Balancing caring for an elder and household responsibilities.

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My wife's mother took a turn for the worse in March with dementia. Cognitively, she knows who everyone is but she is on a feeding tube. Her siblings have been rotating the nursing home with 24/7 someone being there. I support my wife spending time at the nursing home with her mom. But, her two siblings have jobs and barely miss work. My wife had a job and quit due to the way she was treated. She was going to start an online business and we agreed she could try it for 6 months. Well, the 6 months are over and while she did ok to start, the last couple of months, she works an average of 2 hours a day. The rest of the time she has outside of the nursing home, she helps a little with household responsibilities but I would say 30 minutes a day. There are very few discussions/planning either a calendar or finances. When we do talk, she seems to get frustrated that I bring it up. So, we lost her income and now pay for medical insurance which means our expenses went up while the income contribution went down. I feel pretty much ignored when I bring up the fact that medically speaking her mom does not need someone there 24/7 as there are staff there and that she needs to plan ahead so that she has time for work. There has to be more of a balance. I want to be supportive, but I am not able to make up the gap. It is too much per month to make up. I have talked to some professionals but I feel very stuck. I do care for my wife and I feel horrible she is going through this, but I just feel I am stuck with the additional burdens and keep falling behind.

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Here is a good article about parent/child enmeshment.

http://www.odessawellness.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/03/parentenmeshmentchecklist.pdf

The information comes from Dr. Patricia Love’s book: The Emotional Incest
Syndrome.
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No one is asking her to abandon her parents. Lots of us arrange caregiving for our parents without giving up our jobs.

My mother has had a stroke, CHF, vascular dementia and a broken hip. She resides in a nursing home 10 minutes from one brother and 90 minutes from me, another brother lives 5 hours away.

Nearby bro and SIL visit several times a week, for 1/2 hour or so. I visit every other week; far away bro comes up every few months, or when we two are away. SIL handles finance and insurance, I handle medical, big bro is POA.

My mother is "hospice eligible" and is wheelchair and facility bound. She could die at any time and at first, we were in crisis mode. She has been in the NH for 3 1/2 years now. We all need to work and support our families, be with our spouses, adult children and grandchildren. Mom is important, but she is not the only focus in our lives.

I think this is how most families typically handle elder care. Sometimes, it seems better to folks to bring a quickly declining elder "home" with inhome help, but that was not feasible for any of us.

I think that CMagnum may be on to something.
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From my quick reading of this thread, it sounds to me like your wife is emotionally married to her mother and thus lacks boundaries concerning balancing her life as a whole and you're heading toward burnout.

There is a problem in the marriage that is much deeper than the current symptoms related to her mother.

I'm not sure that until your wife sees the light that anything is going to change, but I can tell that she's not going to be open to family therapy. She's emotionally stuck and can't see how blinded she is by F.O.G., ie fear, obligation and guilt concerning her mother.

I don't know what else to say, but I know that analyzing something does not solve anything. 

I might be wrong and hope that I am, but this sounds like a deep emotional issue between your wife and her mother which leaves you high and dry plus almost burn out.

I hope for the best for you all, but I'm afraid something is going to break before anything gets any better.

I understand people who are emotionally married to a parent and can see why it is called emotional incest. When it comes to the impact that it has upon a marriage, I think of another term we use when there is a third party in what is normally a 2 party relationship. 
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Barb, I have made it clear I need help. I have tried a variety of methods. I will do short lists of like 10 things because that is more realistic. I figure if some of the household things are freed up, it gives me more time to work.

It was interesting that she could associate carpet cleaning with needing to change the routine. I think she thought that since I made the arrangements for the plumber, electrician, carpet cleaning, exterminator, that she would stay home for that day so I did not have to be stuck there.

I agree that it would be helpful if she could think more about me, but to be honest, I did bring this up that "I need help" relating to getting bills paid/making money - and I think there is an association problem there because she cannot calculate the amount of time required to manage a household. Like if she says I spent some time cleaning - well that means 20 minutes to one hour based on my observation. But, if you let things go, an hour will not cut it. My stress is based on the fact we had let many things go and that is why I decided to hire these services as I think it will lower my stress knowing there is less neglect with the house.

I am not surprised at all as to how she has reacted with her mom. She has talked about this relationship for years and always worried what would happen to her own mental state when this happened.

