I am a caregiver in the middle: taking care of parents and dealing with a resentful spouse. Do I have to make a choice?

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My spouse is always wanting me to help him with something, his work, his school, getting things for him, etc. He diminishes what I do for others or the work I do around the house. My parents live with us and both are very sick. I have help seven days a week. If what I do for my parents interferes, or even if it doesn't, with what he wants me to do for him, he gets angry and says very hurtful things about them. Our relationship has never been great. I just don't like him saying things about them. He has no heart. He only thinks about what he wants. I really dont like doing most of the things he asks me to do because they take a lot of time and are usually annoying. For example, he has started an online course for an advanced degree program and can't figure things out so he enlists me to read the syllabus and figure out the assignments. In the meantime I have other pressing things to do, but he thinks those things are unimportant compared with his stuff. He is 70. If I could l would like to get a divorce but I have my sick parents to think about. Saying no to his requests always leads to arguments. What can I do?

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How were things with husband before you began caring for your parents in the home? I know you say that it has never been great. Could it be addressed with counseling?

To me, I would feel unhappy, if my spouse insisted on caring for 2 parents in the home who are very sick and have dementia, without me agreeing to it. That can be extremely stressful. So, I get why he would be unhappy with it. And why he might be verbal about it. At least he's letting you know his thoughts. Plus, you have need for your life too. Not just your parents and your husband. You may be so overextended that you are spread too thin.

It sounds like he needs you to help him with some things too. To me, the spouse is the first priority, after yourself. I might explore other options for the parents care, but, if you want to separate anyway, I'd probably consult with a marriage counselor first to sort through your feelings.

It can be extremely stressful and exhausting to care for two sick people who have dementia in the home. It's likely you are fatigued. At least try to get some RESPITE time, so, you can rest and think things through, so, you are sure of what you want, before making any permanent decisions.
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demstress Sep 3, 2018
Thank you. Spouse was the one who wanted them to come live with us. At that time parents were mobile, elderly but could do things for themselves. A year ago everything changed and they are both very ill. Father is bedridden. I guess spouse was living in a fairy land where everyone is sweet and nice all the time. Yes, he has had a change of heart when faced with a big dose of reality. We have no privacy because there are always caregivers in the house. I think I have things under control except for spouse's constant need to have me do things for him, like I am a servant. When I tell him I can't or won't do something he brings up the issue that I do things for everyone else but not for him. Sure I could help him with his requests but the requests take up so much of my time and they are not pleasant.
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You don’t say how long you’ve been married, but if it’s a long time, your husband has always controlled you and you’ve let him, old habits are hard to break. Only you can (and should) say no to his demands. Let him become enraged. It’s his blood pressure. Carry earplugs and when he starts his tantrums, pop them in. When he says “Jump!!” You have always asked “How high?” What do you think should be done to remedy his behavior AND yours? Stop being so available to him? The online course was his choice, not yours. So why are you doing it for him? You are the only one who can control your own behavior. My bedridden husband developed the habit, when I’d get up, to always ask me where I was going and what I was doing. I’ve gotten in the habit of consistently saying “Nowhere.” and “Nothing.” It’s cut down on this annoying behavior by 80%.

Taking care of 2 sick parents is a phenomenal amount of work, even with help. And then to have to also deal with an immature and jealous husband and his nasty behavior is even worse. Even if you placed your parents in a facility, you’d still have to deal with and be subservient to this mean and unreasonable man. Who has to go; your parents, your husband or you? Something has to give. Maybe call or go see your local Area Agency on Aging to see if they can help you find someplace you could go with your parents. Or,do move them to a facility and then you, yourself find an apartment close-by them. The Agency can go over your options and help you find assistance.
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demstress Sep 3, 2018
Thank you. I think I must be a glutton for punishment because I have been married for over 30 years. If I had to choose I would pick my parents over my spouse. I helped parents move here so I am responsible for them. He was the one who actually suggested that they live with us. He probably felt generous at the time but once they moved here reality set it. I get it. Now he is jealous and resentful and constantly brings up the fact that I help my parents--two people who are very sick.
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So your husband agreed and encouraged you to have your parents move in when they were still relatively able to care for themselves.

Did you guys discuss the "what happens when dads bedridden? How do we deal with Alzheimer's?

My husband and I talked about the "just to much" issues before deciding and we both had deal breakers, mine is incontinence, I just can not deal, PERIOD. He can't deal with someone laying in bed hollering for others to do everything for him. Maybe some people find those petty, but we know are limits and instead of having a house of hell we really looked at and talked about what we could in all reality do.

Maybe your husband didn't think it would be forever, no matter what. You know the answer to that, please look at the hear and now of what their needs are, it could be time to place them and your not seeing that because you are burned out and just coping.

