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I'm the daughter of my father, who has acute dementia.

We put him into a nursing home last year after he fell and broke his hip at home while my mother was at work.

My mother has always been in denial about my dad's memory loss. She left him at home alone for two or three years while he was going through serious mental degeneration. He wanted to stay at home, but it was clear he was not safe. He once got into a car accident because he tried to drive to his old house about 45 minutes away. And yet, she left him home alone for two more years.

I eventually convinced her to get him a day nurse to come in and help him with things - apparently he got to the point where he would forget to eat.

She cannot deal with it, she is in total denial. I have had to convince her and guide her hand for every health decision he has needed. I had to convince her that a nursing home was his best option and find the home with her.

I am 24. I just graduated school. I'm trying to start my life. I moved away from our hometown for my career. I just want to be successful. But I feel like my mother can't take care of herself or make good decisions for my father.

I feel so guilty now for being away from home. And I feel like every time my career doesn't go well it makes me wonder why I"m not back at home. This is tearing me apart and hurting me.

Why were my parents so selfish to have me so old? Where can I find other people my age going through anything remotely similar? Why has all of the responsibility fallen on my shoulders, and yet no one in my family even recognizes it or thanks me and treats me with gratitude?

Why can't my mom overcome her denial? Is it my duty to keep making things right, silently? I am afraid if I don't guide things, the end of my father's life will be unpleasant.

This whole thing has made me think of my mom as weak and that makes me very sad. I'm all torn up.

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sak9, I find your comments not helpful at all. I'm not even sure if you read her post all the way through since you said to consider placing her 'mother'. Her mother is in denial. Her father is the one with acute dementia. Pity party??? Hardly. You seem to be laying more guilt that is truly not deserved on this young woman.

Hugs to you, justwant2help. Others have given you some very good advice. Keep talking and venting. We'll be here to listen.
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sak9, I realize how you feel about responsibilities of the family to their elder parents. I agree with you that we need to find better solutions, but we also need not to lose empathy with younger people. The world is not an ideal place. If everyone acted as they should and we all pulled together as a community, we could take better care of each other. The way that caregiving is now, one person carries the burden for the family, often at great sacrifice to their own welfare and financial future. We might expect this from someone after they have their family and a bit of retirement savings, but not from someone just building their life. Sympathy and empathy has to go both directions.
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I think in situations like this we must be very practical so that no one is thrown under the bus. In today's economy, if you have a job don't get rid of it and if you have a college education do something with it before you age out of the job market or people will not hire you because of not having worked in a long time or have never worked at all. Thus, while it sounds honorable for a young person to set aside their career or education, they are setting themselves up to be broke and homeless by doing so and what reasonable parent would want their adult child to end up like that.
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justwant2help, wow! You seem to be an extremely perceptive and articulate young woman. I don't know what career you have chosen, but I predict success!

This is a great place to vent. We get it. And we get an occasional outburst doesn't mean giving up or not loving the people we care for.

Occasionally there are other very young caregivers on this site, often caring for a grandparent or an aunt, etc. I'm not sure how you'd search for that but perhaps you'll come across them while browsing. You are not alone, but you probably feel isolated.

I'll say to you what I often say to the other young caregivers: There are very specific developmental tasks you are intended to complete in this stage of your life. Just as a baby learns to crawl and a toddler learns to walk, certain things happen in a given order. This is your time to establish the basis for your working life. You may change your career several times throughout you life, but the foundation starts now. This is a time for establishing the basis of your adult social life, for finding out (often by trial and error!) what kind of individuals support you and bring out your capacity to support them. This is when you find a life partner, or decide not to. I hope you can do all this and be helpful to your parents as well. But you need to balance things so that helping your parents doesn't interfere greatly with what you need to be doing in your own life.

Is Dad now in a NH? How long ago did that start? Is your mother's need for your guidance been reduced somewhat?

