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I've been caring for my mother, 97 and my Aunt, 95, for five years. My brother lives out of state, and is retired. He is in good health. He owns my mothers house and comes periodically to visit at length. I am a lifelong survivor of depression, and I work half time. I am constantly challenged financially. I live a life of being constantly overwhelmed, exhausted and alone. I've pretty much lost everything in my life except my job, which I love. As care needs increase in my mom, (my aunt has allowed me to hire caregivers as she lives 60 miles away) has more demands, but refuses to hire help even though she can afford it. I have discussed this with her at length at different junctures, and her reply is always that she is concerned I will get sick, but she doesn't want anyone else to help her. My brother constantly counsels me to "just don't do it", but then I have to abandon my mother to take care of myself. She is, inside, a very scared little girl. How do I just not help? My brother and mother often find things to criticize me for, but they do nothing to lighten the load. I do what is important medically, make sure they have what they need, personal items, clothes, emotional support etc, get the bills paid, and tend to them in emergencies, broken hips, pneumonia, cellulitis...you name it. I interface with the nurse and administration at assisted living to make sure she gets the best care. Mom and Aunt get to all their appts. and I keep a close eye for infections and changes in their well-being. What am I supposed to not do?
My brother comes to help some years for a few weeks or months, but he does what he wants and simply doesn't do the rest. I have tried offering a list of things, encouraged mother to call him for help, and thanked them profusely for everything they do. But they treat me like I'm somehow not doing a good job, and making a lot of wrong decisions. This year I'm not expecting anything and not asking for anything, but am offering them things to do that would help..
I understand I did not choose to be a caregiver and there is resentment there, but I've tried to come to terms with that. I have reached burnout once, my brother took over for four months, then left without making other arrangements, or even talking to me about it, and there was no choice but to resume caring for mother. I have gained a lot of wonderful things from caregiving, but I'm still angry too much, I don't think there is any hope of more help, I just need to find a way to think about this that leaves me with a sense of well-being, not despair.

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How do you let go of anger and regret? You forgive. You forgive your mother, your brother, your aunt for everything. What my mother called give it over to God. From then on, everything you do comes from your heart with gratitude, an expression of your love. It is all attitude. One fills you with love and purpose; the other sends you deep into a spiral of despair.

Next you set boundaries. Read "My Mother Your Mother" by Dennis MuCullough, a geriatric Dr. Give it to your Mother and Aunt to read, Then decide if slow medicine is for you. It will cut the ER drama, stop most of the tests and the Doctor's visits, and free the three of you to enjoy yourselves. Instead of Dr's visits you go to lunch.

Third get a therapist. One you like and could confide your fears. There is no right way to do caregiving. It is being thrown in the deep end and told to swim. The therapist will help you make and enforce boundaries. When I started with my therapist my boundaries where like the Sahara, shifting lines of sand. Now they are Interstate 95 from Boston to the Florida Keys at rush hour. I am happy, and better yet my Dad is grateful, and my siblings help me a lot. Good luck
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Twinflower1, I'm a bit confused. Your background info states both your Aunt and Mom are in assisted living. What services does the facility offer? Are they sisters? Can you move them to the same facility (nearest you) to make things more steamlined? Can you enlist the help of the ALF staff to get your Mom more help? Is she the one with dementia? If so, I'd urge you to stop asking her permission for 'changes'. Dementia affects the ability to comprehend and make appropriate decisions. If you are paying the bills (out of their respective funds) just bring in additional help. No need to explain. Or, you can use my 'gentle story telling' methodology to explain the extra services. "Sally' (new helper) needs to get practice working with seniors so she can get a job in this field. I said she could help you (2 hours a day one day a week, or whatever you hire her for) and then you can help me write a report for her. Never bring it up again and if it goes well, your Mom may forget it as well. Good luck. I (REALLY) understand that family still has much to do even when the loved one is in an ALF. Work to streamline things. ARe there doctors that will come to the facility? Other than specialities, podiatrists, internists and even dentists visit the ALFs I've had experience with. That helps reduce your time running around to the general practitooners. Take a deep breath and find a caregivers support group in your area. It will help you a great deal. Good luck and keep us posted.
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Every single word Blannie said.
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I got a little confused by your question. It sounds like your aunt has allowed you to get some extra help for her, is that right? But your mom refuses? You're assuming if you give your mom a choice to get help or you can't continue doing everything you're doing now, you're abandoning her. Why should she get help when she knows that if she just says "no", you'll continue to do exactly what she wants you to do? Why in the world should she change? Your mom may be like a scared little girl, but she's smart enough to treat you like a servant.

You can still be a loving daughter but set limits around what you'll do and what you can't do to take care of yourself. If she doesn't respect those limits, then there will be consequences for her. You can still do some things for her, but where you think she needs extra care, stop doing those things. She still has a choice that she can afford and she's not abandoned, you're just not doing 100% of what she wants. So how is that so awful? Who in life gets 100% of what they want all of the time other than your mom? So she doesn't like outside help. So what? You don't like being a caregiver for your aunt and mom, but you're still doing it. Your mom will survive being asked to do a few things she doesn't want to do. Your brother has no trouble setting limits. You need to be somewhere between where he is and where you are right now. Set some loving limits and STICK TO THEM. Your mom will adjust and survive and so will your aunt. And you'll feel a lot better about your life.
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I am the only relative. I didn't choose caregiving, it chose me in the form of all three elders in my family becoming incapacitated within two weeks of each other. Two flew home ill and unable to walk from out of the country, and the other fell and broke her hip. My brother came to help, but lives out of state and couldn't stay. My small family has been close. If I walk out, I lose everyone.
There doesn't seem to be a choice except to find a way to think about it all that doesn't leave me so exhausted and drained. I have leaned some wonderful thins and benefited from caregiving. But I would like a life, too. My stepfather died, and now there are two. I think I would be very happy to only have one.
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I'm sorry you're in so deep that you don't see a way out, that stinks I know. Maybe you need to decide WHY you're a caregiver in the first place. IF you're doing this out of some sort of guilt and obligation, then it's no wonder you're depressed. I heard once that unforgiveness comes in the form of depression in many people. Once the person forgives whoever/whatever has hurt them, only then can they be free from depression (unless it's chemical of course).
I think if a person really cares about their loved one, really wants to meet their needs REGARDLESS of who is watching or whatever anyone else is saying, that caregiver would be blessed indeed. Maybe that's too simplistic, I don't know. But it seems logical to me. Once you evaluate exactly WHY you're doing what you're doing, then make the choices you need to get the extra help. I don't care what your aunt and mother say about refusing outside help, you're in charge of that. They need to buck up and take care of their caregiver.
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