I am Becoming an Abusive Caregiver

by Diana
(San Drnacisco)

It's happening. I am becoming an abusive caregiver. What started as just fantasies of yelling at my mom, progressed into pretend yelling at her in my pillow at night, progressed into having silent conversations in the mirror shadowing to make it seem like I am talking to another person, progressed on to self-mutilation to myself, progressed onto actually yelling at my mom to hurry up and die.


I am not a very good caregiver. I had depression even before I was a caregiver. I never liked being around my mom for more than 1/2 hr even before she had dementia. When I have gone into a depression, my mom has invited me to stay with her (nice, yes...) but being around her exacerbates my low self esteem. But, well, where else to go? In the past, I would just sleep and do chores and wear the strongest ear plugs possible against my moms voice until the depression passed and I could work again.

Now, my mom is in dementia. I got depressed again last year, lost my job, and siblings thought it was a 'good idea' I stay with my mom --- to help each other out --- also I am so dysfunctional I still yearn for my mom to love me and I think if I do enough stuff for her, she finally will. Actually, one sister implored me not to caregive again ... as it increases my suicide attempts ... and hers. We both lost our fiancés for 'dropping everything' to care give.

Anyway, the longer and longer I care give, the less and less I actually do. No laundry, no cleaning out the fridge, no decluttering the hoarding. Nothing. I don't even bathe myself anymore and I've been wearing the same smelly clothes for 2 weeks.

My mom got encephalopathy last Friday at 3am. Before dialing 911, I waited a while pondering if I should call them or not .... if I didn't call then maybe she would die. I called them after all. I really dislike sleeping on hospital floors. I also mostly dislike seeing happy people in a similar way that a dumped person dislikes seeing couples in love. I keep my head down.

My mom got out of the hospital today. I cried the whole way to pick her up. I didn't 'live up' my 5 days of freedom. A lot of the time, I didn't know what to do with myself and so I just slept. One night, I slept with my ex-boyfriend just to feel the touch of a human. He was angry because my conversation skills have waned. I don't have much to say as I have no life and can't comment on my job or current events or anything. I don't listen very well anymore either. I tune out soliloquies, because I tune out my mother all day long so I don't feel compulsive urges to smack her or punch my thighs for hearing the same complaints on me or praises of my sister and her kids or of the same mutated stories of what she thinks the past was like.

I shouldn't be a caregiver. Caregivers get depressed over time and I was depressed and suicidal to start off. The voices of my sister to tell me to 'grow up' and 'mature' and stop being such a baby and care give are very strong. I am using my best efforts to brainwash myself into wanting to care give my mom. It has to be an act of love... the love isn't generating. I am very self-absorbed, I know. I am engaging in self-pity, I know. My psychiatrist says that if writing stuff like this on the Internet helps me avoid suicide or more self-mutilation then I should write it.

My issue with my mom is that she talks 'at me' not 'with me.' She never has, I am an object or tool to her... like a 'man about the house' to lift heavy things, hold her purse, and nod my head when she talks on and on. She treats me like she did my dad who is now her ex. It is sickening.

My mom cooks meals. That is nice, in a way. They are not anywhere close to what is supposed to be her diabetic diet, but I don't care anymore about making meals that she is just going to dump sugar and salt all over. The food is making me sick as I have hypoglycemia, but well I don't bathe anymore so why should I care. I stole breakfast from the hospital cafeteria today. Morals do slip when one is poor and unhappy. Protein! Eggs and sausage. Vegetables! It was heaven.

Tonight, my mom says she is going to leave town tomorrow. She is packing stuff up haphazardly. She has told me she's going to the moon several times, but this time she's packing. She says she's sick of medicines and hospitals and me, that I am a reminder of her illness and she can't stand my crying and unhappiness. That's believable. A depressed person is no fun to be around and not very tactful with the timing of "Did you take your night medicines, Mom?"

Frankly, she knows I ask that not because I 100% care about her health but because I don't want to go through the ordeal again of doing the ER thing because after using a variety of attempts 5 days ago to get her to take her night medicine... I gave up and went to sleep. See what a lousy caregiver I am?

