I love my parents but also need to get my life back. What can I do?

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I've been caring for both my parents since Sept. in their home which is 2-1/2 hours from where I live. I told them in the past that I would care for them but that was when they were OK with me going to my place and coming here periodically. I haven't seen my adult children or grandchildren for 4-1/2 months plus I was helping my friend at his business and he needs me there. My parents have gotten so that they rely on me (I think too much). They can get around with their walkers in the house, they can do their medications and they can fix meals. They don't really need me 24/7 so I just sit here cooped up all day. Of course they don't want "strangers" in their house. My sister is coming from Arizona on Sunday for 2 weeks and we are going to present them with options for continued living (i.e. moving them to a mobile home or apartment near me, having someone come in to their home to help them (of course that would mean a stranger) They don't really have a lot of money to pay for someone to come in. I'm going to feel very, very guilty and like I am more or less deserting them by proposing them to move closer to me and I will feel selfish for wanting to go on with my life while I am able. I am 63 yrs. old and unmarried. My sister can't come out to relieve me for weeks at a time nor can she afford to fly here often. I don't know what else to do and I am afraid that when we present options to them that they will reject them. Am I wrong to want to have a life? The best option is to move the close by me, then I can still be there within 5-15 minutes when they need me for anything and I can visit them often.

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P.S. I regret not demanding my folks moved close to me as I left my home, my friends and relocated my business- essentially my life. I have not been able to re-build much of anything here except care for them. The feeling of being "cooped up", trapped and isolated may happen to you if you move to them. It is the single most difficult aspect of my decision- harder than caring for them actually. Be careful of making decisions based on guilt or sympathy because, as they say, you can't be a good care-giver if you do not take care of yourself. I really empathize with your position.
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I completely get where you are coming from. I feel bad for wanting my life back and I am only in my early 30s. I suppose the guilt feelings are normal for people in a caregiving situation, especially when they become so isolated. A great therapist once told me that all feelings and emotions are valid no matter what they are (because they are yours). The point he was driving toward in the end was that what really matters is how you deal with all these emotions. (Probably one of the wisest things anybody has ever said to me.)

On the other hand, you need your family unit (children & grandchildren) to help with your mental state. Unfortunately, I don't have a large family, but the little one I have is everything to me. You need to go home for a break and enjoy them. Your parents should understand even if they don't want you to go (and even if they don't admit to understanding). I mean, they want you right up under them...not "strangers".

It is good that your sister is coming to help you face your parents with these decisions. If the two of you can come up with some ideas that you will support each other on, it will be easier to get your parents on board...I think. I have no siblings, only my mother. Mom is very docile and it leaves me to stand alone when it comes to facing my grandparents. I have to be more assertive than I like at times because I don't really have "back up". You and your sister can help strengthen each other in these situations.

As far as their care is concerned, it seems like they just want you to be close to you. They will probably really consider relocating to a place near you because of this. Of course, when it comes down to it, I sure it will be hard for them to actually leave their home (especially if they've been there for something like 50 years.) Be prepared for that and maybe be prepared to combat their resistance by telling them you understand their feelings. Sometimes simple validation of feelings goes a long way. Maybe even offer to make a scrapbook or something revolving around their home.

Since they can care for themselves, an apartment complex for the elderly might be great. Those are usually based on income and they will be able to make new friends if they choose. These types of complexes usually have a little community center and the greatly desired front porch for rocking chair visits. Remind them how nice it will be to have them so close and that they will even get to enjoy their grandchildren on occasion.

Ultimately, you probably need to be honest with them about your position. It may not even occur to them. Tell them you want to continue to enjoy their company, but you need their help by a compromise. They might not be aware of how long it has been since you've seen your family.

Good luck to you and I hope everything works out.
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JMLouise: I like beautifulsc's answer. It WILL ONLY GET WORSE. Mom lives with me and some of the time with my retired sister (I work full-time). My biggest regret is not having this talk with mom prior to stroke/dementia. I wake up and tip toe around my house just begging for a few minutes to start MY day (work from home). I am being taken advantage of because I work from home and because of GUILT (my doing). My life is miserable. My family is disrupted. My mom does not think she is a bother. She cannot even locate the bathroom a few feet away. But I don't want this to be about me...I just think you need to deal with this before real misery sets in because if something happens to one of them, you could end up with my situation. Deal with it now while they still have each other so when one goes, the arrangment of living in an apartment complex or having agency help is already in place. You are already feeling trapped and miserable, and none of this is going to get better. No one is going to win in this situation.

