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10-12-2011, 02:00 PM #1
Caring for elderly parents & sacrifices
About my situation: I live with my elderly father - who's still mobile and active - he doesn't need 24 hour constant care but he does need alot supervision. He has had his drivers lic medically suspended and frankly, he's not likely to get it back. He's survived a TIA/mini stroke and has bounced back and is at about 90%. He eats much better, reduced salt & fat, proper portions and walks daily. DH prefers that I be a stay at home wife and just 'be there' for dad 'just in case'. I've agreed.
I have daily battles over both of our definitions of what is considered 'clean'. He'll rinse dishes - no soap, no scrubbing - but he calls that 'cleaned'. Crumbs on the counter, stains on the cutting board & knife, grease and burnt on food still on pots/pans, spills on the fridge shelves, splooshes & splats all over the floor - its all 'clean' to him. Therefore I've had to take the upperhand and clean the kitchen thoroughly daily/nightly. I have since taken over cleaning his bathroom, sweeping, vacuuming and mopping the upstairs floors.
We have battles over where to go out and when to go out shopping. He's used to daily trips out to pick up groceries. I prefer to go once a week for the big shop with a potential smaller quick trip for essentials only if needed. We do end up going out daily to the grocery store or ethnic stores or big box stores...you name it. I take him daily b/c he is unable to drive himself anywhere legally. I do not want to tempt him into being 'independent' and risk him driving illegally. He has since lost his quick reflexes and now physically stops to think before acting - in a driving situation - this would not be ideal for the others on the road.
To plan a trip, I think of his interests first as well as his ability - no planning a huge hiking trip It has to be entertaining enough, something he'd want to go see/do but also not too overwhelming that it will exhaust him on the first day and use the rest of the week for him to get his energy back. Its also hard to reign him in and stop him from trying to do everything on the first day.
So with the traditional parent-child roles reversing, I'd like to think I've increased his quality of life by making things easier for him. If anything, he has less responsibilities: little or no cleaning, I do all the laundry, I do all the grocery & household shopping and I do half of the cooking. He likes to cook, so I don't want to take that away from him. He still has to pay for some of his bills but not nearly as many of them as he used to. DH and I have assumed responsibility of over half of the household bills.
The concern I have is though I think I have increased his quality of life by making life easier on him - have I just sabotaged him by releasing him of his routine daily duties? Were these lil things what makes him tick? I worry that by having less to do, he will just give up on things and become a vegetable. He chooses not to be social and won't join social clubs, attend cultural events and not meeting up with old friends when invited out.
DH & I have discussed being away from home & dad, an overnight trip, a mini vacation - its not something thats doable. My siblings are willing to help but only in their own way...basically a phone call in the evening just before their bedtime, after they've gotten in a full day of work, errands ran, round of golf played, a movie watched etc. Basically dad is an afterthought or one more 'chore' to do before bed to complete their day and rid themselves of any guilt. Clearly hes not a high priority to them. We've come to the conclusion that unless we take dad with us away on vacation, we're not going to go. And if we do go away on a vacation with dad, it will be based all on his pleasure vs our own. So for now, its no vacations for a long while.
After realizing what my life has become, I've realized that I've willingly given up my life to care for my dad. As a result, I feel like I'm sitting here (in my little bubble) watching life pass me by and others get to do things I can only dream of getting to do. Am I thinking about this in a selfish way? Have I cut myself short?
I guess this is where I learn to be a parent (and what it truly means to make sacrifices) except my child is 80 years old.
Anyone else out there in a similar situation? What have you felt that you've given up to care for your elderly parents? Do you get support from other family and friends?
