Burnt, fried, at wits end.

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I'm new to this forum as a member but have browsed here before. I'm writing as I am at my wits end. I'm specifically looking for advice and/or suggestions from married daughters caring for or who have cared for their mothers. I don't know what else to do to get my wife to act and get some serious help. Our marriage and our physical and emotional health are in very serious danger.
We have been caring for her 89 year old mother with dementia for over four years. There is no family help, and only two days a week is there any respite, and even that is only for four hours. Both of our jobs are seriously compromised, and we have no time alone. Her mom requires absolute constant watching. My wife carries literal tons of guilt around, and feels that nobody will be able to care for her mom like she can, in particular getting her mom showered in the morning, getting dressed, since she knows her mom better than anyone.
We have only been married for six years, which makes this even more difficult. Many times I feel we're just sharing this house. And many nights my wife has to start sleeping with her mom so her mom will go to sleep.
I know they have been postings on here about children caring for their parents and I've read quite a few of them. There was one in particular in which someone had replied and said that honoring your parents did not mean killing yourself or sacrificing your life completely for their care. If someone can point me to that post I'd really appreciate it, as I thought it was very enlightening.
Thank you in advance for your replies, and taking the time to read this post.


Let me also add that I am NOT a deadbeat husband that doesn't help. I have almost single handedly been taking care of all household chores the last couple years - yard care, cleaning house, laundry, cooking, feeding and caring for our dog - all the while trying to run my business. I'm all about trying to help, but I do have needs and I feel almost neglected at times. I feel like my life's been hijacked.
I don't quite fit your target audience -- I'm only caring for my mother (93, dementia) one weekend a month. But I want to offer you my compassion. You are in a very difficult situation.

Your wife is right. No one knows her mother as well as she does. No one can take care of her mother quite like she does. But here is an interesting aspect of that situation: some professionals may know more about dealing with elderly women with dementia better than your wife does. That can act in their favor.

I cared for my husband with dementia for 10 years. The last year he had a PCA who got him up, shaved, bathed, teeth clean, hearing aids in, and served him breakfast all while I worked in my home office. That help was absolutely invaluable. It allowed me to keep him home rather than place him a care center. Did she do as good a job as I did? I hate to admit this but for some things she did better -- she was very patient in helping him with his physical therapy exercises, for example. Other things I could do better, but what she did was perfectly adequate and allowed my time with my husband to be more "quality" time and less maintenance.
So while your wife might be right that nobody can care for her mother as well as she can, that doesn't mean than nobody can provide some of the routine care perfectly adequately.

I assume that no one knows you as well as she does. I assume that no one can meet your relationship needs as well as she does. While any trained person can shower your mother-in-law, there had better not be any one else in the shower with you!

Your poor wife is torn between her duty and probably her sincere desire to help her mother, and her role as your helpmate, soul-mate, and partner. Plus she has a career! It sounds like it is just too much. She is burdened with unearned guilt. Something has to give. I sincerely hope it is not your marriage that gives. People can be hired to do some of the caring for Mother. The same cannot be said for her role as a wife.

Four years is a long time to come in as second-priority early in your marriage. Mom may need care for another five or six or more years. Could your marriage survive that under the present circumstances?

I suggest that you be kind and sympathetic and firm. You two need to discuss that something has to give, and not let things fall apart by default. What can "give" in this situation? Start with one small step at a time but keep at it until you no longer feel like you are just sharing a house. This issue is so emotionally charged and includes so much guilt feelings for your wife that it may be very helpful to get an objective third party (therapist, counselor) to help you with this discussion.

My sincere best wishes to all three of you. Keep us informed about what you try and how it works. We learn from each other!
Hi Jeanne,
First off thanks for replying. I totally understand about knowing your mom better than anyone else. Also I didn't explain in my original post that I have prior experience dealing with dementia and Alzheimer's as my grandmother had Alzheimer's disease. And my wife is not ignorant of the toll this is taking all of us. She is very aware and has verbalized as much to me. We have made two half hearted attempts having help in the morning but both times my wife basically continued doing the job rather than letting the caregiver do the job. I know she is torn between taking care of her mom as she promised she would do and being my wife. She made that promise to her mom many years before we met. I believe it was around the time that her father died which was 27 years ago. I've also read where others speak of honoring the spirit of such a promise by being their parent's advocate, after their lives have changed in some fashion such as this, i.e. getting married. And I've also mentioned to her that she needs to let others take over so she can return to being the daughter and not the caregiver, kind of like you mentioned with your husband.
Lately she has said to me that, quote, "Someday I'm going to devote myself to you, and treat you like the king you are.". Now, I know she means only the best possible when she says that. But, isn't that what she should be doing right now? I'm not cold hearted, insensitive, or without feelings. I would never expect her to put her mother aside so to speak. But I want my life back, I want my wife back.
I don't blame you. I feel like you have tried to meet your wife 1/2 way and she is still taking 100%. My mother absolutely would have become dependent on me, but I wasn't equipped to take care of her. She is now thriving in a nursing home. (age 94)

I truthfully feel that you and your wife are going to have to go to a professional counselor. Also, I want to point out, that if "mom" would go to a nursing home, your wife would still be there most of the time. My MIL is in AL, and it still takes a lot of my husband's time, but we are 60 ourselves.

Keep the conversation going (or start a new one)

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