What do you do when you think you are in worse shape than the person you are taking care of?

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I helped take care of my Mom who died two weeks ago. My Dad is an emotional wreck with severe diabetes. I am diagnosed bipolar and my stomach is in such pain that I can hardly walk. I have had every test available and they say I am OK. I am starting to falter. Actually, I am sinking. Help me.

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Boy, oh boy; can I ever relate. I'm caring for an abusive parent, and I suffer from fibromyalgia, arthritis, depression, a hiatal hernia, and I suspect possible MS, though I don't know that one for sure, yet. The fact that you feel as if you are sinking is an obvious hint that you need help, and fast. Please don't neglect yourself. After taking care of your mother and experiencing one of the most gut-wrenching (please note that I said "gut"!) of all losses, it sounds as if you are about to try to nurse your father, too. While I feel for him, it isn't your responsibility to take care of everyone. If your Dad is disabled with grief and diabetes, YOU are also disabled at this time by your own grief, and your own illness(es). You don't mention exactly which tests doctors administered to you, so I have to ask, did they do an upper GI to check for hiatal hernia? It can cause disabling pain, and I don't think doctors check for it routinely. If so, and you're clear of that and other illnesses, it could be a medication, your understandable grief and stress, or a combination. Either way, clearly you need some support for yourself, and to be able to just withdraw for a while to nurse yourself back to health. If you don't, you risk triggering a heavy episode of your bipolar condition. You deserve some loving care, and if there is anyone in your life who can give this to you, go get it, and don't feel guilty. Be there as much as you can for your Dad, but let him know you are overwhelmed, and that he must reach out to others for help, just as you must. If not, there are other alternatives. Whatever medication you are on for bipolar disorder, you need to discuss your current situation with your medical provider, and if necessary, get a change in dosage, or whatever the doc sees fit to do. I don't really have any useful advice, but others who wrote in before me clearly do, so please do at least try some of their suggestions. Just wanted to let you know you aren't alone, and I'm truly sorry for the loss of your mother.
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You must carry on and get the support you need whereever you may find it. Help is out there...you must accept it: individual counseling, group therapy, suggestions from other caregivers. Does pride get in your way like mine does: "I SHOULD be able to cope!"...I will be guilt ridden because I can't...others will think less of me if I can't. My lady must cope with the many symptoms of Parkinson's Disease and related depression. We live away from all family and have no true friends where we live. Her experiences are different everyday. I must be ready to cope...sometimes anticipate a crisis. I deal with Bi-polar disorder, major depression, and war-related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Even though I'm prescribed an aweful lot of medication, get individual counseling and group counseling at the local Veterans' Administration Medical Center (VAMC), sometimes my grief and quilt are quite unbearable. The word "should" usually sabotages my every honest efftort.
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I'm so sorry for your situation. It is terrible. You are strong to have survived this long.

I value meditation, etc, but I just can't do it. How about singing the saddest songs you know with full voice and full emotion, and then maybe dancing to your favorite rock and roll and other fast music?

