How do you cope when there’s big stuff to do and no one to share the load?

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(Sorry, this will be a little long.)


I am in my 60’s, still working FT with no plans to retire from a job that I love. I am the sole caretaker for my mother, who sold her house in another state & came to live with me in 2013. I am her general & healthcare POA, but we haven't needed to use them yet. I am single (divorced), and most members of my relatively small extended family live at least 1000 miles away. Everything went well for 4+ years. I have some flexibility in my job so could help my mother settle in. She got to know some new people; she enjoyed cards; the occasional concert, play, or movie; and we had a few visits from – & trips to see – friends & family. I know how fortunate I am to have an amazing mother & an amazing job, but I’m wrestling with a couple issues right now and would appreciate your thoughts & suggestions.


First, my mother thinks it is time to move to AL; earlier this year she asked me to collect information about several facilities. (I told you she’s amazing!) Then she fell early this summer, fracturing a couple vertebrae & a rib. She did two weeks in rehab & made good progress at home for about 6-8 weeks, but in the last month or so things have changed. She’s sleeping more, losing weight, having trouble remembering things sometimes, getting confused & then frustrated with herself. She sometimes refers to herself as “very ill,” and says she knows she is dying and is ready & not afraid. Vitals are all fine, she has no chronic illnesses, is still mobile & lucid, but she’s just sort of weakening & fading away. So I’m realizing that I need to rearrange my work schedule this fall so I can help her find and transition to a good AL facility. She is willing to look at a couple places nearby, but is most interested in a place in the town where she used to live, which is about 400 miles away.


Second, I don’t know how to talk to my sister about any of this. She’s my only sibling, & was the subject of my first question on this forum. She has a lot of physical, emotional, and financial problems that cause her great suffering and fear, but she turns her unhappiness on her family. I’m the primary target right now; my mother sometimes runs a close second, followed by her (adult) kids and miscellaneous other people depending on what’s bothering her at the moment. I know my sister loves our mother, but she sees everything through the lens of her own feelings, and she is totally unable to control those feelings. Whatever causes her anger, fear, grief, whatever – all of it is someone else’s fault, and she unloads on her chosen target with demands, then accusations, then curses, tears, & screaming. It's exciting. :-)


I know what I need to do: free up my work schedule for a few months, make plans with & for my mother, implement those plans, and keep my sister in the loop while maintaining my boundaries with her. I’m just not sure how to do this without the personal satisfaction & uplift that I get from my job, and without the emotional & moral support of a spouse or sibling. It’s hard to navigate this stuff alone, so tell me: How do you organize, cope, &/or maintain your sanity & sense of humor when there’s big stuff to do and no one to share the load?


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I appreciate your thoughts, folks.  Mom did get all her legal stuff in order & updated when she moved here, so there are no worries there.  Meds and lab tests are also good - she only takes 2 meds (very low dose thyroid & blood pressure), and lab results are normal (most recent were done yesterday).  She has one test scheduled for next week, but we may just be dealing with general aging, exacerbated by the shock of falling early this summer.  Whatever is going on, we are able to work together, & I think she'll end up deciding to stay close.  Like I said, she's amazing!  Her whole family is very blessed to have had her so present in our lives for so long.   Still, it's hard to do this stuff solo.  It's  comforting to have some backup from the people on this forum.
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Reply to KiriG65
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Other options would include a geriatric care manager to do this for you.
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Reply to Sendhelp
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Whatever you decide to do, do it quickly for your mother's benefit.
Take advantage of online resources to help you find a placement for Mom, in her current condition, so she won't conclude her wishes are being ignored and give up hope. You can clear a piece of your schedule to visit her more often. Hire professionals (caregiver-types) to assist with the move, placement of her belongings in her new place. If she is okay for assisted living, a visiting caregiver to check on her might work. Some AL retirement type places have the more care needed option, I have seen this working.

