How can I stop and take care of myself before I implode?

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I'm losing control over my own life, trying to manage my parents' increasing needs.
I'm too exhausted to go into extensive detail, but I am an only child, there's been no planning and things seem to have shifted quickly. I am the sole caregiver, but didn't even realize there was a name for taking care of aging parents until recently.


I started posting recently. Since then, I've gotten into a car accident, been late for jobs, lost important things like second set of car keys... in a month I have two traffic tickets- none previously!! I'm afraid of what will happen next.


I can't just abandon my parents and take a "respite". I'm barely paying my rent. I can't take time from working, I'm an independent contractor and now I have car repairs and traffic fines in addition to my ongoing financial problems...


I've contacted my Area on Aging, it ended up being more wasted time that I don't have to spare.


How do I cope? How do I reign it all in? I'm desperate.

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Sunset, some times we need to to see the forest for the trees and realize we just cannot go on like this. I know it's not easy to step back, but there comes a time when we feel that our parent(s) will outlive us.

My parents [90's] were similar to your Mom and Step-Dad. Kinda on the border of still remaining in their own home, and one step away from senior living.

What has happen to you, and also to me was that we were enabling our parents to keep their lifestyle while we had to change our own. And my parents viewed me as someone still in their 20's and 30's with a ton of energy, not a senior who was wondering who was going to pick me up when I fell.

Oh in fact, one time I did fall and was out of commission for 6 months. So what did my folks do, they cancelled all their doctor appointments and other appointments and waited until I could drive again. Oh great, I was hoping they would get the hint. No way. Thank goodness for on-line groceries.

My fall did give an opening to start saying "no", but then the guilt trip was placed on me. What irked me big time was that my parents could afford to hire caregivers and taxi service. And afford to move to a really nice retirement village. Nope, never, nada.

So many times I would wish not to wake up in the mornings. Gee, wonder what my parents would do? "They would manage" [their stock answer].
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Reply to freqflyer
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I hate you are going through this.
I am with you- in the same situation. Only child, both parents ill- refusing for years to think of alternative living to accommodate their health issues. When assisted living was brought up 7 years ago, my father said he would rather die, be shot, etc.
I had aggressive breast cancer a year ago. It takes all I can to manage my own health appointments and endless scans. A father who used to be kind and thoughtful....Now dad could care less about me and I could tell him I have metastatic cancer and will die in 2 months.... he would be concerned over who will clean the bathroom.
I understand about just not wanting to wake up in the morning.
I am taking them today to tour an assisted living they may not be able to get into.
They have worn out their neighbors and friends.
Know I am giving you a cyber hug- and I am so sorry you are facing this. It feels so lonely feeling like you are the only one on the planet dealing with parents who expect an only child to do it all.
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Reply to Murphy24
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This is too big of a burden to place on you obviously. I do not understand why parents think they should always have it there way and not even think that their child has a life to live. I do think they have a very distorted view of the stress it places.
I see they have vision and mobility problems but not dementia. Do they drive at all?
You don’t say what their finances are but they either need to rely on help from people other than you, or move to senior living where there is transportation, activities and meals.
Believe it or not you have a right to a life without constant stress that is causing you personal and financial harm. You have the right to set boundaries and say to them what you can and cannot do. For some persons it is hard but it can be done. And once you feel like you have some control, you can move forward with a plan. Many parents say they won’t move, period. If that is their answer, then you say, "Based on your decision, I cannot do it all for you". That puts it back on them. You tell them transportation can be arranged, as can in home care as needed.
I will point out that it’s better to move when they are younger than older. You might arrange a day out to visit a place or two with them, have lunch and talk to the marketing director or senior living.
There are options....you just need to realize you are not the only option there is. And that NO is a complete sentence.
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Reply to Harpcat
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Are your parents still of sound mind? If so I would have a very frank discussion with them. My father was capable of doing things but would often say "It is easier if you just do it" and I would point out that it was not easier for ME in that case. It was more work.

Figure out what you CAN do and DO just that. Everything else they need to figure out. If they refuse to help themselves in certain areas then just let it go. Natural consequences. It is the same with children, they won't learn if you do everything for them. In this case you are doing everything for your parents so why should they be proactive?