- 10-12-2011, 02:45 PM #2
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Big huggs I so know what you are going thru as I was there myself a few years ago. I received no help from my brother and my Mother and Dad were my sole responsibility I adored my father and wanted to care for him but I know what it is like to feel that you are in quicksand and sinking fast. My Dad had stroke induced dementia and was pretty functional until 86 I took his car away because he no longer could drive even if he thought he could My mother has alchohol induced dementia and fought me every step of the way. One day my dad went out walking and fell broke his hip and was placed in a nursing home for rehab he never came out I still cry whenever I think of it. My mother moved into an apartment close to where i lived and continued to drink and literally made my life a living hell for 2 years after she fell in a drunken state the hospital placed her in a nursing home where she still is living She is 94. I cooked cleaned fed them prepared thier meals paid thier bills and took care of all medical needs it nearly killed me I cried all the time and seriously people thought I would have a breakdown. The best thing that ever happened was my mother going in a nursing home The home has now eaten up 240,000.00 of what would have been my inheritance and you what I dont even care No amount of money is worth what this was doing to my life. I admire you and wish you well its a tough road and unless you have walked it you cant understand how it is Take care of yourself10-12-2011, 04:15 PM #3
Libby, check into your community resources for Seniors.
Our town has an organization called "Seniors Services". It provides temporary or long-term caregivers for the elderly, meals-on-wheels, proctors, St. John's Ambulances life-phone connections (they check daily on each client, and a phone is installed for emergencies which goes directly to the medical staff). They also have a list of people who will do various chores in the home, or even those who will give footcare, help with hygiene or shopping, cleaning, driving to appointments, etc.
You could utilize these service from time to time to give yourself a much-needed break from your responsibilities. It doesn't cost too much for occasional services.10-12-2011, 05:57 PM #4
Yes, Libby, I do it, too. I laughed about your father's version of "clean," complete with spats, splotches, and baked-on food. I have that same frustration so definitely share your pain. We laugh that my elderly family member has a great "retirement plan," ME. One thing I've found that helped a lot is to share a hobby. That way a lot of the outings can be a shared interest. You have my understanding and compassion. You sound like the sort of daughter I'd pray to have, and I may find out some day if my own kids were paying attention to the way I treat elderly family members. . . .Totally debt free since January 2011.
Fully funded Emergency Fund complete December 12, 2011! Yeah!10-12-2011, 06:18 PM #5
Have you talked to him to see if he would be comfortable with you running away for a weekend? You could try one night, hotel and hubby, see how it goes. Maybe he could use a break from both of you as well. I think you mentioned once that your sister came and took him for a week, but I think you just stayed home while he was gone. Maybe guilt her into doing that for a weekend, but GET AWAY yourself. I know you are probably thinking "but if dad is gone, why would I pay for a hotel to go somewhere else?" but change of scenery can do wonders to refresh yourself.
I helped to care for my grandma when she had Alzheimers, giving grandpa a break from her. Every time we watched her we realized what a challenge she must be to have 24/7. We would watch her at our house while he went downtown to play cards and have coffee with the guys. It was his only glimpse of sanity, poor thing. Eventually we enlisted more help for him: a nurse to come bathe grandma, and my mom would clean house for him, then we got a housekeeper for him, short durations, just so he wasn't so overwhelmed.
My point is even small services people popping in to help relieve you could go a long way in saving your sanity and giving you both a break from each other. Just a thought.10-13-2011, 01:03 PM #6
Senior Services - that means dealing with other people and being civil to them. (He can be friendly & social but chooses not to be) He'd know why they're at our house and would take offense to it b/c he's capable of caring for himself (for the most part). He'd probably chase them off if it were up to him. I'd rather not aggravate him nor insult him with people coming to the house to care for him just yet. I think that time is further down the road and I can see it but its not for right now.
Asking him if he'd like DH & I to go away - hahahaha - he'd love it! Unsupervised and left to be how he wants to be. I often wonder if he has his own lil acts of rebellion when we're not home. Its like leaving a child unattended at home - will you come home to a trashed house?
He's still able bodied and of a sound mind. He knows what he wants and is willing to go after it. I have his same stubborn streak. Poor DH, has to deal with the two of us . He walks daily, he may even walk to the grocery store or take the transit places. He has a cell phone and the majority of the time, seems to know how to use it. I encourage him using it regardless of the cost. This way I have peace of mind knowing he knows how to call us for help if need be.