I wasn't always this lousy a caregiver. It only happens when I live with her. I live out of my car out front if her apartment. It's the only way to keep her from relocating my medicines and stuff. I'm glad she has a handicap placard for me to drive her around so I can at least not have to walk far if I decide to brush my teeth. I used to care about hygiene and even makeup and technology and science, like back when I was at MIT.

My mom is in the bath right now. I should check if she's drowning. I'm going to try to stay awake until she falls asleep so I can move some furniture to barricade the doors for when she wants to leave to go on her trip. I kind of want to steal her purse right now so she has no ID or money to leave. But, she is a hoarder and will know it's missing.... despite her dementia she always notices if I touch anything. I do want to sleep tonight, so I don't want a big conflict over her purse or chasing her down the street at this hour. Decisions , Decisions....

I am working my darnedest to block the thought that suicide is my ticket out of caregiving. My mom brags her mother lived to 80 and grandmother to 98. My mom is 68. In 30 years, I'll be 63. Shall I end my life or spend it not living? I am lonely. Visions and dreams of a career or marriage or family of my own are gone. Yes, melodrama. I indulge.

Frankly, after caregiving my sister with Lyme disease for a year and now my mom for 3+ years, intensely in the last year... I am not sure I want to have kids anymore. What is it but more caregiving? My heart might be in it if it were my own kids, but what am I kidding, I don't even caregive myself anymore.

I dread my sister. I can't stand her bitching at me for being a lousy caregiver and getting pissed off if I don't inform her I am leaving for a while and getting pissed off if I do inform her. She is married and has kids and has Lyme Disease. According to my dysfunctional family's hierarchy of importance, that makes me 6th in line for resources... since I am too physically healthy for quality food or love or consideration or help for my measly low-importance mental illness.

I abandon my mom sometimes and go to Al-Anon meetings because it is free counseling. I don't go to caregiver support groups because the ladies there are all in their 50's and I am 33. At Al Anon there are younger people, sometimes even men. Sometimes on the street if I am crying, someone will talk to me. That is cool. The cab driver last night when I went to pick up my mom from the hospital (buses were over) talked to me. Then, He wanted sex. I said maybe if he got a permission slip from his wife, but really I said no. It was nice to have a conversation, though.

I also abandon my mom to go to the library. I get books and read them and pretend I have a life as a character in the book. Sadly, I am turning to romance novels. Maybe I have more in common with the 50 year old caregivers after all. I used to like technology and more interesting philosophy books but now I read trash, probably because I feel like trash.

Right now, I don't feel good because I can't detach and not create scenarios of disaster of my mom leaving on this 'trip' of hers tomorrow. Hard for me to live in the present, always has been, even before the caregiving.

When did I stop caring about my mom's health and well-being? When did I become so self-absorbed with my own pity-party of my own unhappiness? I used to actually want to help my mom and see her healthy and happy. Now all I do is fantasize about winning the lottery and putting her in a nice assisted living home. I also fantasize about some nice person buying me a lottery ticket so I could actually qualify for the lottery.

I could make maybe $ 100,000 - $ 120,000 per year. My last job was $105,000 salary. That is a lot. I lost my last job because I couldn't concentrate with the endless harassing phone calls from my sister to take an FMLA leave to caregive. Ya, right. Ask for that after only 2 months on the job. She really knows how to 'get me' with her 'moms dying. these are her last days alive.' I'm a sucker. I fall for it every time. My sister lives 5 blocks away from my mom. She sleeps well at night now because I am here now.

I read a lot about caregivers. I have to plan my escape. My siblings will not help me when my mom dies. I'll be not only bereft (I wish jubilant, but likely I'll be bereft), penniless and homeless without a friend... as I am estranged from all my friends now that I am so isolated. My sister knows my social security number. That's how she tracked me last time, by impersonating me on the phone to my bank to find out my last bank transaction. We're all hackers and crackers. She uses her powers for evil. I do too, I suppose. I dress as a nurse at the hospital to steal food more easily

I am sure I am blowing everything out of proportion. That s what my sister says. Take this all with a bucket of salt, unless you have hypertension like my mom. Benazepril!