The Japanese have a trick to stop crying when in public, which is to force your face into a smile. Just physically smiling drives away some emotion. I'm not saying smile all the time, but try it after a period of grief is starting to ebb. Use your body to help you, and I hope it might hurt less. God bless you.
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Meditate, pray, yoga, Tai Chi, breathe ... whatever YOU believe in doing to release stress. Most of the neurotrophic medications today are designed to help the brain chemistry by addressing changes in serotonin, dopamine, etc. and these are called "neurotransmitters". Did you know that there are orders of magnitude more of these neurotransmitters in the gut than there are in the brain? They are called "neuro" only because they were first discovered in the brain. If they had been discovered in the gut first, they have a completely different name. It isn't at all surprising that changes we are aware of and can feel in the brain also manifest in the gut (stomach/intestines). Always get pain checked out in case it could be something else, but if they can't find anything Organic going on, just realize it's your body signaling stress and that you need to do something to relax as best you can.
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Its all stress, your body can react even when you dont. I get so fatigued that about every 6 months I end up getting tested again. Easy answer get rid of your stress, we all know this is impossible. I feel for you,hope things get better. You are not alone.
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First, my condolences to you for your mother. Secondly, with your same diagnosis and same stomach cramping, I too find at times I will falter. The stomach is probably stress as my tests too have found nothing. At first I thought it was a parasite because I have been in Mexico, however, I just increased my lithium carbonate and now am feeling much calmer. Take each day at a time, you must get adequate sleep with a regular routine. Do not try to self-medicate with alcohol or illegal drugs as this will only exacerbate the bipolar disorder. Your brain chemistry is very delicate to changes in routine, diet, exercise, and emotional upset. The fact your mother has just died, is another emotional upset to your system. (On Monday, I euthanized a beloved dog due to biting our other dog, and I too am upset). As a nurse, I eat healthy, get 7-8 hrs. sleep, take my lithium, and take care of my dementia husband the best that I can. Your father will have to sort out his feelings himself. Let him grieve in his own time. You can only handle your feelings, your behaviors, and how you respond to events. My very best to you, and know you are not the only one out there with this diagnosis. Do not allow anyone to blame you for it, nor should you use it as a crutch. Everyone has their ups and downs. We are just more prone to getting off balance than others. Take your med(s), go to group if you have one, do what you can do, and I will pray for you and your father. Life does not hold any guarantees, nor is it easy. Life is difficult. Period.
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I can SO relate to your situation....me, too. Sending you a "hug" across the miles...
I can tell you what works for me some days, and other days, to a lesser degree.

First - do you have siblings or other relatives toy our father that can be available? I found I had to level with people who felt it "was my role to do this" - while they sat and watched. I am an only kid. They were happy to cheer me on - but what I needed was and is someone to step up and say "I will be there to help you." You know who was my Angel? Shock of all shocks! My "little cousin" - who is not 'little' anymore - he's in his late 40s. I hardly knew him growing up - but after I left for university, he had formed somewhat of a relationship with my father, that I didn't know about. And, my father had been there for his dad, and I didn't know to what extent, and he still knows more than I do. But that is who stepped up. It was a fluke I even reached out to him - it was more like a "hey - want to do coffee next time I am back there?" Still haven't done coffee, but my email and phone we have bonded. You will be really surprised who will no kidding be there for you in your most stressful hours, while the ones you think "should be" stay out of the stress.

2. You have mentioned "ages". You may be facing that time when you need to have "the talk" with you Dad about moving into a living situation with spectrum services support. It starts out as "independent living" then gradually adds more services as the person needs it - all the way through to hospice care. I don't know what your Dad is dealing with Diabetes. I have friends and relatives with severe levels. One has been on kidney dialysis for many years (!) waiting for transplant, and each day when we check in with each other I am asking about: blood pressure, iron and iron saturation levels, anemia, epogen level, thyroid levels, and of course her sugar levels as she fluctuates wildly. It feels like monitoring a "compass". The polarities want to pull against each other. Take this drug, it will help this but hurt that. Like beta blockers were good and bad at the same time. She still lives independently. After dialysis, though, from what I have observed, it isn't a good idea. The slightest curve can really throw her. Like when he complex decided to do some repairs which meant she didn't have easy access to her parking spot. That could have been life-threatening for her!
A relative just went through a diabetes related amputation. Diabetes is really nasty! Your Dad may need more supports than you can offer.

You may need more supports for your own needs. Check in with your doctor, if you haven't already. Your bipolar meds may need adjusting due to additional stress.

3. The local hospitals may be able to refer you to Grief Counseling Support Groups. These may likely be free. These may be very helpful. Support networks can be great at times when you feel least like you want to reach out.

