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81 year old Grandfather has cancer; grandmother doesn't care


Coping Learning to deal with one's emotions and loss.

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Old 28th September 2017, 7:54 AM   #1
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81 year old Grandfather has cancer; grandmother doesn't care

Title is self explainatory really! For some background first:
My grandfather was diagnosed with stomach cancer around 4 weeks ago. He was hospitalised and underwent a 6 hour operation where doctors removed half of his stomach, he miraculously survived it and has recovered rather well so far. After a 16 day stay in hospital he was discharged. He has also started eating small amounts.
He has an appointment with the oncologist next week where we will know if he is going to survive or if he is slowly dying, to be blunt.
A problem here is my grandmother. She has become quite senile and egocentric, to the point where she doesn't want to look after him. She has been terribly nasty whereby he wasn't home from hospital for an hour before she began telling him how much of a burden he is.
We visited him later in the day and he started to cry. It made me deeply upset, seeing an unwell cancer patient (my grandfather no less) under additional stress in the hands of a heartless woman. It would be anxiety inducing enough fighting cancer let alone having to live in an abusive, scary environment.
My parents decided he stay with them for the time being just to get him out of that toxic environment. They're doctors so he's under constant medical supervision too.
Seeing how miserable he was with my grandmother cut me deep, especially seeing him cry.
Any advice on how to shake this grief? I'm spending as much time with him as I can because I never know what the doctor will say next week. I'm just feeling so sad for him in the wake of seeing him look so miserable from feeling worthless and being verbally abused.
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Old 28th September 2017, 8:09 AM   #2
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I'm sorry, this sounds like a tough deal although I'm glad your grandfather was able to get out. I'm sure he's hurting.


My advice is simple, but maybe pretty difficult to implement: forgive your grandmother. If she's senile, she's not herself. She's basically regressing emotionally and mentally to a toddler, and she can't help it.


There's a lot of tragedy associated with getting older. It's certainly not for sissies. We all soldier on as best we can.
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Old 28th September 2017, 8:20 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by GorillaTheater View Post
I'm sorry, this sounds like a tough deal although I'm glad your grandfather was able to get out. I'm sure he's hurting.


My advice is simple, but maybe pretty difficult to implement: forgive your grandmother. If she's senile, she's not herself. She's basically regressing emotionally and mentally to a toddler, and she can't help it.


There's a lot of tragedy associated with getting older. It's certainly not for sissies. We all soldier on as best we can.
Thank-you.
I do forgive her, although she hasn't officially been diagnosed with any form of dementia yet my parents tend to think she's showing signs of it through her toddler like behaviour. It is almost like she is a jealous child lashing out at the fact someone else has the attention at the moment.
A comfort for now is knowing he's in a happy and safe environment away from the stress of his previous one.
I'm just struggling to cope with the fact he was ever subjected to such cruel actions. It is so saddening to think back to his tears.
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Old 28th September 2017, 8:53 AM   #4
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How to cope?

One method I found to be productive is connecting with others and sharing the grief socially. I've noted over the decades when things aren't peachy and people are struggling, especially with health or life-ending, they tend to isolate. I did the same when caregiving and had to force myself out of that mindset to accept that nearly all of us go through this in one way or another so we have a lot of company in the journey.

It sounds like grandpa is in good hands and is loved. If grandma is alone, even though her behaviors are apparently repugnant now, she's at risk. The hard part is mourning and grieving who she was for life and accepting what's here now. That was a large challenge I had to face as a dementia caregiver. Therapy provided the tools and social contact provided a context. Best wishes!
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Old 28th September 2017, 10:09 AM   #5
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I lived a similiar case with my grandmother too.
My grandfather had Dementia with Lewy Bodies. Things with him became very hard, therefore, I can tottaly understand the pain and suffering for the caregivers.
Old people become selfish and less empathetic with age.

In my case, it was difficult to make my grandmother understand that my grandpa was not a healthy person anymore, and that she couldn't be mean and nasty to him because of the illness. But it was impossible for her to understand. Sometimes it seemed to me, she was really looking to his passing away.
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Old 28th September 2017, 10:37 AM   #6
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Senility may very well be the main reason for your grandmother's "uncaring " stance.

However I think many old people have stayed married not because of love and feelings but merely because it was expected of them. They live their lives in "roles", the mother, the father, the grandmother, the grandfather... and stick together for the good of themselves or the family and not necessarily for the good of their respective partner, who they at best may tolerate or at worst actually hate.
Loads of water has flowed under that bridge over the years and not all of it can be easily forgotten or forgiven, I guess.
Introduce a crisis where real feelings are needed, then all of that hurt and resentment may resurface and the last thing they want is to be a carer...

