Becoming the caregiver and learning to be the parent.


I'm 27, an only child, and my mom is 64. She beat Colon cancer last year, but as her caregiver, I developed anxiety and depression. I've realized now that she assumes the worst, which now triggers my anxiety through the roof and thinks a little bit irrationally with any symptom she has, which is understandable for what she went though, but I don't know how to deal. For example, she has a swollen hand which could be arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, and she said she feels fatigued like she did when she had cancer. This sent me into PANIC mode. I had to remind her that we just went to the oncologist last Monday for her check up and she's fine, and that she had felt Like she was getting sick last weekend, maybe she's still fighting that off? It's too much for me to be triggered and have to remind her of these things because I can't handle it this much due to my anxiety, BUT at the same time, I'm worried she's right, that something serious is happening again. Does anyone else have to think clearly for their parents and not take what they say so serious? I guess I'm used to mom always being right :(

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Your mom is 64. Is she still working? Does she have other medical problems that cause her to need a caregiver?

It sounds as though YOUR MOM has significant anxiety and possibly depression. Have these been evaluated and are they being Treated?

You acknowledge the fact that you have difficulty with anxiety and depression as well; are you getting adequate treatment yourself? What career are you pursuing? Are you getting out with friends, dating, furthering your education and career skills?
Helpful Answer (12)

Depression and Anxiety are very real disorders. And fortunately they are treatable! Good for you for seeking help.

Usually the treatment combines both drug and talk therapy. If you mother resists talk therapy she could still benefit a lot from appropriate drugs. Would she consider that approach?

If you both get your anxiety and depression under control, I'll bet you will get along much better!

I have the same question that Barb has. The cancer is in her past. She is able to work full time. Why do you consider yourself a caregiver? You are living in the same house, right? Can't you just be housemates? Maybe take turns making dinner, divide up the housecleaning, do some things (but not every thing!) together, and enjoy each other's company? While she was having cancer treatments, yes, you probably were.

Isn't it time to accept that your mother is fine?

If my husband sat around in his underwear, I asked him to please put a shirt on. He wasn't an invalid and I didn't want him to look like one. He had dementia but it helped us both to think of him as otherwise healthy.

Don't treat your mom as someone needing a caregiver! It will make her recovery more real to you when your relabel your relationship!
Helpful Answer (9)

Dodds, I'm with Jeanne. I'm so glad you are in treatment. It is somewhat disturbing that your mother is actively resisting the very important psychological component of treating her cancer.

My mom had breast cancer at 65. She was in complete and utter denial about dealing with the psychological aspects. She started out by making some really stupid choices about how to proceed. (I don't mean I thought they were stupid. Her doctors told her that she was trying to follow the treatment protocol from the 1940s, when she worked as a medical secretary for an oncologist. And that her "choices" were no longer on offer).  She was coming at dealing with cancer from a place of anxiety and terror with no room for facts or rationality.  It's not a good way to make life changing decisions.

As a family, we were able to convince her to go, not to the local hospital where they were offering a radical mastectomy with a one or two day stay. We were able to get her to go to Sloan Kettering. They kept her for two weeks!   And they made it clear that going to the therapy groups was expected, not optional, because your mind and your body are very much part of the same healing process.

Getting your mom to accept medical treatment for her anxiety and depression is a goal worth pursuing. I would talk to your therapist about it. You might start by telling mom about how her anxieties are affecting you. Perhaps if she sees this as helping you, she will be willing to accept some meds.
Helpful Answer (6)

I think you got some good advice here. At 64 (my age too) your mom is not old and it doesn't sound like a caregiver is needed at this point. I'm glad to hear you are going to a therapist. Explore why you feel the need to consider yourself as such at this point. Some of this has to do with knowing when to set boundaries and when and how. Both of you actually. But since she won't go, you can be the one who does this. Your anxiety may need prescription medication. Also, I'm wondering why you don't go ahead at your age, and move out to a place of your own. It seems that would be a good place to begin by getting independent and becoming more of an adult.
Helpful Answer (6)

As hard as it may be, you may need to make yourself less available to Mom so that she is forced to look for another outlet, compansionship or group to talk to and rely on. What will happen is that both of you will be healthier, emotionally and mentally. Your relationship will change to something of mutual respect and allow you to enjoy each other. Moving out would be a great first step. You obviously love and care for your mom very much. She is lucky to have you as I am sure you feel lucky to have her.
Helpful Answer (6)

