How do I suddenly become a caregiver to my Dad after Mom has passed away?

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My mom passed away suddenly about a month ago. She had been dad's primary caregiver following several mini-strokes and he has mild impairment/dementia. Since her death, we three daughters have been taking turns staying with dad 2+ days at a time. This is geographically challenging for me and I am beginning to struggle working from his house. He smokes, the dog has ruined the rugs and they reek, just being here is stressing me out. I love my dad, I want to be helpful, but being in this house is suffocating. he doesn't talk-he never has been one to carry on a conversation with us daughters. I don't know how to be a caregiver to him and I'm experiencing serious anxiety when I am here with him and also when I go to my own home. As we all begin to accept the initial shock of losing our beloved mom, the reality of a long term caring situation for dad is sinking and I'm in a panic. If I "tap out" I'll be letting my sisters down. Any advice on getting past being youngest daughter and becoming caregiver?

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Hi Maggie,

Assistive technology can be really helpful to your Dad, and help you and your sisters be better care-givers.

Medication reminder alarms really helped my friend Graham keep on top of his health. The one we used actually spoke, in loud English, three times per day and required him to press a big button to acknowledge it.

Social isolation is the biggest issue with someone living alone and can lead to depression and illnesses. If you can't visit 3 times a week, something like a Videophone to help him make and receive face-to-face calls can keep him connected and give him a reason to smile. The Videophone is good because it's simple so your Dad doesn't need any computer skills.
Best wishes and your Dad is lucky to have you and your sisters take care of him.

Gabby
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I had the same problem and anxieties when I had to be the caregiver to my father. My father also had dementia and he had a dog and 3 cats. At first, he was still feeding the pets and letting the dog out to potty. As the dementia progressed he would forget to let the dog out and would forget the feed the dog and cats. The dog went to the bathroom all over the bedroom carpet. I had to take over the care of my dad and his pets.

I have 2 brothers and a sister, but they all lived too far to help with Dad's care. I had to do it by myself. It was quite overwhelming at times, but I kept telling myself, "Dad took care of me when I was a child, so it's my turn to take care of Dad in his childlike state." That's really what kept me going for 9 years.

Since your Dad isn't a conversationalist, try getting him a portable CD player or MP3 player with music that he enjoys and let him listen to it through headphones. You will be surprised at how he will come alive with his kind of music. But you have to make sure the music you give him to listen to is music from his early adult years. Teenage and young adult music for his time. It works wonders!!

Thank your lucky stars that you have help from your sisters!! You can do this!
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Sorry for the loss of your Mum and so suddenly too. I think the first thing you need to do is talk to your sisters about the situation with your Dad. You might just find they are in the same place as you, the smoke in the house, etc, etc,
Look at getting some sort of paid caregiver, even 1 or 2 days a week. Remember you are all grieving too, that would lighten the load.
All the best, Arlene Hutcheon, New Zealand
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Check with your local Area agency on Aging (might be called something different so contact your county and ask). They have tons of resources and sometimes counseling. I recommend their Power Tools for Caregivers workshop. It is vital for you and your sisters to take care of yourselves. The Alzheimer's Association is another wonderful resource. Also look up Teepa Snow on YouTube. She is an alzheimer's/dementia educator and is absolutely wonderful! Be glad you have your sisters to share this load. I am the youngest and until last month it's all fallen in me to do for my mom and stepdad. My mom had a serious surgery that everyone came for (far and near) and they got a better idea on whats going on. My eldest stepsister is now helping out and my sister in law is a little bit as she can. Others...well some live in another state but there is still a couple living close by that don't do much if anything. Talk with your sisters...they are probably feeling the same way. I don't have to live with them but going over for even a few hours is draining. And if you're not used to it, it is even harder.

Make sure you guys are checking out all resources (local county/area agency on aging, alzheimer's, etc). Oh, the alzheimer's association also have support groups. I highly suggest you and your sisters start attending them. Not only will you find out you're not alone, but you can learn from those further down the path, from their experiences, etc. And remember to BREATHE! Long slow abdominal breathes. Search YouTube for Teepa Snow breathing and watch it.
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Nasmir!! how did that help? Behave yourself...LOL Some people have no choice but to use a home, but I agree with the dog needed rehomed
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Maggie, my condolences on the sudden death of your mother. While no one can be "prepared", the suddenness of your mother's death is traumatic, with no opportunity to say goodbye before hand. Grief can take many forms, including physical.

