Dear Thelma: Taking care of grandma is driving me mad

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Dear Thelma,

I desperately need your help.

Three weeks ago, my father told me that my grandmother would be living with my family. At first, I was ecstatic, but that enthusiasm soon turned into bitter hatred for my grandmother.

It started last week when I was doing my university assignments. I needed my grandmother to be quiet so that I would be able to do my assignments and hand them in on time – and I told her so – but she kept on being so noisy.

My paternal grandmother has hearing problems. I know I need patience to take care of her if my parents are not at home, but I've lost it in just three weeks.

This week was revision week because my final exam will start next Monday. I was focused on revising for it; I don't want to fail. But my grandmother kept bugging me to talk to her, although she knows I have to study.

Patiently, and many times, I told her loud enough for her to hear that I need to focus on my exam and asked her to be quiet for a while but she wouldn't keep quiet.

I was so mad that I lost my patience and exploded, yelling at her that she was annoying me and I couldn't study and I'm going to fail my exams – but she still didn't stop.

I feel like I'm going mad because of her insistence on me talking to her although I'm busy revising and doing assignments.

I wanted to complain to my parents but didn't because I was afraid that they might think I'm crazy and ungrateful.

I'm mentally and physically tired and fed up with taking care of my grandmother.

There were also instances when I didn't want to talk to my grandmother because I was exhausted from school work and needed to rest up a bit but she kept on insisting that I talk to her. I was just so annoyed.

I'm worried this might make my depression worse.

I know my parents love grandma and don't want her to be in an old folks' home but want us to take care of her instead. I know that my aunts and uncles from my dad's side are busy with their lives and can't take care of my grandma.

But I can't focus on my studies while taking care of grandma. I'm so stressed about my studies.

I've tried everything to stay calm but I've already reached my limit.

Mentally And Physically Tired Of Everything

I understand you're stressed, but poor grandma. She's away from her own home and her grandchild yells at her. I feel very sorry for her.

Yes, you need a space to study. If that can't happen in the house, then someone needs to stay home with grandma while you hit the library.

However, you have been studying for your exams for a week. In this time, you went from "ecstatic" to "bitter hatred" and then "exploding" and "yelling".

These extremes worry me. If you have issues managing your emotions, speak to a psychiatrist, a medical doctor who specialises in mental health.

If this is an exception, I suggest you work on yourself. Screaming at people is abusive. Being stressed or depressed is not an excuse for bad behaviour.

Either way, learn to communicate openly and with respect.

As for Grandma, if the family are united in wanting to care for her at home, they have to step up. Dumping her on you and disappearing with excuses that they're busy isn't right.

I suggest a family meeting. The objective should be to help, so start by figuring out her needs.

Grandma is hard of hearing. People who are cut off from others, suffer from isolation and frustration – that by itself can be detrimental to mental health. What does her doctor say? Does grandma need hearing aids?

Also, you told her you needed space but she talked anyway. Was this somewhat later or is it a constant chatter?

I ask because people with dementia lose track of time. This is very stressful for caregivers. To have a person ask the same thing over and over again, is exhausting.

This is why good care homes are treasures. When run properly, they have kind and helpful carers who retain their energy as they have proper breaks between shifts.

However, that kind of care can be hard to find and it's expensive. Also, if grandma does have an issue but it's still in the early stages, she may not like the sound of it.

Whatever her needs, consider that it's not a choice between alone at home or at a care home. There is lots of middle ground.

If grandma is active and just hard of hearing, there are groups for seniors that offer art, crafts and activities like line dancing.

Also, there are care homes that offer day programmes, including ones that cater for people with dementia.

Grandma could attend for a few hours, and then come home to sleep in her own bed.

To find out your options, hit Google. Also ask friends, neighbours, talk to your local church/ temple/ mosque, and speak to your doctor and local hospital.

Also, where are her friends? Can she spend time with them? If she's active and just hard of hearing, a family Grab fund so she can socialise may be useful. If they are in a different town, consider making plans for visits.

Whatever you figure out for now will have to be refined as grandma ages, so family meetings should be regular. Talk to them and start looking after grandma properly.

She's an old lady, and she deserves to live in a supportive, loving environment.

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