Why does my brother get one side of our dad and I get a completely different side?

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My dad lived with me for 5 years so I could care for him. One day he fell and laid on the floor until I came home from work. I knew then I needed help. My dad was hospitalized and it was recommended that he go into a nursing home. I didn't fight it as I was worn out, even though it meant selling my home and moving further away (I bought the house so I could care for my dad. Financially, we were roommates.).

We found a nice NH for him and while the guilt almost ate me alive my dad said he understood and didn't hold it against me. That's my dad. The kindest, sweetest, most intelligent man I've ever known. He is truly special.

His health was deteriorating and with it, his brilliant and creative mind. He has bouts of confusion, he falls frequently (right now he has a horrible looking black eye from a fall) and his personality has changed. Dad and I have always been close, since I was a kid. After some adjustment after he moved in, we made it work. As time went by he needed more and more care and attention until he finally went into the NH.

When my brother goes to visit dad they talk about movies and sports and television shows and books. My brother says they are nice visits. However when I visit my dad cries, talks about how depressed he is, he's morose, and he's even begged me to kill me to put him out of his misery. I've tried to redirect him by mentioning something in current events or talking about my daughter but to no avail. I'm always told how wonderful my dad is, how funny he is, and how it's so enjoyable taking care of him. No one sees the side of my dad that I see and the first time I told the staff about it they were shocked.

I'm also a nurse and I understand the psychology of aging. Clinically I understand that while my dad is in the NH I am still his caregiver, at least as far as he's concerned. I am his main caregiver. He trusts me. He feels safe with me. I am a woman and am perceived to be more understanding than my brother would be. My dad might feel like less of a man if he were to admit to my brother the things he admits to me. But it makes our visits so painful. Attempts to redirect him either don't work or are effective for about 2 min. I can hardly stand visiting him. My stomach is in knots on visiting days. I've lost over 20 lbs from stress. After I've visited with him for what I deem is an acceptable amount of time I can't wait to get the hell out of there. I think and worry about my dad every waking minute of every day yet I get reports from staff that he participates in some activities, he spends time out of his room occasionally, and appears to be ok most of the time.

I bring him little treats to try to get the visit off to a good start. I have topics in mind for when I get there so there's no lapse in conversation during which he'll begin to tell me how awful things are. Twice now he's begged me to put him out of his misery. "You're a nurse, you can do it and not get caught." As if I would even consider it!! I've reported this to his Dr. and they've increased his antidepressant but his depression (the depression he only seems to experience when I'm with him) isn't chemical in nature. It's situational and apparently only when I'm there.

I work 12-hour shifts. Some weekends I work 36 hours. My dad tries to call me but I can't take the call because I'm working and the next time I see him he's hurt that I wasn't able to talk to him. I didn't work full-time when he lived with me. HE was my full-time job. My #1 priority. I put his needs above my own. Now that I'm working full-time again he resents it much as a small child would resent his mother working. My dad has told me that he wants me to quit my job so I can be with him more. Of course this is out of the question but his mind is such that he can't understand why I work so much. And I've asked him why it's ok for my brother to work full-time but it's not ok for me and my dad's reply is something about how my brother has a family to support and I don't. I have a 19 year old daughter in college but she lives at home.

I understand that my dad is like this because I'm a caregiver. I provided for him for 5 years. I took care of him for 5 years. He came to depend on me, to trust me with his life. That bond is very strong. I get it. But how do I change his attitude during my visits? I've tried everything I know how to do, professionally and personally, but nothing works. I get weepy, anguished, depressed, confused, suicidal dad. My brother gets funny, storytelling, animated, jolly dad. I'm not even sure my brother believes me 100% when I tell him about my visits with dad. The dad I get is the polar opposite of who my dad is/was. And I'm stuck dealing with this alone since I'm the only one who sees this side of my dad. My dad is not going to live much longer and these are not the memories I want. I'd probably find more time to go and see him if the visits were more pleasant but I get sick to my stomach the minute I pull in.

