My parents are both in poor health - my father is in remission from leukaemia though is currently in the ICU for the 5th time in as many months with a lung infection, and my mom has depression and a slow growing blood cancer. I'm 32 and have one sibling who does not help in any way with their care. We don't really have any other family to speak of.

Initially I was living abroad and moved home in 2010 when my father had his first bout of cancer. At that time both my parents were in their mid 60s and were fit and active. After the initial diagnosis he had ups and downs with his health, so I got a job nearby and lived with them until late last year. The more well they seemed to be I guess the more tired we became of each other (!!), and the time seemed right for me to leave again and resume my life abroad. I got a fantastic job, we said our goodbyes, they told me not to worry about them etc.

A week later I got the call that my dad was in ICU and it was 'touch and go' and that I needed to come home as it didn't look like he would pull through. My job were great and gave me some time off, and we've been on an emotional rollercoaster since then. Thankfully my dad has regained consciousness and is doing well, for now. My mum has taken his latest illness incredibly hard and emotionally she is not coping. My sibling is nowhere to be seen.

The time has come where my job really needs an answer from me as to whether I'm coming back or not. I am so very torn, and when I think about quitting the resentment builds. It's not my parents' fault, and to be honest when I think about leaving them it upsets me. But I do also worry about staying. No-one can say how long my dad has and in what condition he'll be if he's discharged from hospital. My mum has spent a great deal of time caring for him too and I don't know if she'll cope if this happens again. Her depression adds a terrible dimension to everything she goes through and really does drag me down too, much as I try not to let it.

I love my parents, and I care for them because I think if I were in the same situation I'd hope someone would do it for me. They're not especially high dependency yet, and the care I provide is mainly trying to help them cope with daily things like shuttling them from hospital appointments, getting groceries, household chores etc. but with time I imagine their needs will increase.

I have no friends here as I left this town quite young, and I worry how I would cope if I lost them both and found myself here with no support system. I feel like if I don't go back to 'my life' now I never will, but the other half of me is racked with guilt for even feeling that way. I know there is no easy answer, but is there anything that can help me find my way to a decision?

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This is indeed a tough call that will have to be up to you. One thing you might consider is hiring someone that can do things for them, such as transporting and shopping. If they had someone they can depend on like they depend on you now, you could go back to work. I have a feeling that whichever decision you make you are going to feel guilty and resentful. When someone is old and sick, there is really no right way of doing things. Anything we do feels wrong, because it doesn't fix the primary problem -- they're sick. I think you should choose what is best for all the people involved (including yourself!), then find a support person for them if you decide to go back to your life.

I just thought of the sadness of this decision. In one circumstance, your parents may not be there when you get back. In the other, your own life may not be there when you get back. I don't envy your decision. Big hugs.
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So I made my decision and resigned from my job today. I am sad about it because it is sad. In the end I tried to separate the issue of my sibling (because that's never gonna change) from how I would feel about being home with my parents or not home with them when the time comes. I would hate to sit here in however long lamenting that I should have been at home with them but wasn't because it wasn't 'fair' and my sister lived closer....

So I'm sad, but hopefully not for long. There will be other jobs I'm sure, and my dad is making some progress. Things could be so much worse.

A huge thank you to all of you for your experiences, kind words and insights. Much love.
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You might consider asking mom to hire a geriatric care manager to set up care. Is her depression being treated?

If you dad has chronic leukemia, as did mine, it was 5 years of the er/ice roller coaster. My mom was stalwart through it all, as she was determined to keep dad at home. I guess what I'm saying is that this could be a long ride. I got called home (only an hour away, thank goodness) because daddy wasn't going to make it this time. In your shoes, I think I'd try to set things up so that they have supports (ie, paid help mom can call on when there is an emergency) which you can possibly manage from afar.
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Thanks so much for the replies - I'm still no closer to making a decision but your experiences have been so helpful to read.

My dad has made his latest miraculous recovery and is in good spirits - he had sepsis this time but his organs seem to have recovered and his medical team are delighted with his progress. He suffers with bronchiectasis, COPD and has had fungal pneumonia a number of times in the last 12 months. In my heart of hearts I feel that he hasn't got long left.