My father would often call and demand I stop by after work for some trivial thing. I learned to not jump. Sorry I cant come after work on Monday, maybe I can be there on Thursday. Funny how the crisis always managed to work itself out by then.

Think f it this way....if you weren't around, what would they do?
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Reply to lkdrymom
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Hi Sunset.
I'm in the same boat; I'm an only child, I myself am not in great health, I'm a writer on a very big deadline and when my mother had a catastrophic fall last year (it was inevitable; she's anorexic and hypochondriacal and delusional and a shopping addict, and refuses to take the bone building meds the doc has prescribed for her because she thinks they will impede her [former] career as a singer "star") I had to take 5 months off just to organize her care. I live 2 hours from her. It nearly killed me. On the one hand, she "apologizes" profusely for needing my focus on her. On the other hand, she lets me know in no uncertain terms that she "did" for me, and now it's my job to "do" for her. And it sounds like you're in the same place. All I can say to you is this, and it sounds very harsh: while we all want the best for our aging parents, it is important to remember two things --- first, if their care impacts our health in a potentially deadly way, that will leave them with no one. They don't honestly care too much about that because at the end of the day, they're like infants: they want what they want when they want it. (Mine will go out of her way to create problems, just so that I have to clean things up for her; she demands the attention.) Second --- the outcome; their outcome --- is going to be the same no matter what. You cannot save them. You can try to make the process easier, but unless you have a very rare sort of relationship with your aging parent, it will go unacknowledged because our culture believes that it is our moral duty to care for our aging parents, and I agree with that. Therefore, you have to do everything you can to take care of yourself. If they have the resources to hire a caregiver, step out of the picture and let them do so. If they refuse, that is not your problem. That is their problem. You can only do what you can do. Remember that. Love does not mean dying for them.
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Reply to EMA153
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Same boat as the rest of you. The hardest thing I am facing about implosion is having to come to terms with my own mortality and sanity. Recognizing my love, caring, sense of responsibility, overwhelming helplessness cannot turn endless tides. And especially my guilt seems to be a quaint relic of times gone by because exhaustion, burnout, self-destruction and loathing (because I can’t do it anymore) have wiped out reason. Sometimes I have trouble on this site because so very many here have managed to carry on with hands-on, proximal care, while keeping some miraculous quasi-balance in their life and writing incredibly about their techniques. I just can’t do that (keep the balance).

Distance coordination of Dad’s (97) power outage almost two weeks ago changed me, when my 86-year-old husband cried out “I hope I get to outlive your father” [so we can know what life is like free of Dad’s daily crises]. After decades, days and hours of outreach phone calls, consultations with physicians, lawyers, government agents, Area Agency on Aging, county services, state services, neighbors, companies, social workers et al, our circumstance is that Dad will have to have a “medical incident” to force a change. He makes $200/month more than the threshold for Medicaid community care, and his VA benefit provides more coverage anyway. I have learned in our state, that we cannot afford to “place him” on our own. We need the magic “incident.” He will run out of money to stay at home with his caregivers in about a half a year. I’ve decided at that point I will turn him over to the county, with tears. I always feel guilty I don’t phone and visit him more often, but I shouldn’t and I can’t. I’ve had to depersonalize and compartmentalize him for my own sanity. I feel guilty, but I can’t give that guilt great authority while attempting to pre-plan for as many unknowns as I can dream of 24 hours/day.

My mother used to ask (in a bitter and threatening way when she had her breakdowns) – “What is love?” Now I get it. Love could be expressed as the best of the Soother’s/Fixer’s/Nurturer’s intentions. But just as we die alone, we lone wolf caregivers have to deal with expressing our love differently (or not much) because our intentions mean nothing where the rubber meets the pavement.

