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Before I began taking care of my mother (mild stroke, mild vasuclar dementia, severe arthritis, multiple falls) my health was near perfect - one cold ever five or six years and that's about it. I'd run half marathons, practice yoga, strength train at the gym, but this year as caregiving has intensified they have all gone by the wayside. No time, no energy, and also depression because this could go on for another ten years or more and there is no good end. (I am already thinking about how my daughter will never be allowed to be a caregiver).

I have a sitter for mom when I'm at work and one afternoon a week a sitter so I could go to the gym, but usually I need the time for chores or errands. Placing her is not an option because she hates it (she was in a nursing home for rehab and I'll admit it was a nice break for me) and it would bankrupt us (I'm trying to get my daughter to school with no debt) and here we can at least reverse mortgage the house when the time comes.

So specifically about my health - last year my blood pressure was perfect. Now I am on two medications. In the past year I've injured my shoulder trying to lift her (now I tell her that if she fall, she stays on the floor until the firemen arrive). In the past six moths I've had two colds, thrush, strep throat, an ear infection. I think my immune system is shot from caregiver stress.

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Sometimes when I read things I step back and look at how things are when it comes to caregiving. People are living a very long time now. They often outlive their children. Many caregiving children are now in their 60-80s themselves. Yet the parent still calls the shots and the adult children are expected to obey like they are 12 years old. What is with that?? It is actually crazy that we feel like we are lesser people and they are the boss. To be completely truthful, many elders don't have enough sense to come out of the rain. Yet we feel we still need to obey. That sounded bad, because it goes against what we are told we should believe and feel. We were raised with this programming that makes it very hard for ourselves.

Some people compare caring for elders to caring for children. It is not the same at all. My mother would be in second grade now if she were a child. Even if she had told me that she didn't want to go to school, I would say you're going. Period. But we feel like we can't take a week away from our parent because they don't want to go to respite or let someone come in the house. Is that crazy or what? It seems to me that we give all rights and respects to the oldest and expect the caregiver to give up their own. If I had talked to my mother as a child like she talks to me, she would have slapped me across the room.

People are going to have to change their thinking when it comes to caregiving. The caregiver needs to be the boss. The parent needs help, but everything cannot be on the parent's own terms. The caregiver should not have to give up their own homes, their jobs, their own families, their dignity, their money, and their hope to accommodate someone who refuses to give an inch.

I know a lot of people will argue with me about the years spent raising us and how we owe them. I somehow seriously doubt that children drain the lives of their parents the way that elders can drain their senior-citizen children. Gosh, it feels good to be honest. There has to be a better way than spending 10-20 years at this lonely and thankless task.
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It should not bankrupt you, because she is the one who pays for the facility. When her funds are gone, Medicaid pays the rest. If she is the widow of a wartime veteran, she could get help from the VA.
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Dana--I'm going to speak as a daughter of a caregiver. After my Dad passed, all my mother could think about was joining him. She was depressed, talked of suicide, etc. Frankly, I was so angry I could hardly talk to her. And I finally told her. And I asked her didn't she realize when she joined him I would be all alone. And how did she think it made me feel that she would leave me alone rather than try to deal with my Dad's passing. So, reading your second post, you are planning on your own death to "spare your daughter" instead of taking care of yourself. Of course your Mom hated the NH because she knew she had another option.
Believe me I don't mean to be so mean. I was living in your exact situation with my 96 year old Aunt. She was living with me and the stress and strain of it was taking it's tole. I had gain quite a bit of weight (emotional eater), I had to increase my medication for a rapid heart beat, I had to begin taking a medication for anxiety, I now have diabetes, etc. Last fall I was sick 3 straight months and took 5 rounds of antibiotics to get rid of "a cold". Not a cold, of course, but it never progressed to full-blown flu. I ran low-grade fever, ears were stopped up, chest was stopped up, everything had color (if you know what I mean). THREE MONTHS. I went into the doctor for a full CBC work up to see what was going on and my immune system was shot. My body had nothing to fight with. My doc told me that day that I might start thinking about moving my aunt to a NH. I just didn't want to do it. She was so scared. The time or two she had been in rehab she also hated it there. The wednesday before Thanksgiving she fell. ER, hospital stay, then to rehab. I had already done some checking and found just the facility if the need arose, so I was prepared to tell them which rehab to send her to. After she got there, she got worse. When a Medicaid bed came open I agreed to transfer her over to the NH. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Fast forward to today and she has adjusted, she feels safe and well cared for. The first month was rocky and full of late night calls about emergencies. My point is, when she asked about coming home I told her it was up to the doctors. They would not let her come because she couldn't walk, which was essentially the truth. She has settled in. So will your Mom. Please don't martyr yourself and leave your daughter without you because you don't have the courage to stand up to your Mom. Good luck and God Bless.
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It is so hard to set boundaries for ourselves, especially when we feel there is no support. I now make a point of asking for help directing and, if my siblings don't step up to the plate, I will look elsewhere. Some of them think that because my Dad gives me some money to cover costs that I am now getting 'paid'. What a joke. If my parents were to hire someone it would cost them four or five times the amount. At times I feel guilty for the funds but then remember that there are siblings who are usually missing in action or in denial as to what is happening.

