I'm a 43 year old only child (only living family member to be more specific) who works full time outside the home, and takes care of my 88 year old Grandfather full time inside the home. I have been doing this for about a year now (feels like 20). I have no family to help, and and am finding the 15-20 hour days, 7 days a week, to be overwhelming and exhausting. I love my Grandfather with all my heart and do all this with a smile on my face, but I'm drowning and things just seem to pile up a little more each day. I am missing 1-2 weeks of work a month just to take him to his medical appointments, ER visits, and hospital stays. I spend my lunch hour (when I'm actually at work) making phone calls to doctors offices, keeping appointment calendars, and a personal calendar to see how I'm going to get it all done. At home I'm a cook, maid, psychiatrist, nurse, chauffeur, admin assistant, banker, lawyer, accountant, and on some days a punching bag when he's in a bad mood (verbal, not physical). All of my "friends" have given up on me ever having a life again so they've walked away. My dating and social life has come to a screeching hault. I'm a very patient and laid back person, but this is killing me. I find myself now feeling bitter and envious of people who have the freedom to do something as simple as run to the mall or have lunch with friends. And that is so out of my character. I know it's just burnout. I would love to hear from other only children out there doing this alone.....and some words of wisdom on how you find a balance! God knows I'm trying.

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I believe when you lay down your life for another, there is no greater love. BUT not to be walked on and over like a rug. I have read story after story on this blog, and she a lot of what seems like parents or siblings guilt tripping the siblings. I have been blessed to have had my mother these 4 yrs, but the last 6 months, she is "restless" and having more health issues. When it comes the time I will move her to a NH and have no guilt as she will need care I can not give her. I have used my time touring and asking questions of several nursing homes in the area, I talk to other residents, and their families, and have decided on one. No last minute for me. No shocks about financial arrangements. Even if you don't think you could ever move your parent into a Nursing home plz at least check some out, and get prepared for it, just in case. You never know what is around the corner in life. I could die tomorrow but I know in my heart the decision is made, just in case.
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Thank you to everyone for your heartfelt and personal responses. One thing I've discovered with this site is it's ability to make me feel less alone, and supported. Especially when few in the world truly understand the sacrifice and frustration elder caregivers experience. I do agree that having siblings who do nothing while one child does it has to be more exhausting than being an only child. At least with being an only child you just kinda know there's nobody else. I feel for people who have to deal with that on top of everything else. Unfortunately it seems to happen in so many cases.
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2014.04.30 Caregiving Club

Yep, I'm an only child too. I'm 47; my dad 91. I entered into caregiving somewhat unvoluntarily but decided it was another opportunity to better know my parents. I moved from the big city 10 years ago back to the stifling backwoods of my youth to care for my parents who were "on their deathbeds and needed me desperately."

First rule of caregiving club: Know thy narcissistic parent(s). They will pull any and all punches to get you back in their clutches.

I miss 1-2 days a week from work taking him to appointments, and have for the last six years. My mom passed a year and a half ago, and he is clueless without her. He has always had a huge problem of not listening, so all phone calls, appointments, bill paying, grocery getting, medicine supplying is coordinated and/or attended by me. I call him daily as to not be harassed by his barage of calls should I fail to call. (I am the only person he will talk to on the phone - blessed me.)

Second rule of caregiving club: Be prepared to give up your life.

He is a man who loves the sound of his voice. He believes his word is gospel and must tell everyone and reiterate it three times to make certain they understand, whether thy agree with him or not. He tells his doctors, nurses, techs, other patients in the waiting room what he thinks is wrong and how they "mess things up for him," but never listens to anyone. According to him, reciprocal listening has never been part of communication. Any time I have ever expressed myself, he is finished with the conversation. I avoid this now when he starts in on me by getting up and leaving because after four decades, I don't have time or patience for one-sided conversations. Of course, he's adapted by only starting these conversations with me when we're in the car or restaurants because captive audiences must pay attention. The car is unavoidable so we only travel to appointments; we no longer eat out because of his loud tirades.

Third rule of caregiving club: Parents don't change their ways; don't be swayed by their pathetic frailties, make and rigorously enforce your boundaries.

Next week is the first week in years, I don't have to taxi him to an appointment. He was busy thinking up chores for me. I just elder fibbed and told him I would be working out of town. He snorted and said, "you don't really work" because if it's not parent-approved, it's not valid. Then he proceeded to tell me that I had the rest of my life to work and do what I wanted after he died, but until then he'd keep telling me what I was doing wrong until he "broke my sassy spirit." With that, I imagined smacking his head, it twirling round and round cartoon style until it popped off and fell out the window. I just left it there in the fast food drive thru. : )

And with that, the fourth and final rule of caregiving club: Put on your armour and feed your imagination. It may be the only thing that preserves you.