My initial post was spurred on by all relatives assuming I'm going to come home, and all my friends telligng me to. I know you can't make siblings care (and I've read many of the tough experiences people have shared on here) but rage I feel toward my sibling makes me feel sick. She lives a 20 minute drive from my parents, doesn't work (neither does her husband though they do care for their child) yet she doesn't visit from on end of the week to the next, unless she wants something (usually a home cooked meal from my mum). Yet when I'm home she magically appears constantly, as if to dispel the opinion she knows I have of her.

I feel like I want to stay, but seeing my mum bend over backwards when my sister demands, and become so upset that my sister doesn't pay them any attention, would make me go stir crazy.
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I may sound like the bad guy here but if I was your parent, I wouldn't want you to sacrifice your future for my care. You are very young and this time the foundation for your career and future life.

Why haven't your parents made a plan for themselves? They are not elderly, they are relatively on the young side of senior status. Let them try to figure this out the best they can.

Maybe you can arrange extra time off without pay to visit without jeopardizing your job status?

And, finally let the other sibling step up to the plate. Unfortunately, many siblings let another sibling do the entire task unless their hand is forced.

Don't feel guilty. This is your life. I moved in with my parents, sold my house and left the area I liked to help them but I was 60. The upside was that I was actually closer to my job so it took some stress off me. The downside was that living with them turned out impossible.

Hugs. I know you want to do what is "proper" in your mind and heart but I'm sure your parents don't want you sacrificing yourself for them.

Bottom line question: what would they do if you weren't around--and I mean like gone, dead, abducted by aliens gone. They would have to cope and find a way, right?
Helpful Answer (6)

I'm glad you haven't made the decision yet. It sounds like you will be very unhappy if you return to your parents at this time, especially if they stay alive and well for a long time and you've meanwhile given up everything in your life and treated it like a major crisis.

I'm curious about the sibling. Where does he/she live? Are your parents asking you to move back from overseas instead of seeking help from a sibling who may be much closer. If I were you, I certainly would not move back with the expectation of doing it all alone. I would agree to move back only if there was going to be a 50/50 split with the sibling and if your parents were willing to expend whatever they could on their own care. If they can afford assisted living, maybe that's the best solution. And you can Skype with them daily to make sure it's all going well. I just would not make an irrevocable decision to jump into a situation that's already making you feel resentful and desperate.
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Thanks so much for the replies, it's lovely to have support, even if only online!

My sibling lives 15 miles away and has a small child. Both them and their spouse lost their jobs in the crash and neither works outside the home. It's always been so that they don't assist, even before they had their child my parents would rarely see them, the only difference being that the excuse used now is that they're busy with the baby.

My parents haven't asked me to move home at all, I guess I'm the one feeling compelled to do it. My mum cared for her own elderly mother for many years through dementia and as a result has become a champion for kids going to lead their own lives! The care system for the elderly in the country they live is very poor, assisted living doesn't exist here and in many ways they're still incredibly independent.

My dad had acute leukemia (following radiotherapy for prostate cancer) which has been in remission thankfully since late 2012. His frequent trips to hospital are for fungal lung infections, the most recent of which started when my mum found him unconscious on the floor. The condition my mum has is usually slow growing but no-one can know for sure. In a twist of irony they are both under the care of the same hematologist who is very kind and looks after them both very well.

I know it's an impossible decision really, no-one knows how long either of them has, and my mum would be so sad if she felt I was putting my life on hold for them.
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glasker, I think your mum answered your question for you. See if they know someone who is trustworthy and they can hire when they need help. You can keep up with them and be there fairly quickly if it became urgent. What Babalou wrote makes a lot of sense to me.
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glasker, here is one way to look at this tough decision.... I bet your Dad was the breadwinner in his household, did he give up his job to care for his parents or your Mum's parents?

Would you parents be able to hire a taxi to take them to doctor appointments? A housekeeper to come in once a week or every other week to clean? Does your area have on-line grocery shopping with home delivery, assuming your parents are still able to use a computer? That way your parents will be able to feel they are still independent by setting up these things themselves. It's something to think about.
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I thought about this some and realized that you did what you thought you needed to do. I'd love to read more as you work your way through this. I hope that all things work together for the best.
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