Forgive me if this becomes all over the place. I’m trying to keep it all straight myself.

My mother is basically the caretaker of my grandparents. My grandmother has Parkinson’s with pretty intense sundowners. My grandfather is aging and is technically the person taking care of my grandma, but in reality, he has become self centered and in his own words has given up on everything. He also has a very unhealthy attachment to his possessions and material things that has started to strain his relationship with his family. Last year it became clear that my grandmothers state had deteriorated and the in home care people was not enough. The plan was to move into an “independent apartment” in a senior living area that had on site access to care in case of any issues. After a recent evaluation this summer, we were told my grandmother should go to assisted living with memory care. My mom found an assisted living place in the same complex as their apartment and a duplex nearby for grandpa, and the assisted living room is supposed to be ready to move into in February. As of now, they are both living in the duplex nearby with in home care and my mother coming over every day she is not working (part time k-12 art teacher).

Since then, my grandfather has become really challenging for my mother. As mentioned, he has a really unhealthy relationship with material things. I’ve helped move him multiple times in the last 5 or so years and he cannot throw anything out because he’s too attached to it. Our family always knew his stuff was a problem and now it’s becoming a thing. At this point, he is complaining all the time that he had to “give up his house” and “sell his other car” and that “no one cares about everything I’ve aqquired”, so much so that it seems like he is more worried about his things than he is his family. He’s become so self centered and complains about having to take care of my grandmother and that he has “lived too long”. I drove him to the store on Christmas Day to pick up some last minute supplies and he told me that “everyone hates me and soon enough you will too, at this point I’ve just given up on everything”. My mother and her brothers are truly quite mad at him because he didn’t listen to their warning about his stuff and about him taking care of himself or my grandmother, and now is dealing with health issues as a result of being lazy and not taking care of himself. He has started to lie about things in an effort to get his way and is becoming a lot harder for me to love as the grandpa I knew 10 years ago.

All of this hardship falls directly on my mother, who as of 3 months ago was told by her oncologist that her breast cancer has returned. She has a great care team and it’s a modestly good outlook and she’s taking all the steps necessary. She’s someone who doesn’t complain and always does what she has to do, a real no BS lady, but I can see it’s getting incredibly hard for her. Her two brothers have been mildly helpful, but they live far away and quite frankly are more focused on their own families. My mother is 10 minutes away and the oldest, so she’s the one fielding a phone call every night when my grandma starts freaking out and my grandpa insists that she talks to her and calms her down.

What can I even do? I’m early 20s only child in grad school about 100 miles away and try to visit when I can but it’s really challenging with school. My dad does the best he can do to help my mom but deals with his own parents and works a lot to provide for us. I try and pick up the slack around the house when I’m home but that’s not much.

What can I do? I try to listen and help but frankly I came home for the holidays to see my family falling apart in front of me. It’s taken a toll on me and certainly my mom while she goes through fighting cancer (again). It’s also starting to hold resentment towards my grandfather who I deep down love but honestly think is acting so selfishly it makes me sick. I feel lost.


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What can you really do?
And you are already DOING THAT.
That and get an education and get on with the life your mother wants you to have.

You cannot do anything in this situation. You have a mom who has taken on WAY too much. You can suggest to her that she seek counseling now with a Licensed Social Worker in private practice. Tell her this:
"Mom, I am distressed and worried for you. You have taken on so much, and your Dad is now increasingly more needy and uncooperative while you yourself are increasingly needing your own time for your OWN health. I am not saying I don't care about granny and gramps, but you are my priority and I am worried for you.
Would you consider seeing a therapist or a licensed social worker in private counseling practice to get some pointers on how to set limits in your caregiving of you mom and dad for your own survival and your own good.
We have a sad situation here. I am worrying about you and you are worrying about me worry and about granny and gramps and you are sandwiched in between.
You need some help.
I feel like I am not much help; I can only listen, and don't really know how to direct you."

Mark, in all of this I am worried about YOU. Grandmother and granddad are at the end of a long life. Neither is going to change. Things will only get worse for them. Sorry, but we live too long these days.
Mom needs to lay down the law to them now that she has her own concerns for HER OWN LIFE and cannot go on, and that she will be pulling back from all this because she MUST if they don't get into care RIGHT NOW.
And that is what she should do.
But you can't make that decision for her; only she can make that choice. If she makes the BAD choice to go on in this caregiving I hope she doesn't burden YOU with it. YOUR JOB NOW is to get an education and your own life. And you cannot make her choices, and should not suffer for them.

I am so sorry. This is tough stuff. But you are so well written, so loving, and I am loathe to see you waste yourself on all of this. This is a natural progression with your grandparents. Your own Mom may need you in future soon enough (as a breast cancer survivor myself, I hope she does really well again).
You cannot afford to throw yourself away. This will be depressing for you and tough. Consider getting help for yourself. My grandson's school had great folks to turn to in their medical outreach. Depression and tough stuff seems a common "thing" these days and your university should have some outreach for you. USE IT. Get your OWN support. Talk with folks.