Admittedly, I see many people out enjoying their elderly, I am jealous. But I never had that relationship with my parents, and I'm smart enough to know I never will. Hopefully, I will be strong enough to survive them. One down, one to go.

And serious blessings to all of you doing it far more graciously than I. I pray for grace but somehow end up with sardonic humor : /
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I came at this whole caregiving thing from a practical angle, because that is who I am as an only child. My family isn't the Waltons, where Grandpa is puttering around in the barn and Grandma is in the kitchen peeling potatoes. Aging is completely different now than it was back then, when decline didn’t take long because there weren’t the medical interventions we have now. When was the last time you hear of somebody dying of “dropsy”?
A dementia patient can require 8-15 years of care + hospice. Other conditions can progress over a longer period of time.
Where my mom is -on the low end of needing services- there are probably 25 people who contribute to her care in a day, from the kitchen staff, security, nursing, doctoring, administering the business paperwork, health aids, maintenance. They also take shifts. It's not the same crowd of staff 24/7/365 for a reason. Her need for services will only increase, as she stops being mobile, can’t bathe or dress, can’t toilet, can’t feed herself.

Here are some of the beliefs/values I have that got me this far. I don’t know if it will help anybody else. If you don’t agree – super - you have to live your own values and so do I.

- I don't believe I can do a better job than someone else or that it has to be me doing it. I do believe I have limitations and she will actually be more compliant/easier with other people who are “authorities” vs me, the "child".
- I believe mom must be safe. This may not be possible in my house or hers. (At this point, it isn’t.)
- I believe that we need to keep as many options on the table as possible for her care & wellbeing, and not get boxed into a very narrow set of rules that can’t change.
- I absolutely will not use my personal finances for her support. Our budget can’t include her growing needs. When her money runs out in the near future, mom will go on assistance. To be brutally honest, if it’s a choice between funding my kids’ education and future vs. mom, I’m going to fund my kids’ needs because they are the future of this family.
- I don't believe "honor thy father & mother" means at any cost or sacrifice to life, health, wellbeing, sanity, and financial stability.
- I don’t believe taking care of mom at our house saves money.

There is an added cost to bringing a high need adult into the home. More groceries, more laundry, more cleaning, the wear & tear on your home & appliances, and yourself. The neglect of repairs and maintenance that typically happens in these situations. The added mileage on the car, the extra gas to run mom to the doctor, pharmacy, therapy, here, there, and yonder. It adds up. Who is going to replace your washing machine when it breaks from constant use? Who is going to replace the carpet and the bed in your house because of the poop & pee accidents over time? You are. Are you submitting back to insurance, Medicare/Medicaid expenses for allowable expenses? A senior care facility will.

Your time as the in-home caregiver is absolutely NOT free. There is a way to get paid for doing it full time, but there are strict rules about how that is possible. Department of Labor/Bureau of Labor Stats says the median pay is $10-15/hour for home health/personal aides. If they get hurt transferring mom, they have worker’s comp and the agency will send in somebody else. If you get hurt transferring mom, you are slap out of luck in a hurry because there is no backup help or worker’s comp for you. They also get some shift assignment flexibility that you do not. And they can probably take time off when you cannot. Have you had training in universal precautions? They have. Do you have the right protective equipment at home? I had a family member accidentally prick her finger with a needle she had used on her HIV+ partner in the administration of some of his medication. It was a very sad turn of events and she is no longer with us. What kind of risk is now posed to you and the other family members who live in the home? It’s a good question to ask and think through.

A lot of people don't pursue senior housing because they assume they have to pay for it with their own money - and you DO NOT. Your money doesn't enter into the equation unless you put it there. Another stigma is that all the senior places are full of thieves and abusers, and they'll just kill grandma at the first opportunity. I toured the ones near me. I asked for references, I talked to people who had a loved one there who weren't references. Look at their licensing, check for complaints to the state board of inspection. It was just like finding a daycare for my babies. Use your brain, eyes, ears, nose, and gut feelings to find the right place, or the right other alternative. Don't set her up with the family heirlooms in a care facility, or anything that can’t be replaced. If you wouldn't send your kid off to college with it, it probably doesn't need to be in grandma's apartment.