I also think that some old people are barely managing to look after themselves and the thought of taking on an invalid is just far too much for them to contemplate so they distance themselves and opt out of the caring role.

Cancer and potential death is a huge deal and some people, even young people cannot deal with it, so they want to run away as far as possible, maybe that is essentially what she is doing here with your grandfather.
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Old 28th September 2017, 11:42 AM   #7
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Part if it is you need to recognize you are losing her too, just in a different way. A characteristic of Alzheimer's is becoming very ego centric. Your grandmother isn't doing this intentionally. She's scared & therefore resentful.


Love them both as much as you can't because your time with both is probably growing short.


Hugs. This part of the cycle of life sucks.
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Old 28th September 2017, 6:12 PM   #8
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People cope with pain in some strange ways.

My grandfather had several heart conditions that resulted in a triple bypass. It was a miracle in itself that he survived the operation for he was very old. So old that surviving was kinda his day to day and he relied heavily on my Grandmother to give him medication and take him to the rest room and clean him when he didn't make it. There's very little dignity at that age and the people who care for you (particularly if they've been with you over 50 yrs) feel the burden of it too.

When he died she didn't cry. But she gave superficial remarks about the funeral home compared to some of the other funerals she'd seen. The next day she threw out all of his clothes or gave them away. She gave me all of his military ribbons and such. And still yet, not a single tear.
She talked about starting to travel again now that she didn't have the responsibility of my grandfather and a lot of other off comments about maybe marrying again. Her children were mad at her and wondered how she could be so heartless and dry about this.

I visited her a couple months later when I came into town. We got to reminiscing about my grandfather and the camping trips we used to go on. We were laughing and then soon she was crying. She wondered if he knew how much she loved him because of the last few years of bickering and how slanted she was towards him for weighing on her like that. I knew he did.

So really. It's less of her needing a lecture from people on the outside of things and more the need to alert her to how quickly these moments are passing and if this is the last one she'd want to remember.
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Old 28th September 2017, 11:13 PM   #9
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Aww that's so sad.

Before my Gma died she exhibited similar behaviors for over a year.

Sometimes she'd even start crying and asking for her mom and dad who had been dead for over 50 years. It was heartbreaking to watch.

Love them both. Forgive them both.
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Old 29th September 2017, 7:13 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by carhill View Post
How to cope?

One method I found to be productive is connecting with others and sharing the grief socially. I've noted over the decades when things aren't peachy and people are struggling, especially with health or life-ending, they tend to isolate. I did the same when caregiving and had to force myself out of that mindset to accept that nearly all of us go through this in one way or another so we have a lot of company in the journey.

It sounds like grandpa is in good hands and is loved. If grandma is alone, even though her behaviors are apparently repugnant now, she's at risk. The hard part is mourning and grieving who she was for life and accepting what's here now. That was a large challenge I had to face as a dementia caregiver. Therapy provided the tools and social contact provided a context. Best wishes!
Thank-you.
Yes I'm definitely guilty of isolating myself in hard situations, I'm not great at expressing my feelings verbally. I'm working on it though. I find journal writing and these forums the easiest way to consolidate my thoughts.
I should have mentioned in my original post that my grandmother has always been quite abrupt. It's just her personality, so I'm not sure if it's early dementia or just her personality. Either way it's not the sort of person a sick man needs to be around. Thanks again for your input.
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Old 29th September 2017, 7:15 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by loverboy69 View Post
Aww that's so sad.

Before my Gma died she exhibited similar behaviors for over a year.

Sometimes she'd even start crying and asking for her mom and dad who had been dead for over 50 years. It was heartbreaking to watch.

Love them both. Forgive them both.
I'm sorry for your loss. That would have been heartbreaking to see.
Thank you for your input. My grandma has been displaying rapid moodswings too. She will play the loving wife character and then within a minute she will snap at him and start hurling abuse. It's obviously a sign of mental faculties not exactly being in balance for whatever reason. Old age isn't fun.
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Old 29th September 2017, 7:23 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Frostedflake View Post
People cope with pain in some strange ways.

My grandfather had several heart conditions that resulted in a triple bypass. It was a miracle in itself that he survived the operation for he was very old. So old that surviving was kinda his day to day and he relied heavily on my Grandmother to give him medication and take him to the rest room and clean him when he didn't make it. There's very little dignity at that age and the people who care for you (particularly if they've been with you over 50 yrs) feel the burden of it too.

When he died she didn't cry. But she gave superficial remarks about the funeral home compared to some of the other funerals she'd seen. The next day she threw out all of his clothes or gave them away. She gave me all of his military ribbons and such. And still yet, not a single tear.
She talked about starting to travel again now that she didn't have the responsibility of my grandfather and a lot of other off comments about maybe marrying again. Her children were mad at her and wondered how she could be so heartless and dry about this.

