In the past week or so, my 91yo dad has gotten really mean to me. Could be a UTI, could just be advancing age (his mind has been very sharp) but he says things that are so precisely targeted that it is really hard to deal with. I know of course that he’s frustrated at his physical limitations, at all the things he can no longer do. But I was on the phone for a little while helping a friend (of more than 40 years) prepare a complex church celebration (something I’m credentialed in). Dad wanted to know why my friend was still asking me to do things for him. I said I did it because I wanted to help him, because it’s something I enjoy and am called to do. I pointed out that when Dad was in intensive care, on a vent and about to be put on dialysis, I called my friend and he was there in 15 minutes (my dad was supposed to have been discharged that day, so it was something of a shock-nobody had called us!). I said that’s the kind of support we are for each other. Dad said, “well I didn’t see him so what good was he?” I was stunned.

He says I have to take of myself so that I can take care of him and my mother; I shouldn’t waste energy on other people. I’m an only child with no other family; I need my friends and love them dearly.

I am my parents’ sole caregiver, have been doing so for about 5 years since a little after I retired and I haven’t had a break since April of this year and no vacation in more than 6 years. I don’t resent it, don’t regret it. They are my priority. Dad just announces that he’s in a bad mood, and that everything he says gets him in trouble (that bit isn’t new, he always blames others for the negative reaction to his comments). Then he tells me I’m short-tempered.

So I’m done venting now, but I don’t know what to do avoid being a target. I usually gently walk away and retreat to my part of the house (yes, I live with them!) but this is escalating. I’m exhausted, sad, scared and I really just don’t know what to do.


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If you suspect Dad has a UTI, he needs to be tested. These don’t go away by themselves.

Dad is redirecting his anger with Life at you because 1) he can 2) he gets a reaction from you 3) he still wants to play the large and in charge role.

You say Dad wants you to take care of yourself for the self-centered reason that then you can take care of him and your mom. Well, ok. So turn it back on him. Tell him that having friends and helping them makes you happy and that’s part of taking care of yourself. If your mind and heart aren’t happy, the rest of you suffers as well. If he says something to you that is pure D nasty, call him in it. You don’t have to walk on eggshells around him. He certainly doesn’t with you. Tell him that you feel he’s not happy with your caregiving and you’ve been considering moving into an apartment and hiring caregivers for him. Then follow through if you need to.

You dont need to tolerate verbal abuse from your father. The next time he says something, don’t make excuses for what you did (like helping your friend) or offer him lots of reasons and explanations. Tell him flat out that he’s being mean and unfair and you don’t appreciate it.
Helpful Answer (3)

"if brief bickering leaves you exhausted, sad, scared, and at a loss, and you recognise the escalation, then you are on your way to burn-out and you urgently need proper R&R."

That's an interesting comment, Countrymouse. I wonder why I seem to feel anxious and stressed after being around my mother for just a very short period of time. And she doesn't even have to be argumentative for me to feel that way. It's being around her AT ALL. She has permanently ruined any relationship with her with her vicious comments, and her clear statements that I owe HER, and that my time isn't worth anything.

I've taken that as a sign that I shouldn't be her caregiver (and I'm not, except for being her Dummy Daughter Driver). At least I've listened to my instincts, and limit my exposure to her as much as possible.

I have three brothers, who all live out of state. They are (well, two are; Sonny-No-Show couldn't care less) trying to convince her to move to Assisted Living. She is having none of it.

So be it. She is choosing to live as a shut-in, with an unsafe bathing environment. No one has suggested (and I will refuse, if they do) that I go over to monitor and help with her showers. (Actually, I have told my brothers that I will do so if I get paid $20/hour. No one's pursued that, because my mother will scream at me if she hears that.)
Helpful Answer (2)
I think your instincts are right! - and I can't see why your instincts shouldn't be as worthy of respect and consideration as anyone else's.

I had different disagreements with my sister; but not about her feeling much the same as you do, and having a similar reaction to our mother. You can love a person very, very much and still find that they stress you out or, in her case, get right up your nose. It doesn't have to be anyone's *fault*.

But with daybyday, she's been doing this job voluntarily - nay, gladly - for five years and can't herself understand where the new pain is coming from. She hasn't suddenly gone off the old boy, neither of them has become a different person; so perhaps it's precisely as she suspects - it's exhaustion, and she needs a break.
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Okay, having reflected and re-read...

"In the past week or so" means that you have noticed a recent and marked change in your father's behaviour.

His misunderstandings about historical financial matters, his belief that he was the supportive benefactor behind your success.

His misplaced protectiveness, believing that he was preventing others from taking advantage of you.

His irritability, and his hurt feelings.

And all of these things have come up quite abruptly.

I think you have grounds for real concern, and if I were you I'd want him examined and his mental state assessed. There could have been some kind of "silent event," and prompt intervention could make all the difference. What was the doctor's appointment for?

And you still need a proper break! Thank God for friends as good and practically helpful as yours, but even the best support is not the same as time to unwind completely.
Helpful Answer (2)

Yes you need to walk away, but perhaps not so 'gently'. Say you are leaving the room because he is being unpleasant. If he still is as sharp as you think, he can learn that if he wants your company, he needs to behave better.
Helpful Answer (1)

How long was the little while that you were on the phone for?

Don't misunderstand me - this is your home, you can be on the phone to whomever you please for as long as you like; and anyway I have just been chatting away to my daughter for over an hour and am certainly in no position to criticise.

The reason I ask is to help gauge *how* unreasonably grouchy your father was about this particular, minor incident.

And, by the way, if brief bickering leaves you exhausted, sad, scared, and at a loss, and you recognise the escalation, then you are on your way to burn-out and you urgently need proper R&R. What are your respite options?
Helpful Answer (1)
daybyday27 Oct 2018
Thanks, countrymouse for your insight. I was on the phone for about 15 minutes or so, and it was really a business call. It just happens that I was doing the task for free for a friend. My dad’s reaction was out of proportion to the incident. It’s not as if he needed me for something. He just didn’t like my being “interrupted”. I think I was crawling around on the floor with the dog at the time.
I don’t have much in the way of respite options. I have a dear friend who helps out to give me a break. Sadly, I just discovered today that mom no longer recognizes her (we’ve been friends for more than 30 years). She drove my dad to the doc today and that was a huge help. Today was a nightmare for a bunch of reasons, the worst of which was my having to explain to my dad that he was not (and has never) financially supporting me. He somehow thought he was providing living expenses for me. For legal reasons we all know about, I don’t take gifts, cars, “salary” etc. from them (I’m POA). We share food and power and stuff like that. But he was stunned to find out although he took out my college loans, I paid them off (ancient history now), that I paid for both grad programs (no loans) and that the car he thought he bought me he only paid for half (to avoid the cap on the gift limit). This all came up today and it really hurt him, I think. I didn’t throw this at him; he just didn’t know. Came up because he OK’d some work on the house today that wasn’t complete and told the contractor to “forget” the rest and sent them home. This was because dad couldn’t see well enough to see what still had to be done (and he didn’t want to pay them!). Now I have to go fix that!
I adore him. It was just hard stuff. Thanks for listening.
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