Comments for I am Becoming an Abusive Caregiver

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Me too!
by: Anonymous

I have been living with my 85 year old mother for 5 years.
I had anxiety and depression before but now I can't get out of bed. It is hard to shower, I can't exercise, life is awful.

The mother has been in retirement homes before. She likes it at first then hates it and insists on leaving. She is petty, shallow, manipulative, and always gets her way. All she wants to do is be with me. We hate each other.

I get so mad at her smothering and boundary violating that I push her, throw stuff at her, and hit her with pillows.
I feel so guilty after you can't imagine.
I am sure I will die before her and all her health problems.
The lower child gets the bitch.

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Is there an ally for you?
by: Anonymous

Hi Diana....I read your post having just yelled at my dad and I've only been caretaking him and my mom for 5 days! Imagine how much more patient you are than me!

Is there any way you can call your local senior center and have your mom assessed for receiving County based home health aides come in a few times weekly...just so you can get respite and get a massage or go to lunch? Or is her income too high for this?

I'm trying to get my parents to accept home health aides (private pay) and I know it's hard to deal with the resistance parents put up. But you need to catch some breaks.

I know you said your mom bombed out of Community Adult day care....so she's probably a handful. I'm just wondering if someone other than family could team with u a few hours daily, if only so that you had an ally.

Your sister sounds like an unsafe person so I'd stop anything but the most perfunctory conversations with her if you possibly can.

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50 ways to leave your mother
by: Anonymous

I would be lying if I said I feel your pain, because only you know what its like to be you. Thank you for your honesty. People need to know the nightmare that is caregiving.

Sorry I don't have any platitudes. Platitudes just made me angry when I was in a similar situation.

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This is me
by: Anonymous

What can I say other than your situation is like mine. Although I'm about 10 years older.

I feel like my life is going no where. I care for my late stage dementia mother whom I now hate. I suffered from anxiety and depression before this started and the situation just exasperated it.

I think about killing my mother and myself constantly.

I'm angry, a blinding anger that I take out on my Mom constantly. I've hurt her I imagine I want to hurt her enough so she'll go to the hospital and stay there just so I can get a break. My Father her husband won't care for her he says it's women's work. I'm so tired of the diapers cleaning her shit and the constant supervision of her.

I'm so exhausted I hit her this morning now she's stuck in the floor and honestly I don't care. If I'm being brutally honest I can't wait till she dies so I can get on with my life.

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Sister
by: Anonymous

I have no idea who you are, but you spoke to my very soul!!! I have been the caregiver for my mother for 6 years. It started when I was 33. I am now approaching 40.

Where has my life gone!??!!!! I hate my sister and other relatives so much. Caregiving exposes the very worst of people.

I lost my marriage. No one cares. People say, "You're a saint" "You're meant for this" "God Bless you". I want to strangle them!!!!

This is truly the Pit of Hell. I'm very sad for you. I pray for you and for me. We will make it out of this better people.

You have done your best, don't beat yourself up over it. More than many people will ever do in their lifetimes! God Bless

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Understand where you're coming from
by: SBFS

You have my total sympathy, indeed your lot is far worse than most as you are dealing with a dementia patient and a seriously dysfunctional family who fail to appreciate your own needs and incapacity to render caregiving at this point in time, and perhaps ever.

Care-giving for my mother is totally destroying my marriage right now. Ironically husband wants me to do it, because he wants to make sure I inherit her assets rather than any of my relatives, especially a certain cousin whom he detests (he insists she has a financial motive, and I suspect she must because caregiving sucks and there is no other reason one might be willing to take it on).

I also have the problem that I promised her I'd never put her in a "home," even the best (which is probably what my husband really wants me to do but doesn't want to look bad by saying it outright).

Furthermore, full-time in-house LPN's and sisters are hard to find, not to mention very expensive. Latest: my husband is now not talking to me because I am not around to help him and have not managed to find round-the-clock care for her so I can come back to the marital home.