For a person with dementia to be in denial can work out OK. For the primary caregiver -- for the spouse -- to be in denial, OMG, that seldom works out well. I am hoping that now that Mom doesn't have day-to-day responsibility for Dad's health care that life will settle down for you. Please keep us informed!
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Oh, and about your title question, "How can I not feel guilty?" -- you probably can't. Feeling guilty just goes with the territory for caregivers. If you are doing something for your parents you'll feel guilty that you cancelled something with a new friend. If you put in long hours on a work project you'll feel guilty that you are neglecting your parents. You can't win. The guilt is unearned and unfounded -- you "shouldn't" feel guilty, but if you figure out how to accomplish that, write a book. It will be a best seller, I assure you.

You know that courage is not the absence of fear -- it is taking appropriate action in spite of fear. That is kind of how guilt feelings work. You cannot let the unearned guilt feeling (or fear of feeling guilty) dictate your decisions and actions. Continue to do the best you can, and push the guilt to the background.
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Take care of yourself first. I can't emphasize this enough. If your father is in a NH or AL; then that is good. As for your mom; tell her you want to sit down at next visit and have a heart to heart.
1. Use the internet and find out info on the Aging care or Senior center for your mom's hometown. Call them or visit them (just you) and get some information on counseling, support services, etc. for your mom.
2. Have the one on one with your mom; tell her that you are starting in your career and won't be able to help with day to day responsibilities; provide her with the contact info for the senior center and encourage her to attend counseling and support groups.
3. Can you contact a close friend/relative/clergy of your mom's that you feel comfortable asking for help in approaching or supporting your mom?
4. Move forward with your life. Realize you are not responsible for your mom's perception of her situation -- neither can you change that no matter how rational you sound. Parents will always want to be the parent/adult and think they know best. (I'm 56 and feel like I'm 12 everytime I'm with my dementia mom -- she refuses all help and good judgement).
6. One great piece of advice I got on this site and it has saved me "We are not responsible for our parents decisions. Parents have the right to make their own decisions; even if it is a bad one". My mom is making many bad decisions these days; I counsel her but I am learning to accept her decisions, even bad ones.
6. Find a local senior center in your area (where YOU live) and check in with the director to see what counseling or support groups might be available for you. Attend if you can -- it will help your guilt.
7. Come back to this forum and vent all you need. We're here and wishing you well. Live life and love it; you deserve it and it is your right.
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I LOVE that definition of courage. Courage is taking the appropriate action in spite of fear. In taking care of my elderly mom, I have had to take action several times, in spite of being unsure or afraid. I have beaten myself up a lot over choices that I have made--even though I logically KNOW that the choices were the best for my mom and for me. This definition of courage lets me see my actions in a little bit different light. Thank you. And to all caregivers out there---there is no "one size fits all" manual for this caregiving stuff. It is not easy and it is not for the faint-hearted. Do the best you can--ask God for guidance and make the best decisions that you can. That way when this season is over, you can look back and know that you truly gave your best to your loved one.
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Guilt - that is a big one. I am feeling guilty right now because I am reading this blog instead of making my Mother breakfast. The guilt just seems to hang around. A lot of this is my perception that I am not doing everything "perfect". There is no perfect way to take care of an elderly parent except with the most love and patience you are able to muster on that particular day and we all fall short. I do not think that a 24 y/o has to give up her life for her parents. I am 58 and feel that my own life has been cut short due to caregiving responsibilities - so at 24 ?? You still have so much life ahead of you. Come here and vent all you want. I have written some posts when I was frustrated that I reread and felt I was too harsh. It is just venting and it is OK. I feel that sak9 comments were very judgmental and I do not come to this forum to be judged. I come to vent and find some solutions that have worked for others. Many hug- hang in there.
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Just wanttohelp - you have been given some wonderful advice from both posters above; listen to it; absorb it - they are "right on". Go with your instincts as you have been doing and try not to beat yourself up - believe me, from someone who knows; it does no good. You are a wonderful daughter - acknowledge it and move on. Take care and many blessings to you.
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You poor thing! I had a similar role, but not so young. If you have insurance to cover it, I'd find a really good therapist that you feel comfortable with and perhaps try a support group even if you are much younger. You deserve a life!!! I know that is easier said than done, bc I struggle with the guilt all the time, so let's support eachother.
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