Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Family Dynamics and Caregiving Part 1

When we moved in with my GMA to help care for her and her house, we were moving in during a really miserable dramatic time in my family. I won’t go into all the details, but the short version is my Aunt (GMA’s youngest child) and her middle daughter had been living in the house with GMA. My cousin had 2 kids and a revolving bedroom door for any man who looked at her twice. Aunt and Cousin were supposed to help GMA with the house and anything else she needed or let my dad know if they couldn’t. Well come to find out instead there had been some thieving going on and general trashing of the house and some other awful things. So instead of taking care of GMA they were causing way more harm. A series of events happened that caused cousin to be kicked out of the house and a restraining order put against her coming near anyone in my family or our properties. Aunt was given the opportunity to stay here and take care of her mother or leave with her child and grandchildren. She chose to leave with her daughter and granddaughters. Good riddance.

At that point, it left GMA alone in this big house with no help and no one to look after her. GMA was in her mid 70’s and had a degenerative brain disease and had a history of falling…a lot. We were living in an apartment about 12 miles away in Peoria and our lease was up. I talked to Hubby about offering my dad to move in with GMA for a while to see how things would go. See my relationship with my GMA was VERY say the least. I wasn’t sure either of us would survive living together. After talking to Hubby, I called my dad and told him that we would be willing to move in and help care for the house and GMA. I then called my GMA to talk to her about it and both GMA and Dad were relieved and grateful.

A friend of mine had a cleaning company at the time and she sent in one of her crews to scour the house. My GMA had always kept an immaculate house. Always. So when we came over for the first time during all this we were kind of shocked to see the condition of the house. Aunt and Cousin had been out of the house but none of their stuff was out. We had to pack up all of their stuff and get it out. So when we walked in it smelled like poopy diapers and nastiness in the house. There was nastiness on the walls, the floors were gross, and the bathrooms looked like they hadn’t been cleaned…ever. It was just gross. Anyway, my friends cleaning crew came in and literally cleaned ceiling to floor. Everything. Washed all the walls, floors, bathrooms, kitchen, and baseboards. You name it they cleaned it. At this time I was busy trying to pack up our apartment and clean it, plus packing up everything at the house to get it out, plus being a mom to a 3 year old and Hubby working a lot of hours. It was insane. Oh yeah, and my little brother was getting married the same weekend we were moving in. Fun times. Before we moved anything in, we painted all of the rooms that were to be ‘ours’. GMA had her room and a bathroom and then of course we shared the common areas of the house (living, dining and kitchen).

Finally we got all moved out of the apartment and all moved into the house. This was in September. Things with GMA were going ok. There was a lot of adjusting for all of us. For Princess I tried to protect her from any of the issues between me and GMA and just let her have her relationship with her G-GMA without any past BS from my relationship with GMA. It wasn’t easy though. When we first moved in we noticed a lot of things about GMA and her mood swings and different things. She would be high as a kite one day and then literally couldn’t get out of bed and sobbing for the next 3 days. Then she would be manic and not sleep for 4 days and scrubbing every square inch of the house. It was insane. We knew that something was not right. The family had known for a really long time that she was probably depressed and needed to be medicated, but GMA was the type of person to go on anti-depressants for a while and as soon as she felt better she’d go off. Big problem. So after this cycle went on for a bit, I started doing some research and we really paid close attention to pretty much everything GMA did. Hubby and I came to the conclusion that she had to be bi-polar at the very least. My mom took GMA to all of her Doctor appointments and so I talked to my mom. She said she would talk to GMA’s doctor at her next appointment.

GMA after high school, in the 50's

In October we found out about MIL’s cancer spreading to her brain and started making plans to get her moved out here as soon as possible. By the end of October we had her room all ready with a nice bed, dresser, book case full of family pictures and books for her, a nice rocking chair and a TV. Then Hubby flew out to get her and bring her home with him. My GMA seemed to be looking forward to having another ‘senior’ in the house with her…maybe she planned on them ganging up on me or something ;). But it seemed to be something that she looked forward to and was excited about. By this point, we were having some issues. There were certain things GMA was not allowed to do, for her safety, like clean anything high up (ceiling fans, windows, top shelves of cabinets, top of the fridge). Often we would have to take the step ladders and hide them, and then she just resorted to dining room chairs. Once I even found her trying to stand up on an office chair…the kind with WHEELS ON IT! The woman was a danger to herself unless she was watched 24 hours a day. When I would tell her she couldn’t get up on chairs or do things that she had been used to doing her whole life, she didn’t like that. I can’t really blame her, but I was not doing it to try and be ‘the boss’ I was doing it for her safety…and the sanity of those around her. Once MIL got here, GMA would ‘help’ me take care of here and I gladly let her help as much as I could. That was definitely something she could do that was good for everyone involved. I think the two of them really got along so well because they were a lot alike in that they were both so independent and didn’t want to feel like a burden to anyone. They would spend hours watching TV together and talking. They went to church together a few times before MIL just couldn’t go anymore unless we were with her.

But the worse MIL, the worse things got with GMA. I don’t know if the two are related but it seemed that the further MIL’s disease progressed the more pronounced GMA’s behaviors were. We finally had to take her to a new Neurologist because her old one had the nerve to say that all of the issues we were having in the home were ‘personality conflicts’ between she and I. We sought out a new neuro who came highly recommended and at the very first appointment she confirmed our thought of GMA being bi-polar.



  1. Family dynamics are never easy. Kudos to you for stepping up.

  2. Wow you have so much going on! It is wonderful that you were able to move in and help... I just don't understand the ones that were there who could do that to anybody much less family?


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