I am a newbie caregiver. I am 51 years old and work full time an hour and a half away from my home. I also run a farm with my husband and teach yoga classes. My husband is 76 years old. He is a semi-retired architect. He stays active with the farm and building projects. In addition to the farm and his business, my husband has been renovating our home.
Until recently my parents lived an hour away, making me their closest child since my other siblings live about 700 miles away. So it has fallen to me to help them when their computer doesn’t work and sit with them when one of them is in the hospital. It happens that I also have the best temperament for this among my siblings.
Last spring my parents finally agreed that their two story house was too much for them and they needed to be closer to family. They wanted to stay in our state, so we looked at options closer to my farm. Ultimately, my parents decided to take us up on the option of building a small house on our farm. My husband has done design and build projects before so he has volunteered his professional services. He just completed the infrastructure to the building site and we are waiting until March to begin construction. In the meantime, my parents closed on their house the week before Christmas and have moved into our house with us. With our renovation on hold while their house is under construction we are all pretty cramped.
My father is 94 years old. He has a pacemaker, prostate issues, and balance problems that cause him to move very, very slowly. He spends most of his day reading, watching the news, and running his flea market booth of collectibles with his business partner. He has always been somewhat narcissistic and short tempered, but has gotten worse in the past couple of years. He talks every day about his impending death, and doesn’t look forward to things the way he once did. I know he agreed to this move so that Mom would have someone to take care of him when he dies, which probably complicates how he feels about this “big adventure.”
My mother is 76 years old (much younger than my dad and the same age as my husband) and she is in poor health. She had a stroke several years ago, and has become forgetful. I am noticing she has more cognitive problems than just a little forgetfulness. She seems to have trouble making decisions and gets confused easily. She has always been high functioning, so she’s defensive about this and might be hiding how bad it really is. She doesn’t eat well and has type 2 diabetes. She is sedentary and has arthritis in her knees and hips. She simply isn’t interested in taking care of herself. She does try to be pleasant and helpful around the house.
To round out the story, I should tell you that I am the youngest of six siblings in a blended family. Though my siblings are all prone to having very strong opinions and rarely agree they have been universally supportive of the idea of my parents coming to live here, but who knows what that means or how long it will last. My oldest three siblings are competitive with one another, which gets a bit ruthless. As the baby of the family, I’ve always flown under the radar and had the least expected of me. I’m uncomfortable to suddenly have my siblings lauding me as savior for taking in my parents.
Some of my siblings have said they would never take my parents in, which sounds harsh, but is probably them being realistic about what they can cope with. Some of my siblings are in no position to do such a thing, even though they would if the could. I think all of my siblings feel a little guilty about not being the one to step up. This further makes me suspect that none of them wants to know the truth about how our parents are struggling to take care of themselves or how much they are relying on me.
My parents have been living here for two weeks. It has been a big adjustment for us all. They are overwhelmed. I am exhausted.
I have a million questions for you all, so thank you in advance.