As far as my own health, not sure. I actually worked out more than usual the last week and my heart rate took a sudden spike which is quite unusual for me so I am going to address that right away. I slept a lot last night as I do know lack of sleep can be a contributing factor and am cutting back on coffee to see if that might be it.

The kids are not too good to make the food, they have just been enabled for too long.

I kind of implied it was time for her to get the job, but at this point, with her dad being ill, there is no way our marriage will survive if I tell her to abandon her parents. I am doing what I can to plan a little better ahead 2-3 days and I am going to ask for everyone's help. I have been known to spend 3-4 hours per day on dealing with household thing - and that is not meals. It might be cleaning, taking the kids to appointments. We do not have an extra car, so someone ends up driving them unless it is close by. Our daughter starts to drive next month so that will help. They definitely need to step up to the plate. The components for simple meals are in the house and if they want something, they will just have to figure it out. They plan their lunch for school, now they need to do dinner.
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You mean to tell me that your kids are too good to be learning how to cook, meal plan and grocery shop. They will need that skill when they leave to live on their own. Unless you want them living in your basement for the rest of their lives. When your wife left her job, the both of you should have had an ongoing conversation about her getting a job by a certain date. At this point, that ship has sailed and let her know that it's time for her to go and get a job. Be careful on how you phrase it though. Don't go sounding like an ass or a petulant child, neither will work and you just make yourself look like an ass and will alienate your wife.
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I guess I'm confused. You're getting 4 hours of sleep a night (because you're doing more business related stuff and keeping house?).

And she can rearrange her schedule for carpet cleaning? But not because her schedule is making you burn out, and possibly endanger your health?

It is starting to sound as though her relationship with her mom is somewhat boundary-less.

What would her plan be if you were to have a serious health issue tomorrow; like if you had a heart attack, or stroke?
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The teenagers can put together simple meals - they'll need that skill when they're on their own. Tacos, spaghetti, burgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken breasts, sliders. Add some packaged sides like rice mixes. Get some prewashed salad mixes and bottled dressing.  The Internet has loads of cooking sites like Betty Crocker that have easy recipes using prepared items you can keep in the pantry or freezer. There are those standby casseroles like chicken and rice, or tuna and noodles.  Prepare twice what you need, save the second batch for another meal.  Grill extra chicken breasts and use for salads, another dinner.  Brown a large pack of ground beef, brown it all, freeze and use for tacos and spaghetti.
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Barb, I think you are spot on with what my wife is going through and today was making calls about services available for her dad, an MRIblood test. I am glad she made the calls. I just wish they would have been made a month before when we had an idea something was up with him.

Interestingly, now that she knows every room in the house is getting carpet cleaning, she told her sister she could not be there the day the carpet people are coming so she could be in the house and she arranged her schedule to move things around before they came and all I said is we need to get things off the floors by Monday.

I might do something with meals but it will have to be simpler than that. I have been going on 3-4 hours of sleep keeping up with other day to day things and trying to get more money in the business. I could maybe do grilled cheese. I do not have the patience to plan and cook. I wish I did. It is nice out and the kids can both grill so we can do something like that a little more.

Some days are ok and others are just so frustrating. I hate to see her going through this but hope she starts to realize she needs to do more. The frame of mind she is in, it is also hard for her to be concerned about paying bills as she actually worries about how she is going to make it without her mom which is why the first month I kept my mouth shut and just asked what I can do to help or help without telling her so it was not expected.
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I think when we "kids" hear that our parent has a life limiting illness and time is short, we go into crisis mode. When it becomes obvious that death is not imminent, you need to go into planning mode.

Your wife hasn't made that switch. Nor does it sound as though she has capacity to make it right now; lack of sleep, underlying depression (it sounds like there were issues, both in her life and in the marriage before this health crisis), yes?

Do you not know how to prep and cook simple meals? You've got HS age children; cooking together can be fun and you can make casseroles, lasagna and other large meals on the weekends and freeze ahead.

Rather than "putting your foot down" and thinking that you're saying to your wife that she can't spend so much time with her mom, you need to couch this as : honey, you need your sleep; the kids need to see you at home and not so stressed. It looks like your mom's death is not imminent; she's going to die on her own schedule. You could walk out of the room to go to the bathroom and she could be gone. You need to shift into non-crisis mode".

This is doubly true now that her dad has been dxed with dementia. You need to be able to do this for the long haul.
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Hope you can work it all out. Give her a hug and tell her u love her.
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