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I don’t know what to do

2 February 2011 by superlative

My Grandad is quite ill suddenly. He’s been suffering from bad back pain, caused by something but we don’t know what, and his doctor has been calling it arthritis. The last time he went to see his doctor he didn’t even bother to examine him and just gave him a third type of painkiller to take on top of all the other things he’s already taking, and told him to come back in a month. It hasn’t worked though and he’s still in so much pain that he can’t sleep, he’s struggling to move around his house, and he can’t stand in the kitchen to cook for himself very easily.

This is my Nice Grandad, by the way, the one who is the BFG, not my Horrible Grandad about whom I would say it couldn’t happen to a nicer person.

So anyway, it has basically become very difficult for him to look after himself effectively, which is not good news when you are 83 and live alone.

His neighbours, who occasionally do things for him and who keep an eye on him, in a bizarre decision chose to phone my aunt in CANADA yesterday to say ‘we think you better come over, he needs someone to be with him to look after him’. So of course she then gets on the phone in a flap to my Mum wanting to know what’s going on.

My Mum was aware that he’d been getting worse not better, and had only spoken to him the day before when he had appeared to be feeling a bit better again. She’s been trying to get him to go to the doctor again and ask for a proper examination, but he hates going to the doctor and he’s worried he’ll be sent to hospital which he hates even more. He doesn’t trust hospitals at all, not least because my Nan died in one on the day she was due to be sent home when they thought she was all better again (this was years and years ago when I was a baby; he’s lived on his own ever since).

So anyway, now Mum’s in a bit of a flap. Her cousin Jean, who lives an hour away, is meant to be going round there today to get his prescriptions and some shopping for him, and he’s been waiting for her to come so she can either go to the doctor with him or be there if he gets the doctor out for a home visit. We think he’ll be more comfortable doing that if he’s not on his own, so he’s been sticking it out until today when she can come.

He lives in Hitchin, which is quite far from my parents, and my Mum isn’t sure what else she can do. She can’t go and look after him herself because of her illness. She can’t have him down to stay at her house for the same reason, and I’m almost certain he would refuse to come anyway (this is what she thinks my aunt was angling for). My Dad can go up and visit him and do some small jobs for him, but he can’t stay up there for all that long because he needs to look after Mum and it’s not his own dad.

So I’m left thinking should I be offering to go up there and stay with him for a while? I don’t want to, I really don’t want to, because as much as I love him I don’t know what I’d do to look after him. I only see him about once a year, probably less than that, and I’m fond of him but don’t know him well in the way that people who see their grandparents all the time do. We’re not a close knit family (Chris would postulate this is because my Mum is horrible to everyone and cite the fact they have no friends as additional evidence, but that’s a discussion for another time). But we are family, he is my Grandad, and I don’t like to think of him suffering and being on his own. If I went, I could at least do his shopping and cook his meals (despite my generally shitty cooking skills) and help him move around, which would take some of the pressure off him.

Chris said to me “If you were old and ill, would you want your family to come and help you?” and of course yes I would. If I had children or a grandson I’d like to think they’d help me and not leave me to it. So I feel I should offer, even while not wanting to, because that’s what family does.

I’m not sure he would have me, even if I ask. He’s like that, he’ll just refuse because he’s a¬†cantankerous¬†old sod sometimes and he won’t have people going out of their way for him or buying him Christmas presents or interfering with the way he wants to do things. He’ll put up with it from my aunt because she’s his youngest daughter, but he just says no to anyone else.

And also I feel like why the fuck does it fall to me AGAIN to sort people out? I always pick up the slack, shoulder the extra bit of burden, and try to help everyone else. Where’s my brother in all of this? He won’t offer to go, of course he fucking won’t. He’ll say he can’t get out of work. He won’t even think to offer.

And what would I do all day at his house? It’s not a nice place because he stopped cleaning properly years ago. And I’d be there on my own ALL the time. And I don’t know how long for either – he may not get any better. He may ALWAYS need help with stuff from now on. And if they try to move him to a care home he’ll point blank refuse and disengage from any kind of support service. He still has all his faculties, so he can’t be forced to go.

So fuck. FUCK. I don’t know what to do.

I’m going to see what happens with Jean today, and see if there’s more that the doctor can do for him. I haven’t mentioned to Mum yet that I’m considering offering to go. I don’t know what she’ll say if I do. Fuck. Shitty start to the day.


  1. Urban Cynic says:

    First, let me say how sorry I am to hear about your Grand-dad, he sounds lovely and it must be really upsetting.

    My personal opinion is that you should offer but mention you don’t really know how you can help. When older people get ill, they usually need professional care and ‘regular’ people don’t know practically how to manage, and emotionally how to cope – which isn’t fair on your gramps either.

    When my Grampy had a stroke, my Mum and her FIVE brothers and sisters (as well as their partners) all rallied round to help but even they found it nearly impossible and they had to get professional care. They all lived very close to his house (some were within a few streets) but even then, the practical and emotional factors were too much to manage.

    The social health services should be able to give you advice of some kind surely? Otherwise you need a family meeting; don’t take on all the responsibility, maybe if you step back slightly, someone will step up. Although if it does end up being you, don’t shrink from the responsibility of trying to help. His day to day care cannot practically fall to his family however.

    Good luck. x

  2. superlative says:

    Thank you. My Mum mentioned some kind of social services support, as she thought he might be entitled to some help, even if it’s just someone who visits each day or every other day or something to help him out with things. She thinks that would need to be arranged through the doctor, so we’ll have to see what he says I suppose.

  3. harold says:

    if he is taking ibuprofen it is worth making sure that his back pain is not an ulceration in the gut. It is a very common anti-inflammatory but should always be taken with food, yoghurt is good. It kills a lot of people in the uk by causing ulcers.

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