My dad has vascular dementia. No medicine can help. My mother is the caregiver, and they moved close to me 1.5 years ago. I help as much as I can a couple days a week for a few hours while working full time and trying to keep my marriage going. My half brother lives half way across the globe and is of no help. My husband doesn't ask about my parents or how I'm doing. I just try to put on a happy face and keep up with the laundry dishes. My spare time where I use to workout and take care of myself is taken up by family. I'm so exhausted everyday I can't wake up at 4 am to workout. Now with the holidays, I'm trying to handle family birthdays and Christmas on top of everything else. I'm bitter, angry and am pissed off at everyone with an easier life at the moment. I'm spent. I have little left and I can't find a way to take care of myself and make husband/family understand. We have an agency helping but can't afford more care. The parents and I do not qualify for financial help. I want to crawl in a hole. I've been in tears all night and no one understands. Any words of wisdom? I can't quit my job or go on leave. My mom needs help and I'm it. This could go on for months or years. Help or words of encouragement needed.

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nessa, we often hang onto doing family traditions for far longer than we should. Make a list of what you've been doing for birthdays and Christmas. Then start eliminating things - extraneous gifting, sending cards, baking lots and lots. Or look at what you've been doing with new eyes and create a whole, new simple way of doing it. It takes a little adjusting for the family, but they adapt.
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Thank you all for your advice and support! I love every bit of your responses and love YOU for taking the time to help!
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Nessa you absolutely have to have a sounding board that you can turn to when you need to vent about your situation. It sounds like it won't be your husband. I have a cousin who understands my caregiving struggles, because she cared for her mom like I'm caring for mine. She's been invaluable as a resource to listen to me (and I listened to her). I also have supportive girlfriends, who are caregiving too and we trade war stories and laugh with each other and offer advice.

If you don't have any relatives or friends that fit that bill, then you need to turn to a professional counselor, who can help you set priorities and give you tools to manage your stress. A good counselor can also help you put things in perspective and give you new ways to look at your situation, so you can determine patterns and find ways to avoid trigger points or recognize when you need to stop or do something different to avoid previous pitfalls.
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These are great responses, and i really needed this thread too. Strong women making the world go round. (And men too, im sure, but these names sound feminine = )
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Right Nessa - stern talking to. You are NOT to continue as you are. You cannot do it and your health will fail - at which point you will be of no use to anyone, least of all yourself. I know it sounds impossible but you have to STOP and sit down with a cuppa and work out what you realistically CAN do. Realistically means what you WANT to do and CAN do. So if you don't want to bathe your dad then you put that in the absolute no column. If you can get her groceries when you buy yours fabulous but don't make two journeys of it do it in a one. If you can't do the laundry than someone else has to.

As everyone has said you are in for a long haul this is no short trip. Your husband ....hmph best that we don't live near each other. Does he have parents still alive? If so then it could be his turn next and don't you dare offer to help unless and until he recognise your worth not just as his wife but as a daughter and as a mother. This is called cherishing - remember those words of the wedding vows?

Well now its time for him to step up. Why can't he do the laundry for once or wash the dishes? Does he not make them dirty too? The other alternative is for you to have agencies come in and do your housework while you help Mum. You have to tell him. This is not about a life's story of they did so much for me etc etc. This is straight honesty :
I cannot go on
I have drawn up list of what we, AS A FAMILY, can do to help OUR FAMILY
I need you to do to enable me to do this.
Now get your finger out your arse hubby dear and in the words of Nike JUST DO IT

If he can't see you mean business hun then you have to think very carefully about what he actually does see! A nice peaceful life with a wifey who does everything but wipe his nose?

I don't mean any nastiness at all - you are in a really tough spot and I would be just as angry sweetheart. I'm just a lot blunter than perhaps I should be. I am also divorced but I still like men - honest I do - even if some of them can be total jerks at times. Hell! women can be too!
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If I could like JeanneGibbs' response a hundred times, I would. Especially the part about your husband's role as your support and your sounding board. Sadly, I totally empathize. When I started taking care of my mother, and being driven crazy by her seemingly endless and intractable problems, needs, and demands, it was my eldest sister who was my main support at the time and who suddenly had only negative comments and couldn't stand to hear me "complain about Mom." It was a crushing disappointment and made the whole caregiving experience much more difficult, frustrating, and embittering.

