Having to take care of my elderly father since the age of 12.


Hello to all. I come here for guidance and help to cope with my situation that I've been dealing with from my early years. My parents had me when they were already too old and now the consequences of that error are showing. My mother died at 50 when I was only 12 and all the responsibilities of taking care of my father, 11 years my mother's senior and an already pensioned and medicated veteran, passed on to me. All of my siblings who were far older than me had their own families when my mother died and my father kept insisting that he could still take care of himself. So, not much was done. But that wasn't the case. I've had to deal with years of emotional abuse and guilt for so much as just leaving the house for one night to watch a movie. My teenage years were hard and I had no one to turn to. It seemed that everyone I tried to explain my situation to, even a therapist I was seeing for a few months, would tell me that I was responsible for his well being and to be more understanding.

It goes without saying that I had little to no social life. I'm 23 years old now and it's only gotten worse. I only have one good friend and he's grown distant with me because my father speaks ill of him and treats my friend with no respect. I rarely ever go out and when I do my father will call nonstop and once I return home he won't speak to me, he won't eat, or even take his medication. He'll also call my siblings and complain about how I'm always out with friends and never watch over him when that is not the case at all. He berates me in public and yells at me for the slightest mistakes. I rarely get much sleep because he wakes me up in the middle of the night for things as small as getting him water.

When I try to speak to my siblings about how I feel they cancel me out and say I'm going to regret not watching over him if he passes. They tell me family is first before everything else and to be more considerate. It's made me grow resentful and bitter. I can never go anywhere because I'm terrified of coming home and finding him in some bad predicament because I wasn't there.

I've even gone into Nursing so I can better take care of him. I've sacrificed so much and he still makes me feel like I do nothing. When I once suggested him vacationing to CN to visit my sister for awhile in hopes that I could take a small break he threatens to never speak to me again or to stop taking his medication. I feel so helpless and miserable. I love my dad very much but I'm not happy. I haven't been happy for a long time. It feels like he's taken away years of my life and continues to do so. I'm scared that this will continue on and I'm going to grow older and not make any social connection. I already feel like I'm emotionally stunted and antisocial.

I don't know what to do. Please tell me how I can better cope with all this. I feel very alone.

This discussion has been closed for comment. Start a New Discussion.
Find Care & Housing


I think this may be a cultural thing. Hard to get pasted that. Being a Vet your Dad may qualify for a VA home. I really don't think it was fair of your siblings to think at 12 you could handle this. So hard to make a decision since it will probably alienate you from your siblings. Not sure how you should handle this because your Dad probably feels that as his one unmarried daughter, it's your responsiblity to care for him. Surprised you were able to get a nursing degree. Make a list. What Dad can do for himself and what he can't. Then call Office of Aging and see what they can provide as help, even Medicaid if he qualifies. If Dad needs someone there 24/7 and he can afford it, hire someone to "babysit" while you do something for yourself. Start in small steps. Nursing is a stressful job. My daughter is an RN and is overworked. You need some downtime for yourself and you need to get this across to your Dad. Tell him you would one day like to meet the "right" person and have an family of your own. You are entitled to that. Dad could live a lot longer and where will you be. But like I said, I think there is some family dynamics you are going to have to deal with too. Good Luck.

Please listen to the advice being offered here. Perhaps read more on this site of other's situations. I was shocked but also relieved when I started here a few months ago. I learned that so many caregivers run dry, burn out, and end up injured... Either physically or emotionally. Your case sounds a little like mine - you grew up in a dysfunctional family that has shamed you into being the primary care giver. You were abandoned at the age of 12. Now it's time to right that wrong. You have been a good daughter & will continue to be! - even with your Dad in assisted living or with full-time in home care. My Mom loves her new home and everyone - family & friends - say she looks and IS better. Her Dr. Visits have been great this past year and she is so much more involved socially.

I found that I had been caught up in the thinking "nobody can care for my mom as well as i can". I'm sure this is part of your hesitation, especially with you being trained. But this is when you need to ease back, allow somebody to help...and reclaim your LIFE. YOUR ONE LIFE. THAT NOBODY ELSE OWNS. You are the author of your story. Begin now working towards your own happily-ever-after. With or without a Prince!! Be the Princess you deserve to be.

I just lost a loved one 3 weeks ago, my son-in-law, father to 3 grandkids - 2 teens & a 7 year old. All of us are dealing with this tragic loss in our own ways. Mine is to remind people that this life goes by so fast!! Caring for loved ones is *part of it* but should never be *all*. There is so much more. My son-in-law took care of everyone... but himself ...and now we all have to figure out how to take care of each other... without him. He burned himself out caring for others. We saw it happening & pleaded with him to get help but he wouldn't. Please don't allow that to be the end of your story.

P. S.  My son-in-law's mother abandoned him same age  your mom died.  Also a father wasn't supportive.  My son-in-law spent his 41 years seeking everyone else's devotion. Over time he grew angry. I believe he was "empty", having never found that one person who would nurture the 12 year old boy who was abandoned.  My son-in-law took his own life. There is a tattoo that a lot of us are getting. It is the semicolon - a symbol that in your life you will have pauses...but your story isn't done. 

The pause in your life should've ended a long time ago. 
Nobody helped you.
Help yourself.

I'd like to make a comment here - what dad is doing is abuse. Now if he were incompetent, it would still be abuse, but the moral responsibility would not be there. But since he is competent, and you care about him, do you really want to allow/encourage him to do evil which he will finally account for to God? I think your best course, most unselfish course, is to work on your life, a normal life. You are not abandoning dad, but in fact are aiding him in becoming a better, healthier person.

You are in a very difficult situation aren't you?! If there is any way possible, I'd encourage you to return to school to complete your Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree and become licensed. 

