Dazed & Confused - an only child's crisis in living and caregiving.

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I am 37 year old, single, only child, caring for a 77-yr old mother with the early stages of Alzheimer's.

Long and complicated story but in nutshell: I've been the center of my mom's life since my parents divorce when I was 3. She had a tough upbringing, the only responsible child out of 3 siblings, and wgiving up her life to help my grandma raise and care for her siblings. Married late in life, to the wrong man, had me and that was it. Never remarried, dated, nothing. I became the end all be all.

My mom and I were always very close and she ensured, through much sacrifice, that I had the best education, was cared for and had a great childhood. But when it came time to let go and let me live my life, she couldn't and wouldn't. I was saddled with financial responsibilities, which required that I continue to live at home, well after college and graduate school. I tried to set boundaries but things as simple as knocking before coming in my room were not respected.

My friends say I became a completely different person from the bubbly, positive, popular girl in high school. Have been battling depression for many years, became overweight and have not had much success in my relationships. When my mom retired, my family convinced her to move to help with my grandfather. At that point, I was able to live on my own for the first time, but soon realized when taking over the finances, that my mom had made a mess of her finances and mine. I proceeded to implement a financial plan, which did not allow me to spend money on myself, go out, etc. I sat at home for 3 years just to repay debt. Things with my mom and family deteriorated and during 1 visit I was advised that my mom had to come back to live with me, that she wasn't "doing well".

I was confronted by my family (her cousins and other extended family) at a Christmas Eve dinner as to why my mom had to leave to help with my grandfather and why she couldn't live with me... That what was I hiding ... That I must be hiding a lesbian lifestyle...that my mother felt abandoned and unloved.

My family cannot accept that I wanted to live my own life independently, get married and have my own family - and that I couldn't do that with my mom controlling every move I made, like calling me at 6am when I didn't come home after a date at age 30, to ask me when did I plan on coming home.

My mom and I proceeded to have lots of issues, as living with me (and me being the head of household and paying everything) meant that living with me would be under my rules. Many many fights later... Me coming close to a full nervous breakdown, my mom packed up and left while I was at work. She told everyone I had disrespected her and kicked her out, which was not true. Since that day, no one on her side of the family speaks to me because I am terrible person (or so they say).

3 years later, after many doctor's appointments, I am told that she has the early stages of Alzheimer's. She has been living on her own but fell and fractured her hip 4 months ago. I have been taking care of her during her recovery. Now, I have cleaned out her apartment...was like an episode of hoarders. I realize she can no longer care for herself or her dog. I have spent $10,000 of my emergency fund during her recovery on caretakers, etc.

Bottom line, I'm back at the beginning. Financially strained, unhappy because I have no life again, I spend every weekend locked up in my apartment with her since she refuses to want to go or do anything I suggest. She smirks every time she messes up my plans & I give up & stay home.

I started going to therapy b/c I know overall I am very blessed. I have a good job and I am able to provide her support - but I am unhappy because there's no time or space for me. I cry incessantly. And my flourishing relationship with a man I thought I could marry went to hell in a hand basket.

The psychologist says it's a classic case of codependency and says I have my stuff more together than I give myself credit for. I'm working on the guilt factor.

I just feel lost. Sometimes I am paralyzed by my frustration, fear and guilt. I have zero support from my family (on her side, which is the side I grew up around) - they just criticize from afar & nothing else. They believe her over anyone else, even though she is can't remember much of anything. I have one close family friend who supports me and helps me as much as possible by taking her out on Sundays to give me some time to myself.

My family calls to say she cannot be placed in any facility; that I must care for her at my place and do whatever it takes to make it so. When I said I couldn't afford a full-time caretaker, they said I should take her to work with me, that she'd enjoy that.

So am I wrong for thinking she should go to an assisted living facility? Should I feel guilty for wanting to have my own life? I just feel like I'm losing my mind ... And running out of time to have a family.


No! You are not wrong. Being a caregiver is very difficult especially in a dysfunctional family. It requires backbone and a very thick skin! Relatives will always feel free to place the guilt trips on you and will not hesitate to tell you know to live your life and what you are doing wrong.

It is great that you are in therapy. Listen very closely, you need your life back. Caregivers cannot do well if they do not take care of themselves first. Find the assisted living place for Mom. Do you have her POA's? If not you need to get them now!

