Back in August this year my husbands great aunt had a fall. I am with her 6-7 hrs Mon-Thur. Am I doing too much?

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Hello, I am so glad to have found this forum! It is great. My question is this....back in August this year my husbands great aunt had a fall. And some other health problems. She spent nearly 2 months in a NH, she is 93. Well, ever since August I had to quit my job. Being I was at the NH twice a day cause she wouldn't eat the food...then when she went home..she lives alone...I am there mon thru Fri for 6-7 hours...I have help that comes in for 3 hrs in the morning to get her breakfast, helped dressed, washed, my husband and I go on the weekend for a few hours..I have help on the weekend for 6 hours. She spends the night by herself as she has a bedside question finally is am I doing too much? My husband has a brother and wife but they do not help at all. My aunt has a nephew in another state and they do nothing plus my husband has two cousins who don't help either. My mom and close friends say I should be having help come in so I can take a day or two "off"....I haven't had a day "off" since that day back in August....she does pay me as she also pays the help that come in. I just feel so guilty if I were to take time off and I want to know how and what I can do to make it easier on myself. I have one friend to talk to who is a nurse and understands what I feel but other than that I feel completely alone. Any advice would be so much appreciated :-)

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Top Answer
Hi, Lynn. It is difficult to answer if you are doing too much. Are you spending so much time that you are feeling stressed and resentful? Since she is paying you, do you feel that the pay is adequate for what you are doing? It isn't uncommon for relatives to have nothing to do with caregiving. Many of the people on this group are the sole caregivers for their relatives, even though there are siblings. It may be that your husband's relatives feel that, since you are being paid, that everything is taken care of. Perhaps it would be good to talk to your husband about this. Everyone needs a vacation. Without respite, caregiving can wear people down fairly quickly. See if you could arrange with relatives to take weekends off and some vacation (respite) time. Perhaps when your husband goes on the weekend, you could let him go alone. That would give you some time off.

Obligation and guilt are two feelings that caregivers often have. We can't turn them off, but we also have to consider our obligations to ourselves. From your user name and what you wrote, you appear to be a young woman who has postponed a career to take care of husband's great aunt. If this is something you wanted to do, you are indeed wonderful. But even wonderful people need some time off. Maybe you can figure out how much respite time you need and work with the other relatives so that you can have your time. Please let us know how it goes.
Thanks for the advice. Yes, I am 41 years old, married and have an 18 year old son and feel like im not a food mom to gim lately ughhh...and I choose to do this however it wasn't planned or even talked about. Everything happened so fast and I volunteered to help at first, then when the time came for her to go home she could not be alone. She walks with a walker, can not cook for herself and wont even get up to get a glass of water...i worry when she is alone she may fall again, is very forgetful and can't remember if she took her pills or sometimes even if she had breakfast. I dont know if its just old age or the start of dementia. I am adjusting to my new life and trying to accept this is how it is and will be for the rest of her life. Being that I quit my job to help with her care, we talked about since she was paying the hired help that if she could pay me as well and she agreed, which I feel guilty even getting paid ughhh. I have a lot of guilt like I don't do enough and I get upset because no one else bothers to help with anything. I feel guilty complaining about anything because I should just suck it up and do what needs done, which I'm doing my best. But I feel like my life was kind of put on hold and my schedule now revolves around her schedule while she has relatives who choose not to help and just go about their lives and will tell me how great it is that im helping her and I have no control of nothing anymore. I have to miss things with my own Christmas..I get agitated...all of this is new to me and believe me I'm learning more than I ever have just about growing old. I pretty much run two households, I take her out everyday, take care of her two cats, take her to all her appts, grocery shop, laundry, write out her bills, help her with dressing and making sure she gets her meals and pills. I mean I'm sure I could hire more hired help but in my heart I want to do as much as I can. It's just hard and I'm learning. I have talked to my husband and he thinks I shouldn't complain, I'm getting paid and I am thankful to get paid but I'd have to do this even if I wasn't. It's just so draining because I am there every day 6-7 and on sat and sun too a few hours, my husband come on the weekend with me and actually told me he would go himself on the weekend but I feel horrible because she will ask where I am and why didn't I come. I don't ever want her to think that she is a burden and if I take a break she might think its too much for me. I truly am so glad to have found this forum because I finally see I'm not the only one out there dealing with this stuff, thanks so much for listening.
Lynn, you are obviously a caring, compassionate person. Your great-aunt-in-law is lucky to have you on her side!

My first advice is to forget about what other family members -- cousins, nephews, whatever -- are doing. You cannot control their choices. You have enough to deal with just trying to figure out your own choices. Give up the resentment -- not that it isn't justified, just that it isn't productive and drains energy you can use for other things.

One aspect of this situation is financial. I am certainly glad that you are getting paid. Give up the guilt about that, please. If she can afford to pay for her own care, give her that dignity, please. I don't know if you gave up a job flipping burgers or as software engineer. How does what you are earning as a caregiver compare to what you were earning on your job? With this "job" you are no longer earning SS credit. Did you have a pension or retirement fund on your last job? Life insurance? Health insurance? Consider the whole package of what you had before and what you have now. Are you and your husband planning to help your son with higher education? How does this change impact that?

Your husband's great-aunt has lived into her nineties. That is becoming more and more common. How are you and your husband going to support yourself in your seventies and eighties and nineties? Has giving up your job impacted your ability to save for your own old age?

Yes, it is good she is paying you. Do consider all the financial ramifications of giving up your job to take care of her. If she continues to need care for, say, another six years, can you afford to keep doing this?

Your schedule does revolve around hers. You do run two households. That's reality. But, here's a newflash (and it is kind of uncomfortable) -- she needs care but it doesn't always have to be YOUR care. I know as caregivers we tend to believe that nobody can take as good care of our loved ones as we do, and that may be literally true. But other people can provide excellent care, too. Let your husband go alone on weekends! Surely he is articulate enough to explain your absence without making her think she is a burden. Take days off. Absolutely! Respite is essential to caregiving. Both of you take one weekend off a week, to do family things or couple things. Remember, this could go on for years. Pace yourselves.

Are there tasks that your husband could take on, such as paying the bills? Would that help a little?

Caregiving is a very hard job, and anybody doing a hard job is apt to complain now and then. This is a great place to come and vent. We understand that complaining does not mean you don't have great love for the person you are caring for.

Hmm ... I meant take one weekend off a MONTH.
Awww thank you so much for your advice. I definitely am working on forgetting about everyone else and just focus on me my family and aunt. It's hard to do but I will get better. I actually left my job being a waitress. I am making more now but did lose my dental insurance for my family, won't be getting that social security which worries me for the future kind of....I had a 401 K which I think I'm going to cash in and put it in a mutual fund or something. Financially right now I'm doing better but I think about the future and how long this could and will last. My son just started his college years, he's a freshman and I am paying for as much of his schooling as I can along with loans and grants. I honestly don't know if I can mentally and financially do this in six years if need be. Right now I take everything one day at a time, it's been a huge life changing adjustment and even though some days I feel I'm going crazy there are some days when it's ok. I wouldn't not do this and am glad I am able to care for her. It's great to let off some frustration here and get advice, it is so needed and appreciated. I will have to come to terms with myself and take a weekend off. Hopefully the guilt I feel will not always be with me ughhh. Thanks again for everything :-)

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