Am I a bad person for feeling this way, or is it burnout? Whatever it is, how do I best handle it?

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I am the sole caregiver for my wife (aged 63), since for a variety of reasons her other family members are neither willing nor able to help at all. She's had a variety of health problems, both physical and mental, for most of our married life, and for about the past 6 years has been pretty much an invalid. In general, our marriage has not been ideal, but we’ve both been determined to make the best of it.

I'm still working full-time, mostly for the break it gives me from taking care of her. She keeps urging (i.e., nagging) me to retire, so I can be home to look after her all the time. I, and most everyone I talk to, know this would be disastrous for my health and well-being, and so ultimately for hers. But she just doesn't seem to understand that.

Most of her communication consists of whimpering and crying, moaning and groaning, complaining and criticizing. And occasional verbal abuse of me and others. She is extremely negative and critical about almost everyone and everything; she’s a black hole who absorbs most of whatever energy I have. I catch almost all of her flak because I’m almost the only “target” she has. She has done almost nothing to help improve her health; rather, she blames other people and expects them to fix it for her. She is also very intelligent, although in recent years both other people and I have noticed significant cognitive problems in her behavior, possibly the delayed results of a long ago brain injury.

The bottom line is that I just don’t want to be her caregiver any longer. I am tired of having my life dominated by her problems, a good portion of which are her own fault (COPD from 40+ years of smoking and diabetes from eating--i.e., demanding to eat--mostly junk.) I would like the chance to enjoy a few years of my life before my own inevitable health problems set in; I’m 66 and in decent health--at the moment. I have noticed myself gradually becoming more and more angry and resentful about this situation, especially since some, though certainly not all, of her health problems are the direct results of her own behavior:

So, what am I to do? Last summer, we tried having her stay in a well-regarded local nursing home so I could have a couple of weeks of respite to go visit friends and relatives. She couldn’t stand it, couldn’t stand not being in control of her environment (e.g., the nursing home took away her cigarettes and medications), with the result that she pitched a fit and convinced several people to help her move back home and stay with her while I was away. So, some kind of assisted living/nursing home situation seems to be out of the question.

Respite care for me is not really the solution either. Whenever I’ve been able to get away, the thought and action of having to come back “home” again is just so overwhelmingly depressing that it wipes out much of the benefit of the respite. Being away is like climbing up out of a cesspool or toxic waste pit and breathing fresh air and drinking clean water; coming back is like slipping down into the muck again. I am just worn down, depleted, burned out from dealing with this situation. I don’t know what to do. I have no family of my own to turn to, and don't want to unduly burden my friends with my woes. I just know I need to do SOMETHING and will welcome advice and suggestions from this online community. From reading other postings here, I know my situation is not nearly as bad as what a lot of other folks have to deal with, but it's bad enough all the same.

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Faberd, thanks for the update. Take care of yourself and come back to tell us how things are going. All the best to you and to your wife.
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Apologies for the delay in replying; life has been busy! Here are some quick answer/comments to recent posting in my thread. And great thanks to all of you who have posted; I'm getting some deeper context to work with.

ba8alou, the antidepressant I tried was Bupropion, a pretty mild one, I believe. At any rate, I didn't notice any changes for good or ill so I quit it after a few months. I don't really want to take anything like that, all the more since the several my wife has used haven't provided any obvious help to her. I take clonazepam sometime to help with sleep.

My wife has also just started with an occupational therapist, who has a lot of experience with lymphedema. It sounds like maybe this therapist might be able to get hold of some compression paraphernalia that can help. As to disability, my wife has been on disability retirement from the state government system for many years; she's not old enough for Social Security yet, and we have too much money to qualify for any of the low-income programs. She does have a wheelchair which we use when we go out--usually only for medical appointments.

Her statement about smoking: the doctor just smiled knowingly, like he'd heard that line before. Likewise, her regular doctor has had similar reactions when the topic has come up. My wife makes no bones about the fact that she isn't going to quit--though she has cut down somewhat of late--and this issue has been a major source of contention between us the whole time we've been married. No sense getting into useless confrontations about it.

I have made it as clear as I can to my wife's psychiatric nurse, who makes weekly visits, that I am getting near the end of my rope, and have urged her to try to convince my wife that we need some alternate form of care. Given my wife's willful, volatile nature, this is a slow process, at best.

ignorotic, I think the people she talks to have a pretty good idea of the real situation, however she may try to slant it to make herself look good. I'm not too worried about them believing her lies and distortions. Most of her family is "on my side"--for all the good that does. And, Yes, I know there will be life later on; I think about that a good bit and am as ready for it as is reasonably possible.

Again, thanks to all who responded, and will respond!
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"This is going to kill you before it kills her." Great statement, ba8alou. This is something you really need to take seriously. She sabotages herself and all efforts to help, and then blames others, and specifically you, for every failure along the way, and it just wears you down. Mentally and physically.

I aged 20 years in the actual span of 8 years trying to care for my aunt. It wasn't just her negativity, it was having to defend myself constantly to the people she lied to about me. And the reality that for every person who had the courage to ask me about the lies, there were probably 10 others that just assumed she was telling the truth, and that I was a bad caregiver, and a bad person.

