What Do You Think? My Grandmother Complains Constantly

(Editor’s Note: A few weeks ago, we launched a new section on the site, “What Do You Think?” In the section, you can ask for suggestions and advice from other family caregivers. Today, a family caregiver to his grandmother would like your input on his situation. Would you like to post your story in order to get suggestions and advice? Simply send an email to Denise.)

I’m my grandmother’s caregiver, and I can tell that I’m reaching a breaking point.  Nothing’s happened yet, but I notice that I’m getting angrier with her than I had in the past.

She and I are different.  She’s on oxygen and has been told by her doctor that she needs to wear it 24/7.  It’s okay if she takes it off for a short break every once in a while, but basically, whenever she stands up, she needs to wear it. 

This is where we differ.  If my doctor told me that I needed to do this, I would make sure that I wore it as much as possible.  My grandma will get up in the middle of the night and go to the kitchen for a snack, which is fine.

The problem is that she won’t take her oxygen with her.  I’ll get up to tell her to go back to bed.  I’ll see the oxygen in her room and ask “is the bed sick, grandma?”  She’ll be like a smart-ass kid and say yes.  I’ll ask again and she’ll say it’s only temporary.  But she has CHF, so without the oxygen, her heart is working twice as hard.

I feel like I’m doing more to take care of her than she is doing for herself.  She’s never hungry, so getting her to eat anything is a job in and of itself.  And when she does eat something, she’ll always say she’s not hungry so I have to bargain with her every single meal “okay grandma, if you just eat this much, then it’ll be okay”.  That would be fine, but again, every single meal.  It gets tiring. 

Also, I feel I’m getting more depressed myself.  My mom is the only other family member that comes over and does anything.  But she gets worn out herself.  There are family that live close by but none of them ever visit or even call.  I know what they’re thinking…” We don’t have to worry about Grandma, Nate’s taking care of her”.  That’s true, but two of those people are my mom’s sisters and they don’t even say thank you.  Their idea of thanks is money. 

I recently went on a trip to L.A. for a week and those two sisters had to share the task of taking care of her.  One would sleep over for breakfast and dinner, the other would come over for lunch.  I hadn’t even arrived home yet, and they were already packed up and gone when I walked in the door.

I guess I didn’t have to write all of that.  I could just ask how do I put up with a stubborn person who doesn’t want to eat and doesn’t want to wear her oxygen?  I’ve tried everything I can think of.  With regard to protein, I use Carnation Instant Breakfast, but she’ll say it’s too sweet.  So, I’ll add more milk to dilute it, but then she’ll say it’s too much milk.  She complains about everything.  I’m almost tempted to see my own doc about antidepressants if it doesn’t get any better.

I’ll stop now, because this could go on forever.  Thank you.

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About Denise Brown

I began working with family caregivers in 1990 and launched CareGiving.com in 1996 to help and support them. Through my blog, I share words of comfort and offer coping strategies and tips. I also write opinion pieces about recent research, community programs and media coverage of caregiving issues. I've written several caregiving books, including "The Caregiving Years, Six Stages to a Meaningful Journey," "Take Comfort, Reflections of Hope for Caregivers" and "After Caregiving Ends, A Guide to Beginning Again." You can purchase my books and schedule a coaching call with me in our store.

10 thoughts on “What Do You Think? My Grandmother Complains Constantly

  1. Sharon

    Why would a person not do what is good for one’s own health? Good question. I have a husband who also has to be constantly reminded to do what he needs to do for his health. My husband has a set of about 10 exercises he is supposed to do every day. That’s basically all he has to do all day. He still has not finished his exercises, and it is almost 6:00 in the evening. I too wonder about putting him on an antidepressent, but I understand they often make one more sleepy. That is the last thing he needs. He got up today and 9:00, and then he slept away the afternoon in his chair. I understand your frustration.

  2. Bette

    I understand what you are saying. Recently, nothing that happens during the day seems to make my mother happy or keep her interest. And she doesn’t want to do anything to help strengthen her legs, including getting up to use the ladies room. Her legs are becoming weaker each day. I don’t know if she can’t remember, although when I remind her to take a little walk, she will get very sarcastic about it. Up until now, when she would have these spells, I would blame myself. That maybe things here weren’t exciting enough…we have 3 young children, so I don’t think that is the case. What motivates older adults that don’t find anything fun anymore? I even mentioned tonight, wouldn’t it be nice if Betty (her sister) were to come for a visit–we live about 8 hours away. She said, “why ?”–I just commented that it would be nice for her to visit with her. Sometimes, I think she is not capable anymore of some of the emotions that I may take for granted. Saturday we had a small open house–we are new to the neighborhood and several of us contributed towards a carriage ride with 2 horses. My mother didn’t really smile and was more concerned with being cold…I try to keep “a stiff upper lip”, but sometimes it can be tiring. Especially, when the kids need light, happy moments in the house. Hang in there, you are good to be taking care of your grandmother, and working on your own patience…(: It helps me to know I am not the only caregiver that struggles with this–I am working on my patience as well.

