Full time Carer for Elderly Father

by Anna
(Nottingham, UK)

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!

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My Dad
by: mark

I can relate to you as a carer as I'm 45 years old man my dad was 66. He would of been 69 now. I lived at home all my life with my dad. My mind can't think what to write but caring for someone that you love its not easy in any way. Your with them 24 hours a day.

I was mentally exhausted, drained..... I've suffered from depression before dad got ill but when dad got ill I couldn't care about myself anymore.

My dad was the world to me. It's hard to talk about my self or my dad because I am confused.

Well, I can honestly say sister and family I don't want anything to do with these horrible people. They have treated me so bad and my dad was my world to me. I have no one else, as I'm single, I'm bored... just fed up.

Can't see any future now as I'm been forced in to selling my home. Yes, when your so worn out from losing someone you love as I did my dad and can't think straight and I feel that I've been really taken advantage of.

You all may Need to take Drastic Measures
by: Anonymous

Gosh. All of you are in a truly terrible situation. Can't you all demand the doctors to either put your demented parents in a nursing home and if the doctor refuses, blackmail him/her with threats that if he/she doesn't, you will do something silly enough to land you in jail and then the doctors won't have a choice.

They will have to put your parents in a nursing home. Here in Australia, criminals in jail have a much better life than you do. Even the famous Martin Byrant who murdered 36+ people back cc 1996 has a much better life than you.

If things get too bad, all you have to do is tell your doctors that the stress of caring is causing you to have uncontrollable fantasies about being a mass murderer. I guarantee you will then get the help you need.

Caring is so Isolating
by: no life

I can totally sympathise. Caring for mum who I love above everything. But I have no life. Non carerers haven t got a clue.

So Sad
by: sally

Reading through these texts I can really identify with your situation. Mum and me has always shared a close bond.

I am 48, also single and childless. After my dad died 3 years ago of cancer, we nursed him at home. Very stressful, mum couldn't cope so, I went back to live with her. She would get anxious and worried if I went out (which I didn't because I knew how she felt).

I became a virtual prisoner. Recently mum fell and broke her hip. She had a major fall six years ago resulting in a new shoulder joint a dynamic hip screw,on the right now the same in the left leg.

It is emotionally traumatic to see someone you love in so much pain. Mum s confidence has yet again plummeted. I can not go anywhere, not even for a short walk. I feel angry at non-carerers as they don t have a clue.

I feel life is passing me by rapidly. Mum is everything to me. I fear for now and the future.

I am in a constant state of worry and anxiety. your right being around old age and sickness constantly is emotionally draining.

Running Low
by: Anonymous

I am not a full-time caregiver, YET. But I have been doing some of the yard work, all the housework, laundry, doctors appointments.,, on and on.

This has been going on for years, increasingly time consuming. Dad seems depressed, many times pouting the whole time I'm there doing these chores. Sister is Golden, only really speaks up when I can't convince him to do something he really needs to be doing, hygiene and health wise.

She gets pretty critical. Basically dumps her concerns in my lap and expects results. Her complaints are pretty much legitimate, but require cooperation from Dad. She just shows up once in awhile, which is enough for him.

I basically feel like the unpaid servant and clean up woman. Somebody has to do this unappreciated job. He was a good dad. I have been this way before with another relative. Tried to make his later years a little more cheerful and helped him out with things. And I got treated like dirt by the rest of the family.

I think they deep down inside know they did not do much of anything, and want to discredit any well intentioned efforts. So, I know not to expect anything when this is over. Yes, I'll know I did the right thing, but at what price? It's getting to the point that I don't like relatives very much. Just too many opinions, attitudes, unsolicited advice, and NO action. I feel like a doormat.

My Situation
by: Anonymous

My widowed mum's dementia/Osteoarthritis was doctor induced (forcible administration of double dose of tetanus vaccine) just so I'd have to give up work - just because I'm a "spastic".

11 years later mum is totally house bound but wants help from no one but me. The time will come when I'll have to give up my p/t job.

All organizations refused to get involved just because I'm a "spastic". If push comes to shove I may have to do something crazy enough to be put in jail as that will be the only way to get help - just because I'm a "spastic"

Thank you
by: Anna, UK

Thanks to everyone who has posted words of support. It's encouraging to know that there are people out there who understand the difficulties and dilemmas, as a lot of 'non-carers' just don't seem to get it. Recently, I tried to talk to my sister about some of the problems of caring and she just went quiet. The next time that I saw her she implied that I don't care about our dad anyway, as he 'gets on your nerves.!

I'm sorry to hear about similar situations and wish that I could offer some good advice. To Anon,'Stay or Go'. If your father is still in reasonable health, then could you start by volunteering for short amounts of time? I'm sure that you've considered all the options, but would it be possible for you and your father to move somewhere where there might be more outside opportunities? Good luck.

Stay or Go
by: Anonymous

I am also single and almost 32. I was minding my Mum for a few years and she died.... also my fiancee dumped me at the same time and left the country. He had been drinking a lot and became very abusive.

My Dad is in reasonably good health but I am afraid to leave him as I watched my mother die. I'm also too sensitive in work as all my colleagues are marrying and I'm living alone in a one horse town with little hope of meeting any one. I was thinking of going away for a year to volunteer oversees but I'm afraid to leave my father alone as my siblings just ask him for money and have their own lives. They too don't help. What should I do???

