I'm so tired, physically and emotionally. My health is suffering.

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Mom with pneumonia, diabetes and coronary artery disease. Husband with early onset Alzheizmer's. I am so very tired, physically and emotionally. Stress is causing my diabetes to be out of control. I am under my doctor's care. We are currently trying to make the decision whether or not for Mom to have a quadruple bypass operation, or to let her live our her life with Congestive Heart Failure. She is 83. Her doctors have left the decision up to us (Mom, me and my siblings). She still has a sharp mind but at her age and with the diabetes not under control, I don't think surgery is the right answer for her. Any experiences or thoughts on this subject for me?

41 Comments

First of all, let your sharp minded Mother and siblings make the choices for your Mom's care and treatment, you have health issues of your own and a husband with Early Onset Alzheimer's, stress will exacerbate your health issues, get with your doctor about meds to help you deal with anxiety that won't have negative affects on your diabetes, you can't take care of anyone until you take care of yourself...you first, then your husband...by that time Mom and the siblings, along with recommendations from her doctor, should have HER health issues settled. Don't bite off more than you can chew...YOU don't have to share every burden in your family, I've learned that the hard way, husband with Alzheimer's, 2 children going through marital problems, grandchildren with....well, you get the picture, I support my family in their needs, I don't have the time or energy make THEIR needs my own. God bless...
Is yor Mom's doctor able to explain her options to her? You mentioned that her mind is still good, and your Mom's own feelings are most important. It sounds like the doctor is communicating with you and your siblings as well, so the family sounds very concerned, loving, intact. You can help your Mom sort through her thoughts and feelings about this, because in my opinion, a serious surgery at age 83 would frighten me. My mother in law lived for 15 years with congestive heart failure and she was almost 200 pounds. She was very sensible, and lived to be 100 (was also type II diabetic). Her opinion was that if she didn't overwork her body, if she put her legs up (we got her a wonderful recliner), she would die happy. Being able to talk with her adult-to-adult really made a difference and we knew she was solid in her decision. Toward the end, the blood thinner she took was also releasing the clots in her legs, so it was medicine and poison at the same time, but she knew and made reasonable decisions after a lot of discussion, thinking, soul searching. Her taking charge like that relieved my husband and I more than we ever knew. Having to be in a position to make decisions on others' behalf, or to take the lead because another is more passive, is the worst kind of exhaustion. It would seem that trying as best you can to get into her shoes and be the best advocate you can for her happiness, quality of life, safety -- is the best anyone could do. Even though you may be strong for your Mom, it is possible there is a sense that the undercurrents of stress are felt by her and others. Should your Mom decline, need more help, etc., you yourself need to protect her by protecting your own stress levels. Now my husband (81), a very active man physically and intellectually, is opting to forego back surgery because he recently had a few TIA strokes and has been diagnosed with moderate grey matter damage (vascular dementia). Thus far things haven't changed much, but we are definitely facing his mortality. My Mom had aortal artery surgery at age 82, it changed her life so much she spent the rest of it in depression and as an invalid. I suspect there is no firm predictor of surgical outcome, but there is no doubt it is a very, very large assault on a frailing body. Nursing someone is extremely exhausting and often frightening when you are alone with issues that come up in the middle of the night. The longer I live, the more I respect my mother's words: "You have to respect and bow to mother nature." She said that with a smile not long before she died. I hope that you, your Mom and family can have relaxed and blessed conversations together. My thoughts and regards to you and them.
personally I would not put your mother through surgery at her age, just have the doctors make her comfortable so she is not in pain, i would also look to put her into a skilled nursing facility so you can take care of yourself, I just had to do this with my mom as my health is also failing, will keep you all in my prayers
I just want to add to what 50s Child said so well. My mother also lived with congestive heart failure and made it to age 100. She had a great cardio team and was able to use a scale called a "cardiocom." She weighed herself on it daily and answered a few yes or no questions on it. The data was reported to her doctor's office and if they saw she was gaining fluid they would adjust her meds accordingly. They were able to keep everything under control very well and she was still living in assisted living, participating actively in the community there and walking under her own power when she passed away. Surgery is not always necessary. Please take care of yourself and unburden your stress if you can. It is not a crime to take breaks from the stress of caregiving and is essential for you. Hugs and prayers coming your way.
When Mom's hip prosthesis deteriorated, a local surgeon wanted to operate but the primary care doctor said elderly people don't come through general anesthetic very well.

I researched this and found many cases of elderly people with normal faculties becoming mentally incompetent after surgery. Even with a spinal and/or local anesthetics, such serious surgery is a huge risk for someone your mother's age.

And, speaking of risk, it seems from what you say that you aren't physically or mentally able to be anyone's caregiver. Sorry to be so blunt, but are you waiting for a coma to rescue you from these circumstances?

