I am doing my best to assist my 71 YO mom as she recovers from ankle surgery. She lives in Illinois and I live in Florida. I have a brother who lives about 20 minutes from her and another brother who lives 90 minutes away. My brothers have been able to help with getting her to and from the hospital, but I have taken on a lot of the administrative and research tasks, as well as doing my best to support them financially (paying for car rentals, etc).

I have been able to coordinate a lot for her, including setting up home health for her—including in home doc visit and labs (this was for an issue unrelated to the ankle), working with the social workers for each hospitalization, and getting her set up for a stay in rehab post surgery. I’ve also been working with local agencies to help with things like installing grab bars in her shower, transportation, etc. Her husband has early onset dementia, so I have been researching resources for him as well, including respite care for my mom, as she is his primary caregiver.

While I think I have been able get a lot accomplished and take the pressure of hours of phone calls and research from my mom, I still have awful feelings. Am I doing enough? Am I doing the right things? No matter what I do, another crisis seems to pop up. Is it my fault? If I have a good day, I feel guilty. I have had a few people express concern that they feel I am running myself down, but I still feel like if I can’t solve all of the problems, I am not helping. I know this is an impossible task, but I still feel terrible and like it is somehow my fault.

My mother in law told me recently: “this is your responsibility since you are the daughter.” That made me feel even sadder for living so far away.

I have a very happy life in Florida. I do not want to give it up. That said, I am living in an almost constant state of anxiety and guilt. My mom is only 71, and prior to the ankle issue, she was getting along well. She is very independent and I want to support her. It’s just been all consuming lately, and I am feeling burned out and helpless.

I know there are many long distance caregivers out there. Any advice on dealing with these feelings? I really am doing my best, but I can’t help but think that my best is not good enough 😢

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Frankly, your MIL was out of line with that comment. None of your mother’s health issues are your fault or responsibility. You’ve done well with long distance caregiving, many use distance as an excuse to do nothing. Your mother is blessed to have you
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Reply to Daughterof1930

Ask your BROTHERS what they need from you, what you can do from afar that would be most beneficial, then proceed accordingly. Unless you want to give up your life in FL to move in with the folks, you can't expect to be performing Superwoman feats from another state. Seems to me you're doing more than most long distance children do, so your guilt is unfounded. And your MILs advice is totally out of line. Not to mention a big fat (covert)HINT about what SHE expects from YOU, when her time comes.

Accept that your best IS good enough and let all the insecurities go.
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Reply to lealonnie1
Beatty Jan 3, 2021
Ha yes! MIL was priming the line there alright!
You're probably going to throw something at me when I say this, but have you ever thought about how your parent's wellbeing in old age isn't actually your duty? Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. You're probably getting older now yourself and have kids/other duties to attend to. Could your parents have raised you while taking care of their old needy parents for 5-15 years straight? No. This is a new dilemma younger people are facing this generation, thanks to medical science keeping people alive longer with chronic conditions and turning them into big toddlers who are unable to keep on living on their own. Even a baby starts to do stuff itself after a couple of years. My parents never had to look after their parents, but I've spent plenty of time looking after them already.

Stop caregiving altogether, and have them pay for their own caregiving. I've actually come to the conclusion that we shouldn't have to do all of this old age caregiving, especially with no pay whatsoever and our already limited free time.

Don't get me wrong, I love my parents, but it's just not my responsibility to do everything for them. If they don't have enough saved up to pay for help, then you need plenty of family members to divvy up the work equally, and take turns. Of course, you're just too far away to give in-home care and I don't think anyone should tell you otherwise.
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Reply to Hiimwes
lealonnie1 Jan 5, 2021
I'd like to throw something at you for saying what you did! A hug and a big shout out to say RIGHT ON! :)
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I was caregiver from 3,000 miles away for decades. The guilt, anxiety, anger, stress and depression were unbearable. Life became miserable for me and those around me. I did the best I could. How to handle? 1. This forum. 2. Home caregivers if you /they can afford even a little. They were a godsend for me. 3. Therapy with social worker or psychologist. 4. Do not self medicate with alcohol/ drugs to help feel better. Makes it much worse. Exercise instead- walk, whatever. 5. Be kind to yourself. You are doing the best you can. Give yourself a break. Give yourself a hug for being the best any parent could hope for. Take care of yourself first. You deserve it! My best to you. (((Hug)))
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Reply to M209M209
bundleofjoy Jan 5, 2021
such a nice message M209. hug to you! and courage to all of us! :)
"My mom is only 71, and prior to the ankle issue, she was getting along well. She is very independent and I want to support her".

Do just that. Let her get on with it & be a friendly ear over the phone/video. Lose the guilt - nothing to feel guilty about. Be proud that your Mom is independent & you support that!

My approach would be Mom has two working hands & can make her own phone calls to arrange her own appointments 😉

As for MIL & her 'daughter' remark... bit 1800s?? Oh well. Poor lil old me just is too girly & weak to ever help you up if you fall... Better call EMS... & I couldn't possibly lift your groceries or haul you around in my car, I'm just a dainty girl 😆😆😆
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Reply to Beatty

I think you have done very well. Its hard to coordinate things when u live close by let alone miles away. I would hope brothers appreciate all the effort and financial help.

Guilt is self inflicted. Being the daughter you probably feel that you should be more hands on. But that's not possible in ur situation. Its only a broken ankle. It will heal. She will get back to her daily life. I am 71 and I can't see a broken ankle laying me up for any extended time. Your brothers are there. Just tell them if they need anything, call.

