My grandmother is so mean that no one wants to visit her!

Last updated: July 12, 2011

My grandmother is 90 and a bit frail, but her mind is sharp -- perhaps a little too sharp! She's such a gripe that none of her family members want to visit her. At Chanukah dinner last year she actually announced to my brother (and the entire table) that she's never loved him. She says the crudest, meanest, even sexist or racist things right to people's faces.

She calls me at least twice a week and gives me a guilt trip about not stopping by to see her, but I just can't bring myself to be around that much negativity. She doesn't do anything while I'm there but hurl insults and fuss about how no one visits her.

My mother takes her on errands once a week and always returns in tears. She's insisting that I (but not my brother) help out as well. Should I just suck it up and see her on a regular basis? If I do, is there any way I can stop her from being so ugly?

Your grandmother is a bully who's been getting away with bad behavior for a long time. Now it's time to call her bluff. Visit one time this month, and the instant she starts to complain, tell her that no one wants to come see her because she's such a gripe. Tell her she's keeping people away, and that if she wants company, she has to play nice. I don't think we need to tiptoe around our elders. It's not disrespectful to tell it like it is, especially when you speak matter of factly and not in anger. Your grandmother will most likely come to respect you for standing up to her and stating the truth. And you'll both feel better when you stop cowering.

Retrain her as much as possible by stopping ugly talk in its tracks and instead rewarding good behavior. Of course, she's going to slip up; don't expect her to reform completely. But do praise any kind, funny, thoughtful, or simply not-negative response you get. What's more, visit for only a short while the first few times, so she won't have to be nice for too long. These are engrained habits, and it's going to take real work for her to wear her "good girl" hat for even a short period. To start, aim for being agreeable for the first 5 minutes of a 15-minute visit.

It will be easier for both of you if you do something together when you visit. Does she know how to knit or crochet, and could she teach you? Are there classes or activities you could enjoy together? Could you get her interested in a small window garden or a pet? Her attitude probably stems in part from habit and in part from boredom and frustration, especially if her mind is sharp but she's sitting in her room most of the day with little to do. Play investigator and tap into something that intrigues her. Record a soap opera, crime drama, or celebrity news show and get in the habit of watching it together. If you give it a chance, you may find that your grandmother can be pretty darn fascinating. Think of it as your mission to unearth her better side.

If this strategy doesn't work, then still go see her (for your mom's sake), but keep it short. Stop by for ten minutes once a week and take her an ice cream or a peach that's in season. Be consistent if you can; she may start to look forward to your return the same day every week. Let her know that if she's pleasant, you'll stay longer or stop by more often. But for now, smile and leave so that she truly understands that you're not going to tolerate nasty comments about you or anyone you love.

You'll also have to expect some general grumpiness. Some people are just curmudgeons by nature. Try to laugh it off and love her anyway, but draw a line when she lights into someone who doesn't deserve it. Be consistent in what you'll tolerate.

As far as getting your brother to help out, just stay away from that. You only get caught in a circle of frustration if you delve into what you think someone else should be doing.

In time, I think your grandmother will come around, at least a little. She obviously wants people to visit her. She wants to be included. She just needs to know what the rules are. She may be pushing everyone's buttons simply to get attention, so give her attention -- when she agrees to be pleasant for even a few minutes at a time.

Family members come in all varieties, and your grandmother sounds like a doozy. Still, she's your grandmother, and a direct link to your heritage. If you can get her to come around just a little, you'll reap the benefits of knowing that you helped your mom out and got to know a woman who has much to teach you about how -- and how not -- to live.

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11 Comments So Far. Add Your Wisdom.

about 1 year ago

I'm in the same boat as you. However, my grandmother has never told me or my sister that she has never loved us, but every time I go to her house to visit her,she will always say my mom is "fat." My mom needs diet pills. It hurts when she constantly puts my mom and other family members down. As my elder i have never felt like my grandmother was what you classify a nice little old lady. She will ask me to take her to the store on my day off from work if I don't take her right away... She walks, and takes rides from complete strangers. I have voiced my concern over and over. It's almost like I work like a dog at my job and one day I want to sleep in, and don't take her first thing that morning so she walks... And then brings it up to my mom. I don't really feel guilty. My mom and dad pay for her to live in a house that she does not clean. She says she thinks they should take care of the yard and house. I'm like Seriously?? If you disagree with her it's a huge argument. And she is a very negative person, and that's why I think it's best just to keep it minimal between us. My grandmother has said things to me like "you're not a beauty " I have never thought I was pretty but to hear that from her was like umm ok.. Where does it come from?? she also has called my dad dumb. I'm just tired of trying to be nice. If anyone has a mean grandmother or father don't try to change them and don't take their abuse. Life is too short!!!

