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I have been my mother's sole caregiver for the past seven years. Initially, she was told she only had 12-18 months to live due to heart-related and other serious health issues, so I had her move in with me (I am a single male, 47 years old). I resigned myself to giving up much of my social and personal life for that time period to make sure she was comfortable, happy, safe, and to insure as pleasant a transition from life as possible. Fast forward to today and my mother is still alive and her dire health problems ended up being not-so-immediately-dire after all. However, her quality of life today is totally non-existent. She can hardly walk due to osteoarthritis, she is in the midst of pre-dementia, has major digestive problems, and her heart problems, while not taken her life, have gotten worse. Plus, she has become very depressed and spends most of her days either lashing out in anger or just sitting and crying. While I've cheerfully been there to help her every day and continue to do so, I'm feeling myself falling into a state of depression or hopelessness over her situation and my inability to really help her. I feel her pain and sadness and it's affecting me in my life as well. Plus, over these past seven years, I've lost a number of friends who haven't understood the time demands of my situation, plus I've hardly dated anyone during this time and people not understanding my situation and wanting no part of a "parent-living-with-son" situation. And now my temper is getting shorter and shorter and I'm now having stretches of time where I'm very depressed and wondering if there is any hope not just for my mom's situation but for my own situation and when and if I will ever be happy again. Can anybody help me with some ideas from your own personal experiences? I could use all the help I can get for my own mental health right now. Thank you.

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Is there any reason that you can't find alternate care for your mother? It sounds like it's just too much now, with her physical and mental health needs. That kind of around the clock caretaking is exhausting. Is sounds like your expectations of being super human is not realistic. I would listen to what your body is telling you.

I would say that you certainly could be able to relax, recharge your batteries and then enjoy the things you love in life. Of course, you can still be your mom's caretaker, just not around the clock. I would explore how she can be cared for by shifts of people who are trained to do this.

I hope things work out for you.
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Oh my my heart goes out to you. Reading your post is like seeing someone write my own eulogy. I too am 47. My mother started showings signs of dementia approximately 2 years ago. She and I have lived together since my father died. Her condition has dramatically changed my life. Whereas I used to travel and go out to dinner with friends, now I go to work and come home. Dating is a foreign concept to me at this point. And my mother's mood has exacerbated my depression which I was never treated for to begin with. So, how have I handled it so far??

First, I didn't handle it well at all. I would lock myself into my room and cry and beg God to please make it end for me by whatever means he could. I was horridly overwhelmed. My job was stressful and so was my home. I have always been a very private person so initially I didn't share any of my issues with my friends. But they were very vigilant and noticed the change in me. When I was before always the life of the party laughing and making others laugh, then I became very withdrawn, tired-looking, silent...

Luckily, I had a friend was going through the same thing I was, she had a grandmother that had Alzheimers and sharing my pain with her gave me some support. But still I felt so alone dealing with it. My friend had a husband and kids to balance out all the responsibilities, I was alone. I have siblings, but not one stepped up to ask if they could help. I was alone. Being alone wasn't so hard, it was the loneliness that was mentally crippling.

So, I talked to my nurse practioner. She was an angel in disguise. She prescribed Lexapro which has helped me tremendously. And she started seeing my mom (I decided to change my mother's doctor as it seemed she wasn't even addressing the dementia issue, she just said "well it happens when they get this age"). She prescribed my mom Namenda, which also helped my mother's mood significantly. She stopped sleeping all day and became conversational after a period of totally shutting down.

I actually ended up changing jobs to alleviate some of the stress I was enduring (not sure if it's a perfect fix yet, but I am enjoying the change). I also hired a sitter to stay with my mom during the day. While this has been a financial hit to me, it has helped take the anxiety I was dealing with worrying about my mom being home all day while I worked. This has also permitted me a few dinner outings with my friends, not as much as before, but even once a month is a blessing considering I was becoming a certified hermit at one point. I also started a new hobby, knitting and crocheting. Don't know why, but every time I create something beautiful, makes me feel good if just for a moment.

So, my recommendations for you are:
1. talk to your doctor about the depression
2. try to get a sitter even if for half days or a couple evenings a week so you can socialize on some level

As far as dating, if you find a solution for that one, please feel free to share it with me because that is the only thing I haven't been able to solve. I feel guilty even thinking of bringing someone into a relationship with me when I know my focus is primarily on my mother. That person doesn't deserve this life. So, until the day I can get that back on the table, I take solace in the few dinners I manage to get with my friends from time to time thanks to the sitter I have.