I hope you'll continue to update us.
So, I would just continue to listen to Mom. But I would ALSO let mom know that you can do little and that is making you feel helpless and distressed. Because there's really no magic that's going to descend here. This is all going to be tough.

As to your granddad saying he's ready to go? I am 81 so I feel qualified to say SO AM I. And neither he nor I are taking any of that crap-STUFF with us. And he should be told so. Time to let it go. I have long tried to downsize, clean things out, get albums full of pictures torn down to a neat little file box that says "Look at these once and throw".
Time for Granddad to man up for the sake of his daughter. Or he is absolutely correct. You will come to despise him.

Good luck. I have a young grandson. I can so identify with all you must be going through. Few would come to us as you have so honestly and with such an open, loving heart.
Helpful Answer (13)
ElizabethAR37 Dec 27, 2023
Absolutely. I would NEVER want our adult children or any family member to put their lives on hold for my husband (94) and me (87 next week). We've lived our lives. I'm pretty much ready for my Final Exit anytime--but hope to outlast my spouse (VERY briefly!) since I don't think he would do well flying solo at this point.
Your mother’s priority is treating her cancer. She needs to distance herself from this mess. February is around the corner so hopefully your grandmother will move into AL and her care will be resolved.

Can your father offer your mother some support to help get her through this?

You need to go back to school when the new term starts. As a mother myself I would not want to see my child dropping out of school and losing opportunity for two old people who are lingering. I’m dealing with 95 yo parents over here so I know of what I speak.
Helpful Answer (12)

What can you do? You can show this entire post to your Mom and Dad because the suggestions and opinions here come from people who have walked the very path your Mom is now on with her parents.

She must make herself (and her spouse and own kids) the priority so that the stress doesn't give her cancer the upper hand.

She must recognize what depression and cognitive decline (and maybe even hoarding) looks like in a loved one.

She needs to alert her parents' PoAs to act (if it is someone besides herself or instead of herself). This is now the person who takes over. OR, she hires a Geriatric Care Manager and pays for it with her parents' funds.

If no one is your grandparents' PoA then this is a different story. Your Grandpa needs to be gently told what will happen if he doesn't create a PoA for himself. He can be taken to an elder law attorney who will privately assess him for capacity. Or, PoA documents can be downloaded and legally finalized as per his state (I've done this, it works fine). See Legalzoom or

I would definitely at least consult with a Geriatric Care Manager to see what options there are for managing their affairs. "Someone" in the family may need to pursue guardianship through the courts. Other, with no one legally steering Grandpa's affairs, APS will need to be contacted and he gets on their radar as a vulnerable adult. It is a possibility that if things get bad enough with him the county will acquire guardianship and then the family does no management and decision-making for him at all.

But before this happens, is it possible that "someone" can talk to him about creating a PoA (if he doesn't have one)?

Can "someone" get him to see his PCP about meds for depression and anxiety? If he does have the beginnings of dementia, then he is less and less able to deal with problems and get himself mentally and emotionally to a calm state because dementia robs people of reason and logic, judgement and empathy, as well as many other functions.

This is probably why he is seeming "selfish". People with dementia aren't able to care about others anymore.

I hope your Mom will read this and the other responses and try to make a non-emotional, non-guilty decision about how to move forward that is in her own best interests. May she receive peace in her heart in this process.
Helpful Answer (10)
fluffy1966 Jan 2, 2024
Fabulous suggestion here, Geaton, for Mark to show this very Forum topic to his dutiful Mom! Sometimes seeing things in Black and White really sends the message "home"! Mark, you have a few days before you return to where your focus MUST be: Grad School! Before you leave, gently assist your mother in seeking out where she might help through counseling support to better set boundaries with the help she extends to her parents. That would be very valuable assistance, as it might involve using her health insurance, contacting a community agency, exploring a Faith-based community counseling center, etc. Your mother needs all the support she can get, in order to begin to pull back from her far too demanding role of parental oversight. Her health depends upon it! When you return to where your focus must be (Grad School), you would have helped your mother get established with some outside counseling support.
Hello. What are are studying? You have a lot of empathy.

Maybe try shifting your 'headline' from family 'falling apart' to family 'transitioning'. Changing from independant to assisted living is a big step for your Grandparents - a doozy. But it is a necessary step in our human lives. Just like we learn to ride a trike, then a 2 wheel bike, then drive a car. Then back to a mobility scooter, 4 wheel walker, wheelchair & lastly, a hospital bed on wheels. The circle of life. The wheels of life!

What can you do? Observe.

I watched as my folks tread that path of assisting their parents, then their downsizes - house to independant unit to nursing home room. Now it is my turn to help my folks do it.