I guess when chose to move into this house a while back, it was b/c it has everything within walking distance, grocery store, small plaza and close to transit routes. All in preparation for this phase of his life, which we are now entering. I guess we're just having an awkward time adjusting to the reality of it?
I can honestly say I never pictured myself in my current position. I thought I'd be working full time, paying bills and caring for the house - not dad. I mean, I knew I'd step up if needed but never thought it'd be so soon. I also thought I'd have help with dad as well. Maybe thats why I feel like I'm sacrificing my life for dad's care & well being...it wasn't planned?10-14-2011, 12:17 AM #7
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I think one thing you need to really think about---speaking from past experience------is that you have to take care of you FIRST.........so that you will be around to take care of him.10-14-2011, 08:00 AM #8
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Libby, you definitely need to get out of the house and do something for yourself! Be it a part time job with flexible hours, volunteering, working out at the gym, you've got to do something for yourself.
It is great that you are able to be a SAHW, but your sibs likely look and the situation and figure you can make the sacrifices they can't and you made this choice. And I know you worry but your dad seems functional and mobile, I think you are just bracing yourself for the inevitable decline.
You are newly married, and the wedding glow is starting to wear off and reality is setting in. I found the adjustment to married life very difficult, the first year really sucked, sort of the "is this it?" Feeling. It's really important for you to take some time and effort into reinventing yourself as a married woman and yes, caregiver.
Focus energy on yourself. Make a list of traits and habits and put yourself on a self improvement regimin and give your dad some space to make mistakes (and trash the house if necessary). Like a child, it's the only way for him to realize you are right!!10-14-2011, 04:19 PM #9
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Me I am grandmas family gladly dumped her with no help. she can drive some days. If she goes off of her medication she is mean, is addicted to pain pills with very bad nerves. She is the child and I am the mother it is a very fine line to walk on. It is so very hard and all of my children work I have no help not very often do I get go out with hubby, kids, or friends. I do not get to be alone very often. She cooks but leaves the mess she will not clean up spills in fridge so daily I am at it never ends. She cannot do housework chores on count of shoulder, wash dishes (some times she will ) dust, vacum, sweep, mop clean cat litter,.
I understand hugs. I also have 5 furbabies to clean up after all are bad sheader's.
good luck I am now sending her to bible studies so I can get an morning to my self and looking into senior care for her.10-14-2011, 05:18 PM #10
Oh yes, I've given up a lot taking care of my parents, but felt it was the right thing to do. It's been more difficult since my father died of cancer, as now my mom has to fend for herself and she is also extremely ill. Her license is no more, she cannot drive, nor should she. For a while I was running day and night taking care of her every need. Now, we have hired help through a local agency that comes in 3 days a week for shopping, cooking and cleaning. I'm encouraging her to make that daily. I still take her to most her doctor appointments or hospital ER visits (which is 2-4 visits a week) and help her out with anything she needs. She suffers from depression, but who wouldn't in that situation?
I have been able to keep my piano teaching business going only because I've made it clear she is not to call me during that time unless it is a true emergency. She's slowly realizing there are plenty of people out there ready and willing to help, and that I'm not the only one she can call. I've tried part-time jobs 3 times in the last four years, something health-wise happened each time with my parents and I had to quit. I've given up on that for now.
Now for the good.... She has been able to stay home. She is extremely good with money, and worked her butt off all her life to have plenty for retirement, so she's not about to give it all to a nursing home until she has too. She has compromised on being dominant of my time, and we've made it work. It can be trying sometimes though. I've made sure I "get away" often. Respite care is something you could look into also, there's a place that offers that here (like for a weekend).10-14-2011, 07:40 PM #11
It's easier if we just accept this as a fact of life, and get on with it, making decisions with the resources that are available. There's adjustment, certainly, but everyone is going to be in that position, sooner or later. They changed our diapers, and cleaned up after us when we were babies and couldn't do things. They tended us night and day through all our illnesses and sacrificed their good years as they raised us. Now the circle is completing itself, and it's the children who are called upon to care for the elderly. And that's as it should be. And we should have enough love and devotion is us as children not to begrudge the care and attention our aging parents require. And nowadays there are so many resources available to primary caregivers, that surely something can be arranged to make the situation tolerable and functional for all concerned. It is essential to communicate openly and honestly and work it out together.