I hope you can find some comfort and support soon...
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I have been taking care of my husband who is 20 years older than me for three years. We have been married for 25 years and have two beautiful children together. He is handicapped and has dementia. Your words so ring true to me. The loss of self is immense and scary. I have given up all that is me and wonder if I can ever get it back. I grieve, I get numb, and depressed and wonder if I will be able to have joy. Im currently in the middle of remodeling my home to better accommodate him. I have recently hired caregivers to come in and help. Im honest with them about the things that Im lacking on giving him, such as exercise and simple companionship. They fill in this need and I get a chance to get out. It is good for the both of us. I know the depression, the anger, the fear, and the loneliness. Put yourself first whenever you can. You are doing a wonderful thing and you shouldn't lose yourself because of it. Look into senior services for direction and advice and remember you are not alone. There are many of us out here and we understand how hard you are working to keep it all together. Bless you.
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I completely understand the burnout deal. I have done so much for both of my parents over the years and neither one ever thought they would age and their health would decline and they didn't save or think about how they were going to be taken care of when they got old. Now I am experiencing the reality of all of it and no other family member to give a helping hand and I don't have a family of my own because I have put off things the same such as dating and relationships because you are right your friends and people you date just don't understand. They don't live in our world and they don't think our situations are that bad but they don't experience the reality everyday like we do. It really stinks going somewhere even just for a couple of hours and having to worry about your Mom or Dad and it is just very stressful. You feel like you are a prisoner in your own home and you keep looking for the end of the road that lies ahead wishing that you were standing there smiling instead of dreading everyday to make it through to the next day. Believe me.. I have had my days of anger and anxiety and I have slammed doors and said a few unkind words out loud. That's just not me... It is all of this crazy stuff going on at one time and it affects your emotions and you know that when that day comes you will return to that good person you used to be and your life will be at peace and then you will be able to move forward with your life. People say that God is testing me.. well I have been through so much in the past 5 years,, things other then just my parents health declining. I am conquering this one day at a time.
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Hi, I can completely relate with your feelings. My mother is 87 and has dementia. I moved in with her a year ago and it is getting harder and harder to keep my sanity. I wonder how long this will go on and if I will ever find someone to spend my life with, after this is over with. I am afraid I won't remember who I am/was prior to caregiving. I have learned to turn off my feelings and emotions at times to keep from completely losing it. I wonder if I will feel this way for the rest of my life and it scares me. I am looking for a caregivers support group in my area and I hope you will look for one too. I am down to two friends and I know if I keep having to make excuses for why I can't get together with them I will be down to zero. I love my mother, but the bad times weigh out the good. Good luck to you!
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fnk3553, I give you a lot of credit for bringing your Mom on-board to live with you and you had thought it would be a much shorter stay. Now seven years later, you are now at a point where you are ready to crash and burn emotionally. I had seven years with my parents but I wasn't hands-on living with them, but it still took a major toll on me because I was a senior myself.

It's tough for Mom to get older. Gone are the days were she can just leave the house, jump into the car, and go shopping on her own. Gone are the days where she could hear a pin drop or see that bird in the far off tree. Her girlfriends probably have either moved away or had passed on. She is bored, and there is only so much one can do to be a cruise director for an elder.

Sounds like it is time for a village to take over your Mom's care, if she would allow it. Can Mom afford to hire professional caregivers to come into the house to give you a break, or so that you can go back to work. Don't tell Mom the caregivers are for "her", the caregivers are for "you" to help around the house.

You need to get back into the workforce..... on average if a working person quits work to care for a parent he/she will lose over the years between $285,000 and $325,000 which includes not only loss of salary over those years... it also includes the net worth loss of the health insurance coverage.... loss of money being put into Social Security/Medicare..... loss of other benefits such as matching 401(k).... profit sharing.... workman's comp insurance.... company sponsored life insurance.... vacation pay, sick pay.... tuition assistance, etc. [source: in part Reuters 5/30/12]

You need to think, who is going to take care of you when you become much older? Save that money like there's no tomorrow.

My Dad decided on his own that he wanted to move into senior living facilities. He just loved the place he moved into, made new buddies, enjoyed all the attention he was getting. Said he wished he would have moved there years ago but he never knew such places existed. Yes, these places can be expensive, but he saved for those "rainy days" and it was now pouring out there.
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