Need some support - caregiving for dad who wants to control whatever we do.

Started by

It's been a little over a year since my husband and I moved from Chicago down to Fl to take care of my Dad. This whole thing started because the people that lived on the other side of my Dad's duplex moved out. My Dad was upset and needing someone to watch out for him. He has had numerous health issues. Cancer and congestive heart disease. Anyway my husband jumped at the idea of moving to Florida. My husband has been on disability for about a year. I had a great part time job that I loved and my daughters and grandkids lived in Chicago. We made the move down here and shortly after we got here both of our old cars broke down. To make matters worse my Dad wants us at his beck and call almost 24/7. He also doesn't want us to use his car. It's almost like he wants to control whatever we do. He wants to be included in all of our phone conversations with our friends. I understand that he is lonely and have suggested numerous time for him to go to a senior center but he refuses this suggestion. "Why would I want to go there?" I go to all of my Dad's doctor's appointments with him and also the grocery store. We make dinner every night for him and he comes here to eat, then play cards and talk. Sometimes I feel so angry that I can't do anything on my own. Both my brother and sister live back in Illinois and don't really come down here much. I really don't know which way to turn. I want my own privacy but don't want to make my Dad feel bad. What to do?


Is your husband at least enjoying living in Florida now?

You need some privacy. You need to set boundaries. If at all possible you need another parttime job.

Set certain nights for playing cards. Or if your husband likes playing cards with Dad every night, set some nights for just the two of them -- and they go over to Dad's side to do it. So, M and W Dad stays and plays cards. T, Th, hubby goes over to Dad's and plays cards, while you have the place to yourself. Fri you and hubby do something together. You dad will get over "feeling bad." This could go on for years and you need to pace yourselves so that the years won't be full of resentment and burnout.
No, my husband is not liking Florida and wishes that he didn't press the issue so much.
I have searched out part time jobs. The issue is I no longer have any vehicle. Since my husband and I are living totally on SS we cannot afford a car payment. My Dad does have a car but when I talked of getting a part time job his answer was "what if I need to go to the doctor's office or the pain clinic?"
I will talk to both of them about your suggestion of playing cards every other night. I'm not sure how this will go over with either of them. My husband already resents my Dad and I'm getting there also. Thanks for listening and the suggestions.
What are your Dad's real needs, compared to what he wants, which is to have you at his beck and call? Does he have mobility problems? Any signs of dementia? In what ways does he NEED to be taken care of? How old is Dad? Are you prepared to do this the rest of his life?

Does Dad own the duplex? Are you paying rent?

Lots of questions factor into how to handle this now. But I can pretty confidently say if you don't nip this "beck and call" business in the bud, set (and enforce) some boundaries, and reclaim some privacy, you are headed toward a whole heap of misery.
Dad's needs aren't that bad anymore. After his open heart surgery he is able to get around more. I guess his needs are more wants right now. I don't know of any signs of dementia. Dad is 85. I don't know if I am prepared to do this the rest of my life. I feel stuck now. My husband and I are too poor to move back home and I think that would make me feel guilty also.
Dad does own the duplex and we don't pay rent. We couldn't afford it anyway.
My parents have always played the guilt game with me. That's why I moved out of their house when I was 18. I don't know how to talk to Dad without feeling guilty about my own needs. I have tried but always give in to him.
diannam, your dad isn't going to change -- why should he? He is getting what he wants. So that means if things are going to be different, you are your husband are the ones that have to change. Do you want things to be different? Or are you content to live like this for, say, ten more years?

I suspect you aren't going to be able to change on your own. If you want to change and to be able to value yourself and your marriage as much as your relationship with your father, then find some low-cost counselling. Find a support group. Read some books on the subject. Take one step at a time. Reduce the number of evenings per week you spend with Dad.
Diannam, you don't want your dad to feel bad, but it's okay for you to feel bad? Your dad has no interest in changing, things are set up the way he likes.

Parental guilt is a heavy burden for many children of all ages- and like Jeanne says, you may need help claiming some rights for yourself and learning how to deal with your guilty feelings. Guilt is a multi player game. Parents can't make us feel guilty unless we let them. Only you can control the amount of guilt you feel.

Rationalizing guilt out of your life isn't easy. For me, I came to realize that I can claim the same rights that my parents claimed for themselves in their lives.

In reality it's more about compromising in a respectful manner. Everyone needs to be respectful of each other's needs and wants. Some people won't automatically respect you, you have to demand the same respect you are offering.

Thanks to both of you for your words of advice. I think that it would be great to find a support group, maybe online would be easier for me since there is no car. Are there any particular books that you might recommend?

Keep the conversation going (or start a new one)

Please enter your Comment

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support