How do you caregivers cope?


My father, with a long standing history of depression, has been living with us for the better part of a year now. My parents have been divorced for a very long time. Dad has probably had depression issues most of his life. He takes lots of antidepressants and also has some mild dementia. I do my best to provide healthy mrals and have on hand healthy snacks. I have suggested he get involved with a local senior Center or meet up for social contact because I feel the burn out for being his only social contact and he refuses. Yet I do feel resentment from him for the time spent away that I work (at least I do work at home), spent caring for my teenage son or his activities or time spent for my husband. My husband travels for work a lot, so in the evenings, I like to be on the phone talking to him. Dad appears to get resentful about that. I do have two sisters that live out of state, whom he visits periodically. I share my struggles with them and while they are supportive, they don't have dad there day in and day out. When he visits, it's all joy and laughter and peaches and cream because it's a visit and everyone is happy. With me, it's home and it's not so joyous. I get the worst in dad. Dad gets very uptight and impatient when things don't go exactly as he wants on his time frame. My son has a very close relationship with dad, and that's great. But there are times his feelings get hurt, too. I just feel the strain and burden of being dad's only companion and caretaker and know the worst is ahead. There will come a time when he shouldn't drive, etc. I realize some of you probably have lots more to cope with. I know I love my dad but there are some days I don't know how I will deal with this!

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Thank you for that perspective about more breaks to recharge. I am sure it would make sense that Dad would require those breaks, also. I am trying really hard to give him smaller activities or hobbies of interest , especially with that in mind, that he might enjoy.
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Angel, your comment that projects might be too taxing reminded me of something I should have addressed. I learned over the years that short and simple projects are best, with breaks interspersed as necessary.

The older brain (including this one that I have!) either has too much to deal with or needs frequent breaks to rejuvenate. Try short projects, say, not more than 1/2 hour (and that's just a ball park guess), then gradually add a few minutes here and there to see how he responds.

I didn't realize that was happening years ago when we were working on a home improvement project; I wish I'd known then what I knew now. Several hours of DIY projects was just too much.

I see that even with myself now; I need breaks more often to recharge my batteries.
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Thank you Sunnygirl & GardenArtist for your very thoughtful responses and suggestions. Dad has had past suicide attempts, psychiatric hospitalizations, treatment facilities, ECT's, lots of different medications over the years. He has been under the care of a psychiatrist and it is a constant thing with keeping him compliant with his medical treatment and follow ups. He has had neuropsychological testing indicating his mild decline over the past several years. I do tend to agree he would likely resent a setting where he doesn't know the people but perhaps having myself or sisters attend social gatherings with him as you suggested would be another option. To counter act his depression, we have tried to involve him in projects to keep him busy that he used to enjoy around the house. Unfortunately, if he perceives any of them to be too taxing, he will complain to the sisters and so it is a really tricky thing to approach. Thank you so much for the ideas you have already given me thus far and for this forum.
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Angel, I think you're facing a dilemma that many have faced. Your father has become reliant on you, perhaps resents it subconsciously, but also perhaps b/c of that reliance wants to monitor your movements to ensure (a) he's not left alone w/o support (fear) and (b) wants to control your activities.

He probably will resist going out to places where he doesn't know anyone. And he's probably not comfortable integrating into crowds or with people he doesn't know.

It's been my limited experience that mixing with people is desirable if those people are already in a circle of acquaintances, or are neighbors - people who are known quantities. Mixing with new people, strangers, isn't desirable.

Based on my observations, I do think generally that there's a subconscious desire to be with people (both family and friends), but that the activities and events need to be planned to ensure that the elder person isn't alone if it involves meeting new people.

Some senior centers have non daytime or weekend activities; perhaps you could go with him to a weekend activity and attempt to integrate into the crowd. It may be helpful, or he may be resentful. Perhaps your siblings could take him out for awhile when they visit and give you a break.

On that subject, I think it's appropriate for you to address more planned involvement to avoid your own burnout.

One adage that's guided me is advice given by someone who cared for her husband., i.e., that there are two people in this arrangement: you and your father. In order for it to work successfully, each has to give. You're giving more than your fair share; it's time to tip that balance. Your father needs to be more flexible. You may have to gently but repeatedly remind him of that. You can't take care of him if he won't cooperate.

You could try to find activities to divert your father's attention when you need time to speak with your husband, but I suspect he'll resent that as well. This is when the frank talk is appropriate. I would tell him plainly but kindly that this arrangement will NOT work unless he addresses his need to monitor and control your activities. You need space, and so does he. If he resents it, just leave the room and let him get used to the concept.

He also needs to find something to do to occupy himself, ideally, things he's done in the past and can still do. I think though that the issue would be his refusal to do this.

Notwithstanding all this, however, I suspect that someone who's depressed isn't going to easily be able to accept the kind of suggestions I've made, and that might be where the issue of medication intervenes. You wrote he's on a lot of medication; is it doing any good? If not, perhaps you might want to address the issue with the prescribing physician? And were there any activities in the past that helped counter the depression?
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Why did your dad come to live with you in the first place? You say he has mild dementia? Has that been diagnosed or are you just noticing some cognitive decline?

I think I might lean towards working with dad to make long term plans for his living situation. Depending on his diagnosis, I would be eager to get those plans made now. Since it's not really working out for you and your family, I might explore Independent Living facilities, keeping in mind that he may need to transition to an Assisted Living down the road, depending on his condition. Some places have both types of places on their campus. Many places like this provide transportation and also have many amenities on premises, so if he has to stop driving, he will have access to things like meals, entertainment, activities, doctor appointments, etc.

If he does have dementia, reasoning, understanding and acceptance of change will not improve with him over time. So, I wouldn't count on the issues that you have now getting better.
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