Full time Carer for Elderly Father
My stress relates to not being able to have any sort of life of my own, due to having to care for my elderly dad. Also, I do not have any emotional support, due to being single and childless and having a very un-supportive extended family.
My elder sister and her family don't help, either. My sister's argument is that whereas I don't have 'anything else to do', she has a house and a family of 5 to look after (i.e. one husband, 2 daughters in their 20s and a 12-year old). Whenever I do ask her to cover for me so that I can have a break, she reacts very angrily and says that she's too busy, although she thinks nothing of dropping off my nephew if she needs a child sitter.
Until approximately 2 years ago I had a career that I enjoyed (I'm educated to degree and PhD level), but was made redundant. Shortly after, my mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer and died just 4 months later. I had a part-time job at the time, but gave this up to become her sole, full-time carer, during her illness. A month before she died, my 83-year dad contracted TB and spent weeks in hospital. He returned home 5 days after my mum died and I then became his full-time, live-in carer. Everyone just assumed that, because I was available, I would do this and I didn't mind, since I thought that my family would help me.
I wasn't allowed any proper time to grieve properly for my mum, since I was busy rushing around after my dad, with no help. Neighbours were kind and visited, but no-one did anything practical. I was the one running around making cups of tea for everyone!
A year on, I am still looking after my dad. His TB has cleared, but he has a rheumatic condition which means that he finds doing a lot of things for himself very difficult. I have applied for a few part time jobs, but every time that I do, his health mysteriously seems to worsen, so I can't take them up. Also, most part time employers require full flexibility, which doesn't fit in with my caring responsibilities. This is very frustrating, since my only income is carers' allowance, I can't make any pension contributions and my carer prospects are being damaged by being out of work for so long (I'm 42).
My sister thinks that it's reasonable for me to live on my savings, that are meant for a home of my own. If I say that I can't afford something, she calls me a 'cheap skate'.
I have signed up to do a couple of distance learning courses, although I'm finding it difficult to find the time to do these. Also, my family thinks that they're a waste of time and so don't respect my need to have some study time. They also never offer to take me out anywhere or do a thing to 'cheer me up'. My sister only visits for 2 hours at the weekend and anxiously questions me about our dad's health, seeming to be very concerned.
What's really depressing me at the moment is that I feel that my dad is starting to take me for granted and can be very selfish and ungrateful. He never asks me how I am, complains when I go into town (I need the fresh air and to get out of the house) and won't engage in any conversation in which I suggest going out to work for a few hours. He says that I have enough to do around the house. When I do say that I'd like a bit of a life of my own, he gets upset and says that he'll have to go into a home, which will finish him off. I then feel dreadful and selfish. I also feel as if I'm now a domestic 'replacement' for my mum.
I can honestly say that if I was told that I had only a short time left to live, I'd feel as though I'd won the lottery. How much can one person be expected to sacrifice, before their own life doesn't seem worth living? I'm not a naturally depressive person and have a lot of interests, which I'm no longer able to pursue.
I'm sorry if I sound self-pitying, but I'm not sure how long I can stand living like this. Old age and sickness can be very depressing things to be constantly around. I would feel very different if I had some support from my family and my dad started thinking about my needs, as well as his own. Other people who I've confided in just talk about 'choices', but they forget the emotional aspects and sense of moral obligation of caring for your parents. Thank you for reading this far!