How should I handle grandmother's addiction to prescription drugs?

2 answers | Last updated: Oct 05, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My grandmother is 87 years old and currently in the hospital being treated for chronic pain. Over the past several years she has been taking prescription narcotics to treat her postherpetic neuralgia. She also takes Xanax to ease anxiety and has been prescribed a string of different anti-depressants. My mother is her main caregiver and to be honest that has put a huge strain on our family. My mother constantly tells me that she doesn't mind taking care of my grandmother but I take issue with the abuse and passive aggressive behavior my grandmother doles out to those of us responsible to her immediate care. I believe that at least some of this behavior can be explained by the fact that her addiction to painkillers has altered her personality for the worse. My mother hesitates to say that she is addicted and counters that treatment with narcotics is the best solution for someone with postherpetic neuralgia. I'm certainly not an expert so maybe my own resentment is clouding my judgment. It seems that whenever I attempt to care for her or spend time with her she has a biting and hurtful comment on the tip of her tongue. She often appears out of it and sometimes slurs her words to the point that it is impossible to understand her. My mother assures me that her pain medications are strictly monitored by her various doctors but it seems that with each increase in dosage we see more negative personality changes. Yesterday at the hospital she told my mom that she would "need" a Percocet before she could be expected to walk to the bathroom with the nurse. It's discouraging to hear her list off the laundry list of drugs that she "needs". I swear that she can more easily recall the names of prescription painkillers than her own grandchildren. I want to be supportive of my mother's efforts to take care of my grandmother but I also feel that we may have a serious problem on our hands. Should I be more sympathetic? Is it possible to wean her off of some of these medications? Are there any alternative treatments? Are my concerns completely unfounded?

I should also probably mention that while my grandmother had never previously been addicted to alcohol or drugs there is a strong history of addiction in our family. I am at my wit's end. I need a neutral perspective to be able to stay sane.



Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...

I am sorry I don't have an easy answer for you, but your story reads a lot like the one I could write, and is complicated by the fact that my husband's grandmother is left in control of her medications. Her husband appears to be in denial, even though she is regularly out of her script meds, and will then go after the over the counter sleeping meds. She is rarely lucid, and the rest of the family is hesitant to step in. I know enough about psychology to know I have no clue how to handle this. You are not alone, and my heart goes out to you. I wish you the best.


A fellow caregiver answered...

FIRST I WOULD LIKE TO SAY I AM SORRY ABOUT THIS SITUATION YOU AND YOUR FAMILY HAVE TO ENDURE.ITS HARD TO WATCH THE ONES WE LOVE AND MISS YOUR GRANDMOTHER THE WAY SHE USED TO BE.I DO HAVE EXPERIENCE IN BOTH SITUATIONS.MY MOM SUFFERED FOR YEARS IN CHRONIC PAIN DUE TO HER BEING A DIABETIC,SHE TOOK AT LEAST 8 DIFFERENT MEDICATIONS AND THEY WERE ALL NON OPIATE PILLS.WELL I WOULD HEAR MY MOM AT NIGHT BEGGING FOR GOD TO TAKE HER PAIN AWAY,AND IF NOT HER PAIN TAKE HER AWAY.MY HEART WOULD BREAK FOR HER AS I DID NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT SHE WAS GOING THROUGH.TO MAKE A LONG STORY SHORT ALL THE MEDS SHE WAS TAKING WAS DOING HER MORE HARM THAN GOOD.AT THE AGE OF 58,WE WERE FORCED TO PUT HER IN A NURSING HOME.THE DOCTORS COULD NOT BELIEVE THE PILLS SHE TOOK.INCLUDING STEROIDS SHE TOOK EVERYDAY,FOR 8 YEARS FOR PAIN.THE STEROIDS CAUSED HER TO GET CUSHIONS DISEASE AND THE LIST GOES ON.SHE ALSO DID HAVE LORATAB 5MG A LOW DOSE,BUT SHE NEVER REALLY TOOK THEM BECAUSE SHE FEARED ADDICTION.AND THE DOCTORS SAID SHE WAS BETTER OFF WITH THE PAIN MEDICATION THAN ALL THESE OTHER ONES SHE WAS TAKING THEY DID HER MORE HARM THAN GOOD.I ALSO LIVE WITH CHRONIC BACK PAIN,WHEN IT FIRST HAPPENED YOU WOULD DO ANYTHING TO GET RID OF THE PAIN.THE HAD ME ON SO MANY PILLS,I COULD NOT EVEN FUNCTION,AND I REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENED TO MY MOM.AND I DECIDED I WILL NOT GO DOWN LIKE MY MOM DID.SO I FIRST GOT OFF THE ANTIDEPRESSANTS,I FELT SO MUCH BETTER,I THINK ANTIDEPRESSANTS DO MORE HARM THAN GOOD.I THINK IN YOUR GRANDMOTHERS CASE,BEING ON ANTIDEPRESSANTS IS LIKE HAVING A CHILD ON THEM.THEY CAN CAUSE A HOST OF PROBLEMS THEMSELVES.I NOW ONLY TAKE NORCO I WILL NOT TAKE MORE THAN 4 A DAY.AND I TAKE A SMALL AMOUNT OF XANAX FOR MY ANXIETY,AND MUSCLE RELAXERS WHEN DESPERATE AND MOTRIN.I KNOW THE PAIN MY MOM AND YOUR GRANDMOTHER HAVE TO ENDURE EVERYDAY,IF I HAVE NEVER EXPERICENED THIS PAIN MYSELF,I GUESS I WOULD BE THINKING THE SAME THING YOU ARE.BUT I WILL SAY YOU ARE RIGHT ABOUT HOW MUCH SHE TAKES AND WHAT OTHER MEDICATION SHE IS TAKING BECAUSE THEY DO AT SOME POINT INTERACT WITH EACH OTHER AND DO MORE HARM THAN GOOD.SO TRY TO TALK TO YOUR MOM AND IF YOU CAN DO SOME RESEARCH OF YOUR OWN ON THE MEDS SHE IS TAKING.MOST LIKELY SHE DOES NEED THE PAIN MEDICATION BUT NOT AS MUCH AS SHE THINKS SHE NEEDS.AND TRY TO BE MORE UNDERSTANDING TO HER PAIN,ITS NOT FUN AND PAIN ALONE CAN MAKE HER LASH OUT AND BE ANGRY,AND SHE IS 87 SO SHE COULD BE AFRAID OF DYING.MY PRAYERS ARE WITH YOU AND YOUR FAMILY.