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And suggest how it can be prevented?
Why are broken or totally destroyed marriages a common example of the collateral damage for so many caregivers? Can anything be done to prevent this or at least reduce the numbers?

It is heartbreaking to read examples of this here.

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You have good points.

I know of some who have bailed out emotionally in becoming a caregiver to their parent whom they are enmeshed with. They have forgotten their vow to abandon all other and cleave to each other having left mom and dad like the Bible speaks of, but instead act like the Bible says that in taking care of our aging parents and honoring them, we are to abandon our spouse and cleave to our parents until death do we part. Some have bailed both emotionally and physically. Those marriage are over. Others are fighting for their marriage and hope their spouse stops being more emotionally married to mom than to them, but it is a severe strain to fight that fight which not everyone wins. In these cases it is too easy to blame the victim when there was nothing they could do beyond what they tried which sometimes has even involved going to marriage therapy. I think some of these people loose a marriage that they really never had for the commitment to each other and the true intimacy was not there which would have been the glue which would have kept them from having poor boundaries with their parents in caregiving. As someone said earlier, sometimes the stress of caregiving shows unresolved issues that have been there all along. In those cases the parent is valued more than the spouse. Some I have read here have deep remorse over this, but I have read only one that did not.
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Marriage is a fragile thing these days.We expect to live out this eternity full of vitality and without the signature of aging etching it's way through our bodies.
We are led to believe pills, exercise and diet will cure anything but once the burden of an aging parent falls into our laps we realize the instruction manual is missing and truth is painful.
Today we are unaccustomed to watching old age take it's toll. We warehouse our elderly telling ourselves it's better for them and we are entitled to our lives.
Marriage being fragile is about one partner (out of love,duty or necessity) taking on the burden of those last years for a parent(s). Both are forced to face their own mortality after being assured this can't possible happen, shouldn't happen and must be the problem of state, government or some other agency! Surely family should not be forced to carry this burden.
Rude awakening.Time is no longer their own, help ( if found ) is often less than expected and a nest egg ( if there is one) is inadequate to meet home care or skilled nursing facilities.
One partner feels cheated, the other guilty.
How do marriages/partnerships survive this? Often they don't.
My opinion is that too many of us do not take seriously the vows of marriage and the " for richer poorer, till the death do us part" is not taken literally when it should be.
If your partner or spouse bails on you physically or emotionally when you become the caregiver for a parent He or she will do it to you when you get old so you've lost nothing.
But..it's easier to blame our parents for living too long and ruining our lives.
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This is a great topic cmag!!
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Ff, you could get a realtor's box or a push button key code lock, we got the second type after mom had an emergency situation, that way you can give the code to 911 when you call.
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Yes, we could call 911 from the restaurant or the movie theater, but Mom wouldn't hear the EMT's ring the doorbell and knocking at the door.... [sigh].

As for work, my sig other is home all morning due to his work schedule, and that is when the falls tend to take place as Dad is more active that time of day. Otherwise, I am only 3 minutes away from my parent's house. I am an independent contractor so I can come and go as I please.

cmagnum, I agree about the age of the people involved and the emotional buttons. I am an only child of helicopter parents, but they let me be independent. My parents didn't need any help until they were 91 and 87, and I was in my 60's. So we all were already set in our ways.

My problem was spoiling my parents when they first needed my attention as I didn't know any different, and now cutting back is very difficult. Like un-spoiling a child.
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That is a very valid point. I wonder how some even got married in the first place? It does appear that If there is an issue from one's family origin (their childhood) that has not been resolved, the stress of caregiving or a parent or grandparent will bring it to the surface.

I also think that the older the person is when these issue arise, the less likely they are ever going to change or get the emotional freedom that they need without a lot of drive and work on the person's part as they go through a lot of therapy to get out. I can understand the spouses who get tired of waiting for their spouse to deal with these things and end up divorcing.

Those who have had the right emotional buttons placed in them as children they will often go into auto-pilot as adults when a parent throws the emotional blackmail at them via FOG, Fear, Obligation and Guilt.

It is almost like a time bomb waiting to go off in their heads and it sometimes takes the spouse by surprise if they are not aware of how controlling that spouse's parents were long ago when they were dating or the spouse to be claimed that they were free of that control, but deep down inside they really weren't.