You are too young to take this on. When I was your age, I was dating, figuring out my life, and having FUN! My mom got cervical cancer around that time but she went back to work and resumed her life, she did not try to make me her caregiver. I am her caregiver now but that is because she developed dementia and I care for her lymphatic leg ( a result of the cancer surgery) but I am now 47 and she is 80! Big difference. No wonder you have depression and anxiety, you are too young for all this. You must live your life too. I have depression and anxiety too, if anything will make those things rear their heads, it's being a parent to your parent. You need to live your life now before it passes you by.
Helpful Answer (4)

Thank you barb! She is working 40/week but it seems that she relies on me so much now for even her thought process? But you may be right that it's due to her own anxiety/depression. I just started seeing a psychologist and tonight was my second session. I'll have to ask the Psyc how to make my relationship with my mom healthy again. Because this isn't healthy for me, nor is it for her with the way she's thinking. Mom doesn't portray these thoughts to be a huge worry to her, but how can they not be?i feel like I'm the only one freaking out when she says these things. My mom doesn't believe in talking to a therapist, she doesn't feel she needs one. She didn't even go to any groups during her cancer :( she just talked to me.  I just need to figure out how to get her to not think AT me like that I guess? But we're best friends, so I hate to not have her come to me. I work full time myself in public health, but my bachelors degree was to become a paralegal :/  I have a 6 year relationship, and go out every weekend with friends/boyfriend. Though my anxieties are always there, especially when my mom calls to talk about these things
Helpful Answer (3)

You should not become the parent. You are going to have to set boundaries and going to a therapist is an excellent way to start this journey. Your Mother most likely has a lot more aging to do and you are going to be her daughter that whole time. You need to take care of yourself first and then support and advocate,(when she can't), for her. I have had to come to gripes with the fact that not all the people I love have a strong emotional constitution. I can't fix that I can only be an example of how I take care of myself emotionally. My husband had a recent surgical repair and he thought like no less than 12 times a day that it was re-injured with the slightest moves, he has anxiety about everything so surgery wasn't any different. After about 4 weeks of this I ran out of compassion and every time he would off load his anxiety on me about some movement I would tell him to write it in his pain journal so he would share it with the doctor and his physical therapist. I cared but I'm not the professional. He eventually lessened his off load of anxiety upon me. You are going to have to have tools in dealing with this. You are on the right track reaching out to this forum and seeing a therapist. Keep up the good work you are an example!!!
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I'm glad to hear you are getting treatment. I needed time myself to talk to someone. When I realized how stressed I was I started going to weekly therapy and had a weekly conversation with trained person from church for about a year. I needed it. Another family member needed anti anxiety meds with her mother. Therapy, the church lady and making a point to get out & do stuff for me was critical to staying on top of the situation as it continues to morph. It helped me figure out what I needed, it helped me transact with family members, it helped me help my mother in law in ways that were helpful to everyone. Now I go to therapy on an as needed basis. The situation hasn't improved but it is no longer all consuming and all the time anxiety crunch. Take care of you. You deserve it.
Helpful Answer (3)

I think the best thing I ever did for MYSELF was to enter therapy. A friend who listens without judgment, has sound advice, can't disclose what we talk about--heaven! And worth every cent!
I found that I, too, was leaning too heavily on one of my daughters and she was smart enough to lovingly tell me "Mom, you should not be talking to ME about this". AT first, it felt like a slap in the face (a gentle one)..but she was right. I needed an outside source to talk to.
Burdening your children with your problems is not helpful. To them or you. It has been a hard habit to break, but I am doing it.
As far as my mother, well, I am used to her complaining about this and that..and I have learned to let 99% of it roll off my back. Now that she is experiencing more dementia, it's easier. She's not so "mean" and I am not upset or frantic when she tells me about some new ailment. She's 87. She's not going to live forever. That's OK.
Your mom is still working FT, so that says a LOT. I'm glad you're getting help and I hope your mom will also go. HOWEVER...if she is going to please you, don't expect much. The patient has to WANT to get better, or it's just a 50 minute chat fest.
Can you lovingly tell mom that when she talks about her ailments, it stresses you out? Ask her to please respect boundaries of what you can/cannot handle talking about? My daughter did this with me and she was so sweet--prefacing everything with a "Mom, I love you so much and you are so amazing...but.." so I did not feel attacked.
You are still so young-and so is your mom. I hope you can find your way to healthy place.
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