Did I just yell at Grandma?

On Scolding Your Elders

No Grandmas were harmed in the making of this photo.

How do you deal with it when you confront poor behavior by your Grandmother? This is especially tricky when your elder is dealing with a certain level of dementia and she may not even be fully cognizant of her behavior and its impacts.

When Grandma intentionally does something like cutting up a book (see the previous blog post) I can’t just let it go. I have to try to reinforce that there ARE rules, but have to bear in mind that I’m dealing with someone who may not remember the rules she knew yesterday. It’s a delicate balance.

Interpersonal misbehavior is even tougher to deal with. It’s one thing to have physical evidence as a reminder while you’re talking about it. When it’s something she said, the minute you start talking about it she can’t remember what you’re talking about, so then she’s confused why you are upset.

Being a caregiver is hard. You not only have the usual stresses of work, relationships and life in general, suddenly you’re responsible for someone else’s well-being.  My friends with kids can relate, I think:

Is she getting enough nutrition?  What if she gets hurt?

But with elders you also get:

She just said something weird, is she ok?  And:  How do I convince my elder to take a bath? (More on that later).

The constant worry wears you down in tiny increments. After all, at 100+ years old, it is only a matter of time before something DOES happen. It can make for raw nerves and sometimes over-reaction to seemingly simple things.

Today is a prime example:

I believe I’ve mentioned in previous posts that Grandma doesn’t like having Home Health here. She doesn’t think she needs it and she’s constantly trying to send Jackie home. She also frequently tries to tattle on Jackie for things: “I think she just comes here to watch TV”…”I caught her in the refrigerator,” I try to take these things with a grain of salt and reinforce for Grandma that Jackie is here to help me, and that she DOES help me. Today, however, Grandma was tattling on Jackie (this time in front of Jackie) and I had had enough.

I told Grandma that she needed to stop. At that point she laughed at me. THAT made me mad. I asked her if she thought it was funny when I was mad. She laughed again.

Oh dear…

In my defense (and I am fully aware that there is no excuse) I haven’t been sleeping well and have been more than usually stressed with a transition at work, so my fuse is short. I raised my voice, F-bombs and all. I think I lost Grandma before I even had her full attention. The moment I got angry she shut down. She got up, got her walker and went to her room. I went in to try to talk to her, to explain.  To apologize.  And her only response was to say “I’ll just shut up and never say anything anymore”.

Great. I tried to explain that there was a reason behind my reaction. That I want to know if anything bad happens, but  I won’t tolerate her tattling on home health simply because she doesn’t like having them here.  She wouldn’t (couldn’t? didn’t?!) hear it.

Now not only am I ashamed that I raised my voice at my Grandmother, but she doesn’t even know why.  Truth is, I wasn’t even mad at what she did, initially.  I think it was that she laughed.  At me.  I let my ego get involved.  Something to work on generally, but definitely with Grandma.

On the bright side, after a nap Grandma came out and behaved as though nothing had happened. I wonder if she remembers it at all and I’m torn whether to bring it up.

As I write this, she’s walking over towards me (without walker or canes) with a big “look at me” grin on her face. I guess I’m forgiven.

Gotta go!



Re-reading this post I am reminded of something I saw one day not long ago.  A woman and her mother were walking towards me.  It was an elderly woman and her daughter.  The woman clearly had dementia and was screaming obscenities at her daughter (probably in her 50s or 60s herself).

The daughter was in tears, pleading with her mother to listen, to be NICE.  The mother kept saying the most awful things that a mother could say to her daughter.  The younger woman was clearly distraught.  “What happened to you Mom, you used to love me?  I’m trying to HELP you!!”  was answered with another slew of insults.

Compared to many people who care for seniors  I have it very, very lucky.

To the daughter:  May you find peace with the fact that your Mother loves you very much and that the woman you are caring for is suffering from a disease that impairs her ability to express that.  You are a saint for what you are doing.  Bless you.

6 thoughts on “Did I just yell at Grandma?

  1. Jim Jewell

    Oh, man, some of this is EXACTLY what I go through as a parent. I lose my temper with Liv and regardless of whether I had a reason to or not feel like shit for it later. I have to remember I am a fallible human in addition to being a dad.

    And, I get that daughter’s reaction, too, because I have actually said to my daughter, when she was in full snark or fit mode, “Can’t you just be NICE to me sometimes?” In fact, that happened today, when we were both sleep-deprived post-sleepover.

  2. Shawnmarie

    Sounds like every day is a new challenge. I think many older women have a default response of shutting down when there’s a confrontation. It seems like most women mom’s generation and older were never really taught how to deal with conflict. They were just expected to go along to get along.

  3. Kelly Hache

    Goodness. The entire situation is simultaneously bittersweet and agonizingly comical/difficult. I’m glad you are blogging these stories. I know there are many more memories stored away and awaiting release here. I was thinking the other day, when you posted a pic of GM with a Seahawks Jersey, how there might even be endorsements. :o)


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