My mom was one of ten children. Four have already passed; the rest are in twilight years and varying stages of decline. One died this past month; another has severe congestive heart failure; a third is wheelchair bound and near totally disabled; one is in hospice care and preparing to die from stage 4 cancer. (To add to the misery several of these folks smoked for decades so the illness and suffering possibly could have been prevented. Don't get me started on what I think of tobacco companies!)

Unfortunately a couple of these folks were bad with money so there's no savings for assisted living or in home care; also, the original 10 siblings in most cases only had one child themselves, or no children. So we cousins and whoever else is available are hustling trying to caregive. To make matters worse, several of the cousins have ill spouses, disabled children, etc.

My main issue, however, is Mom's sister with heart failure - she and my mother have been like twins for over 80 years. My mother is spending a lot of time taking care of her, and she's calling me a lot to vent. (I'm doing some cooking and various helping for her but not as much hands on care as Mom.) I'm close to this aunt myself so it's hard for me to be objective about the situation. Honestly, this one on its own would be very difficult without the other severe illnesses happening in the background.

I know I probably should try to find some kind of support but honestly I don't know where to start. Should I get counseling myself? Should I urge my mother to get counseling - I'm not sure how she'd even go considering how much time she's spending on my aunt (which functionally means I've lost my mother too because all of her time and mental energy are going to take care of other family members.) She's also using this as an opportunity to start making 'gloom and doom' statements about how she herself will likely be incapacitated by illness at some point relatively soon - which is probably true but I just can't mentally deal with that right now.

I just feel like my whole life has been taken over by a black cloud. Adding to the issue is that spouse's & my investments aren't doing well and I really REALLY need to get a job, but how can I do that when so many people need care - and a new job won't give flexibility for time off for trips to the doctor, visiting in the hospital, that kind of thing.

I know many would just say the elders need to fend for themselves and my own financial security should be paramount but my family is very close and that attitude just does not work for me. Any advice appreciated. 💗

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Quick question, who will be supporting you and your husband in the future if you do not get your financial house in order? Do you want your kids to be in the same position in 20 years? Do you expect your kids to give up opportunities to get ahead to provide your care than thus put the future of yet another generation at risk?

Think about the sorts of jobs that do offer flexibility? My cousin has cleaned houses for the past 30 years. She started when her son started school and only worked during school hours. She made sure she had time built into her schedule for shopping, her own housework and a hair business she ran out of the house. She earns over $30/hour cleaning houses.

Get a job working evenings. You would be available during the day for your family, but able to work 4-5 hours each evening. 20-25 hours a week helps the budget. Work weekends, again 16 hours a week put right into your retirement savings.

I worked 6 days a week for 4 of the last 6 years of my marriage. I picked up the odd shift with a catering company on my day off.

Taking care of your own family's financial needs does not mean you turn your back on your Mum's family.

Now to the black cloud. That is depression and you need to get help for it. Therapy, perhaps medication, but you need help. I have lived under the cloud of depression and I know how debilitating it can be. I have also come through the other side a much healthier person.
Helpful Answer (7)

I completely understand and share your desire to help take care of the family, even at a short term sacrifice of your own financial well being. The black cloud is not just the sadness of seeing elderly LOs decline, it's also the stress of dealing with things beyond your control creating a feeling of having your own life out of control. Financial stress only adds to it too. Working while stressing out about what you're not doing for your LOs would be very stressful too. You got to find some balance. Do what you can and accept there are limits on what any single individual can do.

First, look over your expenses and see what you can reduce. While earning good money I got into some costly habits including a fair amount of restaurant or prepared meals and ready to serve groceries. When I took time off to care for my parents, I was able to return to the more frugal practices I used before those good money jobs came my way. I cut my grocery bill by 2/3 while actually eating better by shopping sales, cooking in volume and freezing the extra for later. I dropped cable, put up some indoor HDTV antennas for local channels, and purchased much cheaper streaming services. I don't need a DVR when the streaming services offer a lot of on demand content. I dropped a landline phone I seldom used.

Second, consider some jobs with non-traditional work hours. There are a number of jobs that do not require full time days; they do not pay as much as full time employment but maybe its enough to help and still give you large blocks of time for eldercare. In our area, the school systems always need bus drivers to work a 2-3 hour block morning and mid afternoon; the pay is only about $15/hr for 30-36 hours a week but it includes health insurance and participation in the state's pension plan. A lot of restaurants and other service businesses want workers in 4 hour shifts and need dependable workers enough to schedule with some flexibility. Our rural transit system for elders and the disabled accepts part-time drivers for morning or afternoon shifts of 4-6 hours with a 3-6 day work week. You don't need time off if your work schedule is mostly outside "office hours".

Third, see how much help is available from governmental sources. Contact your local Area Agency on Aging and what services each of your elders qualify to receive. Bathing assistance, in home personal care and housekeeping hours, transportation services and adult day care for those still healthy enough to attend could provide some coverage assistance. Don't delay consulting AAA because your elders own their homes or have some savings. There are some programs based on income and the need for assistance alone.

Fourth, check out local churches to see what help they may provide. A lot of the churches in our area offer at least some help on request. One neighbor is picked up 3 days a week by a church member for a "walking" trip to the mall and usually breakfast/coffee break before returning home. Another church circle cooks meals on a elderly couple's restricted diet and delivers them each day. Since each circle lady fixes a meal every two weeks, they plan on keeping this up indefinitely.

Fifth, make a list of small things someone else _could_ do. Whenever someone says "let me know if you need anything" open the list and ask what task they would like to take. A lot of people really are willing to help but have no idea how. Pick up vitamins and/or medications? Shine/clean some shoes? Take the car to a car wash? Wash some dishes? Make a casserole or cake? Unload the dishwasher? Sweep the porches?