I was as a point of a nervous breakdown nearly two years ago but have vowed to take a step back and look after myself. I arrange for my parents to have meals prepared and keep track of the many medical visits and accompany them to the doctors. I mentioned in another post that my out of town sibling came to stay with my parents over the holidays and it was a real eye opener to her. She got a little taste of what I live with.
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Well, at the 5 yr point of coordinating all care and finances for both my parents. Even as a retired RN....it's been more stress than I ever thought possible. Hubby diagnosed with Parkinson's in the middle of this....so here I am now....just in the last two weeks, learning that I have a huge tumor in my lung, that has apparently been growing for some time. I had no issues...and last CXR was 10 yrs ago.... and NOW...my Mom is living in WA state with our RN daughter taking over her care, so that I can be preparing for major lung surgery in the next couple weeks. Doing much legal stuff now, as I am trustee and only one who can access money for Mom's care...and have been both Medical and durable POA. Moving Medical POA to daughter in WA and getting second daughter to be back up on the trust to be able to handle the money aspects, and then arranging auto money transfers from AZ to WA to cover expenses for Mom while I am out of commission. Anticipating coming through this OK and reassuming all....but one has to be prepared for all possibilities. I do believe that stress brought all this on for me. I do thank the Lord that hubby is still self care and that both daughters are great support and help for me when there is a crises going on with Mom or with us. I have GOD in my life....and I am going on Faith with Him too.
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So often, the stress we feel during and after caring for loved ones manifests itself in our own physical illnesses. The psychological weight of caring for someone, even if they are in a facility, is enormous. My mother is still living (90 years old), but happy in her assisted living facility. Yet, I am the one who takes her to the doctor, takes her to church, gets groceries for her, pays her bills, and handles any problems that come up. So, there is still stress, although it is much different than when I was taking care of my dad prior to his death. There may be no medical cure for your health issues because the cause is the stress you're under, not a physical problem. Stress manifests itself in different ways, and I have found (for myself) that when I'm under stress and a particular health problem resolves, another pops up. This does not happen because I'm unhealthy, but because I have the pressure of an ongoing responsibility (in this case, to my parent). If you remember that, it helps. My experience has been, when the stress is gone so will your health issues eventually resolve.
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Yes my health is worse. I end up putting off my own doctor visits. Not only that, but I know of at least two people who ended up passing away only a year or so after their care giving days ended. One man developed cancer and the other had a heart attack. (And yet, my siblings think that I should not have any money? Really?)
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Dana, same here perfect health for my age [senior citizen] then for me stress took a major toll... I wasn't hands on per say, I was running errands, taking my very aged parents to endless doctor appointments, groceries, etc. Plus I was working full-time. My Mom refused caregivers and cleaning crews. Dad was falling every other week. They lived under their own roof and I under mine. Every time the telephone ran I went into sheer panic. Had a ton of sleepless nights due to worrying about my parents who were in their mid to late 90's.

I use to be a gym rat prior to the caregiving, and now to look at me one would never believe it. All that hard work down the drain. During the 7 years of helping my parent I developed breast cancer, no markers, so the doctor said it was stress related, that in itself was a terrifying ordeal. Not long ago I fell and broke my shoulder, was out of commission for months, as we ourselves age we don't heal as quickly.

The stress of everything caused me to have a few break downs. I was an only child with no grown children... no one to pass the baton unto. Eventually I took the advice of my primary doctor and got help for myself. I am doing better.
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Sometimes just going out for soup and salad/sandwich and a cup of high test coffee (i.e., caffinated) once or twice a week (without your care recipient) can do wonders for your mental health. Sneak it in. You know you deserve it.
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*Jessebelle* your post was honest and it needed to be. This is an unprecedented time in human history. Most elders are living longer due to better medical programs which they aged into at the right time. We, their children have often not quite reached the Medicare benefit age. We need to work to keep paying into the system. The tasks to take care of the elder (as society seems to dictate these days) take up the entire day. We have little time and less energy for ourselves. Society also does not acknowledge us as the person with authority to manage and that needs to change -- now! Yes, we are very dis-respected by the elders. It gets chalked up to "quirks of old age." The persons who fluff it off have probably not had to deal with care for more than a year. When it gets to be several decades of caring for them then it becomes stressful -- and stress causes ailments.

More funding needs to go into regular nursing-home facilities. The waiting list is so long and the rules so stringent. I am appalled at requirements like "needs to have a stroke, or heart-attack" to get admittance without a battle with the bureaucracy. Once persons are in their 90's the nursing home beds should be readily available -- and the variable be a family petitioning to keep the elder at home. Also, I think that a re-structure of how doctors do appointments is needed. Allow a caregiver to get their medical appointment done in tandem with the elder's appointment, no matter what insurance carrier they have. Also, require more "home visit" general practitioners too, to visit the elder and caregiver for checkups. That would be a good incentive for medical student scholarships. If the student agrees to fill the "needed medical position" and do this for at least a decade then we can begin a structure of having enough doctors/nurses to do the jobs that are needed. I wish a program like this would start right now, this very year, for once have enough doctors to assist in care for persons over the age of 50.

You all have a life too, and if you've spent more than 3 years caring for the elder at home without respite, then you need to step forward and make yourselves heard to your legislators. I honor and respect you all and still living it myself so very glad for this site to share thoughts.
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