It just requires getting on with what must be done at any given point. Maybe it's just the occasional bit of help that is needed, but help is there. It's a shame that nowadays there are so many elderly persons whose families never visit or even show an interest in them, and they are left to languish and die in a personal care home.
Just remember, that sooner or later we will be in the same position, and hopefully our own children will treat us as well as we treated our parents.10-14-2011, 11:58 PM #12
I lived this with my fil for over 2 years. He had Parkinsons. We cared for him in his home but it wasn't easy at all. The first thing I would say is "don't try to do it alone." If there are siblings it is just as much their responsibility to help and if that means giving you a night, a weekend, a week or whatever to yourselves then they need to step up and do it. Please believe me when I say it will get to you.10-15-2011, 12:49 AM #13
You will find many here in the same arena with you. I was caregiver to DMIL-Alz. for 7 years. Both DH and I are "onlies", had just move to a new community and DD was starting High School. Our hospital has a support group that was very valuable and suggested resources to help us out. If there is a senior center, take your dad there while you and your DH have an afternoon date sometime. We found that there was grant monies to allow us some respite care. Your dad is in a different situation though since he is mentally functional.
This past winter I lived with my dad for 4 months as he recovered from a car accident. We went through many family pictures and identified the people and wrote on the back. I brought my sewing machine and quilting projects for my quiet therapy when he napped. During that time I stripped the wax from the floors and now they look almost new. I just puttered and even learned how to use his Kabota snowblower. (What a sight, lol)
Remember, he needs space to breathe as much as you do. Good luck and take care of you and your DH too.
piney10-15-2011, 05:01 AM #14
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Libby - you life sounds exactly like mine. The only difference is my FIL is on oxygen 24/7. He also can't drive and when I do take him out, it is a real chore. He fought me tooth and nail for about a year until he finally realized I didn't have the time to take him out everyday!! We also can't leave him for a mini vacation because he thinks the oxygen is a joke and we check constantly and he will use every excuse in the book to why he doesn't have it on at that moment. Ugh.
Dh is an only child so no help as far as siblings go. We have just accepted the fact that the roles have now reversed and we have to make sacrifices like he did for my DH growing up.
Hugs to you. It isn't easy is it?10-15-2011, 09:28 AM #15
Libby, it can be difficult. Dh and I are caregivers to my 92 year old FIL. We live with him. Sister-in-law and her dh take him out once a week for dinner. Which we really welcome since we like a lot more varities of food than him. Plus it is much welcomed alone time for dh and me. If money allows we go out to dinner. In order to stretch the date night dinner dollars we usually go to fast food restaurants, but that suits us fine. Not the most atmosphere. But we are more interested in each others company. Me getting a night off from cooking and being alone with each other.
SIL also takes care of most of his medical appts. and paperwork since she worked in the medical profession for many years she is just a natural at it.
We take him on errands, do his laundry, clean the house, cook,grocery shop, dh does fix it projects and the home is very old, so there are lots of oh, this broke kinda emergencies...
He also does not drive. We have offered to take him to the senior center... but he won't go. He seems content just staying within the four walls of the house and venturing in the yard to do a little yard work. We know that he is lonesome as he has outlived all of his siblings, but he refuses to go places to meet new people.
We gave up a lot of privacy with this move. Dh and I feel that it is our responsibility with some sibling help to care for him since he is not at the point of needing a nursing home yet. He and deceased MIL took excellent care of dh growing up. They didn't have much money, but they always made sure that dh's needs were met and they sacrificed to get dh braces and a college education.
Sorry that I wrote a novel. Know that others here understand what you are going through.
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