House rules?

Share your ideas about the practical side of caring.
I care for my elderly uncle who, after 7 mild strokes, spends all day in bed except for trips to the bathroom and to the yard to smoke. He's been at sea all his life, is a loner, an ex-alcoholic, occasional depressive, and has a strong aversion to rules. He has never had a family or home of his own, except as a child.

The problem is, he doesn't understand family and house life and doesn't seem to understand basic rules like 'smoke outside as my son is allergic to cigarette smoke' and 'don't keep turning the lights on and off all night as the rest of us need to get some sleep' and 'turn the taps off after you as the water is metered'. I do sympathise as I hate rules myself, but in his case some are essential. The thing is, how strict should I be with an old man? I feel bad laying the law down, and the stricter I am the more he tries to break the rules by doing things when I'm not looking, so I'm deliberately not coming up with rules like 'don't empty your pee bottle down the sink' as I dread to think what he'll do instead.

There is no-else who will take him in, he has been thrown out the seaman's mission 3 times and he is mortally afraid of ordinary old people's homes, but his short term memory is either sporadic or selective (I'm not entirely certain which...) and he can spend one day driving me insane and the next day is the sweetest person on earth.

Any tips or advice on how to deal with him?

Or shall I just hop onto the forum every now and then to vent my steam a little bit?

Any advice or moral support much appreciated
Olivia, jst pop on the forum from time to time and vent your frustration, it works for lots of us, glad you joined up.

Tony Image
Image Hi, Olivia welcome as Nat says this a good place to let off steam no problem. Does your Uncle have a Care Manager/GP ? If so the GP can recommend a care manger/Social Worker might ease some of the pressure on you.
Image Regards
Gordon
Thanks for the replies - I'm feeling calmer already Image

We are not in the UK any more, and the doctors here won't visit (even if uncle would allow one near him...) so no GP and no care manager. I have found a doctor who will prescribe his medications, but there is no-one who can offer general 'how to cope' advice. Mostly the pressure isn't too great but it's things like not knowing how strict I should be, what do I do when he says he doesn't want any medications any more, or demands some obscure remedy he used to use when he was on board ship. Should I stick his medicine in his porridge or respect his wishes? When he insists on putting his light on and off all night (he has a nightlight, so it's not needed) should I make a fuss or just put a master switch outside his room? Should I ration his biscuit supply so he can't stuff his face with them and then say he doesn't want much dinner tonight? I feel really mean doing stuff like that... Image
Hi, sorry you are facing this situation.

Why is he in bed all day? Does he need to be or is he choosing to be? Can his money be used to employ a carer to assist you with some of these issues and encourgae him to get up and move around? If he can get outside then he can get into a chair! Harsh but sometimes we need to be cruel to be kind to all!

Being overweight through lack of exercise and excessive calories is not going to help him! So you need to talk about this and if you are not happy then don't provide the biscuits! If he then needs them and can get up and go outside he can go and get some ...but at least he will be moving around ( assuming it is safe here to be moving!!)

Physio? Stroke Assoc online info? local support networks? Without knowing where you are ..and you don't have to say btw..its harder to know what else to suggest!

Interests , hobbies , tv radio? Things to pass the day!

As for the light enough is enough ..tell him straight if you are going to live here then please respect other people needs too!

If he is wasting water then say you will have to pay extra as we cannot afford the bills if you won't turn the taps off....but can he manage to? Does he need tap turners?

The choices are harsh but they are yours to make. Firm and polite and then say I cannot do this anymore if you don't cooperate...........yes I know there will be backlash form the harshness and I am sorry if it offends...it is not meant to I am more of a practical than an "oh dear me" person and am trying to say you don't have to tolerate it all but unless you find ways of moving forward it is set to get a lot worse!

Take care and make sure you get info and support for the"practical things" asap!

Chris
www,mypeggypg.blogspot.com
Ultimately you can't force anyone to do what you want them to or not do what they choose to. It's about balance, trying to reach a way of living together that doesn't impact too much on your family life or on his autonomy and choices. I would try and decide what causes you the most problems and what is most detrimental to his health and try to tackle one issue at a time bearing in mind that you can't force him to change and it may be that having lived alone for so long he's now unable to adapt to living with others.

Something that I believe is important to remember is that as people reach the twilight of their years their quality of life is often more important that their longevity so, for example, eating biscuits in excess and then refusing a meal is not good for them but if they give them comfort then why stop them eating them? You could try buying a quantity to last a week and explain that if he eats them all at once there will be none for the rest of the week, this at least gives him an element of choice and leaves him in control whilst partially solving the problem of missed meals.

I personally don't think that it's ethical to surreptitiously give medication, I would be horrified if it was done to me or my family, I'd just tell him the risks involved in refusing it but respect his wishes.