I visited her a couple months later when I came into town. We got to reminiscing about my grandfather and the camping trips we used to go on. We were laughing and then soon she was crying. She wondered if he knew how much she loved him because of the last few years of bickering and how slanted she was towards him for weighing on her like that. I knew he did.

So really. It's less of her needing a lecture from people on the outside of things and more the need to alert her to how quickly these moments are passing and if this is the last one she'd want to remember.
Thank-you for your input. Wow, that's a remarkable story. Condolences to your loss. People express their feelings and then grieve in different ways, obviously combining your grandma's age with that explains her behaviour.
The thing is in my situation (I should have mentioned in the original post) is that my grandmother has supposedly always had a nasty side to her, I had never seen much of it but my mother had recently told me some stories about things she's said about other people, just general gossip. My grandmothers sister verified that she had been quite bitchy since she was young. I think now it is heightened coupled with her old age, could also be an onset of early dementia to precede that. It is what it is, nobody can change her attitude but I'm still feeling that residual sadness after seeing him so miserable, no less in tears over it. I feel like crying whenever I think of how heartbroken he is.
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Old 29th September 2017, 7:29 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by d0nnivain View Post
Part if it is you need to recognize you are losing her too, just in a different way. A characteristic of Alzheimer's is becoming very ego centric. Your grandmother isn't doing this intentionally. She's scared & therefore resentful.


Love them both as much as you can't because your time with both is probably growing short.


Hugs. This part of the cycle of life sucks.
Thank-you for your words.
I've recently found out that she has had a nasty side to her for most of her life. So I'm not too sure if it's an old age induced type of illness or just her general attitude. I wasn't in tune with a lot of it as I've never had any unpleasant dealings with her but my mom and great aunt had told me a little about her past, just with general gossiping about people and that sort of thing. I think now it is heightened more with her age. I'm just feeling a lot of residual sadness after seeing him so distressed a couple days ago. I thought it would pass as I'm usually quite resilient but I still can't shake it.
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Old 29th September 2017, 7:37 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by elaine567 View Post
Senility may very well be the main reason for your grandmother's "uncaring " stance.

However I think many old people have stayed married not because of love and feelings but merely because it was expected of them. They live their lives in "roles", the mother, the father, the grandmother, the grandfather... and stick together for the good of themselves or the family and not necessarily for the good of their respective partner, who they at best may tolerate or at worst actually hate.
Loads of water has flowed under that bridge over the years and not all of it can be easily forgotten or forgiven, I guess.
Introduce a crisis where real feelings are needed, then all of that hurt and resentment may resurface and the last thing they want is to be a carer...

I also think that some old people are barely managing to look after themselves and the thought of taking on an invalid is just far too much for them to contemplate so they distance themselves and opt out of the caring role.

Cancer and potential death is a huge deal and some people, even young people cannot deal with it, so they want to run away as far as possible, maybe that is essentially what she is doing here with your grandfather.
Definitely. They had become complacent playing that husband and wife role due to their age and became co dependent on each other as a result, but it's brought up issues that clearly hadn't gone away. They had some marital issues about 10 years ago that they sorted out but she is harbouring grudges, he has let it all go. Since his diagnosis, hospitalisation and discharge all she has done is bring up the past and use that as a reason to not want to look after him or even treat him with the basic care and compassion any spouse should. So the hurt that's resurface you mentioned is that.
She can be scared, it's human to be. But she is going about it the wrong way. According to my mom she has a history of a nasty tongue from an early age so I'm not sure if it's an elderly thing or an attitude thing. Nobody can change her now but a cancer patient no less shouldn't ever be subjected to abuse. It's heartbreaking.
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Old 29th September 2017, 7:42 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Marco Valerio View Post
I lived a similiar case with my grandmother too.
My grandfather had Dementia with Lewy Bodies. Things with him became very hard, therefore, I can tottaly understand the pain and suffering for the caregivers.
Old people become selfish and less empathetic with age.

In my case, it was difficult to make my grandmother understand that my grandpa was not a healthy person anymore, and that she couldn't be mean and nasty to him because of the illness. But it was impossible for her to understand. Sometimes it seemed to me, she was really looking to his passing away.
Absolutely the same sort of scenario with my grandma. There is no insight, no empathy, no compassion at all for him. We have tried explaining to her that he's unwell with cancer but she minimises his predicament. In saying that the abuse she has hurled at him proves her lack of concern.
My heart just breaks for him, nothing is making me sadder and I haven't even lost him yet.
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