Anonymous said almost 2 years ago

I have a mother in law who has favoured her darters children to mine. My daughter was always well behaved but she would subtly insult her. Not give her things like she did to her daughter s children. She expects me to visit but I don t

Anonymous said almost 2 years ago

My mother in law gave nothing. Not even a good wish to my daughter. Yet she gave all to my sister in laws sons. At Christmas they were always at my mother in laws house but never stephen and I and my child

about 3 years ago

My mom can be cruel too though she has a lot of good characteristics. The way I cope is by telling myself 1. She cannot help this: her soul was crushed by the unfortunate circumstances of her childhood. 2. Work on my own soul. I am not necessarily a religious person but the idea of a soul, a loving conscience, is front and center in my mind. I think and read about maliciousness, psychopaths (people without a conscience), etc. and I try in my own life to resist the contagion of malice, to take care of my own mental health and find the resources in my own life that will help me not end up bitter and mean like many of the elderly women we are talking about, including my own mother. Some days I cry when I think of what I am missing in a mother - someone who cared about me and was concerned about the things that affected my life. Someone I could talk to about my deepest feelings. But that's life, nobody is guaranteed a perfect family. I think of my mom as broken and unable to make choices. She has no freedom of will, she just reacts in the patterns that were ground into her as a young girl. Paradoxically, by adopting this way of understanding her, I can see her better moments, skimpy as they may be, as great strength given her situation of a life of disappointment. I can also examine my own tendency to become angry, judgmental and mean when I am worn out and tired. I can see how other people's malice can infect my own state of mind. Then I can let things go that I might otherwise allow to fester and turn me bitter the same way she has turned out. I can be easy on myself and see that I too can be caught up in the psychodynamics of being human. Hope that makes sense. Another thing I have been able to do is defend myself instantly when mom insults me. But then again she is less mean to me than she is to my other sisters. She treats my middle sister like the goat of the family - my middle sister is a wonderful, wonderful woman who I love dearly. But if I try to defend her my mother lashes out at me. So I just listen to my sister and commiserate and support her modes of defending herself. I guess that is another thing - these siblings who stay away might be being treated worse than ourselves. I know it is the case with my middle sister. My mom thinks she is such a loser, she told me she prays for my nephew, my sister's son, because of his home life. Well his home life is pretty darn good, it is my mom's blindness that leads her to think he is somehow getting the short end of the stick. It really makes me sick to hear it but again I have to put it all in the package that is my mom's hell of her own misery and deal with it like I said already.

about 3 years ago

You cannot change your family. Some will not want to visit, that is on them when the end of life comes to the parent. Your anger with them will interfere with your life, keep a teflon soul and let all the anger and resentment, let their words simply roll off your back, it will certainly make you a better person. With grouchiness, as I did with my mom, I realized her grumpy attitude had little to do with what she was really upset about. I changed the subject or used kindness in response to her words that hurt. "Are you feeling OK Mom, is there anything I can get for you?" Sometimes I would sneak upstairs and call her sister in Holland as I knew she could cheer her up. Then I would have her call back and simply say, "Mom, you have a phone call." She would ask grouchily who is it, but I would simply hand her the phone. Try not to take on the anger of your parent or your family, you must keep yourself healthy and walk or do something where you can release that tension. Your life and hers or his will be better for it. We cannot change them, but we can change how we deal with them. They won't change, but you can. I know this sounds far too easy, and it took me years to get it, but once I did, my life was far better.