Why is this happening to so many of us? Because no one made a plan or they did not stick to their plan OR better yet, they did not think it would happen to them. I never thought about dementia the way I should have. Same old story. I did not think this would happen to me. I love my mom but I hate what this has done to my life.

My memories of mom will be misery and guilt for being miserable when she is gone.

She is awake now. I hear her. I will walk into her room and she will ask me if I am her sister (that is usually first) and then she will come around and remember she is my mom...but she doesn't know what "mom" means anymore because if she did, she would feel sorry for me. She would want to help me. She would want me to be happy.
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Brooke was so absolutely correct. I have been living with my parents for almost 5 years now and would not suggest anyone do the same unless necessary...good luck
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I found out just the other day that we are called the sandwich generation. Usually the ages in there 60's and have parents and grown children or siblings that we take care of, I tell you that so you know you are not alone. I just went through an issue like this, and quilt is on the top of the list. The one hint I can give you is you have to set your heart a little to the side, and think what is best for your parents. They are only going to get worse, and need more and more help, you are doing the right thing, you have to talk to them. Baby steps at first, then if they do not listen to you, then, you will have to do what is best for them. You are so lucky to have a sister on your side and not against you. My father gave me 100 reason;s why he did not want to move from his house, he was fine taking care of himself, he liked living in a big house, he fought me, he did not want to move in with old people, loved that one, at 87 he did not want to live with old people. My father now lives in an Assistant Living facility, and loves it. By the way, there are a lot of couples living at this facility, maybe you could find one near your or your sister's.
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I really think being honest about your own feelings about what is best for ALL of you is important. When our elderly parents care becomes so overwhelming, they need to be told when it is too much for their children to do and they need to be willing to make a move that is best for ALL. It can no longer be "what they want" as they lose independence. They may not even be able to consider a son or daughter's needs, too, so sometimes they need to be "strongly encouraged" to do what is the best for everyone. My 91 yr. old mother-in-law insists on living in her own home, yet she is a fall risk, has had a stroke, etc. At what point should her children say: Mom, we have our lives to consider, too. In her case, she can afford an assisted living senior apt. where she could have meals and activities with others her age. Why not relieve all of us and move? Siblings need to communicate with each other and then carefully and lovingly tell Mom or Dad that it is time to move where they are safe and cared for. It is not wrong to consider yourself and your life! It truly is the sandwich generation and it is not selfish to assess the other side of the "sandwich", which is children and grandchildren.
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My mom would have never taken care of anyone either. She didn't and she would have told you that my father would never have allowed it, which is true. But I still believe she would have never done it. When dad became ill, she looked at me and said, "I can't take care of him," and he died in a nursing facility. Her mom died when she was young and my father's parents and their parents all went to a nursing home. All of my grandparents passed away in a nursing home. The dementia makes my mom believe she is not a problem and yes, I bathe her, comb her hair, dress her, make her wash her face, brush her teeth, give her all of her pills, all of her meals, and she just sits in a chair and watches TV. She manipulates me by saying, "I can do this on my own, you know," but she won't because she can't. Every time it is bath time she says, "I just had a bath yesterday."

She gets irritated if anyone stops over. My sister in law came to visit this weekend and I jumped up and grabbed my husband to go out for a bite to eat. Mom thought I arranged my sister in laws visit JUST so I could leave the house and she made me so miserable, I couldn't even eat when I got to the restaurant. She insul;ted my sister in law because all she could think about was that I hired a baby sitter and she does not need a baby sitter EVEN THOUGH she cannot find the bathroom a couple of feet away. That is how controlling she has become. If I even tried to bring someone in to help me, she would make my life so miserable, it is not worth it. She just sits and calls all of the shots. The more I write this, the more I realize how NUTS this has become.

I have had her for almost 3 months now, and when I talked to my sister, she claims she can only do a month. It is true. A month is more than enough time without a break.

