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Hi Margaret,

I think the only expectations we all (caregivers or not) should live up to are our own. We are the only ones that know what we do and our motives, other people can only guess, hope or assume. We are the only ones that can determine what we want and should do.

When it comes to caregiving there are two key elements that we cannot lack in order to give proper care...and to survive! and that is love and compassion; if we don’t feel love and compassion for the person that needs us we shouldn’t be caregiving, because that would take away our reason to do it and our possibility to succeed.

Now, other essential elements we need are 1) understanding of the situation, which relates to realizing that it is simply not easy getting old and worse when on top of aging we have to face illness. Plus if the person had for example a personality disorder like being narcissistic or bipolar, or is simply insecure, anxious, needy or very independent, etc., all of that gets magnified when we get old. And 2) accepting -or not- the situation and realizing that generally the person needing our care literally cannot modify most of their behavior, not at the point in life where they are, because it is not like they are in sort of an special mission to hurt us, insult us, make us miserable or destroy us! They are just struggling tremendously with themselves, their physical, mental an emotional limitations. And if there’s dementia in the mix, it is a completely different situation that requires even deeper understanding (Teepa shows available in YouTube are extremely helpful and enlightening, even if not exactly facing dementia).

Having said all that, if you really feel that you are at the end of the rope and you, after having looked at your situation including all above considerations, remain feeling ‘abused and mistreated’ then I would say it is time to either find a way to take a break from the situation or find new caregiving arrangements. Caregiving always implies sacrificing, but feeling abused and mistreated is really up to us, nobody else but us. Because if we really reach an honest understanding of the situation, of their situation, we should feel in sort of a superior place, kind of how a parent feels about their kids, that superior place comes from a clearer understanding of what is happening and of priorities, compared to theirs. And with this understanding obtained, with our love, patience and willingness to take care of our loved one(s), the journey becomes easier and very meaningful. It will NEVER be truly easy, and it will feel unbearable and very unfair many times, but the reasons why we give care and our understanding of the situation will not change, therefore we won’t feel like victims because we are simply not. When a person choses to give, and receive very little or not to receive, that doesn’t make the person into a victim, it makes them into a human being that loves another human being to the point of even sacrificing self wellbeing to try to help them be and feel better.

Take a deep breath Margaret, and look at the situation again, put everything in perspective and decide what you want to do. In the meantime if you can take a break from the caregiving life, even if only for a lunch hour, I think it would really help you and even modify your point of view.

A hug Margaret! And I will pray for you to start looking at and feeling about the situation differently, and to give you patience, strength and endurance!

May God bless you!
Helpful Answer (22)
Harpcat Feb 2019
That was one of the best responses I’ve ever read on here. Thank you for that perspective!
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It is my belief that no matter what a person is going through or suffering from has no right to abuse other people. I do realize that people who suffer with dementia and other illnesses may not realize what they are doing; however, as caregivers we are not doormats. But it is up to us to know where our threshold is on how much we can withstand. Think to yourself, what is your deal breaker? As a young adult I came up with what I could or could not stand when dating someone. In other words, what I was not willing to put up with. Example, no abuse of any kind that was/is a deal breaker for me. Well the same rules apply to my mother. I know where my bottle line is and I know just how far I will go with her care. Sorry to say, once she gets to the point where she can no longer use the bathroom, shower, among other things I will be getting help in or she will go to a NH. I know I sound harsh, but I know me and I know what I am capable of doing and not doing. I also know what I can live with.

To answer your question, it is not okay to be abuse in any shape or form. What is your deal breakers? What can you live with?
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I don't think abuse is ever "perfectly fine." There seem to be 2 schools of thought on this:

1. The parent is demented and can't help what they say or do. Caretakers are supposed to suck it up and keep on keeping on.

2. The parent is demented and can't help what they say or do. Caretakers set boundaries and make adjustments for parental care to protect and maintain their own emotional health.

I stand by the second school of thought. I didn't go through months of therapy to toss out what I learned about abuse. Demented parent or not, abuse is harmful to the caregiver. There are ways to care for a parent without subjecting yourself to abuse. At the very least you can minimize it.

Some caretakers had loving parents. Others were raised with everything from emotional neglect to downright abuse. There's no denying that how we were raised affects our caregiving style. To expect the child of an abuser to accept even more from the parent just because they're old? Nonsense.

Some parents who raised their children in a loving manner undergo a personality change under the influence of dementia. They, too can become abusive. Should the children of these elders grit their teeth and soldier on? If they can without sustaining emotional damage, all power to them. If they can't, then turning their care over to professionals may be the answer.
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They are not expected. There have been a lot of posts lately about narcissistic parents. Scroll thru the messages, you will see them. If you could tell us what kind of abuse, it will help in how we answer.

