My mom is taking advantage of my grandparents

Last updated: January 07, 2010

I'm 20 years old and am trying to help take care of my grandparents. My mother lives with them, and I'm afraid she's not taking good care of them. She's not working -- she only gets disability checks and Grandpa's Social Security. There's hardly any food in the home other than what my aunt drops off, and money constantly goes missing. My aunt and my mom aren't on speaking terms -- I'm the only neutral one in the family, so it's my job to intervene.

I've called Social Services before, but every time they go to talk to my grandparents, they say everything is fine. I know my mother is taking advantage of my grandparents, but I can't seem to find any way to help.

First, I applaud you for looking out for your grandparents. But accept right now that you didn't cause this situation and you can't fix it -- not all of it, anyway.

You're not alone in being a young caregiver. Millions of other 20- and 30-year-olds care for parents, grandparents, siblings, and other family and friends, too. But while you're looking out for your family, it's important you nurture yourself. Place your grandparents' safety and care high on your priority list -- but don't lose track of your own needs in the midst of family drama.

It sounds like your aunt is your best ally. Sit down with her and ask her to help you come up with a plan for how, together, you can better care for your grandparents. Write down your thoughts: What are your most pressing worries? What do you need help with? Start with a list of safety concerns, medical and care needs, and how to solve the food issue. (See whether Meals on Wheels, a free meal service for older adults, is available in your area.) Depending on where you live, consider whether the house is warm enough for older adults, too.

There's a wealth of online info that will educate you about caregiving issues specific to your situation. You can learn about [elderly safety] ( and how to handle family conflicts, for example.

Maybe you and your aunt could attend a caregivers' workshop in your area. Many are sponsored by places of worship, elder services, or organizations such as the Alzheimer's Association. You'll meet other caregivers, learn about local resources, and even get practical advice on how to cope with your mom. Reach out to get community resources involved; home healthcare, adult day programs, van or shuttle services, and community volunteers can give you assistance (often free) and also let you know in tangible ways that you're not alone.

While you have certain issues with your mom, she has challenges of her own. Yes, she may be using your grandparents in ways, but are there things she's doing right by them, too? Praise for the things she's doing right may spur her to do those positive things more.

To help your grandparents, you may have to emotionally distance yourself from your mother (even as you still love her). If it turns out she should be out of your grandparents' house, for financial or safety reasons, it isn't going to be easy and you're going to need guidance. Tapping into your area's elder resources can help you walk through the necessary steps. But since your grandparents are consenting adults, unless you get them declared legally incompetent, you're going to have to work around your mom to provide as much care as you can, even when you know full well she might be undoing some of your efforts.

You're at an age when it's important to build your own foundation. Are you in school or working full time? Are you dating and socializing with close friends? These things are crucial to your development -- and they'll make you a better, more engaged and hopeful caregiver. As hard as it is to put yourself first, it's the right thing to do. Your grandparents have lived long and full lives -- now it's your turn.

That doesn't mean you have to neglect them, but it might mean that at times, you have to make some uncomfortable choices or step back a bit. Remind yourself that you're not being selfish. You have to believe you deserve a full life with a steady job, a home of your own, and friends and family of your own. The best way to take care of your family is to have such a loving, healthy life that you truly have something to give.

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4 Comments So Far. Add Your Wisdom.

Anonymous said about 3 years ago

My mother has lived with my GP for 7+ years. She has been a pretty good caregiver. She has a lot of undesireable issues but I've always given her credit for taking care of my grandparents. Having said that, everything seems to be falling about apart. 1 year ago my uncle (moms brother) and his wife and his two sons (20 and 14) and moved in...actually they came over to stay with my GP's while my mom went on vaction and they never left. They have spent thousands of dollars because they are compulsive buyers but did I mention how disgustingly lazy they are?? They are like locusts...they find a nice clean place..they slowly destroy it and then move on to another nice area. The reason they arent going back to their own home is because its destroyed. No hot water, roof falling in, and completely trashed inside. So, now they are trashing my grandparents. It is heartbreaking!! My grandmother always kept a beautiful home. My grandfather was always tinkering on a lawnmower or car. Last weekend my husband and I went over there and cleaned and painted put up railings, etc. We worked for over 12 hours in prep for my Grandpa coming home from the hospital..(he broke his hip). A week later, I went over there tonite and it is a total mess! My sister and I think it would be better if we could sell the house and move them into a facility with professionals. okay, what do ya'll think?

almost 5 years ago

I share in your pain and have an almost identical situation.....I am now 33 yrs old but I am an only child and only grandchild on my mothers side. My grandparents had only two daughters, my mom & my aunt who is mentally disabled and is fully dependent. My mother is a substance abuser and had permanent brain damage when I was 4 yrs old and was unable to care for herself or myself. Well my grandmother just passed on Sept. 2 from pancreatic cancer after a short 6 month battle. She was 80 yrs old and just made their 56th anniversary 3 days b4 she passed and now my grandfather is completely dependent on me to take care of all the things that my grandmother used to handle....I am soooo overwhelmed and streesed out but have finally this month I have had to take a breath and remind myself that I can't do everything by myself but have always felt alone and burdened w/ the load of being nominated as the caregiver even though they have a will and executor along with assigned trustees so that I wouldn't have to take on the responsibility. However, after the passing of my grandmother I just assumed the role of her and didn't question my response to the unplanned situation....until I couldn't get out of bed and take a shower for almost a week and didn't care about life. So my prayers go out to you and your family. Keep in mind that your mother is trying to do her part as their daughter but the well being and health of your grandparents should never be comprimised especially while taking payment under the table for unactive caregiving. I would have probably moved into tmy grandparents house but I have a family of my own who has to take priority but that that doesn't mean that I don't lover them or don't care for them because I can't become their security guards, cooks, physical therapist, and personal assistant alone. This is unfortunate for the elders aging now with insensitive immediate family that ignore the need of the elders and take advantage of their fixed SS income. Stay informed by support groups or sites such as this one. I am soo rateful for this site because I always felt that no one could relate to my situation and helps ease the weight of the family load. I am now in counseling and have acknowledged that I can't run & hide but have to deal w/ the reality of it but take baby steps, one at a time before I have a nervous breakdown or raise emotionally stressed kids or lose my husband behind something that could have been prevented by educating myself w/ help of others so that I can stay sane know that it is okay to be mad at the situation and feel alone at times because I have no siblings or in state family to assist in the care and planning of my elderly grandparents. I would remind myself that God will not allow us to carry more weight than we can but it is up to us to give the load to Him and he will pull you through...just Trust and have Faith.

almost 5 years ago

This is an interesting situation. I hope the 20 year old will keep us posted.

almost 5 years ago

The 20 year old person, does not know how it is to take care of aged people, or why the mother is being rude or not bothered about the old people in her care. Its best to get to the bottom of the situation and ask why this is happening, or watch why this is taking place , then with the aunty, things can be sorted out. Food brought by the aunty is like a bribe to care for the old, or why should the aunty give food when cash is being collected in the first place and cash is going missing??? How is this possible, why no account to the missing cash??? Find out what it takes to look after the welfare of the grand parents and if the 20 year old can provide better treatment and caring , then the grandparents can be made to live with the 20 year old and the mother can go her ways. But other wise, put the foot down and ask for accounts and demand for better treatment of the grand parents who are afraid to talk about the ill treatment of the 20 year old's mother.

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