The denial that comes from dementia is so irritating...you stand in front of her and think she is doing this on purpose. Is she? Isn't she? "What the hell," is all I can say sometimes. If I agree with her, she says I don't believe her. If I argue with her, she says I don't believe her. She hates women. She never had friends from what I can remember. If I bring in someone to help me, what are the chances I can find a man and then I do not think that is going to work out either. I am the only person she wants to take care of her. I AM IT. She has manipulated me to no end. I would love to find someone like me to take care of me.
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Several months ago I was going to willingly give up everything I have to move 3 hours away to take care of my father and step-mother. My dad had been crying on the phone and in person when I went to visit. . .he said he didn't even know what to cook anymore and that my step-mother's care was just too much for him. After talking to my siblings (one said to go and the other said not to go), I started packing and making arrangements to live within a block from them. By the grace of God, my father got into a snit. . .said he didn't want anyone in his house or his kitchen or helping him with anything! Now, this is after talking to him in great lengths about my move - which, at the time, he was so grateful for! I unpacked, stayed put, then went to the senior facility where they live and had a heart-to-heart talk with the administrator. They would have to step in themselves - but eventually found out they are only there to provide what my dad is willing to accept. They have assisted living (which he rejects) and so. . .the two of them sit without participating in any senior activities or going to the gym, which is five doors down from their apartment, and eat a diet that only contributes to their health problems. I say - God, thank you for your devine intervention!!! I would have tried to make things better for my dad and had a miserable life in doing so. If parents are enjoying life, their surroundings, and can accept your help - wonderful, but if you are feeling "taken" and there is nothing in return in the way of happiness or gratitude. . .stay put, go on with your life and figure out a way for someone to come in to clean or be a monitor of their well being. . . I am in my mid 60's and - what time I have left on this earth - I want to keep myself positive and healthy and in a frame of mind that will not let me get into the place that my father has chosen to be! Good luck. . .look forward to reading more about what you are proceeding with and ideas that others have. I say pray a lot!!!
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I moved to my Mother's house. Her significant was living there and my alcoholic brother. I have been here for five months. My Mom's companion passed within two months of my being here after a long illness. They cared for each other until he made stages into an assisted living facility then to a hospital where he passed. There was abuse in the house from the start, from my Mom's significant and my brother. My Mom's significant was also a classic hoarder, the house was filthy everywhere you looked. The hoarding in the house and outside the property is gone. The house is clean. The abuse continues from my brother. I realized last weekend I am in the cycle of abuse. I saw within myself why people do not leave. That day I made a decision to make different decisions. I am leaving. I spoke to my brother and sister who live out of state to let them know and that we need another plan. This week I am going to research home health care providers for my Mom. My Mom is still driving in the day time. She can't hear on the phone and needs help with cleaning.
She has long and short term memory loss and dementia. Yet she is still in controll of her faculties. She writes her checks and pays her bills so far. The abuse is escalating. It's not physical abuse. It's the subtle abuse of triggers, degradation domination. An ugly phenomenon where my brother triggers my Mom and she follows his lead in the abuse. I am the target. As for my Mom, I am aware it is due to her own childhood abuse. It is the Maternal / Paternal cycle of abuse. Before I came here I called adult protective agencies but they could not do anything unless my Mom invited them in. She would not. This has been on going. My Mother does not want my brother to leave. He works, pays no rent, and has all the attributes of entitlement. My Mom washes and irons his clothes and takes care of him. My Mom is patriarchal. She only listen's to men. Please comment.
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JMLouise, you cannot give up your life, especially when you still need to work and have a family of your own who also need you. Our elderly parents need to start figuring things out as they age and when they can no longer do for themselves. Your parents are not bedridden, have no life-threatening illnesses, are not in-firm in mind, and are self-sufficient for the most part. Let them know that if that were the case, you would come and help out more. So, you and your sister are doing the right thing. Listen, there are people who have no one to help them and must rely on paid help or agencies to fill the gaps. It doesn't cost an arm and a leg to have someone come in to help occasionally. Ask around and call your council on aging about people who can come to the home and help with errands, shop for them, take them to appointments, etc.

Your parents have each other and have for many years. They know how to manipulate, and they know how to make you feel guilty. However, you need to point out that they are quite capable of caring for themselves. Elderly people get bored easily, dependent, and now they cannot up and go as much as they used to. What were they doing at age 63? Did they care for their elderly parents in their home? Did they work? Or maybe their parents lived close by.

You have done enough. Go back home, and trust me when I say they will decide what to do on their own. You are not abandoning them for heavens sake! You must put your foot down before this situation consumes your life and resources.....and you end up all alone with no one to help you when the time comes. Take care of yourself first.
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