Hi everyone,

Historical details not necessary, but has the above happened to anybody? FYI I’m not caring for my mother in-home, but her needs and drama are RELENTLESS. Quick version, after 4 years post Dad death and ensuing work/mom stuff, a month ago a big medical emergency (hers) and now on the first of a few precious days away I was told I had to get her out of nursing care and into memory care in just a few days. No one to help barring anyone I hire.

Before this hopeful mini break, I spent an entire day crying, then after getting this news the first day of my rest I basically lost it. Then I felt too tired to exercise ( red flag ) got a raging UTI, can barely eat, woke up today and first thing almost passed out from a panic attack of all things?

Regarding my mom, I’m not a martyr or a monster; always setting boundaries and am not abandoning her either. But the boundary setting and drama is literally nonstop and there are no other ‘go to’ family members or even friends mom will lean on ( Because they’ve ditched her! Smart! ).

Been going on 4 years of ‘being there’ and I really feel I’ve done pretty good self care, but maybe too much stress is too much. Last night when I talked to her and I said the call had to be short because I wasn’t feeling good she said, “ You have to get well so you can take care of ME! That’s why you have me locked up in here". So yeah, cue waking up in a panic attack, which has never happened in my life like that.

Honestly it’s scary how my normally active body has rebelled. My mind is a mess too. I don’t know how to get out of this and feel overwhelmed by everything. Wondering if I’m extra sensitive or if this is a normal reaction?? It is so hard to ask for help. I feel like I broke.

Bless all of you!

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You guys are wonderful!!!

Fyi after I typed my second response, I developed a fever and then got sicker than I ever have in my entire life. No cough and got tested for covid. Even if it’s negative I’ll have my suspicions because this illness has been above and beyond anything I’ve ever had. On a slow mend now which means my goal today is a shower! BF has been taking care of me, lovely man.

I love surfing and cardio kickboxing and hiking, and go bananas if I don’t get outside. Getting back to playing trombone, fiddling with ukelele, and I do large scale chalk art and started making pastel paintings and taking online classes. Big crazy mutt and big cat at home too. Plenty of lovely things to do ( though chalk art was cancelled due to covid or smoke outside ) I want to have the peace of mind to do these things again!

What’s surprised me is, my mom is in a retirement community w/graduated care, I thought I had good boundaries, and certainly get/got enough exercise. I have a second simple phone with a number mom will never have, I keep the other one on silent most of the time. Maybe it’s the sheer length of time - years - of this constant grinding mom stress ...the tasks...the calls...being the ‘only one’...just the never ending ness of this high maintenance woman ...then throw in some wildfire drama and a medical emergency and voila! I’m cooked.

Thank you everyone for your wise words. My mom has some great qualities ( truly! ) but she is so relentless she eats people alive. If she was an absolute narcissist it’d be easier for me to deal with in some ways because I’d have no problem stepping waaaaay away. ( Have one in my family and I just totally avoid her )

Maybe I needed to hear from others it’s okay to step back further, not ‘be there’ for her every day and that doesn’t make me a terrible person. That’s the kind of thing I don’t hear from other family members or her care team.

I’m sorry you guys have gone through the same/similar experience, but thank you so much for sharing your stories. It makes me feel less alone in this reaction. Speaking of, the ‘cuckoo’ stands for something I was asked to write as a play some years ago, so it’s not a bad word :)

Excuse the long reply but your responses have been really dear! Plus rambling ...I am a bit loopy right now. Do not get covid or whatever this beast illness is!

Lastly I’ve sent a Hail Mary to the geriatric care manager and will take a hit to my savings, but she is helping co-ordinate the move. Still a lot to do but clearly I have to get well and that means stepping back from mom. Bless you all!
Helpful Answer (12)
Kmjfree Oct 2020
Definitely take a step back and get better and then maybe let that become the new normal. Hope you feel better soon!
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This sounds like I wrote it. My mother thinks I was born to look after her, it is my duty. No one else's just mine. She is kind and sweet to my brothers who do nothing for her and never visit. But to me she is hateful and demanding. She can and does ruin my whole week with only one sarcastic comment. She makes me ill. I contacted Help the Aged I cried and poured my heart out. They told me to WALK AWAY AND DON'T LOOK BACK! I feel elated. They were trained advisors. They didn't know how I had suffered such mental abuse for so long. They told me to inform my mother and her carers of my decision. I am going to tomorrow. I am going to get my life back. I am going to live again, free of anxiety, of feeling worthless. I have constant UTI's. I want to be well again and my mother can live with her spifefulness and hate and project it onto someone else. I have had it for 52 years. Best wishes to you and look after yourself first.
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NeedHelpWithMom Oct 2020
Good for you! I was in the same position as you and for my own well being I had to stop caring for my mom too. I haven’t looked back.
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Yes, I had a mental breakdown 6 years ago. It scared the bejesus out of me and is why I now have very strong boundaries in place. I had never had an anxiety attack before, but I sure had them then. I had to go off work for 16 weeks and after 2 tries found a medication that worked to keep the anxiety at bay.