Sending prayers for resolutions to your problems, all parties blessed.
My Mom has Congestive Heart Failure, Diabetes, her memory is not real good. She is 77 years old. I took her to Florida for a vacation. Drove down from Vermont. I had to cut the 6 month condo lease to come home after 4 months. Her balance had her falling quite often and was admitted in the hospital in FLorida. The conclusion was fluid on the brain. To shorten the story it was not done as the risk v.s. living with it , it was decided to not operate. This operation was not a "High Risk" by doctor's in Florida but in Vermont they thought it was better to get her walking in physical therapy. It has helped and I think that it the right thing to do. It's not all about she will live longer, it's about looking outside the box and realizing what will be, will be. I have strong faith and feel it was the right thing to leave it alone. Operating with diabetes is a risk. My Dad passed 2 years ago, and it has been a nightmare as he controlled everything and Mom can not handle decisions. I am taking on all the responsibilities. I have 2 half brothers who would rather not do anything, except take money from her. Since we came back from Florida a total of 4 months, Mom has done okay, She suffers from deep depression and that is the main issue. I have been sick doe 4 months straight with 3 different illnesses that has compromised my life and health,. Mom is in assisted living but the stress has taken it's toll. My sweet dog that I love has kidney failure too! I am burnt out and I have to take care of myself, It is difficult as I have been taking care of Mom for years, But I know I will not be around,or ill all the time. So, take care of yourself, reach out for any help to relieve your stress. It's hard to do but I have admitted finally that I am burnt out and need to have my life, I love Mom but in assisted living they can take care of her and she has the option to join activities with people her age, I can be a Daughter and visit but refrain from turning it into a Caregiver situation, Not only is it better for me but I know it is what is needed for Mom. I still have a lot to see to as I am POA, and her home is not sold. She has so much paperwork that I have to do. But I now go for walks again with my dog, clean my home, visit with friends and family, I feel somewhat better, it will take sometime and I am sure I will have Mom on my mind all the time. But I do meditation and stay in the "now" and it has improved my health. Take care of yourself!!! It is not being selfish, You need to relieve yourself of the stress and trust me it will be okay. Prayers for you and all your family, and feel we have a lot in common. You are a Wonderful Daughter, enjoy Mom but also enjoy your life,,,Hugs:)
STOP. TAKE A DEEP BREATHE. NOW DO WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.

I hate to admit this but I was suicidal for months because of dealing with so much (as well all are) and living with someone who is slowly dying. With help from family I have come out of it knowing:
1st: You deserve as much love and care as you are giving.
2nd: You have to be healthy to truly be of help to others.
3rd: Let go & Let God (if you believe) or Let go; you are not in control of your mom's or your husband's journeys. (whether you believe in a higher being or not)
4th: You are in control of your own journey.
People who are used to giving all of their lives (like ourselves) can easily loose their identities. Don't loose yours. Find yourself again and find the joy of being you in a world with so much to give.
"And, speaking of risk, it seems from what you say that you aren't physically or mentally able to be anyone's caregiver. Sorry to be so blunt, but are you waiting for a coma to rescue you from these circumstances?"

I think these are common thoughts and feelings shared by a lot of caregivers in similar circumstances. The struggles we deal with, the sanity lost, the way it wears us down, amplifies depression and constantly tests our resolve to keep things together.

I wouldn't judge anyone who would see their loved ones passing as a mixed blessing. My own viewpoint is that I want my father to live as long as he's able to, happily. But I wouldn't lie to myself or anyone that I haven't thought things like how less stressful it would be or how I could get back to my life instead of the sacrifice I made that none of my other family members understand or are willing to accept the burden.

So for us caregivers, I empathize. It doesn't mean we're incapable of being an adequate caregiver because we have those feelings, it just makes us human. And the best way to deal with them is to be constructive and honest with ourselves about the situation we've been thrust in. I love my father with all of my heart. I fight the thoughts for him and for myself and my daughter.

Jonathan
I have lived with variations of these dilemmas (my stepfather wanted all aggressive medical intervention to extend his life, so we did that and got him stents, which were experimental at the time. He lived with congestive heart failure for about 10 years after that), and agree that if your mother is sharp she can make her own decisions. If she has not outlined her medical care wishes this is the time to make it all clear. And if you can get some help and some rest, and perhaps find a way to slightly alleviate or manage your stress (mindfulness meditation, exercise, biofeedback, therapy) it will help you a bit. Love yourself as much as you love your family, and ask your siblings to help.
My mother will be 83 in January. Back in 2005, she had to have a section of her colon removed. The area that they stitched back together is not healthy now, and is subject to frequent bleeds. Her GI doc recommends another resection. So we went to the surgeon that originally did it, and he recommended that it be done with the minimally invasive approach. He said it would be much easier on her. Oh, but he doesn't do that. He recommended the best person that does. We went to him. He flat out told us, even minimally invasive surgeries on 83 year olds are still dangerous. They might not make it. He recommends no surgery.

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