4. "Put the oxygen mask on yourself first." (Think airlines safety warnings). You can't easily help support someone else if you yourself have high needs. I went into helping my father over three years ago coming off of disability. It's been brutal. What was supposed to be a week, has legged on and on and on...I feel guilty that I just want this cycle over. "Financially, emotionally, and physically", this process has maxed me. I don't have kids, but my cat probably knows she comes in second. Heck, my life and well-being has come in distant second way too long. It seems every time I try to turn that around, I just get yanked back into the drama with another call, email, or something that has to be done "now" on this or that. If I had it all to do over again, would I have helped? I don't know. It's complicated. I've learned so much, but the toll has been very very high. If you don't have "other financial or family matters" complicating things, you may want to just tell your Dad that you can love him and visit, but not be his primary caregiver. If your Dad loves you, he probably won't want to see your health decline at his expense. That friend I mentioned earlier? She had to delegate "everything" to two siblings when he father became ill and eventually died. One thing that severe diabetes can teach someone is that you aren't available to help anyone else very much. Your "job" is to take care of yourself, manage wellbeing, just to continue to live.

Bipolar as you probably well know, can bring on sleepless periods. I've known people who have been hospitalized with bipolar because under stress, they can't sleep for weeks. It's nothing to mess with. My heart goes out to you. You have really been given some tough challenges.

4. a. "Set boundaries" - - You have to take care of your physical and mental health FIRST. Get enough sleep and eat properly. Keep in close contact with your doctor and follow doctor's advice.
You can't help "you" or "your dad" if you fall apart. I'm still learning this one. Your solution may not look normal to others. I tried working the first ten hours every day on my father's needs, sleep 2-3 hours, then get up and try to work on my projects from like 6pm - 2am. Sleep then start his project needs again around 6:30am. I don't recommend it. I feel like I am still in university. It's much healthier, for me, to get eight hours in a row. Your doc may tell you as well you "must" get proper rest. What I am doing has its costs. My health has been hit hard doing this. I don't recommend it.

What I do recommend - treat yourself to "days off" - - take a drive, go off the grid (no cell, TV, no computer, go for long walks, get exercise regularly, find a Jacuzzi if you like these, go to a movie, silence can be really healing. Taking 2-3 days in a row can work miracles.

If you are a laptop person - maybe even take a trip and go find a hotel in a nice place where you can just "be" - and feel "who you are" - regroup your energies. If you do anything on such a trip, it is about your needs only. It's very easy to lose your sense of self taking care of someone else.

5. Who can help:

Council on Aging - - Social worker, benefits and support - -all free if qualify by income level.
Otherwise sliding scale for payments. Pretty good I found, but social worker is overloaded.

Hospitals - Can get other social workers involved. Call for their programs.

DaVita Dialysis Centers - - May have a department worth networking with since they deal with so many diabetics.

Adult Daycare Programs - Check with your hospital, or local assisted living places.

You may want to look into independent living places with great social programs, or assisted living places that have social programs. Both can give your Dad outlets for support without leaning on your so much.

6. "What not to do":

No big financial decisions at this time. If there is a life insurance payout that is substantial you might find you get hit on by all sorts of "investment sales people". If that happens, get with a good financial planner - not one who gets a commission for selling products! It may cost you for an appointment, but you likely will get stable advice to "park the funds" until you are ready for how and when the funds should be invested.

Avoid any reverse mortgage processes. Woe, has this been a disappointing game playing nightmare. When you are really on your feet and you can get a lawyer to help you - maybe. The application is LONG and the closing docs, we didn't get to read until AFTER THESE WERE SIGNED (!!!) We had 139 pages of small print legal docs to read in three days to make a decision to go forward or cancel (We cancelled! - lots of scary stuff in there.) Some clauses were downright frightening.

Hope this helps. Most important in my ramblings? Take care of yourself first. It's not being selfish - you aren't much good to anyone else if you aren't physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually "available".

Grieving is a process. This is a new normal on the other side of your Mom's passing. The "hurt" I don't think every goes fully away. Small things will trigger you and bring back tears when you least expect it. My Mom crossed over 26 years ago. I still miss her. You will likely find that you have days of "anger, sadness, frustration, despair, laughter (try not to feel guilty), lightness, deep depression, exhaustion, brain fog, happiness, it's a spectrum that has to "re-balance itself".

You are in the right place. This forum is awesome for support. It's 24/ 7/365.

Best wishes!