I also have IBS and although I work very hard to keep it under control, when I am stressed it flares up too.

I have mentioned in various posts being triggered by what may appear to others to be inconsequential things, but when a person has lived through trauma, it can be a simple thing that brings it all back.

As I said I now have very firm boundaries in place. I also have regular check ins with my therapist to keep me on an even keel.

My parents divorced 30+ years ago. I have gone no contact with both of them at various times in order to protect myself from their NP behaviours.

Madison, you are allowed to hang up on your Mum if she makes cruel comments. There is no law on the books that we have to continue to listen to their abuse. When she is cruel, you can restrict contact until you are ready to deal with her again

You also are allowed to block her phone number and tell the MC that you are not taking her calls for the next period of time. If there is an emergency they will have to handle it.
Helpful Answer (10)

You absolutely are getting the wake up call from your body that you are overdoing it.

I won't go into detail, but years of CG for older relatives, friends, and mostly my DH has left me with hyper sensitivity to stress. I had cancer last year and the TX took me to my knees, emotionally. People kept telling me how strong I was. To only the few people close to me did I disclose that I was really almost suicidal--and wished I did not opt for TX. (I would have died within 6-9 months). I did do the full TX and achieved remission in time to get the shingles, then got through 6 weeks of that to have COVID roll in. (I have not gotten it, but it really does cut into our lives)

Panic attacks became the norm, and I was already dealing with those for years and years. I started having 2-4 hour panic attacks where my heart would pound and race at about 250 BPM. Horrifying and actually painful. I just thought 'great, one more thing to deal with' but I did bring it up to my PCP in a virtual visit. He had me do a 3 day heart monitor test--turns out I was throwing 'episodes' with my heart almost all day long, only the bad ones were making me miserable.

I'm on a beta blocker and it has helped. I have had to be a LOT tougher about DH's desire to argue politics all day--having him home is awful but I don't have a choice. I'm doing a follow up TX which makes me so tired and depressed. Yet, I have panic attacks all the time. They're better--and I know that once COVID is 'better' and DH can go back to work, things will be better.

My Dr. said my body/mind was simply overwhelmed with 'bad stuff'. A lot of family problems, which I will not go into--but I am trying to step away and not be involved any more.

Your body will have a limit. We all have one. Some people are amazingly calm and collected all the time. I used to be...years ago. But life happened--if I listed all the health issues my DH has been through and all the stuff with raising 5 kids--I am amazed I am still standing.

GET TO YOUR PCP and get something for the panic attacks. They are not to be left w/o treatment. List the issues in your life and try to cut out as many of the negative triggering ones as best you can.

I no longer speak to my MIL and I never will again. People think I'm horrible, but I just couldn't deal with her. I also don't see my own mother often and that's the way it has to be. I also leave the house if DH is home and working, which is very stressful--our home is small and he is loud. One of our kids has no spoken to me for 6 months--and doesn't respond to texts or calls. That hurts.

But you have to take care of you and I have to take care of me. I'd love for my DH to care for me, but he can't and won't. I am learning to not expect him for anything.

Good Luck. Don't ignore the PA's--they are legitimately awful and a good sign things aren't OK.

Helpful Answer (8)
Wriggley Oct 2020
Hello...I am sending you a big “HUG” today for your honesty and insightful answer on how to handle a dire situation when your body starts to react to constant, 24/7 unrelenting stress. I have been on a similar journey since December 2014. My dear Dad was diagnosed with bladder cancer at age 80...had surgery to remove his bladder and endured severe took him three months to be released from the hospital...then subsequently my Mother endured a herniated disk and severe UTI which ended up with her hospitalized for three months...all the while my husband has gone thru 3 job losses/changes. We lost my Dad three days before Christmas 2018 which was also 7 days before my parent’s 61st wedding anniversary due to my Dad’s cancer spreading to his brain and bones. Now we are faced with Covid single adult son has been out of work for 7 brother who has been in and out of employment due to companies relocating since my Dad became ill (almost six years) Mom has dementia and requires 24/7 care which my brother and I do for 48 hours and then alternate...and now my husband’s widowed father has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and my husband is the only caretaker how do you keep from your body completely shutting down from unrelenting stress non-stop for almost 6 years 🤔...the only thing left in me is 🙏...Any other suggestions from this brave, courageous group of full-time caregivers will ALWAYS be cherished.
Is the UTI cleared up now. Please start yourself on D-Mannose now and take it regularly. Private message me if you want my story on THAT, and frequent UTIs over four a year with ZERO in last decade.
That said. Are you POA? It seems you must be. They cannot force you to find a place in that short time. They have nowhere to discharge her to. Are there any organizations/businesses like A Place For Mom that can help you search memory care? The worst they can do is send her to hospital if she cannot safely be handled there, and then get the Social Worker there on it.
UTI recovery is tough. Keep on that. Ask for some mild anti anxiety med; talk with your doctor about all this right now. Remember Panic Attacks are giving us a message. It is fight or flight, and with us unable to get anywhere with any of that the body just paralyzes with fear and anxiety. Be easy on yourself. More people get panic attacks than you can even begin to imagine.
So sorry you are going through this. Remember, a day at a time. They cannot discharge her to your home and must make a safe discharge. Remember to take deep breathes often. Practice breathing in to slow count of 3, and out to count of four. Just the counting of it helps, as well as the breathing.
As to the answer to your question of the have we had the breakdown. Oh YES! And many years ago, not over parents, but over abusive husband. I am 78. I was about 22 at the time. Will never forget it. Talk about an out of body experience. Brief, and never had another, but it was the trip of a lifetime.
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Good advice and suggestions, especially advice on how our very human and vulnerable bodies react.   

