by Joy Loverde
My grandfather has Alzheimer’s. While he exhibits all of the symptoms of this horrible disease, he seems to be physically okay for an 84 year old man. He can be and is quite the challenge for anyone to manage on a daily basis. However, that someone is my grandmother...she is 81.
She is becoming sick trying to care for him. She is stubborn, scared and physically incapable of taking care of her now very needy husband. However, having lived a sheltered life of not planning for her (their) future and never really having to make major decisions in life, she has been thrown into a situation that she is not equipped to manage. He is beginning to decline fast and so is she. Here is the most frustrating part, she has not named an executor or made any future plans for herself or my grandfather. She completely lives day to day in the situation as if she has 50 years left or possibly that the situation might improve. It's heartbreaking. The situation has become extremely sad and dangerous, especially, given their living conditions/environment.
They have six children. At least 2 of them live nearby and they bear the burden on a daily basis to do what they can. It is wearing them down as well. Decisions need to be made.
How do you go about declaring a person (my grandmother) incompetent in this situation? Do all of the six kids have to agree? They are an odd bunch who has seemingly not liked each other for years. However, a few of them might be rational enough to agree on getting my grandmother help.
The sentence that jumped off the page for me when I read your letter was... “The situation has become extremely sad and dangerous, especially, given their living conditions/environment.” Declaring incompetence is one thing. Getting your grandparents out of that situation immediately is another.
Are the siblings who live nearby willing to take the time to research local assisted-living communities and befriend the professionals who work there? The crisis situation you describe is one that they encounter day in and day out and consequently can offer advice on ways to get your grandparents to consider moving into this safe and caring environment. The physical move into assisted-living may not happen overnight, but beginning the communication process will help carve the way.
Also, if things are as bad as you describe, your grandparents also may be candidates for a visit from a third party. Would the siblings be willing to arrange a home visit from a geriatric case manager? These professionals will conduct a formal assessment and offer an objective opinion on the next level of care and course of action. Getting your grandparents to agree on such a visit may not be easy, and again, let the case manager offer suggestions and strategies to develop a tailored approach to your grandparents. Call your local area agency on aging for recommendations on geriatric case managers.