When caregiving becomes codependence.
I'm 41, have no life and at my wits end! I am the youngest of 6 siblings (two are deceased). My father passed away a few months ago leaving me alone to take care of Mom. She doesn't take a shower, groom herself, shop, cook, clean, serve herself food, do laundry, drive, make phone calls...she pretty much doesn't do anything. She has chronic back pain due to spinal stenosis but is far from disabled. She is depressed and probably has been her entire life. She complains that she never had a life of her own, she blames everyone and everything for her circumstances and always has. I am writing this now while feeling resentful, overworked and unappreciated and ready to run away. While I am now her "official" caregiver, I've been looking after her for as long as I can remember and cleaning up her life messes. I lost my job of 10 years a couple of years ago, at which time my father was having increasingly complex health problems. I lived an hour and a half from my folks but found myself rushing home every time there was an emergency. (My four living siblings/sisters were/are unavailable or do not want to be involved, and live elsewhere.) Circumstances as they were led me to move back home to help my parents out while re-grouping and deciding the next path I wanted to take career wise. It turns out that my father became increasingly ill for reasons his doctors could no determine until just right before his death a few months ago; he had a cancerous brain tumor. My parents had not prepared for their future, just as they hadn't prepared for most things in their lives. Mom "checked out" long before Dad got sick, it's been worse over the past 5 years though as Dad was hospitalized for something major 1x per year for the last 5. Financial, emotional and physical stress of Dad being sick took it's toll and led also to them losing their home to foreclosure some years ago. Mom was not functioning well even prior to health and financial problems, though better than now. Prior to learning of my Dad's terminal illness Mom was sleeping all day, staying up all night, sitting on the edge of her bed or at the kitchen doing nothing other than chain smoking and staring at the floor or a wall. All of us children have encouraged her to have a life, to engage in life, to engage with people, to get out of the house....to volunteer to DO SOMETHING. I'm lucky if I can get her to take a shower once per year (a problem she's had since at least in her 50's). She doesn't groom, brush her teeth, wash her face or hair. She occasionally brushes her hair when I take her to her pain management doc once per month, or if I take her to the supermarket or pharmacy. Mom refuses attending counseling, a general support group or grief support group. I have essentially become her maid, housekeeper, mechanic, gardener, dishwasher, cook, waitress, technical support for phone and cable, you name it, I do it. Getting her to do ANYTHING is like pulling teeth. In the event of a doctor appointment it takes a few hours to get her to get out of bed and two hours or more to get her to take medication. She does not verbally refuse to do these things, she simply doesn't do them, though says she will and doesn't unless I stand over her like she's a child. She has chronic pain (as do I!!) but doesn't take her medications properly which makes her pain worse by not managing it. She's borderline diabetic and won't check her blood sugar. I ask her to do this and do that (because she is absolutely physically CAPABLE and SHOULD). Mom says, "I was going to", or "am going to" but rarely does she ever do what she says she is going to.
I am physically, emotionally and psychologically exhausted taking care of my mother. I increasingly often have thoughts of running away and leaving my other siblings to "deal with her." It may not sound like it at the moment but I love my mother deeply. We have a very dysfunctional family and family history and Mom went through a lot of bad stuff herself over the years. I want the best for her, I want to help her, I'm HERE helping her but how do you truly help someone who doesn't want to help themselves!! I'm hurting and have no life and watching Mom becoming an empty shell is devastating and depressing. I've been tearful and grieving since Dad died and am coping with a lot of the trauma of taking care of him when he was sick as well. Mom doesn't cry or talk about her emotions or deal with them. Dad did everything for her during the years I lived away going to college and focusing on my career. Now that he's gone I'm picking up where he left off. She used to blame him for everything. Now she's blaming me. I'm angry, resentful, sad and frustrated and don't know what to do or where to turn anymore. My mother is not likely to change at this stage in her life and is not participating or cooperating in her own care. I believe I've become codependent and worry I'm enabling her, on the flip side I worry she will just whither away and die.