I hope with all my heart you can work this through with your husband. He needs to be helping you figure out what you can do to best protect yourself and your marriage, not shutting you down the minute you open your mouth.

There are a million books and websites out there, but I have yet to find any that I would really recommend. The advice tends to be pie-in-the sky unrealistic for the most part. Like "Make sure you take time out for you!" and "Call a family conference and assign tasks to each member to lighten the load on the primary caregiver." Sorry I can't be more helpful.
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Thank you both. This helped me come back to reality so I can start prioritizing.
I've tried talking to my husband but his response is "I don't want to hear you life story." Sad thing is I'm only talking a couple of minutes before this response comes. Yes, I'm pissed off for sure. My husband is the only one I can really talk to about work, family and how I'm doing on a more deeper level. He hasn't been willing and has only negative comments. It went to crap 2-3 weeks ago I believe. I'll approach it again tonight.
I'll revisit some of our local agencies too.
Are there any books or websites that provide great info on how to deal with the panic and angry outbursts as well as help them deal with memory issues like needing to go home and work?
We are doing all we can with medication and everyday there are a number of episodes.
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This might go on for months or years. And when Dad is gone, Mother may continue to need help as she develops health issues. You absolutely cannot continue at the pace you have established so far. As blannie says, this is a marathon, not a sprint.

You say that your parents don't qualify for financial help. What resources have you consulted? VA? Their county's Department of Human Services? Your local United Way organization? Leave no stone unturned! How would they cope if they didn't have a daughter living so close? Do they get meals on wheels? You do not need to qualify for anything. It is your parents' assets and income that matter in this situation, not yours.

Your husband doesn't ask about your well-being. You just try to put on a happy face and keep up with the laundry and dishes. Oh boy. This sounds dangerous. Can you reestablish some communication here? Putting on a happy face for the person who is supposed to be your soulmate and your support and your sounding board is probably doing more to make you feel pissed off than the labor of helping your parents. Please, please, reconnect on an honest level with your husband!

Working out is awesome, and I hope you can resume it as you figure out alternate plans for your parents. BUT sleep is also absolutely vital. Sleep deprivation can contribute to your unhappiness. Don't sacrifice sleep for working out or for holiday decorating or for taking care of your parents. Without enough sleep you'll crash and burn for sure!

In times of crisis (and having a father with dementia is definitely a crisis), something has to give. Maybe birthday celebrations have to be a bit less elaborate, or passed off to someone else to be in charge. Don't give up the holiday decorations and preparation if they mean a lot to you, but try to simplify it all and only pick the most meaningful traditions for this year.

My husband developed dementia 13 years ago. My life changed permanently then. He died 3 years ago. I have not gotten back to pre-dementia times. I am older now. I am a widow. Life goes on, but differently.

Consider this a milestone in your life. It is not something that you'll deal with for a few weeks and then go back to your old life. It is critical that you take care of yourself and connect deeply with your husband now. You can't put it off until things "get back to normal." This is the new normal.

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Your own health and happiness is your first priority. Then comes your husband and your marriage. Your parents come after all of that. That's just reality. So figure out what you can REASONABLY do for your folks and then draw the line. Maybe spend your time helping them find community resources. You don't have to do it all. Is your dad a vet? Have you contacted your Area Agency on Aging, to see if there are other resources available to help you? Volunteer agencies, faith communities, etc? Start there. And make sure you have enough down time to take care of yourself. This is a marathon, NOT a sprint.

I've been taking care of my mom for 13 years (and my mom and dad for 9 of those 13 years). I've learned over time that I have to let some things (like anger at my brother) go for my own peace of mind and happiness. My house often looks like a wreck, because I walk in from mom's place with her dirty laundry, her recycling, her pile of paperwork and it may sit there for a week. And I'm OK with that. It is what it is. Hugs...we understand!!!
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