I got hit with that one, but it was not caregiving of my MIL that triggered her mom trying to take her over like a child once again, it started when our first child was born. Man did I get blindsided! By the grace of God and much therapy for both of us we have moved forward past all that hell we lived in for a while. I lived with the feeling like a single parent for a while when my wife's emotional buttons were being pushed by her mother and after all of her hard work and intensive individual and group therapy, plus meds brought her where she has been the last several years, I told her during that time it was like being married to two people and given her strong enmeshment with her identical twin sister, it sometimes felt like being married to three people. She was sorry, but for some reason cannot remember hardly anything like the boys and I do from those hellish years. I will be glad when her mother dies and I hope her twin sister who is a cancer survivor outlives her mother because she deserves a life without her mom whom she is the one who has to deal with her now in assisted living because she and her husband live in the same town. We are a 3 1/2 hour drive away which her therapist told her was a safe geographic distance to keep from her mom to stay as well as she is now.

We still have strong boundaries with her mother for she has a personality disorder and has never sought help and want because she doesn't see that she needs any nor needs any friends for she feels like she can buy them with all of her money. In the past, she has used her money and the will as part of her control game. The daughters are free of that game now and let it roll off their backs when she says this again.

Sorry, I did not mean to do so much personal venting, but for some reason this issue is almost raw for me today.

Sometimes dads put these emotional control buttons in their sons or daughters, but I have not seen as many like that as the ones which involve the mother of the spouse. In Townsend's book on boundaries, he does have a story about a wife who was emotionally enmeshed with her dad which she had to get free of in order to have a better marriage.

Yes, it would be interesting to know the divorce rate among caregivers of parents and grandparents. While it is hard to generalize, some stories seem to repeat themselves although the names of the individuals change.
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Marriage as a collateral damage while one of the spouses is the caregiver for a parent?

Oh, I definitely think it is sometimes. But then I wonder if the caregiving situation just puts the spotlight on problems that already exist in the relationship. Sometimes when I read posts where the marriage is at risk I think the marriage should not have happened in the first place. Sometimes I wonder how (and why) the marriage lasted as long as it did and sincerely hope the poster has the courage to end it.

Each situation is unique. It is hard to generalize. Depending on what stats you believe, something like 25 to 50% of first-time marriages in the US ends in divorce. Is the rate among marriages with parental caregiving involved higher than that? It would be interesting to know.

Any huge stress seems to involve higher divorce rates. Parents of children with disabilities have a higher divorce rate (or at least some statistics point in that direction.)
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babalou - we cross posted Yes to all you wrote.
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ff - If you get a call that your dad has fallen, you can call 911 for them, Don't ask your mum to call.

There is something I just don't understand.

It seems that you have resigned yourself to a life of waiting for dad to fall, or whatever and have put some aspects of your life on hold. I guess I don't understand that you can go to work and not worry about your dad while there, but you can't go out to dinner and a movie because of worrying about him then. Why don't you worry about your dad when you are at work? Work is a much longer period of time than dinner and a movie. To follow the same thinking you would not be able to work either. I know work gives you are excuse to be less available for them to call on you, You are every bit as entitled to some relax and enjoy time when you are not available to them.

Think about this. It is your fear that is keeping you away from things that you and sig other enjoy - not your parents. What you have to say "No" to is the fear. The fear is also contributing to your illness. I read a great book by Gabor Mate called "When the body says no" in which he talks a lot about cancer and relationship with parents and unresolved issues. It is a good read.

Your dad is still responsible for his choices. If he won't wear a medic alert then he takes his changes of lying in the dirt. All you or anyone can do is advise him of the dangers, give him options, and then respect his choices, and let him experience the consequences. We can only do so much for someone else who is competent.

Take care of you The stress can kill you as you well know. No one can look after you but you.
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In addition, if your parents are ignoring what their doctors tell them, they may need what is called "natural consequences". He falls, he lays there. He's been warned.