Just a thought. I hope at 71 I can coordinate my own care. But then I know how it all works. One, because I worked for a Visiting Nurse Assoc and another because I was involved in my parents care. Upon discharge the patient is offered rehab if needed. The facilities available are given and the client choses the one they want. After rehab, in home care maybe suggested. This too is set up with the facility. Once home, in home care calls and sets up admission and times for OT/PT. An aide is usually included while under in home. All this is paid mostly by Medicare.

Now with Moms husband she may need help in finding resources for him. Eventually she may need to place him in a facility. In this instance she may need help maneuvering Medicaid and other resources. But don't disable her. Unless she has some cognitive decline, she should do things on her own. If you disable her, she will turn to u more and more often. My Mom did everything on her own with my Dad. I only stepped in when Moms Dementia made it hard for her to make decisions.

Yes, that comment you MIL said ... look out. She may think her care is her son's responsibility and urs as his wife. Its not.
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Reply to JoAnn29

71 is YOUNG, for crying out loud. Let your mother take care of herself. It's nice she has your brothers' and your help during this crisis, but when she has healed, she should be on her own again. You can re-visit your guilt when she is 85/90 by which time I hope she and you - her children - will have figured out a care program. Of course people don't age at the same rate, or are equally healthy, but in my experience with my contemporaries in their late 70s -- we are all taking care of ourselves and not expecting anyone else to do it for us and we have plans laid out for ourselves. We are lucky, for sure, but considering a relatively healthy person 'old' and in need of help at 71 is just not called for. Lose the guilt. Live your life. As far as your MIL is concerned, unless she has a daughter, I think she is setting you up to take her in, in the future. Better nip that in the bud. You can love, you can care, you can help, but you have to preserve your own life.
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Reply to Alderroost

I am so sorry that you are struggling with this situation.

Think about this logically. How can your mom’s ankle possibly be your fault? It is certainly NOT your fault.

Please disregard what your MIL said. I absolutely hate that certain people feel like everything should fall on a daughter’s shoulders.

Besides, you don’t live in the same state as your mom. You are doing all that you possibly can.

Her ankle will heal. It takes time.

What else do you feel that you could do? Seems like you are dealing with the bulk of things.
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Reply to NeedHelpWithMom


I took care of two parents from three states away for about ten years. No other family or local help. Went through every elder crisis imaginable.

You’re probably doing over and above the call of duty here. Maybe even enabling mom by doing stuff she could do herself. I now realize that if I had pulled back a bit my folks would have had to move to assisted living sooner and had a few years of socializing and good care. But I took care of ever little detail and my folks were not the least bit cooperative. They refused any in home help. Not even meals on wheels. So it was almost too late by the time I got them into care. They weren’t able to do much at that point except eat and sleep.

I used to ping pong back and forth between feeling guilty for not being there and wanting to choke the #&@* out of them. They were good people but just didn’t comprehend how much they were expecting from me.

They’ve both since passed away and I have no guilt. You can always woulda coulda shoulda yourself but as people age and develop medical and cognitive issues the menu you’re choosing from just gets worse. You ain’t gonna fix everything.

My advice, start laying track. Get all the legal stuff, wills, end of life issues done. From what you write it doesn’t sound like living at home for these folks is sustainable much longer unless they have lots of money for in home care. Start looking into facilities near you or near them. I kept my folks in their hometown until my mom died then moved dad near me.

Good luck to you.
Helpful Answer (4)
Reply to Windyridge
Windyridge Jan 4, 2021
I reread your post. For some reason I thought there was a dad with dementia. Moms 71, very young to be needing assisted living. Pardon my misunderstanding.
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Guilt is for people who are doing something wrong. You're not. BUT, it's inherent in our humanness to feel 'responsible' and it sure doesn't help when someone criticizes you for really doing your best.

My MIL would pick at me, always asking ONLY about my troubled brother and sister and kooky mom, never anyone else. And then she'd go on to critically put me down for not doing better, or more. Of course, she had no idea what went on inside the dynamics of my family. When she also began to criticize how I was raising my kids--OK, that was the last straw.

Ignore the nay-sayers and do what you reasonably CAN, and try to find ways to outsource as much as you can. If mom (who is only a few years older than I am!!) cannot work out some of the basics of living w/o you, ask her if she'd feel better in some kind of ALF. Chances are she'll step up and do for herself more if she knows the only other possibility is group living...

I stopped talking to or being involved with my MIL almost a year ago. Slowly, after 45 years of her nonstop nastiness, I am coming to lose the 'guilt' I would always feel when DH would slog up to her house, spending an entire day being yelled at and then slogging home, depressed and anxious b/c he didn't have ME there to buffer the comments.

I am finding that if I do not put myself first, NOBODY else does. Literally. It's been a hard lesson to learn, but an important one. I am quite sure I will be a fairly young widow and my kids do NOT want to be in charge of my life.

Guilt is one of those 'useless emotions' along with anger. So hard to process and put away. But unless you have actively hurt your mom, you have NOTHING to be 'guilty about'.
Helpful Answer (4)
Reply to Midkid58
swilson1 Jan 5, 2021
I agree that guilt is a useless emotion, but anger is not useless. Anger can be about self preservation and trigger boundary setting. Key is reaction— assertive, not aggressive.
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