  3. Emily

    Wow! I can relate to that. I was my Mom’s sole caregiver. She suffered from Alzheimer’s. I have two sisters who didn’t want to give me a break at all. They never called Mom or came over to visit her. I had to find a private home to leave Mom when my husband and I went on vacation, AND I had to pay for everything. So, being resentful of your grandmother’s other family members, is perfectly normal. Now, as for what to do about your grandmother’s unwillingness to cooperate with you. I believe that it is very natural for someone who is ill, to be ornery and complain about everything. My Mom was always arguing with me about the food I gave her, how I gave her her meds, how I forced her to take a little walk with me, during the day. Is your grandmother crying? Is she really depressed? My Mom was crying, she acted like a child. When I spoke to her doctor about it, he told me that he could prescribe an antidepressant, anti anxiety medication(Lexapro). I was hesitant at first but he told me that my Mom didn’t need to suffer. So I agreed. I had to monitor Mom’s behavior for 6 weeks, because it could get worse before getting better. Well, there was one incident where Mom actually got more aggressive, but it lasted for about 5 minutes, and then she was ok. Overall, the Lexapro did help the situation gretly. Mom did wonderfully on it, after the initial 6 week period. She was much happier, very agreeable, and content. I was much happier and content also. If you find that you are not able to cope, talk to your grandmother’s doctor. I am one of those people who is against pills, but sometimes, you have to look at the whole picture and do what is best for everyone involved. Always, take care of yourself!!! WHo is going to step up to the plate if you aren’t able to do it anymore?

    • Kim Loncar

      Yes. We must always remember to care for ourselves or we will be more apt to run out of energy and get burnt out. Exercise stablizes our moods, eating right (primarily plant life) provides energy, and sleeping enough restores or cells. Laughing is also incredibly healing, smile and think of a funny story and laughter is soon to follow (or watch your fav. comedy).

  4. Julie Newcomer

    I hear you. It has really helped me to put things into a different perspective after reading some good books on caregiving (“Creating Moments of Joy” Jolene Brackey, “Designated Daughter D.G. Fulford). Keep these things in mind: She is trying to maintain some control in her life, if she gets hungry enough she will eat, if she chooses to use her oxygen only when she wants to – so be it. You are not responsible for how she chooses to live her end days. When I put myself in my mother’s shoes I see things quite differently, too. We would prefer that elderly people would just be pleasant, appreciative and cooperative so that we would enjoy taking care of them. The same goes for small children, but we know how that works, too. Hang in there, make sure you do things for you like exercise, get time away and good nutrition.

  5. Avatar of DeniseDenise Post author

    What great insights! Just a few resources that may help:

    “Coping With Your Difficult Older Parent: A Guide for Stressed-Out Children” by Grace Lebow and Barbara Kane was one of our book club picks several years ago, but I think you’ll find the suggestions timeless. You can order the book on our Amazon widget on the right.

    “Must I Nag?” was the topic of one of our talk shows that aired in late December. Our experts shared great tips. You can listen to the show here.

    Please keep us posted!

  6. mygrandmas care

    i live and take care of my grandma she is 78 my grandpa left her to pay 150,000 to his kids left her paying a 150,000 dollar loan …every day with my grandma is a new day I came bk to oregon from HAWAII to help my dad with her and her female things…it has been not easy..she has been a very independent person almost all her life …telling a grown up what to do is a hard task in itself…please if you take care of a senior pls be kind patient withthem..also keep in touch with there doctor other wise you will be blamed for their care!!! tell the doc what has been happening and they will help you!!hope this helps..because life is to short to be depressed!!and the elderly cannot be always put in care facility .makes things even ,more harder..just remember you only live once in you life live it to the fullest !!

  7. Warren

    I can relate competely to the issues you are talking about. I am the sole caregiver for my 95 yr old grandmother. She has been with me for about six months. We get less and less calls and visits from other family members every month. They know she is well taken care of so she is no longer a priority for them. I am constantly fighting an independent streak. She was on her own for so long that she still thinks she should make her own decisions. She falls a lot. The minute I leave the house for a minute she starts stumbling around for no reason whatsoever. I can’t lock her in her room, but I feel like a prisoner in my own home. I have come home and found her in a pool of blood once and do not want to repeat that horrible and expensive experience.

  8. Carriw

    I don’t meant to seem cruel, but why do people do this? My mother is taking care of my 87 year old grandmother who has dementia and never wants to take her medicine or wear her oxygen. My mom always complains about having too much to do and having all the weight on her, which is understandable. But if she doesn’t like it why does she do it? Why can’t she place her in a nice comfy retirement home or with her sister or brother? I wouldn’t want to spend my whole life doing somethingI hated doing.

  9. Liz McCarthy

    I know it can be irritating when you are doing your best and your elderly mom/dad/grandparent complains. I have said: “I don’t want to hear any complaints about the dinner. How about just, thanks for the dinner.” It worked although we were both a bit uncomfortable about it.


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