Perhaps you can give him one room to smoke in and make it clear that smoking isn't permissible elsewhere, sometimes the only solution is to try and reach a compromise that you can all just about live with. It can be difficult looking after someone who seems intent on ignoring all advice but sometimes taking a relaxed attitude can achieve more than showing how frustrated you feel and how upsetting you find it.
Thanks for that advice, Chris. I think I've been too soft on him - time to toughen up a bit!!

It's really difficult trying to understand his mindset. All his life he's worked while on board ship and rested when on land and for ten years, since his first stroke, he's been just lying in bed. He's apparently quite content just lying around, avoiding people and watching the television. My parents had him for 7 years but they can't manage him any more and he's been with us for 3 years. He goes out into the yard to smoke about 20 times a day and we have a collection of animals (chickens, guinea pigs, a rabbit, some doves) for him to keep an eye on and he seems perfectly content with his life.

We are living in a tiny little village in Portugal and most of the locals are in their 80s and 90s and still very active - they can't understand why a youngster of 80 is lying around doing nothing all day, but as he's happy I'm not inclined to force him to do much as I'm scared he'll end up falling (he falls fairly frequently and needs picking up again) and injuring himself, giving me a much bigger caring job!!

He doesn't need tap turners - he's just never had to pay a water bill and I think he waits till he thinks we're out, tips his pee bottle down the sink and then tries to rinse the smell away. He used to take a perverse delight in winding my mother up (his two pet hates are women and family...) so I've been a bit cautious of introducing too many rules.

What really makes me think is, how bad must he have been for the seaman's mission to throw him out three times.

Parsival - thanks for your input. I agree that quality of life is probably more important to him than longevity. After all, he's had 7 strokes and he's very likely going to have another (three years since the last one though!). The biscuit suggestion is what we're doing at the moment - three packets per week, every saturday, but I have a choice on what size the packets are. He has free access to fruit whenever he wants, and tin of dried fruit, too. As for the medications, until now I've insisted he takes them all, but occasionally he decides they are poisoning him and I've been worrying about what to do next time he refuses them. I didn't want to explain to relatives why I didn't make him take them, but then as I'm the only person who'll look after him now I guess they can't complain too much.

And you're right - he will *never* adapt to living with others. He wasn't just a sailor, he was captain, so it's doubly hard on him being bossed around, and by a woman too! I just need a bit of a reality check now and then to see if I'm getting the balance right.

Thanks again everyone!
Hi Olivia, and welcome.

I've read this thread with interest and can only suggest that the answer - to some extent - lies in the fact that he has some memory issues and that he is used to being on dry land in between work contracts at sea. So he has always rested on land - doing nothing until the next sea voyage comes along.

People with memory issues often settle back into old routines - it's a comfort zone, which means that any changes to that routine (new rules, challenges to do something differently, whatever) will be met with challenges - either deliberate, or possibly out of confusion. Strokes can trigger these memory issues - e.g. vascular dementia - and it would be worth getting medical advice about this, just in case.
Very interesting thread. My late father in law was an ex Far East POW who - as the dementia started to take hold - began squirreling food in his bedside drawers, all kinds of very bad habits. Like many soldiers he responded quite well to the military-jokey brusque style of communication "Pull yourself together, chin up bombadier!" sort of stuff...bit of a Dad's Army cliche but it can work.
Assume command and be explicit about the rules. tell him you'll make him walk the plank or keelhaul him with a running bowline if he doesn't get a grip. Ahoy me hearties, splice the mainbrace!
Ah - the squirreling! He does that... Sometimes with food, mostly with tobacco. Currency would change from port to port, tobacco was worth something wherever the ship was. We occasionally find hoards of dried figs wrapped in paper towels and tucked away in odd corners. I think he'd do it with bottles of gin if we let him, too, but so far we've managed to convince him that neither gin or rum exist in Portugal Image

The only problem with the military style "Pull yourself together!" bit is that he was the captain, and used to be the one giving orders. The only person he would ever take orders from was his mother (my grandmother) and unfortunately I didn't really know her very well so don't know how to imitate her. The closest I get is imitating my cousin looking after her mum (my aunt, his sister). Sometimes I seem to get it right though and he does as he's told, but I have to sound fussy and motherly, not womanly and naggy, if you get my meaning.

The other problem is with medicines. I don't know if it's still the case, but in his day the captain was responsible for doling out medical supplies and he still likes to be the one who chooses what he takes. We have an odd assortment of strange lotions and potions tucked away that I daren't throw away and have no idea what they do and which he occasionally insists on dosing himself with. And then there are the seven toothbrushes - did you realise that every toothbrush needs a whole week to dry out between uses? And that they must be banged at least 4 times on the washbasin to shake off excess water, and that the only time to wash is at 5 in the morning?

He's having a good spell at the moment, no lights going on and off all night so we usually manage to sleep through the 5 am wash routine.

And yes, I think he *is* stuck in a routine of just waiting for his next ship, but he seems so content in that routine. I think in some way he's managed to convince himself that I'm his mother and he's 'at home' between jobs. I guess I just have to learn to let sleeping sea-dogs lie, or something Image