over 3 years ago

Your situation sounds so familiar to me because its much like my own. My mother passed away years ago and I must now fill the shoes of my mother to my grandmother. My grandmother has another daughter, my aunt, who is alive and has 3 daughters all are older than me, I am the youngest (37, i was 28 when my mom passed) and only child,in the bunch. So when my mom died, I felt responsible to my grandmother, especially because her other daughter (my aunt)and grandchildren never visited or called,ever or very little. While i understand my grandmothers feelings are hurt about it and I feel slighted because none of them even her daughter help her (grandma). I have come to realize why, My grandmaother is horrible and mentally abusive. I know it is a toxic relationship we have but i stick around anyway. Grandma is so bad that she has caused friction in my marriage and my moms and aunt marrige and relationships too. When my mom died I told my grandmother I would take care of her, words I mean but regret saying. she expects me to call everyday,if I don't there is hell to pay. she tells me that i need to take an antidepressent(which i do), she claims i am nasty to helr and "how can you talk to me that why?" but when iask her how I am being disrespectful she cannot back it up or says you know what your doing. She tells me how I need to "kiss her ass" becuase shes older and she has done so much for me. It is true she has lent me money small sums,but i need to kiss her ass, as if she gave me lifeShe is very superficial, it all comes down to monitistic gifts not true love. She is very critical, once i gave her a gift and she put it down, saying it looked cheap. She has told me that if my husbend is out its because he is cheating. When i was prgnant my OBGYN told me that i was not to have relations with her because I was high risk and it could her the baby. i understand why my Aunt has nothing to do with her, but at the sametime she could help somewhat, but she doesn't, because grandma had favorites , me and my mom. we never asked to be ffavorites and my aunt and her children resent me and my mom. They live in a country community and bad mouth nme all of the time, which is easy to do because I dont live there but I still hear aboutit from timew to time when i visit old friends from there. When my aunt had my grandma placed agianst her will, supposed ly, she went and found a copy of the will. Since she found out where she stands, she went from being careing and loveing to mean and she even stole things form grandma. In a way grandma deserves it, because she dangled the will above everyone and used it as a weapon. It gets worse and I could go on. I am going to say the worse advise is to accept it,why acceapt being mentally abused? I used to think she would change,but she won't, and you can try to retrain her, but don't expect it to work. Its sounds as if she just is a horrible person by nature. You need to tell her the truth, she acts horrible and is negitive, ask her if she realizes it? When she displays her horrible behavior, call her out. When she complains about how nobody visits, ask her if she knows why? Then let yourself off the hook and hang on! Because, I can almost guarenty she WILL NOT RESPECT YOU FOR IT! She will probly be flabergasted you made these comments, but someone should. Let her know you mean bussiness. She onlt complains to you because you take it. You don't have to and shouldn't, mainly because its family and she shouldnt bad moth your/her blood. Reduce your calls and visits, don't beat yourself up. You are a human being who has feelings, and why should you or your mom keep her happy? she is the adult and should know, especially if her mind is spot on. She is at an age where shes not going to change, you can though and you have the power to influence the situation. You remain postive and limit your visits just as you have been. Remember you don't always have to pickuup the phone and you don't always have to make time for her. You have a life too. I give you permission to do all of these things, i wish someone would tell me these things. I will think of you when my situation gets bad, i will think atleast i am not alone. i hope you keep me in mind too so you don't feel so lonely. Best of luck with your grandmonster.

over 3 years ago

it is very hard to have some one,, who cant be positive about any thing,,, in our case my mom has emotional and memory issues ect no matter how much we want her to change,, she can only do it for the moment forgets,, and we are back a square one,,, we have learn to work with her even when we were kids,age has only made it harder for her and us,,,to not take it personally is hard ,,keep visits short and focused and if yu have the option of others in family ,,helping do ,,,some times it takes a village to care for an elder,,, some times inlisting neighbors and freinds,, to help,, re direct,, we have wonderful neighbors that understood the situation ,,, were and are a blessing to her and us also,,, to realize that most of the time ,,,if they could love yu the way yu want they would,,another incident was when i took and elderly gentlman to sunday school,,, he alway said no one came to vist,, of his family,,, turns out they were there,, for him ,,as much as they were able,,, he just couldnt remember ,,,or want us to belive that for for extra attention,,,, often they forget from one time to another what we are doing for them,,,and to them it seems we really arnt doing enough,,, not taking it personally is the best way to deal with it but also the hardest,,, i know,,,

Anonymous said over 3 years ago

My father-in-law is the same way. A bully and a cheat. Time and again, he will ask my wife for help with some project (something that may take 100's of hours of work), and he will offer to pay, but everytime, he agrees to some hourly rate but says "let me just pay you at the end in one lump sum." and then stiffs his own children. Not surprising I suppose since we had to invite some of our friends to his 90th, since most of his, including his sister refused to come.

over 3 years ago

If the grand daughter follows the above advice about 'confronting' and 'retraining' Granny, she better be prepared for her grandmother to tell her to leave and never return. That woman is 90 years old. She has had a lot of years to practice being nasty. Of course she is trying to get attention. She has outlived all or most of her peers (some of which may have enjoyed getting together for a gripefest) and she is probably frightened of the future.

over 3 years ago

Oh this is so much like my mother who's 84, unfortunately she was difficult my whole life and after 50 it snowballed. I was also told she was a bully and manipulative. I drove 200 hundred miles again recently to visit my son and my grandchildren, one of which was just past newborn, I hadn't been able to meet yet. I gave her advance notice that I wanted to spend as much time with my grandkids as I could as I only have the opportunity to visit once a year but I wanted to visit her. She and my son are estranged though they live very near each other and when I mention her great-grandkids, she says, she dosen't have any. This past visit I went to see her n she was angry that I wasn't there sooner. I confronted her calmly that her ongoing behavoir made it difficult to visit her and if she could not get past it, I could not stay to visit at this time. She told me to go and never come back! I did leave, but it made me so sad it overshadowed the rest of my visit with my grandchildren to the point I ended my visit earlier than I planned. Even after returning home I was in shock and then depressed for over a week. I had hoped this time of her and my life would be a chance to make peace, remineise, and more. I feel I never really got to know her and never will.

over 3 years ago

This is my Mom to a T. It is to the point no one wants to be with her. When I tell her to stop or no one wants to be with her she says GOOD ! I don't want them around anyway ! But then complains no one comes to see her or sh has not heard from anyone. I keep my mouth shut and do what I can. I have no help and this is exhausting.Some days I am so angry at my family but really I can't blame them.

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