Post-Caregiver depression.


Hi. Sorry for the long post. I have a complex situation and I need to get stuff off of my chest.

I was a caregiver for my aunt over the last 8 years. In the past year, she has been in sharp decline. I fell into the trap of not taking care of myself, and as a result went from being a healthy, happy, active person to someone who deals with depression and suicidal thoughts each day. I've gained nearly 80 pounds over the last 2 years, and developed health problems as a result. I've given up hobbies and friends. I have not been able to work over the past 2 years due to her demands on my time.

I was raised from infancy by this aunt (mostly). I am very grateful that my aunt took me in when no one else would. However, my aunt has been mentally ill all of her life, and was often abusive and neglectful to me.

She has always been unhealthy. Even when younger she did not shower, smoked heavily and never opened windows, became morbidly obese, soiled herself, refused to clean her house, etc. She has serious emotional problems and refused treatments after about a year of seeing a psychiatrist.

The consequences of her poor lifestyle choices caught up with her. She has ended up nearly immobile, with many health issues, the worst one being COPD. She is on 12 liters of oxygen, which means she cannot travel very far from her huge tanks. She has constant, extreme incontinence, which she does not try to manage (not changing her clothes or undergarments when soiled, soiling herself rather than walking to the bathroom). She’s diabetic and has spikes from as low as 50 to over 500 because she refuses to follow a diet. She also has congestive heart failure.

As bad as the medical situation is, her attitude has been worse. Since I was a child she has always been extremely negative, and has lived off of government assistance most of her life. She is, to be blunt, lazy and ungrateful taken to an absurd level. She holds people to unrealistically high standards. She gets enraged if anyone challenges her lifestyle. If there are any problems, she blames everyone around her. Besides me living with her she had 2 therapists, a homecare nurse, a CNA, a homecare doctor, meals on wheels, and a few random church friends to help her. Even with that much help, she complained daily about how “people won’t do anything” for her.

This past summer she started hiding her meds in an envelope instead of taking them. It caused her to gain something like 50 pounds of water weight in a month, and she became nearly immobile. She also became more demanding, expecting me to be home 24 hours a day to bring her food and snacks almost hourly. She began to refuse showers when the CNA came. I went out for the first time in months, and that night she was so angry I left that she refused to eat. The next morning her blood sugar was very low, like 50. She told her CNA that it was my fault because I didn't feed her. The CNA knows me well and knew that it wasn’t true, but it made me very angry.

A day later her homecare nurse got her to admit she wasn’t taking her meds. What followed was hospitalization, followed by many months in and out of rehab. Just recently she began retaining fluid again. She was defecating and urinating on herself and her chair, and refusing to use the toilet or wear adult diapers. She went to the hospital, and ended in a nursing home.

If I go to visit her, she does not ask how I am, she complains about the nursing home staff, the food, the residents, etc. She is obsessed with food, and expects me to smuggle in large bags of candy, chips, and soda to her. She expects me to keep her cats, which are untrained and destroy everything I own. She tells me "After all I did, this is how you repay me." I love her, she took me in when no one else would, but she expects me to forfeit my life for her needs indefinitely.

I am struggling to recover now that she is not home. I feel guilty for the situation. I feel like all the hard work and sacrifices I’ve made don’t matter. Things I used to enjoy don’t interest me anymore. I’m hoping that writing this out will help me heal and forgive her and myself. Thanks for your time.

This discussion has been closed for comment. Start a New Discussion.


LOL rereading that post, I meant to say "I have many more good days than bad ones".

Hi Jeannegibbs. Thanks for replying. I'm sorry to hear you've had a setback, I hope it passes quickly.

I haven't hit any big dates since my aunt passed away. I know Christmas is going to be rough, and her birthday. I've just sort of tried to let myself be myself, if that makes sense. I don't try to force myself to be happy or sad, I just take it one day at a time. So far it seems to work, I have many more bad days than good ones.

One of the hardest things to get used to now that it's over (for me) is the silence. No more phone calls, doctors, nurses, family calling to check in, etc. Just quiet. It's peaceful, but a little lonely.

Kazzaa, thanks for your kind words. In the end, diabetes killed my aunt through complications, so I know how it is to watch that slow decline. Very difficult and sad.

I know exactly what you mean about going out in public and watching the "normal" people. It almost feels like 2 different realities- the caregiver reality and the normal reality.

The transition out of being a caregiver is many things, and strange is a word I would put high on that list. It's a strange feeling to no longer have the constant anxiety; "will she have a heart attack, will she fall, did she make a huge mess of the bathroom I will have to clean..." etc. The silence is weird and a bit lonely also.

Best of luck to you with your situation. If you ever feel overwhelmed or just need to talk, look me up here.

Hi ignorotic. Thanks for the update.