Madison, first I would mentally eliminate the "cuckoo" in your screenname, if only in your mind.    I don't disagree that mental challenges present themselves to someone in your situation, but accepting them works against getting past them.  

Personally, I think caregiving at any level affects someone, with varying degrees depending on the individuals, extent and length of care, and especially lack of support.   I also think getting through and then past this was probably the biggest challenge of my life.    I'm still working on it.

I know that time is scarce, but we do have to find some way to relax, redirect, and find resources to cope.   Perhaps the hardest aspect is recognizing when boundaries need to be set, and doing so.    Sometimes just explaining that you can't continue to provide support as you have been doing w/o some relief, and that works both ways, so you both need to find ways in which the arrangement can work is less stressful.  

Sounds easy in writing, doesn't it?   We know though that it's not.   It's challenging; we feel guilty; our parents, perhaps in a panic we can't even begin to comprehend, feel abandoned.    In some ways it's a negotiation.     I approached it that way, and it helped me.

I also listened to music, a lot, wandered through my garden and sometimes at a local park, crafted or designed crafts that I didn't have time to make...I found that creative ideas sparked an otherwise dormant coping mechanism and helped me plan, more positively.

Perhaps all the good advice others have and will offer can help you realize you're not alone; I'm sure that many people face similar situations but don't share it.   And many are fortunate to have family who help.  

This is a challenge, and you will be stronger for it once you're able to begin putting distance between it and your life now and in the future. Yes, that's easier said than done, but it can be done.  Each of us has to find the method that helps guide us through.   

The "overwhelming" issue needs to be specially addressed.    Prioritizing helps, making charts and lists helps, but they need to incorporate down time, even if it's only 5 minutes every hour.   

What were your hobbies and pleasures before caregiving started?   How can you now resurrect them, again, even if only in a planning stage, or for a few moments a day?

I always kept gardening magazines in my tote bags and relied on them heavily when sitting in the ER or hospital room.   I also took a notepad and made sketches of different garden configurations, or just plans for the next season.  The distraction helped immensely, especially while waiting for diagnoses.

Help us help you by telling us of your life before caregiving.  What did you do?  Were you working, involved in volunteer work?   What hobbies did you have?   Spent some time thinking about them and sharing them with us; I think it will really help.

Something else that helped me is keeping track of decisions and factors affecting them, what alternatives existed, how my parent and I handled them, and especially those that were successful.   I can translate some of them into lessons learned for the rest of my life.
Helpful Answer (7)
NobodyGetsIt Oct 2020
Beautifully said "GardenArtist" and you have given the OP as well as the rest of those who read your post many good ideas in which to implement if they so choose. Like you, my mom always loved gardening throughout her life as well as subscribing to gardening magazines as an outlet for the daily stresses of life.

I also agree having "cuckoo" in her screenname just produces a disparaging thought against herself even if it's in the subconscious. We somehow need to become our own best allies in order to move forward productively. We get beat up enough through caregiving that we needn't do it to ourselves.
What if it gets worse? How do you feel about getting a hospital SW to have the state take charge of her and place her? Surely you've done all you can, all you dare, with your health breaking down....
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I understand. A few weeks after moving my dad to AL, I ended up in the ER. I was a physical and mental mess. Thankfully, the ER doctor completely understood. She prescribed a short-term medication and strongly encouraged me to take some time off from everything. I was in a very scary state. The ER doctor explained that what I was experiencing was a form of PTSD. I followed up with another doctor and I am on a long-term medication. I am working hard to protect myself from extreme stress. My dad passed away, but my mother is aging and has dementia. She is still fairly high functioning and is married (my parents divorced). After going through so much with my dad, I know I must do things differently regarding her future care and the care of my in-laws.
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Tothill Oct 2020
Sunny, sending you a virtual hug. I will hold you close as long as you need it.
I can relate to feeling overwhelmed and panicked by every little thing, my mind being unable to form sentences, and my body being exhausted. I’m just getting through an episode and working to prevent backsliding.

My counselor has helped me recognize what I need to do each day to stay healthy. For example sleep x hours, drink water and eat, pray, clear space/clean something, be creative, be in nature, and move my body. A big factor for me is sleep. What you are experiencing is normal, but not healthy. I hope you can make changes to avoid burn out.
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I like exercising to combat stress. It helps so much. It can be as simple as walking. I walked at the farmers market earlier today.

Being outside helps too. Nature is so soothing.
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