Poor Grandma. Poor Pop.

My Grandma is going to be 89 this year (if she makes it to August). Up until June of last year she was in her apartment, driving (although she had cut back to only during the day in familiar areas), playing bridge with her friends, ending up her stint as a decades-long volunteer at the hospital.

Grandma was always a very reserved and proper, relatively unemotional German woman who loved us but not in any mushy way. Her house was neat as a pin and you could eat off the floor. My Grandpa died suddenly in 1977 and she didn’t show a lot of emotion about that but I know felt some loneliness, but as I said she carried on very well on her own. She has one child, my Pop, and us two grandchildren.

We always joked that Grandma would outlive us through sheer force of will and fear of death. Other than a long-term low level leukemia-type thing and some IBS, she was in good health. She would sadly watch her friends decline and die since she moved out of her house to a retirement village about twelve years ago.

Last year in June my brother had a heart attack but said not to tell Grandma. When my parents returned home from that, it was to a message that Grandma was in the hospital. It turned out she had had surgery for a tumor in her small intestine, and was left with an ileostomy. She went home maybe a week later and had a nurse visit occasionally to help out. It wasn’t clear that she would get the surgery to close up the ileostomy, and she was very clear about not getting any treatment for subsequent cancer, although they thought they got it all.

Around Labor Day last year she was moving about and got severe back pain. Turns out she had compression fractures between a few vertebrae. Cortisone shots didn’t help and the cement procedure was done way too late to help.

So about two months ago she decided to move into the nursing home area of the village. It was tough for her to give up her apartment but I think she was happy to take control and not have to worry about it. Pop travelled out to get her stuff sold and given away, and to arrange to pay all her bills. At some point one of the visits to the hospital revealed widespread cancer throughout her organs, but again she doesn’t want that treated. I saw her over Memorial Day and while she was in pain and didn’t have an appetite, she was lucid and talked a lot about the stories behind the keepsakes we were taking from the apartment.

Long story short, whether it’s cancer spreading to her brain, the painkillers, her barely eating anything, she starting to be very confused. She recognizes when my father calls but can’t quite remember who’s who. He talked to her about me a couple of days ago and she seemed happy to hear about my news, but then the next day she said “Now, you’re going to have to remind me who Gwendolen is.” :frowning: :frowning: He had to tell her about her having had one son, two grandchildren. “Now, did something sudden happen to your father?” (Grandpa) and Pop had to explain about his death.

She knows she is confused and is somewhat disturbed by that, but we think that as long as she is comfortable and feels safe (she was worried for a while that she would be kicked out of the nursing home when she gets really sick), we don’t really mind if she doesn’t remember. As long as she is not really scared or uncomfortable. We are logical and while it would be nice to know why this is happening, there’s no reason to do more tests because she doesn’t want treatment. I selfishly want a name and explanation though.

My father inherited the stiff upper lip but I feel really bad for him. I hear things secondhand but he has to hear these things firsthand and deal with explaining things. It must just be freaky to hear that; I was struck cold by what she said in reference to me. My mom’s parents died suddenly like Grandpa so my parents have never had to deal with decline like this. I feel sad for all of them.
Thanks for listening. I’m not looking for hugs but it’s so nice to be able to spill this and not burden Pop who is trying to just carry on with business and not dwell on emotion! Please feel free to vent on your own situations like this if you want.

My condolences to you and your family. It must be so hard to deal with this for your father and for you.

It’s funny that you posted this today. My family had a really similiar experience with my grandmother. She was born in Poland in 1908 and lived through WW1 there before immigrating to the US. Her husband died during the 50s and I’ve never heard her mention him. She moved in with me and my parents when I was 12 (1998) and lived there until last January, when she had a heart attack and moved to a convalescent home. She began to lose herself, forgetting who my mother was, screaming at nurses, etc. Occasionally, according to my mom, she would come back and apologize for “not being myself”. I’ve been abroad this whole time and haven’t seen her since December, which has been really tough to hear things from my parents but not be able to do anything about it. She died this evening. Even as I type it, it feels silly, like of course she still lives in my home, and listens to her blaring radio talk shows and goes for walks around the block. I can’t believe she won’t be there when I get home.

I think talking about these things is really important. So thanks for giving me a place to vent. Also, sending hugs your way even if you don’t want them. Good luck.

Oh, I’m sorry to hear it. As I said, I feel bad for my father and my grandma, but nothing like if I were that close to her or lived with her. Sending peaceful thoughts your way. Thanks for what you have shared.
Just heard from Pop that Grandma is back in the hospital with internal bleeding. She was coherent enough to understand where she was going and seemed agreeable to it! Pop was deciding on a possible day for interment in case this is it. He’s one who likes everything planned out.

Ooh. Sorry to hear that. Poor gigi, too. Hope things go as well as they possibly can for you and your peeps.

Sending warm thoughts your way, gigi. We’ve been going through something similar with my Grandpa (he will be 88 in September).

Hang in there. Your grandma sounds like a great lady.

Condolences to you and your pop. Does he have anyone nearby to help, or is it better for him to handle things on his own? Sometimes having others around is good, unless there’s disagreement about what to do.

