member of staff, so he may not be allowed to handle a lady patient’s toilet needs).

Sadly the elderly and their carers are often unable to protest against cut-backs etc and the rest of society doesn’t give a chuff about it, politicians have never had to deal with the situation and are hopelessly out of touch - we need to cut 10 million from the budget? okay let’s shut down these two homes and fire 10,000 Home Helps. Sorted. And no torch wielding mob to avoid.


Well, it’s in Montreal, so it wouldn’t be the same agencies, but I know that my family is trying to talk to the facility’s management about the incident. what bugs them even more is that when they spoke to the day staff about it, they brushed it off, saying “well, don’t be mad at us, that was the night shift.” So they’re working up the channels, but if she’s stuck there for a long time, they also don’t want retaliation from a jackass nurse, making it a little complicated. It’s one thing to have more critical patients taking the night staff away from basic sanitary needs of other patients for a while, but to leave her in that state overnight, IMO, is ridiculous. I think I’m starting to understand why my Mom keeps saying to put her down when she hits 75 because she doesn’t want this for herself.

She is able to walk on her own, but she gets tired quickly, so a walker or someone’s arm makes it much easier for her. I suspect the bed rails go up at night because of her dizzy spells and low blood pressure. If she were to try and get up on her own, she may fall, and they don’t want that. As for the diapers, she started wearing a big maxi-pad like thing all the time a few months ago because sometimes she couldn’t get all the way to the bathroom fast enough (especially if nurses were too busy to come help her, which happens) and she’d spring a leak. She’s terribly embarrassed about it, but she knows it’s necessary. I’m pretty sure the “diaper” thing, as opposed to a pad, is new with this place.

Thanks, everyone, for wishing her well. MoodIndigo, I think it is a CHSLD, I’ll look into it. She does get a lot of visitors, which helps her a lot, but it’s harder now that she’s not in a private room. She’s the oldest of 12 children and married a man who was also from a family of 12, so she’s got a few remaining sisters and sisters-in-law who come by when they can, and dozens of nieces and nephews, not to mention my mom and aunts. One of my aunts is taking her out today to the cabane a sucre (sugar shack) and I hope she has a great day away from that stupid place.

Antigen, I’m glad to read that she’s not alone. I know you must miss her, grandmothers are very special, but she surely knows that you can’t be there and that she’s in your thoughts.
Getting old and losing one’s autonomy really sucks, you’re right about that one.

The next cheerful idiot who says, “Getting old beats the alternative!” get a knuckle sangrich from me.

My father was lucky enough to keel over from a heart attack in his seventies, and I plan to take after him. On my mother’s side, they all live into their nineties, and their last ten years are hell, helpless and demented in nursing homes and hospitals (not Alzheimer’s, but strokes and brain tumors).

My sister and I have agreed that if we see ourselves heading that way, first I’ll kill her, and then she’ll kill me. [Oh, wait . . .]

The hard part with her is she’s still totally with it, but feeling like crap a lot of the time. At the last place, where she still had energy to get to the dining room sometimes, she wouldn’t shuffle down in her jammies and robe. She’d get dressed for dinner, down to picking out the right earrings and drawing in some eyebrows. She would confide in me over the phone that she felt weird being in a place like that, because she was surrounded by “old people”.

I don’t know if it’s better to go like this, wearing out slowly and being so aware that your end is coming, or to have your mind go first and have your self die long before your body. With two grandmothers in their nineties, I’ve got one of each, and I can tell you, I’m not liking either of those options. Both are their own kind of hell. I think I’d rather just fall over dead one day when I’m good and old.

S’trewth, two different kinds of hell. My poor mother spent her last years confused and terrified and helpless, not knowing where she was or what was happening–but aware enough to know that she was trapped and completely dependent. I visited her regularly and–thank goodness–she knew who I was right up to the end. But her panic when I had to leave . . .

Yep, the sooner the heart attack gets me, the better off I am. I don’t have the money she had (no one does now, thanks to six years of illness!) and I don’t have a “me” to look after me.

P.S. “*Good *and old” rarely happens, unfortunately.

My husband and I joke about our “early check-out plan” - don’t take too good care of yourself, don’t live too long - but there’s a certain amount of hard truth in it.

We’ve had some experience with grandparents being moved from facility to facility, too - I’m not sure why they do that, but I’m sure there are some logistical reasons. The fall hazard is a reality, unfortunately; Jim’s grandpa took a serious fall when he had just moved into the hospice, and we’re pretty sure it brought the end on sooner rather than later. Not getting her up to use the toilet, though - I would be talking with the facility administration about that, too. If he was too busy to help her right then, that’s understandable, but come back to her later, then.