Sixth, make a plan to take care of yourself. Develop a quick stress reliever like deep breathing or stepping out on a porch to enjoy a cup of coffee. Longer ones like an uninterrupted meal or movie night with you spouse, a soaking bath, walks around the neighborhood, etc. You have to take care of yourself to be able to care for others.
Helpful Answer (4)

Financial: go to and post your portfolio to get help in figuring out why your investments aren't doing well.

Emotional: make an appointment with YOUR doctor and get a referral for treatment for your depression.

Are you in the US? Are your relatives not eligible for Medicaid?
Helpful Answer (3)

WOW! Thank y'all so so much everyone. There is some pure gold here. I can't believe you took so much time to write out and post such terrific ideas.

I'm going to think on some of this and Google resources folks mentioned. I think getting a part time job is a good idea. I've been trying to sell things on secondhand websites like eBay but working from home is a little problematic because folks think I'm "not doing anything" and it's not a problem to ask me to run errands or what have you.

A couple of people asked about Medicaid: yes they do qualify, but the two for whom I'm most hands on - heart failure aunt and wheelchair bound aunt - are fighting tooth and nail to stay where they are (one owns a home that isn't worth much, the other is living in a home owned by one of my cousins). Cousins and Mom are working to take care of them but perhaps if I made myself somewhat more unavailable Medicaid care might become an option. Definitely something worth thinking about.

I think I'll make some calls Monday about getting some counseling help for myself. I'm just not thinking clearly because other people are so upset about the health crises and calling me a lot to vent. But I do have the right to take care of myself.

Thanks again, so much everyone. 💗💗
Helpful Answer (1)

Dear H.; You DO know that you can own a home and still get Medicaid, right? A lot of folks have loads of misconceptions about Medicaid based on fear mongering and just plain wrong information that gets circulated.

Also, there is Community Medicaid (that is what you're looking for if the senior is getting services while remaining at home) and Nursing Home Medicaid) when one is in long term care. The eligibility criteria are very different in most states. And if there is a "community spouse"--one who is at home while one is in LTC, then it's even more different. It really pays to know about this stuff.

On more thought on investments; the most typical reason for "not doing well", especially in this bear market, is high expense ratios from actively managed funds and high fees from "financial advisors". Think about low cost index funds and a do it yourself 3 fund portfolio based on your age and desired asset allocation/risk tolerance. Check out Bogleheads.
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The link below walks you through possible federal and state benefits your family members may be eligible for.

That is just a start. Actually applying for benefits is complex and you should find and pay for an expert to help you. It's just not possible for one person to do everything!

Is any family member a combat veteran, spouse of a combat veteran, or widow of a combat veteran? If so, there is $$ from the VA available--even for assisted living.

Psychologically and emotionally, you MUST wrap your head around the idea that these people can no longer care for themselves or each other. You can no longer rely on them for anything, even basic common sense. THEY CAN'T DO A DARN THING! NONE OF THEIR IDEAS WILL EVER MAKE SENSE! You must set aside their opinions and grievances, and focus only on #1 what works for YOU, and #2 the safest, simplest, least-expensive options for them.
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Can anyone see this? I wrote a reply a couple of days ago thanking you all for your responses - truly I am blown away both by the good advice and that y'all took so much time to write really thoughtful replies. I appreciate it so much more than I can say.

But I do not see my own reply and I'm not sure this one will post! Will try again in a few hours. 💗💗
Helpful Answer (1)
BarbBrooklyn Nov 2019
We can see! Glad that you are doing okay.

To see your posts, click on your avatar and then "activity".
Perhaps it would help to make decisions based on healthy priorities:

1) Your health and wellbeing are not negotiable. You come first. Period. How can you help others if you fall apart? Put the oxygen mask on yourself first, then help others as is reasonable.
2) your immediate family and their needs / financial support comes in a very close second. Period. They are your responsibility. They will be "along for the ride" if you board the crazy train of caregiving to several ill people without resources. It wouldn't be fair to them.

Does this seem reasonable? If your other non-immediate family members want to compromise their own #1 and #2, that's their business and they will live with the fallout later on after the LOs have passed. You need clear boundaries for yourself and for the relatives outside your immediate family to understand, and when they are identified you will be more helpful to your dear LOs. Your mom is operating out of fear, sadness and pure emotion. Hopefully she won't tank her own health and finances in the process. Blessings!
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Almost 2 years ago, you wrote:

"More on my own situation.... my mom is really trying to make virtually all of her problems, my problem, in the sense that despite possessing an advanced professional degree, she retired at 55, saved no money to speak of for retirement and is concerned about losing her house on top of not being able to pay for care. I've hinted around at, if not virtually outright said, that I'm not prepared to give up my career or liquidate my own retirement account for her benefit b/c I'm childfree myself and won't have anyone to help *me* when the time comes, so I better save all the money I can. Also, mom has serious control-freak issues, so I don't see moving her into my house until she's so incapacitated by age or illness she can't fight me over every stupid piddling thing. 

Not sure what we're going to do, since the town we live in has developed super expensive real estate in the past few years. Even a lots-smaller apartment would be more expensive than the mortgage mom has now. I told her I'd help her pay the mortgage but only if I can get my name on the title (to stop my mentally ill half brother from taking me to court later to get the house and my investment in it, another whole long story.) She said no go, so I'm trying not to worry about it - so hard when they refuse to do things to make things easier for you and still want to complain that you're not doing enough for them. 

It's hard, but we can - and must - do it to save ourselves. So hard when the person you looked up to and who took care of you for years develops behavior that's a lot like a whining toddler, but that's where a lot of us are, sadly."

As you say, we MUST save ourselves, dear.
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