I pray you find a way to save your marriage and the best possible solution and care for your parents. (Sometimes, it's not us.)
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Under what terms were the CNA’s hired? My mom doesn’t live with me but she has 24/7 care in her home, not CNA’s. They do all household stuff and care for my mom, but they were hired knowing this. My mom also gets Meals on Wheels so they don’t have to cook 3x day. But, to me it sounds as if you like your parents more than your husband and feel more obligated to them.
My FIL died at the June 28 and I told my hubby that I thought I could live with my sweet MIL, but we hadn’t discussed it with her. In two months, her health has taken a complete nose dive. Hospitalized twice for a total of 12 days, in rehab currently for therapy. Today, she sees a kidney specialist for a brand new problem. In that short of time, her health has become more than what I think I can reasonably handle. I can easily see how your parents health was a big knock in the face to your husband.
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Reply to mollymoose
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Sounds like the situation has greatly changed since you and husband decided that your parents should live with you.  Why wouldn't these changes be the subject for renegotiation? I can understand why a spouse would draw the line at living without privacy, a bunch of strangers (CNAs) and a hospital environment. That is not a home. There are circumstances where there are absolutely no financial options/alternatives, but if there are then nursing home care seems sensible.  Health needs will grow, not decline.
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My dad has advanced Alzheimer's and is 93. He had cnas 24/7 for 8 hour shifts
They tend to him, manage his meds, cook his food, do laundry, keep the house clean, etc. My step sister who lives next door oversees them, take care of dad's finances and gets him to his doctor's appointments. She and her husband are free to do many things together and they are retired. I don't understand why the cnas for your parents can't cook, do laundry for them and manage their meds. That would leave you with only finances and doctor appointments to deal with.
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Reply to cmagnum
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There are probably two separate issues here. The first is that your husband is clearly unhappy with the way your parents’ needs have turned out. Would you yourself have wanted them to move in with you on the current basis? Would you have looked at other care options? Perhaps you need to go back to the beginning and think again about whether they should both be living with you. When things change gradually, it can be easy to ‘cope’ with changes you never expected.

The second issue is that your husband’s unhappiness is working itself out in totally unreasonable ways. Has he tried and failed to talk the whole arrangement through again with you? Is he trying to make things worse to force you into thinking again? Or has he always been a pain in the neck, and retirement is just giving him more scope? Can you sit down with him and focus on your overall living arrangements, rather than on his unreasonable requests?

Perhaps thinking these things through can give you a start in a very difficult situation. Good luck!
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Reply to MargaretMcKen
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I'm thinking that if your 70 yr old DH is doing an online course for an advanced degree program - he doesn't sound like he's firing on all 4 cylinders himself. At a time when he is also winding down into retirement, why is he doing an online course for an advanced degree program??

We had a neighbor who used to be an accountant and every year took the H&R Block Course - but it was to keep up-to-date on doing taxes. Even that was silly because he no longer did people's taxes, but it kept him occupied.

I'm thinking that your DH might be starting "early onset" something - be it dementia or something else. I would mention his irrational behavior to his primary physician.

While 70 is no longer old - it is a time to start winding down from the working world for most people.

Instead of "saying no to his requests" - just start saying, "I don't understand it either, sorry I can't help you," and walk off to do your own thing.
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jacobsonbob Sep 6, 2018
The OP (demstress) hasn't really told us the purpose of the advanced degree or what degrees/professions her husband has. Maybe if we had more details (such as whether he is still active in his field, or needs an additional credential to fulfill a requirement to continue what he is already doing), then pursuing this at age 70 might not seem out of place. Some people work into their 90s even if "most people" don't; my BIL retired from his "day job" and at 70 has an active, lucrative and productive consulting business that he hopes to continue as long as he can.
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I understand how you feel. Does your husband still work? Inside or outside the home? I question his ability to undertake this online course of he can’t figure out the assignments...is he doing it just to enlist your help to get some time with you even if it’s annoying time? My DH and I are pretty well organized people and I would hate to be pulled in many directions I may not want to go.
Heres what my DH and I have worked out. I leave for Moms NH daily at 10 and return home about 2:30. On Sunday we look at our calendars for appointments during the week and decide if that schedule needs to changed or it’s ok. Then, more on a daily basis in the morning, he figures out if he needs help with some task...finances, just holding the ladder for tree trimming, dropping off at car repair, computer help, etc. We decide if I can do it that day, and figure out if it’s before I leave or when I get back. My point is he (usually) doesn’t jerk me around with constant requests/interruptions, and I get to have a pretty well planned day. He gets my help and I’m not annoyed about it. So maybe you could try a more “planned” approach. Just a thought.

Another thought, the other thing we do is I will actually offer to DO the thing for DH that he needs done, in exchange for him going to the NH for a little while that day. I get a little break from my routine and he gets his thing done. Maybe something like that would help.
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Reply to rocketjcat
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Demstress. This is a little bit of a tangent but bear with me.

When you say "our relationship has never been great." Now: is that really true, something you've felt for a long time; or is it more about how you feel at the moment, upset and hurt because of how torn you are between your husband and your elderly frail parents?
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