I lost my grandma when I was a teenager. She died at home, and I’m not sure what was wrong – strokes, maybe. She was bedridden for a few months. I’d sit by her bed and hold her hand, but I don’t think she knew I was there.

My mom and three of the aunts handled everything. Maybe I’m misremembering, but I recall that they just took over, and I don’t know how grandpa felt about that – if he was upset or glad for the help.

I don’t think it’s selfish of you to want a name or an explanation. My mom died in her recliner chair. She’d had what she called “brown-outs” for years, and the doctor never put a name on her “spells”. The mystery added to the tension, and I know mom worried about going to sleep and not waking up. Not a bad way to go, but it’s better if you’re not anticipating it.

He has my mom and I know she is there to listen to him process things through. But he is very decisive (absolute thinker) and it takes him a little while to process any suggestions and buy into them. As far as emotional sharing, I don’t think that’s something he does but if he does, Mom would be the one to listen.

We’re encountering another phenomenon. The nursing home calls Pop to tell him they want to take Grandma to the hospital, describing how alarmed they are by whatever state she’s in. For example, the update yesterday was them saying if they didn’t take her to the hospital she would “bleed out” at the nursing home. It turned out to be quite an exaggeration. The ER doc said yes, she has blood in the ileostomy bag consistent with the cancer affecting her digestive tract. But it was normal and not dangerous. Her levels were not alarming (the nursing home does lab tests regularly and could have known that). Upshot was, he agreed with my father’s assessment that the nursing home just doesn’t want anyone to die there.

My father has already made it clear that he knows Grandma is dying and will not get her health back; he just wants her safe and as comfortable as possible. But I guess the nursing home is still worried they would be accused of not doing enough or letting his mom die?? The ER doc said the choices are aggressively treating the cancer with surgery (not an option for us) or making her comfortable to where she will become comatose and die. I thought the nursing home was equipped with skilled nursing which would accommodate someone in a coma; they must have to deal with this???

It was cool because the ER doc didn’t have an agenda; he could just lay out the options since he would be sending her somewhere else anyway. Pop was relieved by the straight talk, especially after the nursing home fluttering.

I know you stated you weren’t looking for hugs, but tough. {{{gigi}}}

I thought better of it and accept with thanks. :slight_smile:

{{{gigi and pop and grandma}}}

My own remaining grandparent hasn’t remembered who I am for several years now. And several months ago, she fell and broke her hip. After getting out of rehab, she now has to have 24x7 care. So my dad, aunt and cousin rotate caring for her. :frowning: This is my dad’s second stint as caregiver to a dying elderly relative (his MIL) and also the second for cousin and aunt (our great aunt who was widowed and had no children). I’m too far away to do any good as a caregiver for more than a few hours at a time, and none of them work outside the home (aunt and dad are retired.)

Your grandma sounds tough as nails, and your family like good, sensible people. I’m sure you will all do the best you can for your grandma. Will you be able to see her or your dad any time soon?

My parents are coming out East for an event in NYC next week, so they will see her this weekend. Hopefully she will be back in her room and coherent enough. They are supposed to come see me the following weekend and then head back down to see her again before flying out.

My father definitely wants to do the right thing for her. He did betray some feelings about it last night, saying that he would sit and hold her hand and make her feel safer about dying, but then that he wouldn’t rush out and do that, that he was coming anyway and would get there when he originally planned.

It made my think about how nice it was to hold his hand when I was little. :slight_smile:

Thanks for asking.

Just to put some closure to it, Grandma died yesterday morning. My parents had seen her last weekend and the nurses must have started her on morphine because she was in and out of coherence. This was after they had determined not to send her back to the hospital at all.

She slipped into unconsciousness earlier this week after not eating for a while. I am glad she was spared the extreme pain that the cancer would have eventually caused. She wanted to “fall asleep and go” and she got that.

My father, being the efficient one, arranged the burial for tomorrow so it’s off to Penna today and the weekend down there.

RIP, G-ma.

Sympathy and condolences to you, gigi. Losing loved ones is never easy, even if they’re better off that way. I hope you and your family can take some comfort in that and can hold fond memories of her in spite of how the end has come.

My sincere condolences. I’ve lost all my grandparents, and my father. It’s hard to watch the generations age. Of course, I’m not aging myself. Not at all.


My condolences, gigi.

Could be the onset of Alzheimer’s.

My mom will be 80 in January; Dad turns 82 next month. I noticed Mom was having difficulty remembering things when they came up to visit a few years back. Our place isn’t very big but she had to keep asking where the bathroom is. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a few months after that and everyone made a big fuss about getting together for Christmas before she got worse.

For the past 10 years or so they’ve been living around the corner from one of my sisters, an MD. Another sister, an RN, moved in with them a couple years ago to lighten Dad’s caretaker load. Mom pretty much needs everything done for her these days, she spends quite a bit of time in bed and eats very little. She remembers she has a husband but not who it is; sometimes she asks Dad to bring him back when he goes out.

Oh, I’m sorry. It was so startling to hear that Grandma didn’t remember very fundamental things; it must be so hard to see your Mom this way long term. She is very fortunate to have family around her, and so is your dad.