How do I cope with and get over the guilt AND frustration an aging parent (and others) can place on me?

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I was reading through comments on this site, hoping to find comfort that we are doing the right thing, I still feel troubled. And I am not handling things very well.

I have a dad who is only in his late 70's, mentally is very acute, but physically can barely shuffle with a walker and suffers from COPD. After my very capable, healthy, energetic only-retiring- at age-75 mom passed away unexpectedly three years ago, my dad stayed home in a small town 2 hours away from us.

As adults younger than 50 with small children and careers, my 2 brothers and I could not go up there every week. Scheduling and taking him to appts meant someone taking an entire day off. He increased his drinking, barely ate anything, and refused to change any of his behaviors when we confronted him. He is obviously super depressed, but refused medical help with it. After 2 falls (where I would have to get up in the middle of the night to meet him at the emergency room while trying to figure out child help (I have a husband who travels frequently), we made the decision that he could no longer stay home alone. And most falls were at 11:00 after a couple drinks, so home health was virtually impossible to find for night in that area.

We moved him to a fantastic Independent Living facility in the same town (or near to some) as us. It was obviously hard, but he seemed to really enjoy it after adjusting and his kids and grandkids could and would visit several times a week. Now, 1.5 years later things have changed for the worse. His body has physically slowed down even further, he now suffers from incontinence, he refuses to shower. He will wear soiled pants stating "they will dry". I know this is all aging, and probably a LOT of Depression. We finally have a GREAT doctor who comes to his facility (other geriatric specialists in local clinics seemed to always be in factory mode and weren't very helpful in listening to concerns). She has him on a regiment of anti-depressents. We are looking into possibility of a counselor coming to visit, but I honestly don't know if that would make a difference. And the drugs aren't appearing to make a difference.

But, when we ask him to shower or change soiled clothes he refuses. So, we added on a service that will help him shower a couple times a week. He knows he has to put on clean clothes after the shower. We go change his bedding and do his laundry every few days. But he still soils his pants, even in Depends (because he won't change them more than once per day). He has also fallen twice in the past month. The nurse at the facility has called me with concerns, (his hygiene and falls, for himself and those around him). They now want to move him to assisted living in same facility. And I agree it's probably time for more care for him. I think we all feel the same way. But, in the interest of trying to keep him in his current apt because I know change is hard for him, I had a few talks with him over the past few weeks to explain that what he is doing is not appropriate (wetting his clothes and not changing, not showering after soiling, not telling anyone if his bed is wet, setting wet diaper on top of his desk instead of in garbage to name a few). I said if he can do a better job of basic hygeine and maintenance skills and would increase showering to 3 times per week, we will lay off him.

But I told him (tough love) that if he won't try to help himself, I will no longer help him (paying bills, taking to appts, buying groceries. He only takes me serious and listens when I tell him I will not buy him his weekly bottle of brandy and don't lecture me on the brandy please- we know its not good but I can't take everything away from him). And it seemed better for 2 weeks. Now it's regressed again and I told him he really needs to try harder or we need to put him in the assisted living portion where he will have help doing the things he refuses to do. He is angry and states if he moves, it will be back to hometown, so I said fine, good luck with that and stormed out. I tend to storm out a lot lately. I really don't have patience anymore, and I know he's sad/frustrated, etc, and I'm SUPPOSED to be more understanding and patient, but I'm drained and easily lose it on him and his stubbornness.

And here I find commenters shaming adult children for not taking care of their parents in their own homes, which only adds to the feeling of guilt we children have when that is simply not an option. I still HAVE young kids at home (they are potty-trained thank god, but certainly not in double digits yet). My days are filled with sports, school functions, work. I have a husband who travels frequently. My siblings have careers and kids.

Tell me there is someone else out there who is part of this sandwich generation who gets impatient, loses their temper, does their very best, but can't do it all and has figured out how to manage the guilt. Because I'm at my wit's end and need advice!

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Has he been evaluated for dementia? People with dementia cannot be reasoned with. Staying in soiled clothing is not the act of someone who is very sharp mentally.

Obviously he needs more help and his needs are doing to increase. He needs assisted living. Absolutely do not take him into your home. That would be a disaster.

No one can do it all, and we all get frustrated. Sounds like you need to detach a bit to let go of the guilt. It is false guilt caused by not meeting your dad's unrealistic expectations. Actually you have nothing to feel guilty about. You are doing a great job for your dad and he is very fortunate to have you.

Take care of you, take some breaks, do something good for you.
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Guilt is a nasty feeling that is hard to shake. You intellectually know what is best for your dad. He needs more care. You know that having him in your home is absolutely not an option. So you have to come to accept that arranging for him to have more care, is best for him, even if he does not like it.

There are many people who supply family members with alcohol. It is rarely spoken about. There are many reasons why it is done too. Is his alcohol consumption contributing to his falls and incontinence? Or would the impact of going through withdrawal be greater than the benefit of not drinking? Is having the Brandy as a carrot reason enough to continue to supply it?
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I can easily read your frustration between the lines of your story ‘life with dad’. I am a beast because I don’t agree that if you don’t turn your home and your kids lives upside down somehow you don’t care about your elderly parents!

Everyone has their own opinion about end of life for our parents and some of the ‘care for them in your home’ group feel very strongly about it. I don’t agree with these people so I stop reading if the writer is coming on too strongly about it. I suppose the ‘care in home’ must be wonderful and I envy them. But I don’t operate on emotion only; I use my rational mind.

When you have a cantankerous parent, when you are disabled yourself, when the caregiver is a neurotic anxiety filled wreck and has regular meltdowns over just a tough day shopping at Walmart, it’s not going to work out well for anyone. And I thought of nothing else for months as to where my mother would be happy, the lovely little ALF with three good meals, a hair salon on premises, laundry service, a huge sunroom, and better still, my mother already knew a few of the ladies and loves people and activities. The people she hadn’t met before she’s friendly with now.

AND my mom’s relatives, cousins, the preacher and my knuckleheaded uncle can visit her too, I’ll let him have that day to visit.

If people get too vehement on this site, avoid their writing because there are plenty of other posters who’ll ring true to you!

Have a good day!!!
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Your Dad sounds pretty typical of the stubborn elder. I would say he does need a higher level of care. Both my parents are now in assisted living. The staff there somehow get them to bath and change clothes regularly. I couldn’t have pulled that off in a million years.

Guilt? You have nothing to feel guilty about. This is one lucky old man to have you looking out for him. You can’t fix this but you can make sure he’s safe and cared for whether he likes it or not.
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