Just be a their grandchild. Be your parent's son. Finish college. Live your life.
Helpful Answer (9)

Grandpa appears to have dementia. He's feeling persecution, and that's one of the first signs. Also his lying, because confabulation is also a sign of dementia. Hoarding is a mental illness. His complaining could be a symptom too. The people who are mad at him, do they realize that his mental condition causes him to hoard, be unable to follow direction, and be unable to see down the road to consequences of his choices? He appears selfish to you, but that could be due to very real mental issues over which he has no control.

Grandpa isn't the grandpa you knew and love, and you can't do anything about that except point out that he needs help too. That could be accomplished by having him evaluated, but for the meantime you might be able to skip that and cite his symptoms as enough proof. I'd be willing to bet based on what you've written that he needs assisted living too. If that's the case, he might as well move into the same place that grandma is going and everyone forget about the duplex (which was a less than good idea, IMO, since your mom would think she should always be running over there to take care of him as well as grandma in AL).

As you've learned, Mark, these things are complicated. The best you can do is get back to your studies after pointing out your observations to your mom and dad, then let them continue from there. Encourage your mom to put herself first and get well. With both grands in AL and eventual progression to memory care, she could do that.
Helpful Answer (8)

These are just my first ideas, and I hope that others will follow.

I think that you should prioritise who needs help.

First, your mother. If her breast cancer has come back, she needs to focus on herself. If it kills her (and come-back breast cancer killed my mother in 4 months from diagnosis), she can’t do anything for the others anyway. She needs to shed as much responsibility as possible, as quickly as possible.

Second, your grandmother. Look at her needs separately. If she can get care to meet all her needs, it lets your mother off the hook. Trying to meet GM’s needs at the same time as GP’s wants, makes it all unnecessarily difficult.

Last, your grandfather. He quite possibly has mental deterioration of some sort, even just in making past problems even worse. He is a hoarder, he’s selfish, he’s putting his ‘wants’ before the two women who really need the help. He is the least ill. Forget about keeping the GM and GP together. If necessary, their assets can be split (other posters can tell you about this, and it will probably need a lawyer). Let helping him, if at all, come later.

Focus on GM, which will help your mother. In the short term, forget about GP. You are young, you don't live there permanently, there is limit to what you can do. Try to convince your mother that this is the way she should treat things, for everyone's sake. Don't let her follow her instincts and put herself last!

Come on, other posters, check this and provide some more help for OP Mark. Yours, Margaret
Helpful Answer (7)

Encourage your mother to focus on her own health. She can assist her parents best by helping them hire a Geriatric Care Manager who can find Grandma the care she needs right now

Grandpa needs to be seen by a Geriatric Psychiatrist; his depression requires treatment.
Helpful Answer (7)

Your mother and her health MUST come before anyone else's care. PERIOD. End of conversation.
Both your grandparents have issues, and require more care than your mother can provide. Your grandfather obviously is a hoarder which is a mental disorder, plus it sounds like he perhaps has some dementia going on as well.
And if your grandmother has Parkinson's then her dementia is more than likely Lewy Body dementia(as that is often associated with Parkinson's)which is one of the most aggressive of all the dementias with a life expectancy of just 5-7 years, so she will continue to go downhill fast.
To me it sounds like both of your grandparents need to be in an assisted living facility with an option for memory care when the time comes.
Hopefully once your grandparents are placed your mom can better focus on her health and you can get back to just worrying about getting good grades and getting on with living and enjoying your young life.
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I will bet Grandpa has always been self-centered but now as he ages its becoming more pronounced. I am sure my grandson never saw that my Dad could be self-centered. They r so different with grands. He may have cognitive decline or early signs of Dementia. This will make him hard to reason with. My suggestion, place him into AL. There he will be safe, fed and cared for. He needs to be sat down and told that it is no longer about him. Mom's cancer is back and she cannot be at his beck and call. His wife is in MC and she needs him. He needs to do for her not expect his daughter to. This should come from ur Dad, man to man. Then ur uncles should be called and told Mom can no longer care for Dad. The stress of caring for her parents could have something to do with the cancer coming back. Stress will effect her getting better.

You, you need to concentrate on school. But when your home, do as much as u can for Mom and Dad. Sometimes its the little things that pile up and become overwhelming.
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Get Grandma and Grandpa into AL or Memory Care . ( that would probably be best as it sounds like grandpa is there)
Tell Grandpa that you will keep his "treasures" for him. They can go into storage for the time being then begin to sell what can be sold, donate what can't be sold and garbage for the useless, worthless stuff.
Mom needs to make her own health a priority.
The "problem" might be is if your mom does not have the "legal right" to place grandma and grandpa in AL or MC.
Does mom have POA so that she can make decisions for them?
If not that needs to be done but if grandpa does have dementia diagnosed or not, if an attorney does not think he is competent then mom will have to obtain Guardianship.
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