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My husband and I have been caregivers for his mother for 18 years. She had a major stroke at age 50 and lives in a care facility close to our home. With his siblings all living out of state, we have performed all the caregiving roles alone over the years while raising two daughters. Our youngest is now about to graduate from high school, and although our caregiving duties remain, we have been looking forward to this next chapter in our lives which we hoped would provide just a little more freedom.

My parents, however, are now in declining health and are insisting I begin to provide care for them. My mother is a chronic pain sufferer and my dad is physically well but lonely and demanding. They both expect weekly visits, help with household chores, and accompaniment to doctor appointments. My brother thinks we can share the responsibilities -- he lives in the same town as them and I live 30 minutes away. Of course I must continue to care for my mother-in-law (she calls 10 times a day, requires several visits a week, has multiple doctor's visits a month, etc.)

When I think about what is being asked of me, I don't think I can handle it. I also am slightly resentful. My dad was abusive to me growing up. In addition, my mother never helped me with my kids at all even though I was often overwhelmed throughout my 20s and 30s with caregiving. I can count on one hand the number of times she took care of my kids for a few hours the entire time they were growing up.

I now feel trapped by the prospect of caring for my parents.... I love them but I don't think I can do this again. What would you do?

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I would not take on any more. You already have a big load. I hope you don't answer 10 calls a day from your mil. She "requires" 3 visits a week and many dr visits a month? Is she seeking attention?

I don't think you can handle it either. Caregiving one person is hard enough and your mil sounds somewhat demanding.

According to Pauline Boss, a psychologist, it is not advisable for someone who has been abused to be a caregiver to the abuser. It is harmful to you. Your parents can expect what they like, but you do not have to go along with it.

There probably are resources in their community that they can access. To my mind, the most you can reasonably expect of yourself (though honestly I don't think you are obliged to do anything - it is your choice) is, with your brother, research the local resources and help your parents plug into them. They may eventually need to be cared for in a facility.

There are others here who will support you in not taking on anymore. (((((((hugs))))) and let us know how you are.
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What sorts of resources do your parents have for their care? You are allowed to say "I couldn't possibly do that" when they demand you show up. Draw boundaries and decide what you can do, and what you can't .

Why is mil calling 10 times a day. Don't take her calls. Talk to the care home staff about this, she should be busy with activities and socializing. When the doctor visits her in the home, call in for the visit.

Let your parents know when you're going on vacation so they don't worry about you, but there is no reason to give up your life because they are demanding and selfish.
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You nest is emptying. This is your time to do a little flying together!

If your husband were to suddenly become disabled, or to die next year, would you be really glad that you took 10 calls from his mother per day and made numerous trips to your your parents per week, or that you finally took that dream vacation with him? If you wait until all of your parents die before you begin living your life together for you, you may never get to do it.

I really think you should be working toward spending less time on MIL. I don't mean to abandon her of leave her stranded without visitors, etc. -- but 10 calls per day is excessive! You live close so maybe several pop-in visits per week is do-able but should not be required and lengthy.

Taking care of your parents? No. You were not close to them and would be behaving mostly out of duty. Your duty is to see that they have shelter, food, and medical care. You do not have a duty to provide any of this personally. Work with your brother to locate local resources for them. Make it clear to brother what your limits are as far as what he can expect from you, and also make it clear that just because he is physically closer you do not expect him to take on a personal caregiver role.

Your parents can "insist" all they want. But you are no longer living in their house and you no longer have to conform to their expectations.
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I understand completely. They call us the sandwich generation, but often it feels more like a vice. There can be so much pressure on us. We've been having a discussion in another thread about the unfairness of demands of many elders. Many caregivers feel forced to give up jobs and homes to move close to parents, so the parents won't have to move. And others donate all their time to cleaning and maintaining their parents' homes, because they don't want any strangers in the house. It is not fair that caregivers give so much so the elder doesn't have to make changes.

Do your parents have enough resources to move into assisted living? That may be the best answer all around. If they insist on staying in their house, let them know they will have to hire help if they need it. Helping occasionally would not be bad, but totally taking care of a house takes a lot of work.