One thing you will be told is you have to set boundries. If the person is living with you that's easier than the other way around. Make a list what you can tolerate and not tolerate. If caring is effecting your health, you may have to walk away. Find alternatives for the abuser/s. They can only abuse you if you allow it.
Helpful Answer (12)

Great answer below! No one should ever take abuse, there’s nothing fine about it at all. I’m not sure what all is involved in your situation but I do hope you’ll make changes soon. Everyone involved needs and deserves better
Helpful Answer (10)

Margaret, WHO is telling you that it's fine for your parents to abuse you?

Have you talked to their doctor about their concerning behaviors? If their doctor is not willing prescribe meds for this or will not refer you to a geriatric psychiatrist, who need to take them to a new doctor.

If you feel threatened by their behavior, you need to call 911 and have then taken the ER; do you realize that you can have them admitted for a psychiatric hold?
Helpful Answer (10)

My mom, who would never speak badly about anyone before Alzheimer's hit, would often insult me, over nothing, once Alzheimer's came to the table. I could say, "Mom, do you want scrambled eggs or grits for breakfast," and she's say, "Drop dead, go 'someplace warm.'" The first time she said this, I was floored. By the tenth time, I told her if I had to go someplace warm, I better bring sunscreen and a hat.  My husband would mouth the words, "It's not really your mother," and I held onto that. Realize that it's the disease talking. I learned that Alzheimer's patients will often lash out at the people who are closest to them. Hope this helps.
Helpful Answer (10)
roseTerrace Feb 2019
Rlynn123, I went through the same thing with my Mom. You are correct!

It is very heart breaking. People has to get educated on this disease. They have it broken down so that you know what to expect. And their doctor should be talking you through the process. Therefore, you need to attend your parents appointments and find out what stage are they in.

Your parent needs to be on medication and again read, so you understand what trauma their brain is going through. It‘s very sad but you need to be their advocate and help them through this. Contact their doctor!
Inspiring and supportive responses here. I'd add or re-emphasize:
(1) Get a therapist
(1a) Learn to set boundaries and (1B) believe you deserve better. If you believe you deserve to be in an abusive situation, you will be or stay in it.
(2) Get an [elder] attorney
(3) Find other housing if needed.
(4) Love yourself and get away for a day or a week or a month.
Helpful Answer (8)

It is never easy, dealing with people inflicted with dementia.
It is emotionally and psychologically much more difficult for family members.
I've been studying on-line webinars with Teepa Snow, the country's leading expert on dementia, for 2-3 years now and while intellectually I know that brain chemistry changes and what to potentially expect, emotionally it can still trigger me. I'm not thick skinned although I've learned to set boundaries over the decades and have become aware / conscious of what I need to do to take care of myself and return to a sense of inner contentment (most or more of the time). That is on-going (40 years plus) personal growth and inner work.

* I've learned that at the first inkling of what I consider abusive behavior or language hurled at me is to take a brake; remove myself from the immediate environment/ situation. That break could be 2-5-10-20 minutes to the rest of the day depending on circumstances.

* My intention of shifting out of - or away from - a toxic situation is generally enough to shift my emotional feelings back to a place of, if not equanimity, neutrality so I can continue on as I need to.

* It helps to have some meditations, prayers, or something uplifting available and ready to read when it is needed.

* You might be able to stay in the environment (if it is required/necessary) and pull out an adult coloring book and pens and start drawing. Or bring out a Bible or People magazine. You can learn to ignore the behavior and verbal assaults by immediately shifting to focusing on something else. (Just don't rely-turn to food / overeating as that is another layer of unhealthy behavior for you) and only temporarily may numb you out as you eat foods that won't serve your for hunger and nutritional needs.

* For me, I would leave momentarily and say hello to the other residents in the hallways. Anything to change the energy (inside me). Then, the responsible part of me would go back to my client's apartment and she'd have shifted to and often apologized profusely to me. She knew how she was behaving and she couldn't help it.

* Don't take the bait - and respond in a way to create more charged energy and abusive behavior. Don't try to 'teach' her to not 'be like that.' She is not able to reason do to brain chemistry, and likely in a few minutes/moments, she may also forget what had just happened.

* Since it is your mom, I wonder if immediately thinking to a happy, pleasurable moment in your childhood when she expressed care and love to you - would help you now. To know how she did care and likely still does, but it just doesn't come out anymore as she has changed. She doesn't want to be abusive on purpose. Even knowing this, you need to take care of yourself any and every way you can.

* It was a learning process. It still is.

* I also talked to 1-2 of the social workers on site, now and then.

* Find a support group if you can - of care givers, an Anonymous program - or create a Meet Up group. I am sure there are many others that would benefit from the support you need and want.

* * *
Helpful Answer (7)
Excellent advice!!!
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You haven't said if your mother has been prescribe any medications to help with this yet.  Often, Alzheimer's medications with help with this, but not always.  There are always psychiatric medications that could help, but it may take a while to find the correct med and dosage.  One of the responses mentions a geriatric psychiatrist.  If you can find one, it would certainly help.  If not, a geriatric specialist is also helpful.  I hope you find answers.  I pray every day for all the caretakers out there who need so much strength and support to do this incredibly difficult job.  There is a place in heaven for them.
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