What I am finding is that mourning is not a steady path but has lots of curves and switchbacks. I thought that I was through that particular journey and was settling into "normal" again. The approaching 1-year anniversary of my husband's death has set me back some. I am told that this is normal and that I'll quickly recover. I believe that, but it is still painful while it lasts.

In a year's time I am not nearly as back into the "normal" pattern of life as I thought I would be. I am making progress; it is just slower than I expected.

ignorotic, if you find you are "stuck" or you seem to need an extra dose of support, I suggest seeing a counselor. A few sessions can get you started again.

Best wishes to you.

Hi ignorotic, sorry about your aunt but good you are getting back to some sort of normality! I am at the beginning and everyday is getting harder with mum she has vascular dementia from diabetes and has turned into a right grouch its like walking on eggshells but ive learnt to walk away when she gets abusive which isnt as bad as she had been. Ive just got a cleaner in next week for 3hrs as the house is turing into a pigstye(no offence to pigs) mum is so angry as she dosnt think we need it??? ive learnt to ignore what she thinks and have told her that I cannot cope with the house anymore shes going through a very strange stage of cluttering and just making a mess everywhere BUT she cant see it so i just do things now and don't even ask her as they have NO IDEA of how much work they cause and I've learnt that there's no point in arguing with her just do what I can and if she gets grouchy then I go to my friends or a walk!
You must be in a strange place as im sure we all will be one day its hard to just switch off from all that's happened but you will and it sounds like you are taking your life back, one thing ive learnt about this awful disease is that ive never wanted to live my life so much before maybe because I feel as if I'm in surreal world. I went for coffee today and just looked at all these normal people out having lunch and "being normal" then I had to go and get food for mum and couldn't relax as house had to be cleaned etc........ my doc says you need to relax more???????? HOW? i try so hard but its not easy.
The hardest thing now for me is that im losing my mum slowly everyday shell deteriorate a bit more and i feel like I'm living alone we talk but she doesn't really register what I'm saying.
Mum was a good mum and did her best although a very unhappy mum all her life she looked after us a very negative woman who has now this to end her days with doesn't seem fair so how!
You did a great job with your aunt and you should be proud I admire anyone who hasn't had the best of an upbringing and can still give them all the love and care that they need because even though mum did her best for us shes not the same person she was and its tough I just cant imagine caring for my dad as he was nasty abusive and destroyed our childhood I think it takes a very special person to look after someone who wasn't always nice to them.
I wish you all good things to come as you deserve them and I know I do as well my family do nothing to help mum so all she has is me and one day when this is over ill be happy and move on from this pain that's what keeps me going I want peace soon its been a long battle with mum and I just hope she never has to suffer and she will find peace soon too. You cannot make someone happy we've all tried to make her happy but now we've learnt to do our best for her make sure shes well looked after!
Take care and let us know how you're doing its good for us to know how carers move on from this and gives us hope. HUG!

Not sure if anyone is still following this thread, but...its been almost 6 months now since my aunt died. I am doing good, for the most part. I still have times where I get angry and bitter about how I was treated by her, but I am still making an active effort to let all the negativity go and move on.

Coming onto to this site still helps me. I can share my views and what I learned over the years, and hearing other people's stories helps me keep my own in perspective.

Hope you all have a great day!

Thanks LadeeC!

I really feel for all of the great people who are working so hard caring for people. It's the hardest job I've ever done, the pay is awful, and often you are not appreciated. It takes a lot of strength and patience.

I really hope I can bring some insight and support to the posters here looking for help. It makes me think back on my experiences and see them in a positive light.

Wow!! A shout-out with high-5's and kudos for taking back your life and finding ways to make it all count .. and remembering the good stuff!!

I think you might see a bit of CG-envy coming. This is good, it means they see you and wish they were there, already, eh?

A few months have passed, I thought I would drop in and say hello.

I'm working on getting shape still, although that is going slower than I would like lol. I'm also working on getting a certification to do PC repair so I can get back into the "real world".

I miss my aunt, and sometimes it seems strange to me that I will never get a call from her again, watch a hockey game with her again, or have dinner with her again. But I have more good days than bad days now, which comes as a relief.

I'm trying to log onto this site a few times a week and respond to discussions, I feel like my experiences can help others get through this tough experience.

Thanks again to all of you guys who responded, especially ChristinaW, I was in a dark place when I started this thread, and the sympathy you all gave me helped me feel like I was not so alone.

Thank you everyone, your words really do inspire me. I am sad she is gone, but it is also a relief that she is not suffering anymore and I no longer have the fear for the day I get "the call". Despite our differences, we went through a lot together and I will miss her immensely. I do feel that I can now move on in my life, and hopefully recover some of the happiness and passion for life I lost.

This discussion has been closed for comment. Start a New Discussion.