I hear you...
by: Sara Ann

I resonated with so much of what you said. I moved back to Florida to take care of my Mom, figuring that I would have a couple of years of that and that I would be then able to resume a vibrant professional and personal life.

That was 1994. Mom is still alive, still pursuing a slow suicide from her lifetime of smoking.

For 16 years I was almost entirely by myself caring for her. For the last year, I've had some help from my sister.

Please don't get to your wit's end before you gather your wits.

Number one, take a day or three completely off. Call your parent's doctor and tell them, you are going away for a few days and they will need to help you arrange care. Even if your loved one ends up in the hospital for a few days as a result, you need a break.

While you are away, think about how you can streamline tasks. I just did this, and figured out how I can arrange breakfasts and lunches for my mom in about three hours each week, if I shop smart and keep preparation simple. This also involved assigning dinners on a permanent basis to my sister. I suggest you find something to assign to your deadbeat siblings; if they don't or won't contribute time ask them to contribute money for your household's well-being. I have one brother who escaped the entire responsibility by relocating overseas. This may sound really bad, but you could threaten the same to your deadbeat siblings, if they won't do more to help.

Three, get some counseling for yourself. Perspective is lost in these kinds of consumptive situations. It's like entering a black hole with no obvious exit. You need someone to shine a light, to remind you of who you are and to help you get back in touch with that person who has a variety of activities and interests. For years I have had excellent advice to cut back and leave my siblings with the consequences. I was afraid to take the advice, out of fear that my mom would suffer. But, on the contrary, she benefits from having more people involved in her care.

Fourth, walk away from any abuse. My mother lies, cries, says that "you treat me like dirt", claims that I do things to her when the truth is that she does her best to siphon every drop of productive energy I have, and without any mercy for me. So getting fully disillusioned with her is actually a good thing, because I can't deal with reality until I acknowledge what reality is. Now that I have given up hope of having any kind of reciprocal relationship with her, my focus is on getting her needs met with the greatest efficiency possible, and with involving the greatest number of people who are available and willing. Getting some part of my own life back will increase my compassion for her.

All of this is offered in love, without judgment. I was caregiving alone for too long, and I made a ton of mistakes, and I would like to save some others from them.

Let us know how you are. From an ocean away, it's not too different here, and people care about you.

Kind regards,

Sara Ann

Trust Yourself, let Others live with Their Choices
by: Anonymous

I understand the problem you have too. I'm a single man with an older brother who is married with two kids. When my mum died my dad was left alone. He is an alcoholic. I decided to move back in to the family home to help.

To cut a long story short. My brother does nothing to help and seems to think that his family gives him the excuse to leave it up to me. This is wrong. My dad is ours 50/50. He treated us as equals when we grew up so we should treat him equally now.

But some people are selfish and you can't change that. Do what is right in your heart and don't wait or expect help from anyone else. Smell the flowers and marvel at the wonders of the world. Don't be fooled by the fools and believe in your own morality. I can tell your heart is good.

I am in the Same Boat.
by: Anonymous

I can relate with everything that you are saying. I take care of my father-in-law, who has 10 living children. Apparently, because I stay home with my 4 children, whom I home school, I am the obvious choice.

He takes up every waking moment, and then does not sleep at night. He was abusive as a father, so even my husband will not deal with him. I have tried to have help come into our home, but he is verbally abusive and throws them out.

There is no nursing home willing to take him, so the doctors put him on an anti-psychotic drug, that makes him unstable on his feet. I am sure you are like me and have no way of taking a break. It seems he can sense when I try to take a shower, or on the telephone. I am at my wits end, really almost suicidal.

I like you, have no life. I also feel guilty, because I want him put in a home. Well, I pray that things will get better for you. Good Luck.

Poor You!
by: Anonymous

Gosh I have no idea when you wrote this but I feel awful for you.

Please please start taking your life back.

Get out of the house on a daily basis. Accept a part time Job and ignore your father's complaints.
And your sister sounds like a Terribly selfish and ungrateful person.

Good luck! Take care of YOU!

This World is Just Unfair
by: Anonymous

Sorry about your situation...not sure if this could be any consolation but I think my situation is somehow similar but guess quite worse, though I am miles away in South America.

I've been the main and almost sole caregiver for my mother for about 8 years, she has (and always had) multiple issues, physical and psychiatric, including several fractures due to falls, so that by now she is physically dependent for almost everything, and her dementia decline accelerated last 2 years, since her hip fracture.

I work full time but my career has been seriously hindered by the many limitations posed by my situation. Most of the last two years I had to hire (and help to pay out from my pocket) permanent sitters, due to my mom mental status, for the fear of a new fall (she also has a housekeeper, that I have to help pay too).

I don't really feel any support from my family (by now I don't think I have such a thing), I've had to stand so many hurtful words, including my own mom's. Now that my mom's dementia seems to have worsened, she doesn't really say anything that makes sense, but when she still was herself it was really sad how unfair and ungrateful she could be. As you, I am single and childless, so my married sisters kind of left the burden to me.

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