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?

Answers 1 to 10 of 16
Have you looked into having a paid caregiver come in to cover your spot? Maybe a couple of weeks off would help to re-energize you. If you are like me, after a while you DRAG your heels and make yourself do it, and you do. I tried so very hard to fill my mothers shoes and vowed to myself that I would take over for her.....and I appreciate how she covered up for my fathers nastiness and dementia. I do not know how she had the stamina and mental toughness to do it. I am also the youngest. It adds on another layer because the youngest is NEVER taken seriously. I think I also understand that it is hard to take this on while you are grieving for your mother.

If I were you, I would gather your sisters and share your frustrations and see if any other situation can be negotiated. His health problems and care needs will only increase in time.
Top Answer
Maggie, so sorry about losing your Mom. Please note that note everyone can be a caregiver.... some of us can be hands-on, and some of us can be logistic caregivers.

Talk to your sisters, tell them what is happening with you. The three of you need to work as a team. Assign duties that everyone is comfortable in doing. Example, maybe your sisters prefer not to spend time grocery shopping for Dad, but you don't mind. Another example, maybe your sister rather not take Dad to his doctor appointments or to the barber, etc., but you don't mind. See where I am going with this.
If he was a veteran he may get help from the VA.
Same advice - discuss the issue with your sisters to see if you can share the caregiving.

However, your father's smoking is a danger to the health of each of you. You don't have to expose yourself to this. In this situation, I wouldn't be hesitant to demand that he stop smoking.
1) One of you take the dog - it's only soiling because dad doesn't let it out. If none of you is pet friendly contact a rescue to take it and find it a home. It's not its fault!
2) Get dad into assisted living or a nursing home asap ... there is no way you (even 3 of you) can care give 24/7 and I did it alone for four years. He'll be clean, fed and watched over by nurses 24/7. Do it for him!

3) Smoking: GA there's no way you can "demand" someone stop smoking any more than you can "demand" anything from anyone ... try that and you'll be kicked to the curb. Perhaps a smoke, a glass of wine or whatever is all these old frail folks have left to enjoy.. After a lifetime most can't give it up but a good NH will give him the patch and wean him off, or at least keep him comfy.

Just thoughts from someone who's been in the trenches forever.
Ashly, apparently I was too abrupt in the comment about smoking. I was thinking about the detrimental effect and second hand cancer issues for the caregivers. While I understand that others wouldn't demand someone stop smoking, I've demanded that no one smoke in my presence or on my property, and I've meant it.

There are though a lot of issues which can be demanded of others, but it's not my intent to offend or debate with you. I suspect you've had your share of demands if I'm reading correctly between the lines.

My father doesn't smoke, but if he did, there would be absolutely no way I would even go in his house.

I do agree that a nursing home could use a patch to wean the OP's father off the addiction of smoking.
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.
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.
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.
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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