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My grandmother's house is no longer suitable for her. What can I do?


Question: My grandmother is living in a house that is no longer suitable for her. She has always had a fear of aged care homes so that is not an option. I was going to rent a house in her home town and encourage her to live with me, thinking my family would offer some support as she is very ill and cannot be left alone at any time. They have made it clear, however, that they will not help and that I would be on my own. When I try to talk to them they become aggressive, so I no longer try. I don't think I can look after my grandmother on my own. I'm very upset about the state she is living in. There is no hot water in the house, she cannot bathe, only half of the house has electricity and there are steps she can't handle. She has fallen twice in the last month. She is not well enough to cook for herself and her son, who is living with her, has Asperger’s and does not cook. He is not able to understand her needs. Because she owns farmland, which she won't sell as she wants to leave it to her son, the only options for her are private rental or aged care. I worry about her a lot and have become very emotional about the situation because there does not seem to be a way out for her. I just don't know what to do. I've rung various organisations but they've pointed out the limited options. I rang her doctor but he was no help at all. I feel like my family are basically just waiting for her to die.

Dr Amy: Dr Amy: You are in a difficult situation, that's for sure. I think your idea of moving to her town and having her live with you is an option you may want to explore. You mention that the family says they will not help and that you can count on being on your own on this. Still, I recommend finding out how much private home care would cost were someone to come to your house a few times a week, then share this information with the family and ask if they would be willing to chip in. Sometimes family members will respond positively to a concrete plan if they understand the costs.

If your family will not help and you cannot afford home care on your own, or if your grandmother will not move, I wonder if you can help make her current home more safe. As hard as it may be for you, if she is of sound mind, she has the right to stay where she is--even if it doesn't seem like a good option to you. Perhaps one of the reasons she stays is to provide a home for her son. Are there community resources to help him? Can you talk with your grandmother to explore possibilities? Perhaps her doctor would be willing to call on her to discuss the health and safety concerns. I am not sure from your letter why there is only electricity in half the house and why there is no hot water. Is this something you can help navigate? The conditions of your grandmother's house as you describe them do sound unsafe, so I hope you are able to get some help for her.

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