I hope this helps somehow.
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I too am an only child, 57 and have my Mom living with me and my husband. She again had been hospitalized with pneumonia a couple of weeks ago ( she has emphysema) and spent almost 2 weeks in the hospital. As her physical health got better her mental health declined rapidly. She is now in full blown dementia. I too work full time, have taken this week off to take care of her and try to re-evaluate our situation. I have always said that I would not put her somewhere outside the home...but I don't know if I can do this. Just being totally responsible for her since Friday has at times been overwhelming. I can't leave the room without her trying to follow me. She is now refusing to eat or drink or take her medicine...not sure where this is going.
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I agree with everyone above. I have 2 sisters and a brother. Brother has not been to see Mom for almost 5 years and never calls. Sisters visited weekly in the beginning and now there is a token visit once every few months. They neve call and never offer help. I just have come to the conclusion that I will not expect anything from anyone and then I will not be disappointed.

My hubby is an only child and his Mom lives with us too. Hubby works 7 days a week 365 days a year so that I can stay home and care for the Mom's. It is starting to get to him. A once kind, gentle and quiet man is becoming angry.

Friends........I have none anymore. Like all the others commented above, when you can't socialize you just seem to be forgotten. Caregivers are isolated and in my case my home has become my prison.

Recently hubby and I have talked about placing the Mom's somewhere for our well being and theirs. When my Dad was alive and living with us we had an agency come in and help with him and that was great. At this point as selfish as it may seem I want my house and my life back. We have an appointment with an elder attorney to check out our options. I cannot stress enough how important it is to get an elder attorney. The attorney deals only with elders and they are on your side.

I wish you so much luck. Take time for yourself and get help. I have been doing this caregiving thing for over 6 years and I can't do it anymore. Admitting that to myself and taking the first steps in getting help has made me feel so much better.
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i am now an only child at 56…my younger sister died 2 1/2 years ago from cancer at 51….i dont think she would have helped take care of my 92 yo mom anyway….she was bi polar and very wrapped up in her troubles and her husband would not have stood for my mother being in their house, though he had his father living with them for 7 years before he died….my sister dying of course contributed to my mothers husband was very supportive of my mother living with us, but this has changed…he wants his life and his house back..and i do too but she threatens suicide or pending death if she goes to one….she would never kill herself as a catholic but its not easy to hear anyway
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I am an only child taking care of my mother who is herself is an only child.There is no other family. I used to think it would be great to have siblings to help but after all the stories I have read on this site having siblings is really not such a great advantage. You must contact any available resources in your community for elder care, get on the computer and educate yourself. You will kill yourself trying to do this all by yourself. If you don't take care of yourself who will take care of your grandpa if something happens to you.Good luck and keep us updated.
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Count me as an only child as my siblings don't help or care. They got what they wanted (her assets) and dumped mother in a motel room. Search everywhere on this site. Good advice, and support that from "been there, done that " understanding people. Got plenty of "adopted" wise siblings now.
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You must find help to manage care for your Grandfather. You did not mention that he needs assistance during the day while you are at work.

So start with having someone come in two hours a day around lunch. They can fix lunch, make appointments, do his laundry, get dinner started, tidy up, etc.

It could be a neighbor or an acquaintance. Try to find someone that is flexible and responsible that could take your grandfather to the doctor if you could not.

What is going to happen to your grandfather when you collapse of exhaustion? You must remain healthy and not neglect your health to take care of him. Let your grandfather know and if able help choose a suitable candidate to help with the care giving.

If you are afraid of offending your grandfather, tell him they will be coming iin to help you. Take care of thing around the house.

Start with making your own doctors and dentist appointments. Something tells me they are overdue.

Good Luck!
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There are many only children with siblings on this site. In my case I have two siblings, that live within 10 miles. One of them will take mom to church on Sunday, the other does absolutely nothing, never has, never will. She just does not have the patience and fortitude required to do this job. I would give them both to any only child that wishes for siblings to help. I know it would be difficult to be an only child going through this, but it is also difficult to have siblings that refuse to help, and question all I do, and call Adult Protective Services telling lies for them to waste their valuable time investigating, just cause trouble and additional stress.

Anybody that wants them can have them!
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Lord bless your heart Julzzz. I do understand how you feel. I am the youngest of two siblings...I have been taking care of my 89 yo Mama for over 2 1/2 years now, having left my home and job and moved back to her home. I withdrew my 401 K to help in whatever way I could financially. My older brother and his wife have done nothing to help financially. I have sold scrap metal from the mess in our garage (most of it my brothers) have had to pawn my musical instruments on occasion for emergency cash, and the only time I see anyone is when he coems here for a couple of hours once a week. Originally he had somewhat of an attitude, for what I do not know. Maybe he never believed I would truly be here. His wife, whom my Mother took into our family and has always been so good to her, has not been to see my Mama or me in over two years. She does not even call. Mama's family, whom she pretty much helped raise during the Depression era, has not been here for her or for me, although I will say just recently have started coming here and there for a couple of hours to visit.

