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Can anyone advise on how to return to a state of well-being after spending time with your loved ones with dementia and having family strife?
I could end my post with that (and you can stop reading to pass the details), but I feel the need to vent hoping it releases this anxiety. My dear mom's dementia leaves her confused, anxious and never peaceful or settled. Dad is exhausted. He and mom argue over small stuff. My older sister is mean-spirited. I don't think she treats our parents respectfully. We've had many arguments over their care and her actions. Sister still acts like a 12-year-old and drags our parents into our disagreements, usually painting me as the bad guy. I never say a word since I know mom and dad don't need the drama, and I choose peace.
However her antics seem to work in creating tension between me and our parents. I've asked her to stop dragging our elderly parents into our disagreements, but she flatly refused. Dad wouldn't talk to me when I called just to say "hi" last night. This breaks my heart.
Prior to my visit with my parents a few days ago, I felt happy and centered. When I came home, I was depressed, lack of energy, had a stomach ache. I think dad's refusal to speak to me last night was due to my sister complaining to him about our last argument since the timing aligns.
This makes me want to never see any of them again, save myself while I still can and run for the hills. Thanks.

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GingerMay,

It also helps to study the patterns of dysfunctional people, decide not to take it lying down and take action.

For instance, my sociopath sister assaulted my head-injured brother at a picnic in front of 13 people then denied it. The picnic was at my mother's house who of course did nothing. My brother wrote to tell me about this a few months after it happened in Virginia--I was living in Utah. I sent my sister a registered letter telling her that if she assaulted my brother or anyone again I'd file a police report and she'd have court dates, probation, fines and, I hoped, jail. She hasn't bothered my brother again and she's terrified of me.

I also point out to my narcissist mother her myriad of cruelties and manipulations over the years. I tell her that I see what she's doing and that she's ruined our family. She's much more careful knowing that I will expose her.

You must have points of leverage. For instance, my mother lets my brother live in her shed, which violates county and city laws. The prospect of code compliance officers and court terrifies her. She's also driving with dementia and she's driving my brother around town while he sips vodka in the passenger seat.

I'm working on getting decent housing for my brother but my mother will try to block me because she needs to be in control. I'll use the zoning issue to force her not to sabotage my work. I'll keep the driving leverages in my back pocket for now.

Anger energizes. Fight back and you'll feel better.
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GingerMay, I see from another posting elsewhere that your parents are in their 80's, is this correct? If yes, your Dad shouldn't be Mom's full-time caregiver. If your parents can budget for an outside caregiver for 4 hours a couple days of the week that would give your Dad a tiny bit of relief. I bet he isn't sleeping, which isn't good.

Your Dad could eventually crash and burn from exhaustion. Try to convince Dad that Mom needs another set of hands to help her. Explain to him, if he will listen, that up to 40% of family caregivers will die leaving behind a love one they were taking care of. Then what? Who will be there for Mom as her dementia keeps going into the next stages. She would need a higher skilled caregiver.

Is your Dad trying to correct whatever your Mom is saying? I know it is normal for people to do that, but when it comes to dementia, it is so much better to just agree with the person who has dementia.  I had to teach my Dad to do that with my Mom, and I was so surprised with Dad being in his 90's that he would pull that off. There would be less stress. And "therapeutic fibs" are ok to use.
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Davina - I think you've got it. "See them less and help from a distance." Sister is narcissistic. She is married to an abusive man for over 30 years. His toxic behaviors must have rubbed off. I have removed myself from sister's destructiveness and not talked to her or seen her in over 5 months. She still finds ways to stir the pot. Dad's refusal to take my call came one day after sister sent me an angry email about how awful I was for declining an invitation to attend an out of state bridal shower for her son's fiance. My declining reflected poorly on her, which must have cued her anger.
I visit my parents and the air is thick with anxiety, frustration and confusion. I try to enjoy time with them, but it seems impossible. When I leave, then they tell me I should do (fill in the blank) for my sister, tell me they love me and I get the heck out of there. I go for a walk outside to clear my mind, work out, eat healthy and sometimes just breathe. Sometimes I think time & space and just letting things "be" is the best we can do for ourselves. Thanks everyone.
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Hang on, though.

I don't think Ginger May's sister *was* there when she visited, though, was she? The sister is believed to have complained to Dad about an argument between GM and sister, but this complaint didn't actually take place in front of GM.

Which does make me wonder, GM - how sure are you about this being the reason for your father's not speaking to you, and why would it be?