As for your sibling.....she is not capable of taking on even discussions/moral support in her condition, so spare her the stress. (Read your history as you mentioned above). Make sure she has someone to talk with regularly that can be supportive, it should not be you as your job and Mother is a heavy load.

Sister has moved out, I am guessing. Hoping that your Mother is not wanting to move 400 miles to be near the unstable sister?

Check in here often...I know others on here are successfully working and caregiving with the help of private caregivers., Can your Mom be left alone?
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KiriG65 Aug 17, 2018
Re:  your questions:  (1) Yes, she moved out early last summer.  That whole situation has been really hard on my mother, as you might imagine.  (2) 400 miles away from me is mom's old home; both are about 1000 miles away from my sister.  (3) Mom did fine alone up until the last few months, but she had become very isolated & inactive and did not like that - she's always been an active, social person.  She would be less safe alone now, but she also needs some physical activity & more interesting companions than the dog (who is adorable) and television.  I'll take your advice & look at some in-home help, but right now she seems more interested in a community where she can be as involved as she wants from day to day.
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I would add to other suggestions that you not consider a facility far away. My mother has been in 2 in 2 different states and I can get to her in 10 minutes. This was the case each time. It makes a big difference especially in the beginning of a move to AL to be near. You can continue to have a good relationship without the stress of traveling far. I am an only child so all responsibility has been on me. As far as your sister is concerned I would consider your situation to be similar. You can include her with updates but you are the proven responsible family member. That frees you in any decision making in the future. I would hope you and your mother could visit facilities that would be in somewhat close proximity to you. It makes such a difference when one needs to be there quickly and there are times that occurs. I hope you find a suitable solution for you both.
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Reply to Riverdale
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To maintain your sanity (but maybe not your sense of humor) please take that 400 mile trip for AL off the table. Your Mom has lived with you for 5 years. You are not going to be able to disassociate yourself from her, and you will drive yourself nuts being so far away that you can’t see her weekly (or daily if desired). Make it easier on yourself. Insist on it. She sounds like a reasonable lady...make her understand this is for her health and yours. I had the choice between 2 very similar facilities for Mom... I chose the one that was 5 minutes closer to me and a more pleasant drive. Self preservation is necessary for the long haul.
And tell sister after it happens. She won’t be helpful, possibly a hindrance, so why add to your problems?
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If Mom is not feeling well there can be reasons. A med she is continuing to take when it may not be needed. B/P meds maybe adjusted. When my Mom was in the hospital in pain they doubled her B/P meds. After a procedure Moms pain had deminished alot but they didn't lower her B/P meds. She couldn't stay awake. Ur Mom could have a UTI. I would have some bloodwork and urinalysis done. Also go over her meds with doctor.
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Reply to JoAnn29
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Getting the job done is the main thing, asking to get it done with sanity & sense of humour might be setting yourself an impossible goal. I agree with Windy about finding your mom a place closer to you, 400 miles will be too far away for you to support her and the people she left behind are all facing their own challenges with failing health (or soon will be). Concentrate on getting her settled in a realistic choice, hopefully you have found a place with a continuum of care so she can remain as she ages further.
As for your sis... yeah, caller display is a wonderful thing. Reduce contact, keep your boundaries up and don't allow any of them to drag you through the mud.
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KiriG65 Aug 18, 2018
You're right about the friends she left behind - my mother is 97, so very few near her age are left.
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I did two parents, alone, from 600 miles. Had all the stubborn elder, health and dementia issues. However, I am married, wife was great emotional support and good with legal financial stuff. Plus I had just retired when the s hit the fan about five years ago.

youve got one parent who’s cooperative. AMAZING! Very rare . It’s usually cases like mine, drag elders kicking and screaming into care armed with you trusty POA.

My advice, start laying track. Get a poa, get the finances organized and get mom ready to go to a facility near you. Not 400 miles away. She will simply have to deal with this. Things have changed. This is about your welfare as much as hers.

as to your sis, I have no advice other than block out the noise and do what you have to do. I doubt you’re going to fix her problems. Worry about you and mom.
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