Caregivers in our 30's

by Maggie
(Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

We look after my 83-year-old father-in-law, who lives above us. He has always been extremely dependent on my husband (the "good" son--too long of a story), as he does not speak any English after living in Canada for 40 years, and is illiterate in his own language, Portuguese.

Before we married I knew that we would eventually be responsible for caring for him, but it has come sooner than we expected--we're both in our 30s, and needless to say do not have much experience or knowledge about aging or senior caregiving. It is ending up to be so much more stressful than we anticipated.

He has early-stage dementia, recurrent gallbladder attacks, and is wasting away (he's about 115 lbs) due to having nausea and vomiting, and no appetite. He has lost all interest in bathing, cleaning, eating, and going outside.

Although the medical issues are challenging, his constant demands for attention is what is causing the most stress. He will call my husband up to 15 times a day, and several times during the night. If we cannot fulfill a request right away, he will start crying and yelling, saying that God should just take him because nobody cares about him.

We've managed to get Portuguese-speaking PSW's in for one hour each day, which has been a huge help with bathing and dressing, but we both work during the day and are only able to see him in morning and evening. He will start to cry when we leave, and ask us how we could leave him all alone.

We are doing our best to care for him, but it is never enough to make him happy. No matter what we do for him, he has no concept of boundaries for our own time or space. He is completely wrapped up in himself and cannot see past what is affecting him personally. (Not just the
dementia--a personality trait. Dementia certainly doesn't help though.)

>> Example >> Yesterday, after getting his dinner and medication and making sure he had everything he needed, my husband went to go downstairs. "Where are you going?" he demands. "I just came home from work. I have to go take a shower." "No! Take a shower tomorrow!" Sigh...

Although he complains of loneliness and that he wants to someone to be there by his side all day, he has flat out told us several times that he will kill himself if we move him to a nursing home. We are trying our best to respect his wishes, but we are reaching the end of our rope.

My husband has his own mental health challenges, and the stress of this situation is scaring me for his sake. He is not a pushover, and he will stand up to his father and knows when to refuse irrational demands, but the stress is still getting to him.

I am trying my best to take as much of the burden off of my husband as possible by taking his dad to all of his appointments and coordinating all of the home care services, but now I am feeling burnt out and am having trouble sleeping.

Don't get me wrong: my father-in-law's health and well-being are important to me. I want him to be as comfortable and content as possible, but he is not the priority. My husband is. (I guess I should be on that list too.)

We do have Power of Attorney, so if worse comes to worst, we do have the ability to move him to long-term care, but even thinking about it brings on a guilt storm.

Has anyone had to face this decision--moving a parent into a long-term care home against their will? How did it end up for you/them? I would really appreciate any input. Thank you.

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Just A Tiny Helpful Hint
by: Anonymous

You have a lot of issues and you're such thoughtful, caring people. My mom also has gallbladder problems and I noticed she can't tolerate any fats in her diet.

No oils, butter, mayonnaise, no fried foods, breaded foods, no fatty meats, no nuts. Look up fat content of foods in his diet. Might help.

My thoughts and prayers are with you.

reply re clingy parent
by: Maggie

Thanks so much for your thoughts.
It's good to know that it's not wrong for me to be considered about our own sanity!

My Father In Law is not considered a surgical candidate for gallbladder surgery because of his age and frailty. So it's gallbladder infection >> lots of antibiotics and pain medications >> and repeat.

I really hope everything goes as well as possible with your mother. I'd be very interested to know how it goes, so I hope you do post a follow-up.

The Clinging/Needy Parent
by: Anonymous

My situation bears no resemblance to yours; I don't think I've heard about a case quite as extreme as your father-in-law. And you're W-A-Y too young to be burdened with this.

The scary part is that despite his health problems (and I have to ask why on earth he hasn't had surgery for that gallbladder), he might hang on for a long time.

My mother is 90, somewhat frail, and with advanced dementia. She has insisted on staying home, not letting me bring in help--no strangers--and has vowed that she will never go to a care facility. I don't live with her but I traveled back and forth to her house and handle all aspects of her day-to-day living.

Last week she broke her arm. Now everything has changed. The hospital social worker and case manager told me she can't go home and that I must find a place for her. Today I put a deposit on a room in a memory care place. Tomorrow, I get to tell her about it, and I'm dreading it. The scene is going to be horrific. If I survive, I'll post my results.

You and your husband, though, you must act. Don't sacrifice your lives for someone who will suck the joy and life's blood from your relationship.

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