Mom may even enjoy being in AL. She does not receive the stimulation and socialization she needs at home even with caregivers coming in while you are at work. A move to a nice facility will be good for her. But, you need to stand your ground. Tell her you will not do this any longer. Get your life back!
Who are these family members to be living your life for you? Don't worry about what they say. They are just dogs barking at the fence trying to scare you. Work out something to get a little of your life back. I don't know what that will be, but it will be what you choose. Ignore the dogs. If they were so concerned, they would get in there and help.
I am so glad you are in therapy. That is a great step toward grabbing your life back.

You say that the bottom line is that you are back at the beginning. Well, this time you know the outcome of one particular path, so please, please do not take it again unless you want the same outcome.

Other family members CANNOT insist that you do anything. They can try to persuade you, they can reason with you, they can attempt to shame you or bully you into behaving as they want you to. But only you can make the decisions about your life.

You need to make your own decisions for your own reasons. (If it were me, Mom would not be in my home!)

Thank you all for your comments!!! I needed the validation ... I started looking for an ALF close to my home so I can visit often and take her places. I think she'll be happier too. She told one of her friends at church that she hates being couped up in my apt all day... She wants to interact with people... Thanks again for your kind words & reassurance. I needed it!!!
Please forgive me if I say anything offensive, that isn't my intention. That being said, I don't think you are in a place emotionally to be the caregiver to your mother. These other guilt giving family members are not important. They don't care about your personal well being or your mothers. It also seems that by shifting the guilt on to you they are unburdening themselves with it and your mothers care. Perhaps the kindest thing for you to do for your mother and yourself is to have social service come in and find a elder care community for her to live in. You deserve a life.
One more thought...YOU should not be paying mom's fees in AL. Talk to their social work department about what aid she might be eligible for.
Your family members want you to continue caring for your Mom. That leaves them free to live their lives. Don't listen to them.

Here's a great book I just read: Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud. It hit home with me very much, and it just may do the same with you.

I just signed up here so I could post this msg. PLEASE listen because your post truly seems as though I wrote it. No two family situations are identical, but ours comes close. I too am an only child of parents who divorced when I was three, quickly becoming the center of my mother's world. At age three I became a surrogate mother, husband, sister, priest, therapist, and daughter. My mother too sacrificed much but I soon discovered what a hefty price I was truly expected to pay in return. Sometimes it felt like she wanted to possess my very soul as she was sooo controlling, all under the guise of love and concern. The guilt I felt for even thinking this way was overwhelming.

What I have come to understand is sooo important, mothers like ours are emotionally sick. My mother has a personality disorder and it sounds like yours may too. Please look into Borderline Personality Disorder, there's a fantastic book called Understanding the Borderline Mother by Christine Lawson, which describes the different forms this disorder takes. This book made me finally able to understand what went on in my childhood.

My mother never wanted me to ever move out and it was almost impossible to move out on my own so you can imagine how it felt when she started to get sick. My mother also is in the beginning stages of dementia. I moved home and we resumed our roles, except now I was single handedly taking care of everything with zero support as my mother had alienated her family believing all she ever needed was me anyway. She was falling, was confused, sometimes delusional, all interspersed with periods of normalcy. Every time I'd take her to a doctor to try to find out what was going on, she'd perk right up and I'd look like a crazy hypochondriac. She also refused to allow me to call 911 when she fell and couldn't get up, forcing me, after back surgery, to struggle to get her up or having to bother neighbors for help. I became overweight, sleep deprived, angry, and depressed.

I finally realized that I would probably die before her if things didn't change. I called 911 finally and she was hospitalized where FINALLY medical professionals saw what was going on. They informed me a single person with NO support can NOT take care of someone singlehandedly with dementia. I called a placement coordinator recommend by the hospital's social worker and they helped me get her placed. It was the bravest and smartest thing I've ever done as I would have had not lasted much longer. No, she is not happy BUT she wasn't happy at home either. See, people with these disorders are never happy and we have to decide whether we will kill ourselves trying to make them happy or realizing that futility, and work on making them SAFE. At her ALF, she is sooo much better as she is being looked after by professionals. I did what was right because she was unable to make that decision herself. Expect many complaints if you go this route but understand you can't provide the care and safety a dementia patient needs. Please look into placing her so you both have a chance to live.
I hope you find financial assistance so you aren't paying for her assisted living. She may just be there for a while if her dementia progresses quickly. Keep getting stronger and kick her to the curb, sort of. She has sucked enough life out of you. There is still plenty of time in your life to enjoy doing what You want to do. Go for it. Have some fun. Don't live your life financially without anything budgeted to nourish yourself.

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