To be suddenly thrown into a caregiver role in a family dynamic in which, if I understand you correctly, there is some estrangement between your father and daughters combined with your father's natural tendency to be introverted, and your status as younger daughter generates a certain attitude and approach to you, the role of caregiver as a family member rather than a professional is a very difficult one to fill. Geographical distance imposes additional logistical challenges.

The physical environmental conditions are also a serious consideration. Second hand smoke, mould (which I find often accompanies second hand smoke as well as bacteria and allergens from the carpet pose a health risk to you, especially when your immune system is compromised by the grief you are experiencing. If you tend to be environmentally sensitive, the risks increase. In any first aid/emergency response the first thing educators stress is safety first. You can't help anyone else if your own well-being is threatened.

I agree with the suggestions put forth in previous posts about getting a caregiver or sharing responsibilities that don't involve you having to be physically present in the house. Long term care may be another viable option. However, I can appreciate the reticence in taking that route because of all the emotions that it stirs up.

However loyal and altruistic, if the burden placed on you is going to be overwhelming, then it is going to defeat the purpose of providing care for your father and will take its toll on you. A very wise person told me that if you feel resentful and overwhelmed by helping someone, then that's not your role in the first place. There are other people who can fill that role. You don't have to feel guilty if you decide you cannot do this; it just shows a high level of self awareness and emotional intelligence.

Take care!
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Sorry for the loss of your mother! My stepfather passed 3 years ago and I am the caregiver of my mother and disabled older sister who has lived with my mom and stepdad all her life. Besides that I am disabled with back problems etc and my health is going downhill. So my advice is that you need to talk with your sisters, come to an understanding and the toll it is taking on you. Your health is important too. Maybe it is time dad goes into an Assisted Living facility. I have always told my mom that she'll always have a home with myself and my husband but I can't do it anymore. I rarely go out and get to the doctor for myself and my husband makes me dinner and he can't take on my mom and sister. I hope you're able to come to some sort of agreement with your sisters or he should go to an Assisted Living where you don't have to worry about his care. Good luck!
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At this point, you and your sisters are only enabling him and prolonging the inevitable. My sister died caring for my Mother, now Mother is 96 and doing well in the NH, where she should have been all along.

If you or your sisters are not RNs, no way can you give your father the care he needs, with the current arrangement.

We had to let Mother continue to live alone, until she fell. Then, from the hospital, she was never able to return home. I feel your pain.
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I agree you can not make him stop smoking at this point.. my parents moved in, and although we both smoke ( don't judge.. I had stopped for years until the folks moved in) it was outside or with doors/windows open. Not a realy option with freezing 24-7 mom ! we bought a giant air scrubber.. not perfect but better...and smoking is only in one room. Also in the sunroom or outside if possible. Would he agree to a "smoking area" if you gave him a chair/table.? Maybe in the garage? Have the carpets cleaned by a professional, it really does help. Maybe since you 3 are there now the dog can get walked and retrained. And god bless you, but many of us would love to only be on duty 2 days a week! And trust me, the anxiety will lessen as time goes on and you get into a routine.
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It is unpleasant; it is extremely hard; it will get harder. It is also fulfilling, and when you focus on your love for your father, rather than the disruption to your life, you will grow enormously in character, strength, and love. When you concentrate on the problem at hand, rather than how uncomfortable you are, you will find solutions. Build a support team, get a cleaning lady, someone to walk the dog, a professional rug cleaner, a companion to give you needed breaks, a therapist to give vital info and suggestions. Treat them well, they are your lifelines. Educate yourself, read everything you can about caregiving, and dementia. Don't beat yourself up, do your best. Perfect doesn't exist in caregiving, pick your battles let everything else go.

If your father is a social extrovert, he may enjoy a nursing home. If he has alzhiemer's ( I don't know how to spell it) the nursing home is the only option, the sooner the better. Sometimes the work involved with caregiving a nursing home patient is harder than home care. If you back out, you will regret it all your life. Good luck, we understand and are here for you.
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