There will be life after she passes on, and you have to think about what that life will be like, and how you want to prepare for it.
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Also, when your wife made that incredible statement about smoking, what was her doc's response? What was yours.? At some point, not challenging her disordered thinking is enabling her to remain in her bubble. Unless she has more severe mental problems than I'm getting from reading your thread. And if she is that disabled, she needs more care than you or any one untrained person can reasonably give her. The question is not "are you a bad person"--You're not. The question, to be put to her doctor, is "I'm no longer capable of taking care of this hot mess. What if I weren't here any longer. What resources can be found for her care?" Don't take no. Don't beat around the bush. This is going to kill you before it kills her.
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Faberd; two more questions--I know you've said that you are "situationally depressed", but your helplessness and hopelessness belies this. How long were you on that antidepressant? You need a different one, or perhaps more than one. Find a prescribing psychiatrist. Compresion stockings that didn't fit? Were they prescribed by an MD and fitted by professional fitter? Yes you can order them from the internet butcat least initially, someone needs to show you're wife how to use them. As to care, has your wife been declared disabled, medically and/or mentally by Soc sec? It sure sounds to me like she is. She might qualify for homecare services through that route. Have you considered a wheelchair or scooter?
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3 Tips for Alzheimer’s Caregivers

1. Don’t try and do it all on your own: It is a common occurrence among Alzheimer’s caregivers to try and go it alone, but you must be prepared to accept help from others. Realize that help from your friends and family will lessen the weight of your own tasks and decrease the overwhelming stress. Consider contracting a non-medical caregiver and realize that you do not care any less about your loved one if you accept or actively seek out assistance.

2. Knowledge is power: Understanding your loved one’s condition will undoubtedly aid in determining the care you will give. Be familiar with each stage of their disease, which one they are in and which appropriate care tips and techniques apply in order to find success through an already difficult situation. That understanding will surely serve as a platform for becoming successful Alzheimer’s caregivers.

3. Don’t throw your own needs to the wayside: Taking care of your own needs doesn’t need to be and shouldn’t be sacrificed in order to be an effective caregiver. Did you know that Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers rack up billions of their own medical bills each year? With this in mind it is especially important to make sure you are keeping yourself healthy and active both as a caregiver and as a human being. Be sure to do something for yourself on a regular basis and understand that while you care for your loved one, you are allowed to focus on your own health and happiness as well.

Keep in mind that these ideas are only the tip of the iceberg and each situation will be unique. Alzheimer’s caregivers undergo an immense amount of stress and while it is a heavy burden to bear, these tips may help lessen your load.
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Again, much thanks to recent responders. I'd like to give brief answers to some of the questions you all raised.

To ba8alou, she SAYS she wants to feel better, but her actions don't live up to it. In other words, she wants to feel better as long as she doesn't have to make any effort on her part. No, we're about 75 miles from the nearest big city. I agree about the antidepressant; I've not talked with the psychiatrist himself, but have had a number of conversations with a psychiatric nurse whom he assigned to her as a case worker. This nurse is just as frustrated as I am with my wife's unwillingness to do anything to help herself.

To ignorotic: amazing how people can be in such denial! Several years ago, during a doctor's appointment in which the topic of breathing difficulties came up, my wife made the incredible statement, "I've been smoking for 40 years and it hasn't bothered me yet." She is anything but a stupid person, but that is the dumbest thing I've ever heard her say!

To privatecare123: we can afford SOME private care for awhile. In fact, literally just yesterday we started with a home care aide who will come in for an hour 3 days a week (to start with) just to help my wife get to the bathroom, perhaps some hygiene, and other odds and ends. The cost of more extensive private care long-term would be a frightening thing to contemplate. As to compression stockings, we've bought several pair, none of which fit. A nurse who has experience with lymphedema is scheduled to visit next week.

Each one of these things is minor by itself, but the mass of them is just wearing me down!
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Can you afford private care? I'm a private caregiver who comes in to attend to my clients needs so her husband can relax, go out, or just not have to deal! He has two of us taking care of his wife from 8-5. Your feelings are not uncommon, and caring for someone is overwhelming. Look into it, we may be hired help, but deal with so much and give our all so family can have some normalcy. Just seen lymphedema, have you tried compression stockings? They help, my mom has it in her arm. Hugs to you! Seriously look into private care, it's more personal and people tend to respond better to a person one on one than a home or group setting. If you want a figure to pay someone let me know, been doing this a while so can help you there. Keep us posted, and please take care of yourself! I have learned from being a caregiver to hospice patients that most "caregivers" go down hill faster than the individual. Take care.
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It's eery to read your posts, faberd, because the terms you use for your wife are nearly word for word what I used to say about my aunt. COPD from 50+ years of smoking (and even when she was on 12 liters of oxygen she would brag that she smoked her whole life and never got cancer). Diabetes that she didn't even try to manage other than taking medications. Extreme fear of falling that led her to immobility after months of not getting out of her chair more than a few times a day. Vampire, black hole, etc.

I hope you find a way to manage your situation that makes your life better. Let us know how things are going!
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Yes, much clearer. Is she interested in feeling better than she does? Are you near a major metropolitan center with a good diagnostic team? For starts, it doesn't sound like her antidepressant is working; does her psychiatrist talk to you as well about how hopeless things appear? Since she's got trouble walking and breathing, how about an electric wheelchair, or one of those scooter things. Look, I'm as symoathetic as the next person, but one of my neigbors is a eoman in her 50s who lives in an electric wheelchair with oxygen. She's completely paralyzed and operates the chair with a blow tube. She goes to work EVERYDAY in her handicapped modified van. So, I'm just saying, there are ways around these disabilities if the patient has the will.
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