Sister, sister...can she really be a help?
My older sister who lives in another state came into town last month and announced she wanted to be here for our mother until she passes. My sister and I are the pm caregivers 7 days a week.
We also work 9-5 outside the home. My mother is on hospice care and has a caregiver 9-5 while we both work. There is a schedule of medications, treatments, baths, house cleaning, cooking and whatever else to make our mother comfortable. We care giving sisters are tired, fed up and totally disillusioned with our older sister because of this story...
My sister lasted three weeks after she announced she would like to live a couple of blocks away from our mother and would like to give my sister and I a break from our duties caring for our mother at night Monday-Friday. Great! All of a sudden, my older sister decided the care giving at night and atmosphere in the house was too much for her to cope with.
She also used the excuse, "there are too many rules" caring for our mother and "I don't think I can work with all those rules and schedules." The rules are medications by 10 p.m., breathing treatment after that, brush teeth and get into bed to watch a little TV before trying to go to sleep.
This routine takes anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 hours depending on our mother's mood. She is capable mind you of being in the mood, but likes to stay up all hours of the night because she can...so our mother and older sister have voiced quite often! It doesn't matter what time anyone has to wake up and go to work the next day either. It doesn't matter that our mother's caregiver during the day comes at 9:30 a.m. to sit and wait until noon, sometimes 2 o'clock to get our mother up, give her a breathing treatment, take her vitals, feed and remind her to take her medicines.
My brother, who has started to come once a month for three days tells us...be compassionate...mom is facing her mortality...how would you feel?
Well...I feel like a zombie most of the time because I am up until our mother decides to go to bed every night 7 days a week! I might mention our mother is suffering from CHF, COPD, anxiety and anorexia. She weighs 80 pounds and is on continuous oxygen. Not an easy death for her. Morphine and Xanax help, but she does not eat and is cranky all the time. Wouldn't you be?
I think it is fine and dandy to come for a short stay to help out....I look forward to that time I can actually go to bed at 10 pm and get 7+ hours of sleep. What I don't get is the attitude that I can do it and I am fine...so should you! Umm...no, not 7 nights a week for three years?
Being compassionate is not the real issue here I feel. Working together to establish everyone's limits and understanding those limits and boundaries is.
From past experiences with my older sister, the excuses and attitude are nothing new to my other sister and myself. You see, my sister likes to "play" all the time. If the care of our mother gets too intense or if (we, the caregiver sisters)try to explain or help with the duties that are a definite
"have to" for our mother's well being, the manipulation begins! My older sister immediately, without consideration for anyone's feelings or schedule, alters her "help" attitude.
Her words and intent of being there until our mother passes is nothing less than in my opinion, her attempt to control, manipulate and cause stress. Actually, my older sister has never been committed to anything or anyone. She spends her husbands money to come and go and do as she pleases. She is like a force of nature...leaving her path of destruction everywhere she goes and then complains she is the victim to everyone.
To add to our frustration, my older sister will confide in our mother and tell her tall tales about our behavior towards her when we disagree about something that does not please her. This causes great tension and anxiety for our mother.
The sad truth is however,my mother will most often side with our older sister because she feels sorry for her in many ways because she has "issues" herself and our mother feels sorry for her. In turn, we(the sister caregivers) suffer the wrath of our mother's guilt..."you don't know what it is like being 92 and dying!" " I can stay up all night, and not eat if I don't want to." Sigh... all you can say is, we love you mom and we are doing our best.
Unfortunately, this never is good enough because our mother holds grudges and likes to pit siblings against one another.
My older sister has been also diagnosed with bi-polar and insomnia. She relies on prescription drugs to aid her sleep. She will practice sleepless nights at least three times in one week. This is partly due in my opinion to her spending countless hours thinking of ways to "out" my sister and I. For what gain, I don't quite know.
What I do know is, my older sister in a nutshell is also like Lucy from the Peanuts gang...holding the football out for you to kick because she wants you to play along with her...at the last moment pulls it away!
So, my sleep is now limited to 5.5 or 6 hours at best a night because my mother has been experiencing anxiety attacks anywhere from 5 p.m to midnight because of the "drama" and tension in the house since my older sister departed in a huff. I have to get up every morning at 6 a.m. and drive 40 minutes to work. I am very tired needless to say.
I try to manage a single mother's life, administrator of a small private school, teach art lessons to make extra money and be a caregiver as best I can. My daughter is a junior in college and I am living with my mother so as to save money to pay my daughter's college tuition.
It has been three years since I began living with my mother. As of late, my mother is becoming more dependent on her daily care giver and this dependence carries over to my sister and I in a big way. We have to do as the am caregiver does, bar none! I really feel damned if I do and damned if I don't at this point in time. If I need "me" time, my mother asks why? you get that all the time.
I know my mother is struggling. I get it. I am struggling too.