I hope they can get her into a good place soon.

Grandma is 98; I’m living close to her now, and I take her out for a walk once a week. Encounters with families who are taking their own Grand-one for walkies are… interesting. Both oldsters trying to move in a straight line, both with the agility and apparent mass of a Caterpillar, while their relatives try to steer them away from a collision… we have been able to avoid all of them so far, but Grandma’s custom of waving her walking stick around doesn’t help with the steering.

Baseball bat from me :wink:
(the :wink: means I’m kidding mmkay?)

I’ve an online friend who once upon a time hated my guts for “moaning all the damn time” about caring for my parents. One of her parents died suddenly years ago and the family were devastated. The surviving parent had a small stroke and now has dementia. She’s apologised to me for ever being rude to me (ie thinking “watta biatch”) as she now understands the horrors of elder care.

I know a few people who’ve similarly met with harsh attitudes from people who aren’t caregivers, who changed their mind when they had to deal with an elderly relation’s debilitation.

There’s a woman who lives somewhere near me who was told emphatically “don’t do it!” by more than one person, when she decided to have her mother/aunt/mother-in-law (not sure who it was) come live with her as she thought “they were all exaggerating greatly”. She doesn’t think that now!

A memorable story from my mother, the home care nurse, regarding body deterioration in old age:

Mom: “You’re what, 85? 86?”
Patient: “Honey, I’m only 84!”
Mom: [laughs] “What difference is a year at your age?”
Patient: “I didn’t have arthritis pain last year. I could still walk. My best friend was still alive. And I didn’t have a nurse. At my age, one year makes all the difference.”

I had to cry last week because I saw my father robbed of all of his dignity and independence. But I’m smiling more than I’m crying, because he’s really trying to get his life back, and I’m confident that he will do so. Last week he walked a full 18 inches, turned around, and walked back. He had a little help, but so what?

Never EVER have a stroke, people.

My grandma passed away at the age of 92 in 2009. For as long as I can remember, whenever she’d take out her cane, or, later, walker, or when she had to struggle to get out of her chair she’d look at me and say, “Don’t get old, Rasa. Don’t get old.” And we’d laugh and say, “Well, it’s better than the alternative!”

We were very lucky that she kept her faculties, we never had to put her in a home or any kind of care, and she was lucid until she passed. I feel for you, Antigen. I can’t imagine if we had had to go through that with her, too.

I’ve seen both over the last decade.

My grandfather died of myelodysplastic fibrosis - basically your bone marrow turns into scar tissue and stops making blood cells. You get weaker and weaker; periodic blood transfusions help for a while, but eventually your body shuts down. In the end stages your liver fails. And then the blood transfusions don’t help you feel better, they just keep you alive a little longer. In retrospect, out of mercy I wish he hadn’t had the last blood transfusion. He kept his mind all the way to the last day, and he hated every minute of it. He spent his last two weeks saying “I hate this life.” He was 92 when he died; the last 3 years weren’t too great and the last 3 months were truly hell for him.

Sweetie’s mom had a stroke back in '95. She was left hemiplegic and with some cognitive impairments, she got paranoid and while I don’t know the details apparently the breakup of my brother-in-law’s marriage was hastened in part by his mom accusing his wife of stealing stuff from her house (which was absurd; “the accusations didn’t even make any logical sense” kind of absurd I mean.) On top of her stroke, over time she developed the same kind of cognitive dementia her mother had suffered. Over the 8 years I knew her, she degraded from someone who while she had no short term memory (she once had a visit from old friends, and 5 minutes after they left she asked where the flowers on the table had come from) you could hold a semi-coherent conversation with (she could still recite old favorite poetry and switch to English from Ukrainian or Russian when prompted,) to speaking one or two words in Russian because that’s all she remembered. Aside from the hemiplegia, she was Type II diabetic, had high blood pressure, was fully incontinent and prone to bedsores, various yeast and fungal infections, and urinary infections. It was a testament to how well sweetie and his dad took care of her that she lived as long as she did, but in part, it was because her body simply refused to stop working. She had a massive heart attack a year ago, and nearly died that weekend, but lingered a month in the hospital instead.

She knew me for 8 years; I wiped her butt, bathed and dressed her and, towards the end, fed her, and while she seemed to know and trust me she never once called me by name because she was incapable of remembering it.

All in all, if I had to choose at gunpoint, I’d take the way Grandpa went. If the end is going to be that rotten, I’d like to at least be able to say goodbye to the people who care about me.