By the way, he's never had the burden of care-giving, so he has absolutely no idea what it entails.

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Lotus Sutra non violence
by: Anonymous

Hi

My mother is either facing dementia and depression, please read the Lotus Sutra interpreted by Nichiren Daishonin, best English translation by Burton Watson, you can find it on the internet, it shows a different path to take that is free from violence.

What is happening to you is that you can not rescue her so you are getting angry and becoming violent, if you take a path that is non violent and realize that you can not rescue anyone from themselves, you can show people a different but you can't make them take it but you can take a different path yourself. All the best.

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Being Kind and Honest
by: Reality

Being kind and honest to both ourselves and an elderly parent suffering from something like dementia, is to identify when it is time to see them move into assisted living, that does not involve us.

If a family caregiver finds that they are being abusive towards the person they are looking after, in this case a parent with dementia, then it's time for the parent to be helped by people who are objective, and reasonably consistent in their emotions ( meaning friendly and patient).

It's cruel to both the caregiver and the person being assisted when a situation continues on where abuse is occurring. It takes away from the emotional well being of both individuals.
You and your mother both have the right to be happy.

Sometimes we just have to face reality and admit, the best caregiver for our elderly parent or parents or anyone needing huge emotional assistance in general, can often have to be someone who has no emotional attachment to the person or persons needing care.

Abuse towards anyone being cared for by family is an indicator, that something has to change.
Namely removing the abuser from the equation and allowing more honesty into the situation.
You probably do need to get your mother into assisted care, before you cause irreversible damage to your memories of a relationship with her, and the emotional well being of both your mother and you. You both matter.

You are both worthy of consideration, the only difference being between your mother and you, she is the one with the dementia, and you are the one who can make the right decision in her best interests.
If you are abusing your mother, it's time to get out.

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You Sound like Me
by: Anonymous

I am in the same boat you are in. I'm 30, married with 2 small kids and my dad who has dementia lives with us and he is so mean and rude to me and them. He calls my kids bad names hits them and is rude.

I have gotten where I HATE him...Okay, that's bad to say but he got the department of family and children's called on me going to neighbors telling them I don't feed him or buy him anything. My kids almost got taken away from me .

I cant take it any more he has other family they don't want him. I have thought about just dropping him off some where like a fire department. He won't go to a nursing home I have no idea what to do . I cry all the time I'm depressed and my husband and I fight.

He says he is leaving all the time going to just walk off and leave with DFC already called 4 months ago I'm scared I will get put in jail... We also had to move to another town because of him saying these things to the neighbors.

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I Resonate
by: Anonymous

I hope your life has somewhat improved. It was very interesting for me to read what you wrote. I'm about to turn 23, am the only child, and am aware that I don't overflow with caregiving patience (both because I'm still young and because of my natural temperament).

There are moments when I'm afraid of becoming an abusive caregiver as well, though no one would ever suspect of me. I've yelled at my mother a few times; of course it wasn't her fault, since she's actually quite reasonable and wonderful for someone who has suffered a stroke and subsequent physical trauma. Sometimes I consider myself very lucky since it could have been much worse. Maybe you should get some exercise; it might help you with your mental status.

Best,
ANV

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Great Post!!
by: Anonymous

Hey, you are not alone!....My sister and I call ourselves "Scaregivers" when we have a "bad day" with mom....

My mom has Parkinson's and is 86. The one thing we have in our family is a rotating set of 4 kids (ages 55-64) who take turns watching her. My mom was/is a great,caring,cool parent...so even the best of parents have kids that can "slip' a little and get "pissed off" out of frustration...I'm not talking about physical abuse here,by the way.

I know your sister has Lyme disease. Hey,boo hoo!...maybe it's time to let her husband watch the kids a couple of days a week (weekends? when he has a few days off?) so she can "man up" and carry the load of caring for an ill parent....She lives too close to dump all of this onto you,it seems. Tell her to bring the damn kids and spend some time with grandma! sheeesh!

I do agree with other replies:you need to take care of you....You are young and WILL have a great,full life....we are all cheering you on...I know it sounds maudlin but it's the truth.