Give yourself the grace of time and space whenever you can, even 15 minutes parked in your locked car with a decent view. Try to weave in all the other suggestions such as prioritizing what is absolutely critical while separating priorities out from your emotions. Keep your love in your heart, locked up for safety, until the priorities are slowly addressed. Triage until a reasonable system is in place. Try to recognize manipulation and self-criticism. You deserve to get out of this trap. Keep coming back here. Sister -- hugs and regards to you.
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Reply to 50sChild
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WOW. I have been in the same boat for so long! 90 Y/O Mom finally passed away a little over a year ago and 95 Y/O Dad just went two weeks ago. To say I am burnt out would be the understatement of the century. Dad went into assisted living/hospice care on a Thursday. He passed on Saturday AM. Now it is a fast and furious pace with the organizer cleaning out 65 years of accumulated junk so the house can be sold and I can get the heck outta Dodge and hopefully start to live my own life. Apart from the occasional scratcher, I’m not a gambling woman. But I said to my friends constantly “I bet you anything they’ll end up putting me in the ground.” I have rather severe mental and emotional issues. Their generation thought this stuff is made-up. Empathy?? NOOOOO! My mom would say “OH, FOR C__r__st’s SAKE!” and shoot me the hairy eyeball. Then luxuriate with bliss in her chair while I clipped her filthy long toe nails because she refused to let me take her for a pedicure. Please do what I did not - set boundaries. Learn the word NO. Practice the “let it rot” technique. Dad would have a peanut butter sandwich for dinner on nights when I’d tell him “I’m just too tired to go out.” No one ever starved to death from eating PB sandwiches once in awhile. I learned too little, too late. Now I’m trashed. Hopefully the house will be cleaned out and sell soon. It’s been a nightmare. I don’t wish this on anyone. And the people who would say “oh, you’re so blessed to still have your folks at this age?” I’ll leave it to your imagination what I wish I could have said or done. Jail is not my idea of retirement, LOL! Good luck. Stand up for YOURSELF. All the best to you and all of us in this boat.
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Reply to KrisBee
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Sunset - you are burn out and can not keep doing this much longer. I know you recognize that hence the cry for help.

You need to have a different arrangement, either someone else to help with part of the caregiving, or someplace else where your parents can be cared for.

This has to be your goal or else you yourself will lose your health or your jobs or both.

Are they living with you? Can your parents afford to pay for a helper to come in a few hours a day, a few days a week?

Can you tell us what your parents' needs are? That way other members here can better help you.
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Reply to polarbear
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I feel your pain! Even with my soon to be 92 year old mother in assisted living, it doesn’t stop. She fights everything with them and they can not get her out of room to even eat meals. Her medical providers call me all day long, demanding that I take her to multiple doctor appointments per week, which I can’t do because of work. They would not assist with transports and I can’t physically move her around any more. I finally drew the line with her and made her switch to doctors with a medical facility incorporated into their system. The doctors work with my schedule for appointments and the facility transports her. It still does not cure the problem because I am still at the cracking point with the demands and guilt trips which interfere with my ability to make a living, but every little bit helps.
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Reply to TwoWorlds
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I love the two most important words you asked in your question here today. "Stop", and "take care" being the words, o.k. technically actually three.
Focus on them today, just today. You can pay a life coach but I imagine they would tell you to up and leave, and it sounds to me as if your love and nurturing instincts are what landed you as the care giver in the first place. I personally went through a car accident and other expensive MISHAPS during my time care giving my parents. So, slow down - focus - discuss with both of them what you CAN and CAN NOT DO for things to run smoothly.
Time to look up the laws and also insurances. Yes, it takes time, so try to do it early in day before you start their doctor's appointments, etc. Are you following me?
A white board helps - the Google Calendar is loaded (even now for myself caring for my older boyfriend) and if you just stick to a 3 to 5 day period of time - you can write the necessary details to be done, and update it with a quick wipe of the eraser. Your parents might appreciate seeing this rather than a printed schedule or your phone apps. I put ours right on frig or edge of the bed.
Make an hour a day for JUST YOU. Save all documents, you will find time to go through them later on, and keep writing to community blogs and newsletters anonymously for tips. I am not the sole answer. I hope you have STOPPED long enough to read this! Now, "take care" of your immediate needs (eat well, plan your sleep and most importantly exercise time just today!). God Bless.
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Reply to clembo
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