I'm an only child caring for Mom. Any advice?

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Hello,
I am an only child, age 58, father dead. Mother, age 84, and stepfather, age 84; they have been married 20 years. They have been very independent and neither took any medicine at all until 1 year ago, when he developed esophageal cancer, went thru radiation and chemo x 4 months. I took off work (thru FMLA) to cart them around to all the appointments, b/c even tho they are 'with it' pretty much, it was still difficult for them to find the right building, fill out the information, etc. I have great resentment b/c his son lives half-way across the country and he and his wife just sit there and came in for Christmas, but I am the one doing everything & I'm not even his daughter! I did 'hand over' the appointments to Mother about half-way thru the treatments, telling her that I had used up all my PTO and was going into 2014 in the minus column and I wasn't willing to do that. She got really wrung out, had to be guided through all his medicines, appointments, what the doctor said, etc. She talks on and on about how stressful this has been for her, and I know it is. (I am a nurse and I must sound pretty callous but I'm not really. I think it's harder to take care of family if you're in the medical profession). Plus Mother doesn't believe a thing I say, ever, but feels compelled to do what her sister says, what the lady at the beauty shop says, or what Dr. Oz says. Which drives me insane. I am trying to guide/help them and she won't even listen to me. Anyway, 2 months ago she developed a very rapid heart rate (190's) and went to the ER twice for treatment, which didn't help; had to start her very first medicine ever - 1 pill daily - which she balked at, i.e., couldn't remember it, forgot where she put it, etc., but finally I think she got it down pat. Meanwhile my stepfather is practically back to normal. The cancer is still there, but so tiny they are just observing for 6 months. After my Mother's 3rd episode of fast heart rate, we saw a cardiologist who did a cardiac ablation, in which he cauterized the part of the heart that he felt was the problem. This was 2 weeks ago. Unfortunately he told me that he wasn't sure that he got the problem totally fixed, as it was very near the breathing center. Time will tell, he said. The day I brought Mother home, and went back to her house every morning, stayed 3 days, and she absolutely drove me insane. I felt like drinking 2 cases of beer when I left each day - and I barely even drink! Nothing I did was right - I used the 'wrong' pot to boil water in for the tea, I put too much water in the potatoes when I boiled them (but can't pour the water off, cause you'll 'lose nutrients), I used the dish cloth reserved for wiping cabinets off only to wash the dishes in the sink - horrors! - I 'mixed' the potatoes to peal out of two bags (you use ALL the potatoes up out of one bag FIRST, then go to the other bag), I had to use only Food Lion milk for her, etc., etc. I got snappy with her at the end b/c I was just like, "REALLY?" She got teary and said that I was being mean to her. She wouldn't let me wash a load of clothes in the washer b/c I 'wouldn't wash them right.' I hired a girl to stay with her for one week, and that went really good and I am in her debt, but it cost me, believe me. Mother said she could pay for it, but she doesn't have much $$$ (we don't either, but...) and I felt guilty about her paying for it. So now we are one week out, and the lady I hired is going to do heavy cleaning too (YEA!) which will help a lot. Mother has quit the church, quit her music (piano playing), lots of her friends are dead, etc. I have tried REPEATEDLY to get her to come to church with us (She likes our church, but says she gets too stressed and rushed when getting ready, so she'll just stay home), asked her to Seniors Bible study (to meet other ladies her age; I went W/her twice and she loved it, but 'can't go back b/c "Jack might need me," or "it it too stressful getting ready." Thin excuses, but she is very lonely I know. She doesn't get much companionship from him either, which of course I can't do anything about. I know she is lonely, but no matter how much I invite her, she won't go any places or meet any new ppl. Plus she has started acting more 'helpless' since this surgery, although the cardiologist told me she'd feel fine within 72 hours or so. It has been 2 weeks, and she just lies around, 'resting.' How can I proceed here? If I go over, the things she does just drive me nuts and I can't help it. She LOVES the hired lady, and wishes 'she could come all the time, because she is so sweet and nice to me.' That makes me feel like I haven't done a good job. This has interrupted my work so many times, interrupted my time off and out W/friends, and left me W/countless hours of frustration and feeling inadequate. Please respond............

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So sorry for you..I'm an only child..My sister passed away..I took care of my mother..she had lung cancer..It was the hardest thing I have ever done..But that ended for me saturday...She passed away at our home..I watched her take her last breath...I would give anything to hear her call out my name again, wanting something...Her last words to me were "are you okay?" while being a caregiver is the hardest thing imagineable..so is getting ready to bury your mother, your last parent...I miss her so much..Take care all you caregivers and God bless you all...
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Very rough times for you. Big hug.

Very rough times for your mother and stepdad, too, of course. And, as you say, there they are, two people who've beetled along in perfect health for decades and then - whammo! One very nasty health experience each. It must be very hard, and very frightening, for them. After all, as I know you will have heard quoted at you time after time: "the patient is the one with the disease."

Your mother is being such a pain in the unmentionables because she is frightened, she's worried about her husband, and if she is now suffering symptoms of heart disease, of whatever variety, she will feel like poo - drained and ill. Don't forget that fatigue - bone tiredness - is characteristic of a duff heart. Maybe that's why she's such a wet blanket whatever you suggest to take her out of herself, do you think?

I don't blame you for feeling crabby about your stepbrother's no-shows; but actually what you need to do is take a leaf out of his book and just turn up for the fun bits. Your mother and stepfather need day-to-day help and support, but that doesn't mean you have to provide it. If it's financially possible, leave the task-based caregiving to paid professionals - don't fall into the trap of feeling guilty for not doing work that there's no need for you to do! You have a life, a profession and needs of your own, and there is no reason on earth why you should feel bad for putting those first.
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Go over as seldom as you can. When you do visit insist on making it a social call. You are there to play cards or sit on the patio with her or take her to the park. She has someone else to use the correct cleaning clothes and boil water in the right pan.

It seems to me that the true issue here is how to afford more in-home help. You might approach your mother's husband's sons to see if they are willing to contribute financially for the upkeep of the house. And if your mother and her husband have assets set aside for a rainy day, now is the time for them to start using them for their own care.
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I understand. That sounds like my mom and you sound like my sister. It did not end well for us. Mother outlived my sister. Your mom very much needs to be in a facility where the staff can meet her needs and there are activities for her. My mother was so much like yours (right down to that washing machine thing), but she fell a couple of times and it was clear that she could not live alone. She never went back to the house, after a trip to the hospital.

All my sister did by bending over backwards to please Mother, was shorten her own life. Mother did not even go to the funeral. She was 93 and several grandsons in their 40s offered to help her at least go pay her respects, but no.

Now, Mother is 95 healthy and much better off than she was at home. My living sister and I traveled to IL. (we live out of state) for her 95th b'day. Mother was fine for 2 days and then, started the dependence on us, again. (Ring my bell, set the chair over there, see if my phone works, etc.)

The clincher was when I put on a new skirt and blouse for her party and she said "What are you dressed up to represent?"

There is no pleasing some people and I don't try. I do not blame anyone that will not give up their job or family life to help someone that is quite capable of helping themselves.

I would tell my sister "do not answer Mother's calls," when they were numerous throughout the day. Do not tell Mother anything about your personal life - but she must have been co-dependent. I don't know.

Have you read Caring For My Difficult Older Parent? It is an eye opener.
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