One of our members here has parents who are very old, but still living at home though they could afford assisted living. She has a wonderful philosophy. If they want to remain at home, they are responsible for their own decision. She helps as she can, but has strict limits on what she will do. I think she has the right idea. So many of us do far too much and end up losing any sense of our own lives. We don't owe that to our parents, even if they were good parents. Good luck and big hugs working through this.
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You have received a wealth of great advice here. One thing that I would add for both you and your husband in light of your childhood experiences with your mothers is this. Be the loving mother to yourself and ask yourself what would a loving elderly mother want for their grown children who have now raised their own children and can now be a couple again in their empty nest time? Keep that question before you and see what insights and doors that opens for you and your husband. Your moms are what they are and will not change. I'm afraid that caregivers who do give in to feeling forced to sacrifice so much are sometimes looking for their mom or dad to be the parent that they never were if they just show them enough love. That is not true nor is it fair. So, as was said earlier, spread your wings and fly!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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missp - we see these issues here again and again. People who did not look after their parents and who abused their child expect that child to look after them. It is very self centred and unhealthy, We also see parents who don't want strangers helping them. This may be a way for them to try to manipulate their child/children to doing what they want them to. Such people use FOG - fear, obligation and guilt to try to force others to do their bidding. It is not realistic and is very selfish.

Mil is manipulating too. It is not rare that a senior tells other family members that they are not being cared for properly. She too is using FOG to get her way. Sometimes you have to develop a thick skin and be prepared to take unfounded criticism from people who live at a distance and don't ever lift a finger to help. Many here experience that. I know it is hard, I go through it too, but I still do what I think is right for my mother AND for myself. You need to be a good wife and mother and person for yourself before being a good daughter and dil. and if you cannot do it all, your immediate family comes first. I agree with Jeanne - enjoy some freedom and time with your hubby in the next chapter of your lives. You have earned it. Your mil may say she is not taken care of, but, as long as you know she is fine in the NH, don't let that stop you.
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It sounds like you need a division of duties if you want to pull this off. Trying to do it all is too much for one person. Maybe your husband can handle his mother and your brother can handle your parents. You can be the swing person, filling in when needed -- but not too much. I know how that can go for us women. This is the only way that it might work at all.

I wondered if your parents took care of their parents. A recurring theme in the current elderly generation tends to be that they didn't care for their parents, but expect their own children to provide extensive care. I always get surprised when I read parents that feel their children owe a debt that they themselves never did.

The only thing you, your husband, and brother can do is put your heads together and decide what each can do. Once you have limits on what you will and won't do, stick to them no matter how hard they get pushed. There is only so much each of you can do.

About your MIL -- I wondered what she can find to talk about to call so many times a day. That is abusing your good nature. Maybe your husband can talk to her about not calling so much. I wouldn't be able to get anything done if someone were calling me that often. I feel bad for your MIL, but she can't put the responsibility for entertaining her all in your lap. That is just not right. Maybe you can find reasons not to answer the phone -- in bathroom, charging your phone, playing with dog, etc. You have my sympathy. I hope your hubby can get her to stop doing that.
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Thank you so much! I think I just needed to hear someone say that it is okay to say "no" to my parents' and brother's expectations. Although I want to be a good daughter and DIL, there is only so much one person can do. I am going to have to let some of this go, as well as get some resources to help even if they don't like it.
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I agree with all of the responses here....I think a lot of our parents did not care for their parents when they were in decline. I know mine didn't but they sure complained about the way their siblings took care of their elderly parents. Now they do expect me and my brother to take care of them and they do use FOG. You do have to set boundries as you still need to take care of your own family. In my case there is enough money to hire help but they will not and expect me to be their...my needs are not even considered. I have to say I don't mind helping but it would be nice to be appreciated.
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Ooohoohoo… that brother. It's such a lovely idea, isn't it? Little Hansel and Gretel holding hands to look after their dear parents. I'll just *bet* he thinks you can "share" responsibilities.

Please don't tell me you're falling for that one. I may be wronging him - I hope I am - but when you look back ten years from now if he's done half the work I'll eat my hat. In my experience when men cook one meal in thirty, they're "sharing" the cooking. If they can identify the washing machine, they "share" the laundry. If they've ever changed a nappy, then "we both take care of the kids." Your brother's fair share will be done in what time remains to him when he's not busy doing something else. Whereas you're a lady of leisure, aren't you? Guess who your parents are going to call?

I think you need to talk frankly to your brother - not about the prejudiced spleen I've just come up with, for which I apologise and can't think what came over me, but about your honest feelings about taking on this commitment to your parents. If it weren't for your brother's actually rather touching wish to take care of them, I'd have no difficulty in suggesting that you laugh loudly at your parents' demands and absent yourself. But your brother complicates matters, and what you need is a united front with him in encouraging your parents to make independent plans for their later years. Nobody can oblige you to volunteer.
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