Now, if he has dementia, and you have poa, then you need to talk to his doc about placement. If the doctor finds that he's not competent to care for himself, the doctor can advise you to push the issue.
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FF, you do realize don't you, that if you get a call on your cell that Dad has fallen, you call 911 and give them the address.
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emjo23, you are so right, but a pattern has been set that is hard to change now. Both my sig other and I are afraid that we would be sitting down to dinner in a restaurant or a movie and he would get a call on his cell that my Dad had fallen.... my Mom is almost deaf so trying to tell her to dial 911 wouldn't register with her as she is too overwhelmed that Dad fell. He would lay on the floor, or in the backyard or on the driveway [unless a neighbor sees him] until we get there to help.

My parents primary doctor tried to suggest to Dad to get one of those medical alert call boxes but Dad refused. Not long after that Dad laid in the dirt in the backyard for an hour before Mom noticed he was down.... [sigh]
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FF - would you please in this new year do yourself a favour and go out to dinner and a movie with your sig other and do it more than once. Make it a new year's resolution. There is no reason on God's green earth why you should deprive yourselves of a little pleasure and relaxation. If your dad falls, he falls. Call the EMT's. Maybe then they will be more inclined to go into a facility. Your health problems are increasing. Surely that is a warning signal to you that you need to take better care of yourself. You have chosen to not do the things your mum and dad did and that may have enabled them to stay in their house longer. The hardest word in the English language for many to say is No. You have been saying "Yes" to them and "No" to yourself. Isn't it time to reverse that?
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freqflyer, that is a very good point. My dad never had to see about the care of his parents because they died so early. He did have the experience of caring for my step-mother while she was bedridden for several years fighting pulmonary fibrosis.

My mother never had to care for her parents for her dad died before I was in the 5th grade. Her mother however lives way into her eighties, but had enough money that she had 24/7 care at home plus her son lived in the same town and he helped a lot. She did however tell my mother that it was time for her to leave my step-dad and come take care of her.
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cmagnum, one main issue with my parents is that they never needed to be Caregivers for their own parents, thus they never experienced what I am going through. My parents got to enjoy 25 years of a fun filled very happy retirement traveling, etc. My sig other and I will never get to do what my parents did, that ship has sailed :(
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As long as you have a supportive person who is there to listen and not judge. Give you advice that you can or cannot use. A solid foundation to fall back on. What you need to do you will do for whomever you have to care for. But if that significant other person is not able to live their life and have their outlet, you caring for someone can suffocate a relationship. I know when I have reached my limit and have to take a day off. It helps too care for yourself to keep reality in check. Other wise no one is happy. Makes for a difficult situation to be even more difficult.
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We are allowing dad to stay home we have connected with palitive nursing in home and personal cell number for the doctor. My husband and I will be fine so long as I don't react Loosing his dad is horrible he's allowed to be moody. I try and see his lashing out at me as a complement that he trusts me enough to understand
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I think that there is an awful lot of lack of planning on everyone's part in a lot of these situations that we're reading about. In retrospect, my parents taught me several things:
1. Expect the best, but plan for disaster
2. Your parents' money is their money. Expect nothing to be left.
3. Your marriage and your children ALWAYS come first.

I watched other relatives bend themselves out of shape, waiting for an inheritance that didn't exist. I was told by an older friend that she regretted having spent so much time caring for her elderly mom that she sacrificed developing a relationship with her grandchildren.

I think a lot of this is about planfulness, and sitting down with your SO to figure out what you can and cannot do. Lots of folks demand my attention; whether I give it to them or not is entirely my choice.
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Summermyst, is it time to bring in hospice at this time for your dad since you mention that he is so close to the end? Maybe you and your husband could see a family counselor together and they might be able to help you two in your journey with caring for your dad at home right now.
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freqfler, I am sorry that you had such painful lessons and do hope you and your significant other do reconnect at some point. I think that part of the problem is not being taught about boundaries early in life; another part is the environment that they grew up in which may not have supported healthy boundaries; and another part may be watching their own parents and not seeing what is healthy and yes, no one is perfect, but some parents really set a poor example for their children and some parents view their children as future servants and that is why they had them.
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Some of the stories that I've read here have included the following.

1. Husbands come and go, but you only have one mom. (I have not seen that one in a long time.

2. My mother controlled me and thus she destroyed my marriage.

3. I left my very job and my husband who needed care to care for my rich mother and feel no regret or guilt for my decisions.

