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My mother has been the full-time caregiver to my dad during his decline with terminal cancer. It's always been about him, but I'm becoming concerned about her well-being after observing signs of burnout: short-term memory lapses (asking me a question, I answer, 2 minutes later asks me same question again), distractibility (I will be speaking to her and her attention suddenly goes to something else and she doesn't hear me anymore, very unlike her), general scatterbrained-ness, fatigue, frequent headaches, not as able to handle as many things as she used to (at first my brother and I wondered if she was making excuses or just overly doubting her abilities). I live an hour away and come over often, usually wanting to visit but instead ending up cleaning the house, fixing things, helping with assorted tasks-- often things she could have handled on her own 2 years ago. Dont get me wrong, I'm not bitter about her needing my help more. I'm just concerned that her mind and personality have changed so much. Sometimes I worry she has early signs of dementia, other times I assume its just burnout, sometimes I wonder/worry whether her mind will get better after he passes. I'm planning on bringing some of these things to her attention in a very gentle manner, suggesting her getting a physical, finding support groups, maybe informing the hospice nurse or case manager of my concerns... Not only do I worry about my father's anticipated passing, but now I worry about my mom's mental and physical health. I'm only 26 and its so hard to see them both this way.

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I agree that it is vital to get her to a complete physical. Go with her so you can tell the MD what you observe. If she does not want you there, email or mail the MD a description. Keep in mind, the MD can't tell you about her without her written permission. Sometimes they will discuss it in the presence of your mom.

Remind your mom that she will not be there for her husband if she is ill. Women "do for others" rather than themselves. My mom felt it was her "duty" as a wife. also, just because one spouse is ill does not rule out the other from becoming ill. No one has that kind of superpowers.
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Stress will cause a "dementia-type" condition, however, if she is not cleaning and generally not "herself", get her to her doctor ASAP. You do not have to be gentle about discussing what you have observed, just tell her you love her and are concerned about her health. She cannot take care of your dad if her health is declining. I am sorry you are expecting your dad to die soon, but your mother will be alive so focus on her right now. Get her to a doctor. Best wishes!
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These changes don't surprise me. Cancer is a devastating disease and sucks stamina from the patient as well as his/her family and caregiver(s).

I experienced some of the changes you describe when I cared for my sister during her final battle with cancer. Although the changes did reverse themselves after her death, it was unsettling to experience mental confusion and find myself unable to move forward.

These are some things that helped me:

The infusion center where my sister received chemo has a healing arts program. I've read that more and more cancer facilities have these. They're absolutely, wonderful and provide so much respite.

Our center had ceramics, retreats, mental health boot camps, needlework shows and art classes. They were drop-in classes, unlike traditional academic classes with a planned curriculum. Open only to individuals affected by cancer, the relaxed and comforting atmosphere allowed us to talk freely about our experiences and feelings among people who experienced similar changes.

I also used music therapy extensively as well as meditation and workouts. Walking helped as well. Pet therapy was equally helpful. Just petting a soft furry cuddly creature brought instant relaxation.

Medication was not an option; I wasn't going to rely on it.

OP, I would start by providing some respite for your mother and go out for a meal, visit a garden, free concert, park...someplace where she can appreciate the inspiration of nature and be reminded that there still is beauty in life.

If you have relatives or friends, perhaps they could stay with your father for awhile if he needs constant care.

Put the cleaning and housework on the back burner and focus first on your parents' health. Women (me included) tend to feel that the housework needs to be kept up, regardless of the circumstances. At this time in your parents' life, their mental and physical health is more important. The dust bunnies will also reproduce exponentially and be there when you're ready to go after them.

If your mother has a hairdresser, make sure she takes time to visit. Just knowing that her appearance is at its best will help her feel better.

If she feels guilty taking time for herself, remind her that she needs to remain healthy in order to care for your father, so that the time she spends on herself is also helping him.

And by all means try to find a support group, starting with the hospital and/or infusion center if your father gets chemo.

But really, do insist that she take time for herself, even if it requires letting some noncritical tasks lapse and if it means bringing in someone to help. My sister's oncologist asked if she needed household help and stated that she could arrange for that.

Good luck, best wishes, and thank you for being such a caring daughter.
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I agree. MAybe you can help her too, just by supporting her. Mom went through it when her husband died. She took care of him for 10 years.
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Everything that has been said, I agree with! I can only add God Bless You for being a mature, caring and loving daughter!
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A definite physician's appointment is in order for your mom.

Hospice is a wonderful gift made available to the dying, such as your dad.
Talk with your parents primary health care provider & I pray that you have durable & medical power of attorney. If not, get it now...
Your a true blessing to them & to you.
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I agree with with everybody comment and sound that your mother has some burn out for taken care of your father. Also she is depressed and worn out. She does need to be check with a Doctor because her health is very important and the physical stress she was under as a caregiver. Caregiver over look them self and there health.
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I would have agreed with depression, except the headaches. You should insist that your mom see a doctor to make sure that there's nothing neurological going on. Maybe she does just need a vacation (and maybe you could somehow help arrange that), but make sure there isn't something more going on first.
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Can you talk to hospice about getting mom some respite? You are spot on in suggesting thst she has a physical...many caregivers ignore symptoms and end with complications from what should have been a simple condition. She could have a uti.
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