In any case,you wrote an exceptional piece here. My sister e-mailed me to read your post...You tell it like it is;or can be...warts and all. Might be scary to some-but not to others...

Best to You,

another caregiver

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You Are More Ill Than Your Mother
by: Anonymous

You portray yourself as an intelligent woman. You realize, then, that you have two choices: Get help and get on with your life or, continue to waste your time and energy ruminating about your situation, and die before your mother does.

Don't mean to be so blunt, but it is frightening that you are being trusted to take care of your mother when you obviously cannot take care of yourself. You are much more ill than your mother and are clearly not the one to be looking after her. Good luck to you both.

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I AM BECOMING AN ABUSIVE CAREGIVER
by: Carmen from Ottawa,annononymous

HI! Just read your story..We feel your pain..Did you ever think of the saying " the blind can't lead the blind". Well, this is sooooo true.

You, should be taking care of yourself first, try and get HELP and find a resource that will give the proper care, for your MOM.. This is not "cruel" to take a step back, and put your life back together. You are so young, at 33 yrs old, you DO NOT KNOW what life, holds for you, in the future. I can't talk too much about your mom, but also, she does not need this, she herself is a SICK person. Call any HELP line, in your community or your local MENTAL HEALTH ASSOCIATION. someone will direct you.

I will keep you and your mom in our prayers. DONT GIVE UP.. Give yourself a chance & again DO NOT REFUSE THE HELP FOR BOTH OF YOU..
Sincerely,
Carmen

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Wow, Christine! Somebody commented.
by: Diana

Christine,

This is Diana. Yes, I need counseling. That is why I go to counseling on the phone once per week with my psychiatrist and to Al Anon whenever I have the courage to abandon my mom for an hour or so. I tried calling my sister before to come over so I could go to Al Anon for free counseling, but she came over once with her kids and my mom became irate that I 'imposed' on my sister who has a priority of taking care of her kids and husband. My mother doesn't believe in couseling. She throws the bible at me, literally. My mom was a doctor so she only validates physical illnesses. I call the suicide hotline for counseling sometimes, but they'll only talk for 15minutes or so.

Mainly, I need some nutrition, exercise, vitamins, sunshine, human contact with sane people who engage in conversation, something of my own to look forward to, and some 'fix' for my depression/anxiety/mania/schizophrenia/PTSD/etc. that I had before I was a caregiver. My psychiatrist says I'm too sick to be a caregiver, that the stress of it is exascerbating my rapid cycling and causing the self-mutilation.

So, I know about counseling and take a bunch of new pills since I started caregiving for anxiety and sleeping... pretty soon I will beat my mom in the number of pills I take. I need a pair of handcuffs to tie my mom down so I can actually attend counseling. She refused and got kicked out of all the adult day programs. When she is lucid, I ask her if she will cooperate so I can go to some activities, but she says she doesnt care if I am happy. This isn't anything new, I've heard it since I was very young, hence why I left for college at age 13 and why I have a psychiatrist. It's a messed up relationship. I am not 'zen enough' to detach from the words. I am not 'zen enough' to live in 400sq ft and not go more crazy. I am not 'zen enough' to not desire love or food. I only feel good about myself and want to take care of myself when I am away from my mom and sister.
I have 3 options:
1) have the courage to commit suicide. I'll do it when I 'pop' in a mania, so I don't really need courage, just wait to 'snap.'
2) have the courage to abandon my mom permanently. it is very hard for me to think of a needy person being alone. I have always helped my family; it is ingrained/programmed. I realize I am too burned-out/messed-up to help, but the programming to help is atill there. I need the courage to cut off all communication with my family so I will not allow myself to be pulled back into caregiving. Change my name and social security number. My susceptibility to my moms words
that she loves me and wants me to caregive her or my
words. I fall for it every time, like an idiot.
3) any ideas?

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You need help for you
by: Christine

You are in a bad place and need help. Don't diminish, or let anyone else diminish, that which is so very obvious. Get counseling before you leave yourself open to something horrible happening. You are not alone in your frustration, but your thoughts are scary.

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