And how are you and sister communicating? Over the phone, or what?
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GingerMay,

My family is so dysfunctional that counselors have told me I "should have been a felon". The only thing that helps me is staying completely away, and for a long time. I saw my mother last November--it was traumatic and I couldn't bear to go back or call. Seven months have gone by and I'm just beginning to feel normal again. I need to talk to her soon and dread it because it will gut me again.

Can you avoid visiting when your sister's there? If your parents are mean or unfair to you, you could see them less and find ways to help from a distance.

Your sister seems to have narcissistic traits--she's triangulating, smearing and making crazy. Those kinds of people don't play fair--you can't reason with or fix them--you can only minimize the damage by staying away.
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Stop talking to your sister about your parent's care - if she's only visiting a couple of times a year then there's nothing much productive to talk about anyway. Talk to your father about his exhaustion - how you might be able to help arrange some respite care, housekeeping/shopping help or anything else you believe might be helpful. Can you order care supplies online and have them delivered to the house? Grocery basics? The W big box store will ship many household and grocery items to your house for free - I use this to have toilet paper, paper towels, cereal, spices, laundry soap, etc delivered to my own home so I can use my shopping time for milk, eggs, meat, and the like.

If you sister calls and tries to initiate a conversation about your parent's care, listen but don't offer much information or your own opinion then end the call when you need to check on something cooking or head out to meet someone or any reason excuse. Put the drama queen at arm's length and keep her there!
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Maybe find an Alzheimer's support group for your dad where he can get respite from caregiving and understand dementia to gradually stop arguing with your mom. You can plan it when you're free to stay with your mom. Of course it doesn't sound like he would go for something like that the way you've described the situation so it's going to need to be a gradual process where you'll need to spend more time with them--even though it will probably be hard for you in the beginning--until he trusts you and is open to such a thing. If this is not possible then you might get some help through those support groups. Maybe the three of you can go together. I have gone with my mom, even a caregiver training where I was told it wasn't a good idea to bring mom (they felt some of the things discussed might hurt her feelings but Mom and I are close and she's used to going out with me and doesn't seem any worse for the wear after completing the training with me and she got to meet ppl), so it could be a family bonding activity. Now about your sister, if there's something festering between you two, maybe you guys can go to family therapy sessions. If she won't go, maybe you can go alone and get professional advice (you should shop around to see what's a good fit--some are more about giving you tools to cope while others want to delve into the root of the problem so it depends on what you're looking for). If it's as another poster mentioned that it's just stress, maybe with you playing a more interactive role with your parents will get her to ease off of you and even she can hang out with you all at the support group meetings. Btw, you can look for support groups at Alz.org. Lastly, apologies if I'm way out of line here, but if your parents were abusive (emotional abuse counts) to you, you'll have to really think about how important it is for you to be involved with them at this juncture. Maybe just having food gift baskets sent to them with a heartfelt letter will have to do for the time being until your dad is more reasonable.
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Thanks for your replies. Sister is not the caregiver and only visits them a couple times a year even though she lives an hour away. Dad is exhausted caregiver to mom and refuses hired help. Sister mostly calls, and invites parents to her house because it's easier for her. Her kids are grown and she doesn't work. Sometimes there's just no way to reason with dysfunction.
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If sis is their caregiver, could she be burned out? That can make a lot of people nasty and argumentative. It also sounds like she is not accepting of your parents’ issues. She tries to involve them in her disputes with you because she thinks they’re able to understand and participate and they’re not. Can you offer to sit with Mom and Dad while Sis goes to a movie or to get a mani or a pedi? I’m assuming Sis is living with them. If she isn’t and Dad is caring for Mom on his own, it may be time to suggest home health care or placement for Mom. And if you go there and see Sis’ car in the driveway, keep going.
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What is the living situation of your parents and sister? Does she live with them or do they live with her? How far away are you? Does your dad have dementia too, or just your mom?

It sounds like she has their ear and spends more time with them. If that's the case, there's not much you can do but back off a bit and try to keep peace with your sister. I feel sad for your mom - it sounds like she needs different medications to keep her from being so anxious. I'm sorry you all have to go through this. Is your sister the POA for mom and dad? If so, there's not much you can do but take care of yourself.
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What a shame! You're right, sis acts like a child. Why don't you step back from her for awhile. Tell her you have no room in your life for baby games. Maybe she'll grow the heck up. Good luck, vent anytime!
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