I know I'm Blessed to have my mother with me, but the past years of being her sole support system has taken a tole on me... Then, I feel guilty. I wouldn't feel as bad, but my mother likes to be involved in every aspect of my life and feels she 'knows' best all the time, which makes things difficult to take care of (not to mention how time-consuming and draining it is). I feel life being sucked out of me... What do loving caring, caring people in sensitive situations like this? How do you heal your heart and self-worth and go on with life? (beyond the friction and heart-ache of them fighting for there independence, while 'hanging' on to you all the time). Many would say get outside help, sure... I understand this... But, this goes beyond physical help... When this person only goes to you (likes to contradict you... In my case 'mother knows best'... ) while they can get themselves in sticky situations... How do you cope?

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Eyerishlass, you raise some interesting points about the process by which caregivers segue into abandonment of their own lives.

Something I've realized is that I initially thought it would be helpful to get out of the house more, so I made plans for both of us to go to events we both liked. Eventually I realized that older folks don't need the level of socialization younger ones do, and that too much socialization as well as too many people can be confusing, especially if someone has hearing loss. And it can be tiring, very tiring, even if the event is stimulating.

So nonmedical outings became just as, if not more, important because we decreased them. Then they meant a lot more and were more special.

And over the winter, we decreased them drastically as going out in Michigan winters can be challenging to someone who gets cold easily, needs to use a walker or rollator, is on oxygen, or has mobility or other problems. Even though I'm still a young 70 plus, it's harder on me as well. Wearing boots, heavy coats, and all the winter gear just gets to be a nuisance so this winter was one in which we both deliberately stayed inside as much as we could.

I do have lists of activities I want to develop and cultivate, both now as well as later. They're long-term activities, ones I can prepare for now, so I won't be lost when I become alone. And planning is such a nice relaxing activity on cold winter days.

When I cared for my dad and we lived in the same house I would get invitations to showers or BBQ's or whatever and the invitation always extended to my dad. I knew my friends understood that I probably couldn't leave him home alone and I always appreciated the invites but it was like we were a couple or something and it really bugged me. Social gatherings were great for my dad. He was able to get out of the house and I always made sure he had something to drink and something to eat while we were there but for me it was like a working lunch. I was still caregiving but I was doing it in foreign territory. I would inquire about any steps, scope out where the bathrooms were, figure out the parking was exhausting. I wouldn't get to enjoy the party or whatever it was because I was caring for my dad throughout the whole thing. Trying to hold a conversation while keeping one eye on my dad was not enjoyable. I'd spy my dad about to get up and I'd have to cut the person off mid-sentence and run to see what my dad needed.

My dad never knew how I felt but I started declining invitations as time went on. It was just too much work for me. At least at home I knew the terrain, where everything was, I knew what the floorboards sounded like when my dad walked and I could tell where he was going (bathroom, kitchen, etc). It was just easier to not go to social events and I began to withdraw. I knew it was happening and I resented it. I was (and am) close to my brother and from time to time I wouldn't tell my dad where I was going and I'd go and visit my brother and his family without my dad. I knew my dad would have loved to have gone but it was nice to get out for a couple of hours and visit without having my dad there. To be on my own. And my dad wasn't hard to handle or demanding or anything like that but I needed my own identity, my own friends, my own LIFE and having those things became harder and harder as time went on. Had my dad not gone into the nursing home when he did I would have completely cut myself off from what used to be my life and just lived to care for my dad. I think that's just what happens when we care for an elderly parent. How can it not happen? And I think that's what makes it so difficult when our elderly parent dies. They become our whole life and when they're not there anymore we're left wondering what to do next.

Heart, it is hard to be their only person. At first it is like living for two people. As needs increase, it can become like living their life and losing your own. Then we feel guilty. We're already giving nearly 100% and feeling we should give 150%. I could write a book on how oppressive this feels, but I think most people who provide a lot of hands-on care already understand.

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