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You poor thing! How awful to have to listen to this. I have a little experience being depressed and caring for depressed elders. Here are a few things that have worked for me.

First, try agreeing with him that his life sucks. (Honestly, it does, doesn't it?) Really let him express his unhappiness, and don't try to talk him out of it. If I have to convince someone how bad I have it, I hold tight to the badness. If my listener accepts my point of view and listens for a bit, the depression leaks away and I start to feel better. Gaze at him sadly and nod your head in agreement.

Remember that you don't have magic powers. It's not your fault that he is so unhappy. The job you can consider accepting is the job of sitting with him in his unhappiness. If it's not a job you can do, then don't take it.

I don't know what your father is like, but mine responded well to jokes and insults. He was refusing a brain xray because he wouldn't have brain surgery. I told him that if he had a brain tumor we would just shoot him, but we didn't want to shoot him if he DIDN'T have a brain tumor. He had to laugh.

Try mentioning that Dr. Kevorkian is dead, so he's out of luck.

Grant his wish to see you more in imagination. "Dad, I wish I could spend more time with you, too. Wouldn't it be great?" Don't get into why you can't, because that causes him to argue. "I really can't be here all the time, but wouldn't it be great if I could? What would you like to do if I were here longer?"

I just remembered the hospice nurse's miracle cure for suicidal ideation in my father: double his pain medication! My father didn't complain of pain, but giving him more medication put him to sleep, and he woke up happier. Get the NH staff to give him something an hour before you get there and see if that makes things better.

It is an honor that he loves you so, but it's a hard burden for you. Being with him is worth so much to him, and when it's over you'll be glad you did. Maybe eat chocolate to reward yourself for going? Best wishes.
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damn, as jeanne said, it seems like youve already reasoned the dynamics out yourself but that doesnt make such an emotional burden any easier. ill bet you lie in bed struggling with the problems and solutions. in my mind that makes you an intellect and a survivor.
my mother uses me for her emotional grounding rod too and its all consuming but at the same time an honor and a source of fulfillment.
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Oh, Eyerishlass, my heart goes out to you! Please accept warm hugs.

You know why your brother sees a different Dad than you do, and you've explained it to us articulately. I hope you will be around when others ask that and help them understand it, too.

But understanding it and living it are worlds apart. It is an honor to be the one Dad can let loose with, but it is a huge emotional burden, too. I hope you can find a way to shoulder this burden, for your dad's sake, without completely going off the deep end yourself. This is more than should be asked of any loving daughter, but given your dad's impairments, it is the way it is. I guess you should be glad that he is not like that all the time, but it is understandable that you would be jealous of those who see his old personality.

What if you said, "You know Dad, I love you very, very much, and I wish I could do what you wanted. But I could never do anything to hasten your death. Please do not ask that of me. I can't do it. But I will begin the process to get you on hospice care. They will do everything to keep you comfortable and will nothing at all to prolong your life. When it is your time to leave us, they will help make that dignified, for all of us." Do you think that would comfort him any?

My husband went through a period early in his dementia where he frequently expressed his dissatisfaction with living with his limitations and cognitive decline. He'd say things like "Just put me out in the backyard and ignore me. Let nature take its course." I'm surprised at how patient I was usually able to be with him, but I'd had enough of that subject. I said, "Dear, first of all, I would not do that, ever. Second, if I lost my mind and my conscience and did put you outside in the dead of winter a neighbor would be sure to report me. Authorities would come, you'd go to a nursing home, and I'd go to jail so I couldn't even visit you. If you want to stay in your home with me, then stop talking nonsense." I don't think your situation with your Dad is similar, but MAYBE a little tough talking to him is worth trying.

I can understand your brother not quite able to fully believe you. I assure you that you've found a place where many, many people believe you, because we've been where you are. Come and vent often, if it helps. I am so sorry that part of being a wonderful, caring daughter is getting sick in the parking lot when you go see him. And blessings to you for visiting him anyway!
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