Caesi Bevis, Founder/ Former President and Director
Tiger's Eye Society. (1998-2008)
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Options based on the information you've provided: First I suggest counseling for yourself, at least grief counseling and you should start with that now, once a week as long as you need it, hospice provides it if they worked with your Mom, or the hospital where she was. Have other family members step in at least for temporary help so you can get a break to grieve, ask or have your Dad ask, you lose nothing by asking that someone give you a little help while you both are grieving. Hire help for some tasks if he can afford it, ie; yard work, housekeeping. If he's fairly independent and manages his own medications, just be there for him for conversation and track his medications to make sure that he does what he's suppose to do and you know what his medication routine is. That may be all he needs from you for now.

If he has a close friend or relative besides you, have him call someone and go out and have breakfast or lunch with them once a week for awhile, it'll give you a break and he'll have someone else to talk to. Not knowing how bad your Dads health is, I'll say don't assume he can't do anything, he very well may be able to do more to care for himself than you realize, of course this depends on his age and overall health.

It's difficult to lose a parent you love, and when the other parent is not emotionally strong enough to cope and their health is bad, it's even worse because you're grieving as well, you as a caregiver truly are not given an opportunity to grieve a loss the way you should in a situation like this, it makes it all overwhelming, but even so it does pass in time. I ended up on this site unfortunately because in my experience I learned that my grieving did not matter to others in my family, they tucked tail and ran when my Mom passed, everyone except my husband, so I've been there. My Dad had a heart attack shortly after she passed. I did not know how dependent he was on my Mom. He was generally healthy, driving, able to walk, cook and was still working. But I found my Dad could barely read. And once he found out I would be there to help him and basically no one else was, he tried to get me to do his laundry, his grocery shopping, cooking, etc... pretty much take care of the entire house, when he was perfectly capable of it, he just didn't want to. At the time I had my own home, a husband and grade school age children to take care of, it was so bad that if I went to a school event and didn't answer my cell, he'd get mad at me, he did not care that I had my own home and family to take care of. My Dad is a very self centered person, always has been. I was not capable of and no one would be, of taking complete care of two large homes and all the people living in both homes and manage it or take care of your own health for long, I'm talking mowing, full housekeeping, laundry, cooking, grocery shopping, the works, even doctors appointments with him to make sure he went, etc.... I did the best I could, but the more I did, the more my Dad wanted me to do, I set my foot down, got screamed at and disowned, threatened and was the bad seed for a few months simply because I wouldn't do his laundry when he was capable of doing it himself. So again not knowing your full situation, make sure you're not taken advantage of, that you provide help that is actually needed because your dad truly can't do some things. If you are the caregiver, all he has, the guideline is pretty basic to follow; A Reasonably Clean Home (bathrooms, bedding, floors, counter tops, dusting), Food in the Fridge That He Eats, Medications Lined Out and You Know and Have Proof That He Takes Them, His Bills Are Paid, He Has Insurance, You have his doctors information, their names, phone numbers and addresses, He Does Not Drive and Cannot Drive If He Is Not Capable (no keys), and If he is you go with him somwhere where once a week to check on how good his driving is. Nothing else I can give you advice on without more information, except eat well, take supplements, get exercise, it does help and plenty of sleep, you can't take care of others if you don't take care of yourself first. And hugs to you.
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support group, grieving group sound good - you can go to emerg in the hospital and tell them you are sinking and you will get immediate attention.
Grief manifests itself physically and stomach pain is one way, also difficulty breathing, fatigue, pain, sleep difficulties, poor appetite or overeating, shakiness or trembling, disorientation, migraines or headaches, dizziness, dry mouth, crying, numbness
Do get some support and come back and let us know how you are. (((((((((((hugs))))))))))
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I'm so very sorry for the loss of your Mom. Daddy passed in Nov 2009 & I'm still having a very hard time coping with that. Mom' 94 & in a nursing home but still recognizes us & is aware,etc. BUT I, too, have health issues. Please call 211or whatever number is in your area & they will direct you hopefully in the right direction. Or get yourself to your primary doctor ASAP Please!!!! As for grief counseling the SOONER the better - This really sounds more like an emergency - Please seek help NOW!
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