I had become infuriated, bitter, angry, you name it , I was it. All of my friends have long since flown the coop. As you said, I found myself getting envious of folks talking about their lunches out, shopping trips, and for me, even just getting to go somewhere, anywhere, would have been a welcome break. I have had no breaks from any of this. Mama is bedfast, requires 24/7 watching, is completely incontinent and has advanced dementia / alzheimers.

All of that to say this. I would be lying to say I still don't become livid when I think on how we have been abandoned. I cannot believe that a woman (my Mama) who has always been there for anyone and I do mean anyone and everyone, could have been so hatefully forgotten and brushed aside....I have finally had to come to peace with all of it because I discovered if I did not, all the bitterness was going to get in the way of my taking good care of Mama. It is not right. Nothing about it is right. People ought to be ashamed of themselves...But people are low, greedy, selfish, incompassionate and just uncaring in general these days. I know my Mama would tell me to leave them to their own devices and that God would deal with everyone in His way and that I did not need to worry. I am trying to do that...I still get angry, still get to the point where I catch myself sitting on the deck with my morning coffee while Mama sleeps and plot on how I can "get them" one day...then I come back to who I really am and I think my Mama and Daddy would be proud of the woman I have become...I think you can be proud of yourself too. In the end, you will have peace in your heart knowing you did all you could....I would much rather be in my and our shoes than all the others...Hang in there....the good moments do happen and when they do, for me they make up for all the other stuff...
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Hand raised.... I am also an only child, divorced, and no children. I do have a significant other who, bless his heart, is trying his best to help out, but he can get just as frustrated with my parents.

My parents are still independent, thank goodness, but it is the "Driving Miss Daisy & My Dad" that has me totally stressed out. I cannot imagine what you are going through with having an aging relative living in your home plus having you working outside of the home. My Dad wanted me to quit work so that I could drive him and Mom everywhere, which would be 2 to 4 times a day. No thanks. I asked Dad if he had quit work to drive his mother when she was his age.... of course, not.

Because my second job is that of chauffer, I, too, am juggling work with doctor appointments, etc. and I also lost my friends because I wasn't available to catch up with them anymore, maybe an e-mail at Christmas.

Try to find a retirement village that will be financially comfortable for your grandfather. Imaging all the new best friends he could make there, and all the great stories he can share. Some of these villages look so great, I would be ready to move in myself.

I, too, resent this time in my life. When my parents were my age they were traveling all around, going to the movies, eating out. Not fair, not fair at all. My parents never took care of their own parents because they had sibling that did the work, thus my parents are clueless how this is affecting me.

My parents occasionally say "what would we do without you" whenever I drive them somewhere.... and I respond back "probably need to do what I will need to do, call a cab, since I have no son or daughter to call to drive me". But that never sinks in.
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I am 43 this year and am an only child. I realized that caring for mom in my home was a horrible idea long ago, so she is in a senior housing place that has everything from independent apartments all the way to the nursing home/hospice services. I work full time, as does my husband, and we have teenagers. Our home is not configured for elder care.

I feel better knowing she is in a place with 24/7 nursing staff, an emergency pull cord in the bathroom, life-alert, a dining room that serves 3 meals a day, and living space purpose built for people in wheelchairs, with walkers, etc. They have staff come in to give her meds, and when she needs help with the daily activities of living, I can add on that service. She can age in place. It's a brilliant idea. She even gets her PT done on site, and the doctors visit residents in their apartment once a month. I could not do this in my home.

You are right, this is killing you. If you don't take the bull by the horns and create a plan for grandpa's care, you'll be the next one going down. There comes a point in time where you have to give yourself permission to need and take help.
This can come in the form of home health assistance, elder day care services, and moving Grandpa into a longterm health care facility.

For my mom, it has been better for her to be where she is than living at home alone or with us. We all get a break from each other. We can go over to visit, eat in the dining room, and participate in activities. She is in a community of people her age & much older, people with the same medical & dementia problems.

Contact your local area agency on aging, and look into what is available for help. You deserve breaks, you deserve respite, and you deserve the time to build your own life. Letting others come in or sending Grandpa to where the help is, has nothing to do with the amount of love and care in your heart. It's about doing what is good and healthy for both of you.
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