I'm a retired registered nurse and can say with great confidence that getting through the time and effort it takes to complete school and become licensed will open up a wealth of opportunities should you choose to pursue them. I understand that it will be very, very hard to accomplish this. 

Even without having a passive aggressive person in your life who seems to think of you as his slave, rather than as a beloved daughter he should be encouraging to learn and mature as a young adult, nursing school is a big challenge. However, completing your BSN will be an amazing confirmation that you are capable of so many things that can bring not only you, but also many others happiness and joy.

You are obviously very intelligent. Sometimes when we are weary from our daily drudgery it is overwhelming to think of our lives in a year, five years, or ten years for now. But, consider what you want your life to be like in those time frames. 

You've already sacrificed more than a decade of your life to a man who sounds very self-centered and selfish. It makes me think of some of the old fairy tales in which the evil older person not only wants her/his own life, but also wants the sacrifice of other young lives so they can continue to be powerful, thinking selfishly that their lives are more important that the lives of the young ones that are sacrificed. 

Choosing to do those things that will allow YOU to have a good life in the future is important even if it may not be convenient for your father in the moment. You'll still be a loving daughter.

This won't be a selfish act; it will be a mature effort to assure you can take care of yourself in the future. Surely if your father loves you, he wants you to be able to take care of yourself. If he thinks his immediate desires are more important and doesn't care about your future, then that would be a sign to me that makes it even more important to do this for yourself.

I'm wishing you well and hoping you'll choose to take the next step towards remaking your life into something positive. You can do this!!!

Well of course a therapist makes you feel uncomfortable. It takes hard work to become emotionally healthy. You need to set a goal to go at least 10 times before you decide it's not helping and then go to another one for 10 times until you figure out that you are resisting change. As Barbara said maybe you aren't helping your dad. Maybe you are enabling him to stay the same. A man who can't function any better than you have described him should not be running your life.
PTSD is treatable but the person has to be willing to get better. You probably have PTSD yourself from dealing with this. Change your story. Create positive affirmations. Exercise. Eat healthy. Get good rest. Keep regular hours. Make sure you are working or going to school at least 8 hours a day. You can create a life for yourself. Get focused and go for it.

I used to work and attend uni. But it took too much of my time and couldn't finish my BSN in nursing. Now I only work three days a week. I'm very independent. Have been since an early age. Pay my health insurance and also have my own car. Also have some savings I've worked on since I was 16 and first openeed my bank account.

I'd never fully abandon dad. But there are high chances that if I were to maybe move to an apartment even in the same block as him he would no doubt shun me. Talking to him about it is out of the question. I've tried numerous of times and he just gets up and leaves or reacts aggressively. He has very little patience or concern about how this all affects me. Actually, it's more like he thinks this is my obligation and anyway I feel is void. To be honest, it's definitely not far from how I think as well lol...

It's a toxic pattern and I'm aware. It's getting away from it that's so tricky. But again, leaving him high and dry is never something I'd do. Whatever decision I make I'll make sure it works out well for the both of us and he's taken care of. I'll definitely start with little steps though. I've never even taken the chance of viewing my options. But I'll for sure start now with all your supportive opinions.

Therapy is always something I've been so iffy about. It's uncomfortable process for me. But maybe I'll try to look into it again. Also, happy Mother's Day if there are any in this thread. ☺️

My dear, you are so NOT responsible to personally take care of your dad.

Use his funds to hire HELP? Yes. Get him qualified for public assistance? Yes. Be his slave and never expect to have a life, a family or a retirement fund of your own? No!

Cry foul at your siblings. Inform them that you are leaving in a month's time. And mean it.

Are you working as a nurse and taking care of dad after work?
Try a different therapist. Sometimes it takes several to find a good fit. Consider a therapist for you and dad both to go to.
You mention that your dad has diabetes. If he isn't incompetent then his decisions to take medication or eat are really up to him. It must be very confusing to want to get your own life started but to also feel responsible for dad. Ignore him when he uses that passive aggression on you. Wait him out. Of course as an adult you should be contributing to the household but make sure you have time for yourself. You have longstanding habits that will take time to adjust. Figure out what comes first. Maybe you need to build a nest egg for an apartment. Do you have your own car, pay your own insurance? Have health care insurance? It can seem overwhelming but you can do it. Make a list and do the most important first. You don't have to abandon dad to get started but it might help to build in separation. Plan to take a trip if you can. Take some time to figure out what you want for your life. Recognize that your goals and dads goals are different. Ask him to support you in building your own life.

Your father is being totally unfair to you. It is like he is putting his weight on you and drawing out your life. Taking steps to get away sounds like the only way you'll have a life. The things that are happening are not your fault. He needs professional help and not the life of one of his children. He will resent you when you leave, but you are as important as he is. It makes no sense for you to give up the quality of your own life to be pulled into a pit of despair with him. Actually, it may be better for him if you pull away, since you being there may be enabling him to continue a life that isn't working for him anymore.

"My only family is my father and the man can hold a grudge"
It seems to me you are holding tight to a porcupine simply because you are used to the pain and you are afraid to let go. STOP! Your sibs should be ashamed of themselves for allowing this pattern to be established after your mom died, but I expect they ran fast and far from a dysfunctional situation as soon as they were old enough and were only too relieved to be absolved of any responsibility. As others have pointed out, no new solution will be found as long as YOU are the solution, nobody else has anything to gain by changing the status quo. Make some realistic plans for what would happen to your father if you were hit by a bus tomorrow, then present those plans to the family, his doctors, APS or whoever is appropriate and get yourself free. If your father and sibs do sever ties with you that only proves that they have no love or regard for you but are only concerned about themselves and their own needs, and that is not a love, it is bondage :(

This discussion has been closed for comment. Start a New Discussion.