4. I have read stories where the wife felt like she was in second place compared to his mother who was living with them. There is one book written about that, When He is Married to Mom.

5. There are stories where the girlfriend or the about to be married wife feels like her boyfriend or future husband is putting his mother ahead of them.

There seems to be a total breakdown for some when it comes to marriage vows where you say forsaking all others, etc. till death do you part. It somehow gets reversed into when your parent(s) become elderly you forsake your spouse and cleave to your parent(s) till death do you part.

I have heard the used of scripture about honoring your mother and father plus some verses in the NT that talks about caring for elderly parents for why people have left their spouses. Some elderly parents will use that on their adult chilldren to guilt them into feeling obligated to leave everything and everyone and care totally for them. But that is not what the Bible means at all about that.

Another thing that I see missing is the whole idea of leaving mom and dad and cleaving to your spouse and becoming one as the Bible does speak of. What I've observed is some husbands and yes even some wives have not grown up emotionally in that one are of their live. Those who do grow up in this one area of their life usually find their marriage is saved unless it is just too late.

Those are my observations and I am sure there are more, but how do we help people solve these problems and prevent these problems from taking place so that these marriages don't become examples of collateral damage either by divorce or by just existing as a couple, but no longer really close? I don't think God nor healthy parents would want their adult child to sacrifice their marriage for their elderly parent or grandparent.
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A lot depends on the personality of both partners. Since the majority of cases it is the wife/girlfriend who are the Caregivers to her own parent(s).... some guys will jump in to help out without any complaints, and there are some who stand in the background with their hands in their pockets whining that no one is paying attention to them. I believe a lot has to do with how they were raised. A mother who spoils her son will raise an *everything is about me* child.

I am really surprised my sig other hadn't moved out after 6 years of dealing with my parents, who still live alone in their own home, but needed transportation, like almost daily. Since my folks won't move to a retirement community, I feel I need to be *on-call* 365 days a year. Thus, no vacations. My sig other would fly out to visit his family. Also no movies or dining out, who can relax knowing that a call might come through that Dad fell, yet again... [sigh]. I am so emotionally drained, plus I had developed 3 serious illnesses in the past 6 years, all stem from stress.

Yes, lot of it is my fault for not setting boundaries at the very beginning.... oh how I wished I would have know of this website back then. I would have done things so differently. I've had no training on what to do or what not to do... it's all been trial and error. Mainly error on my part. My sig other looks like a lost puppy, thank goodness he still has his career... and thank goodness I never gave up my career. I hope at the end of this journey that my sig other and I can reconnect.
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I know we are about to have financial struggles I'm on leave at 55% wage it stresses my husband. With that and dad so close to the end he's so hard. He is the one who runs the house makes the choices always together not now and that upsets me. He snaps and can't make any choices but found if I give him a task rather then a choice he can do that. I have to change my wording and ignore his rants. He's so different I try hard just to understand and make excuses for quick outings when I'm upset it's working for us. Caring for dad in the house was never his plan he can't bare this. Only way we will make it threw is understanding many people can't do that when your so tired hurting premourning and scared.
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cmag, something that discourages me is when I read that someone quits their job and leaves their home to take care of a parent. I always think that I wish they had come on the group BEFORE they did that. After it is done, it often leaves a mess that is difficult to sort back out.

Some people elevate the need of the aging parent so high that they neglect themselves and the rest of their family. I am surprised that any marriage can survive this. IMO, the spouse and family are the most important things. There are so many options to care for parents that quitting jobs and neglecting family is not necessary.

Everyone's families are different. Some families can coexist peacefully, with mutual love and respect. I see this often for families from Mexico -- something I admire greatly. Other families are torn apart when the parents come to stay. If a family is being broken, I wish people would make other arrangements for their parents before the damage becomes irreversible.

I know we often read to take care of ourselves, and it seems like so many words. It really is important to take care of ourselves. We do not want to end up impoverished and with a broken family in order to take care of parents. There are too many other options to care for them. Many of us know what it is like to have parents who won't budge from their houses and won't let help come in. It is a difficult situation, but one that the parents need to work through. Having a child risk their life and future so that the parents won't have to move to a retirement community should not even be on the table.
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