Follow
Share

Hello all. I was a caregiver of my mother and father for 20 years. The first 10 years I lived outside the US but took every vacation to come home and help out and was actually able to arrange to work from my hometown some so that I could stay and help look after my parents. That situation cost me my long-term relationship, led to taking a loss when selling my home and eventually moving back to the US. Two months after I arrived which I thought could be a temporary situation, my father fell and broke his hip. My mother was in a wheelchair from a massive stroke that she had had in 2000. I then with the help of a rotation of sitters became their full-time guardians, financial planner, yard person, health care advocate, and anything else you can possibly imagine.


My mother died in 2012 and my father was put on the hospice in December 2019. He passed peacefully in his sleep in January 2020. The last three months of his illness were emotionally draining. He was constantly calling out for help and trying to physically escape the evitabile by constantly trying to climb out of the bed. He was always made as comfortable as possible. I was able to maintain my promise and keep him at home until the end.


In the past and particular after a long business trip that took me to China, I started experiencing about every year some intestinal issues that were cleared up after some antibiotics and rest.


During that last three months of my father’s illness, I started to have some intestinal issues but I was so busy looking after his situation and maintaining a full time job, two households, a full time relationship so I pushed it aside. However once the funeral was over and the new normal set in I was able to finally focus on myself and realize that the intestinal issues hadn’t resolved themself.


I did go to the doctor and they started a treatment for IBS which has provided some relief but not all and I have a follow up appointment on Thursday.


After dedicating 20 years to my parents, my greatest fear was always to get to the end and then find myself with some life-threatening disease that would not leave give me any time to enjoy my own life. All the blood work that was taken during my physical and my other exams have all turned out fine but the uneasiness and fear continues.


So to my question...did anyone else start experiencing health issues after the passing of your loved one that you were caring for that you found were attributable to stress? Part of me honestly thinks that this is all due to the incredible stress that I have been under for so long. I’ve also experienced the loss of my brother (who was no help with my parents and created only anguish) in April of last year, the loss of a dear cousin in September of last year, the death of my father in January and 2 days later the death of his niece.


It’s been a long 20 years, my friends. Thanks for listening and I welcome any comments.

Stress kills and if it hasn't killed you, it creates a lot of other problems along the way. I disagree with cwillie that stress doesn't cause illness. It does. I had health issues 20 years ago from dealing with a toxic mother in law for years. Once I got away from her, my indigestion and unexplained pain in my shoulder magically disappeared. Fast forward to my 50's and being a caretaker for my mother and that pain in my shoulder came back, but much worse now, along with the indigestion and several other health problems. Even my hair was falling out from it. My sibling, who helped me, has been hospitalized and is having other serious problems. We may be older now and less able to handle stress but stress can get you in many ways!
Helpful Answer (14)
Reply to Tiredandweary
Report

I think we get, out of necessity, so immersed in all the tasks and mental and emotional aspects of caregiving...and then...they die...and it's done in blink, and we are left going "what now??" And it all boils up and can knock us for a loop. There is, I'm sure you know, a mind/body connection and this even sounds a bit like PTSD...it's just coming out in your weak spot, of your intestinal issues. It's like you're still mourning all these losses, and still on hyperalert to caregive for the next crisis or calling out...because it was all you 24/7. My guess would be regardless of the attention to the physical, you might benefit from finding someone you feel safe talking to if you can swing it...even once a month...and maybe some sort of very relaxing exercise be it walking or chair yoga even...It's also very soon after your dad's loss... take good care...
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to gdaughter
Report
memsobelle Feb 19, 2020
Thank you so much for your answer. I am glad I made myself go to the gym during their illness. I don’t think I would have survived without it. During these periods my weight has fluctuated but I can see I’n now losing weight due to an unconscious attention to diet, increased uninterrupted sleep and just purely the lack of stress.

thank you for your comments
(3)
Report
memsobelle, I honestly thought my parents [90+] were going to outlive me due to all the stress I was under being my folks refused to move from a home that had a lot of stairs and both were major fall risks. Every time the phone rang it throw me into sheer panic. Mom refused caregivers. I wasn't hands-on [lived under my own roof], but the logisticals were exhausting especially since I was still working full time and my Manager was like the character in the movie "The Devil Wears Prada". So there was stress coming and going.

While helping my parents I developed breast cancer and there were no markers, and my surgeon said she was seeing more and more cases like this, where stress was the major factor. And silly me, I never told my parents about my cancer as I didn't want to worry them..... huge mistake.

My parents have since passed and I am still looking over my shoulder wondering if the cancer would come back. Since I had to drive my folks all over hill and dale, using their car [yes, my father's Oldsmobile], I developed major panic attacks while driving. Heavens, a senior [me 65+] driving much older seniors in a car that I really hated [my Mom wasn't able to climb up into my Jeep]. Those panic attacks are still alive and well, even with meds :P

Before my parents started to need help, I was doing pretty good, was a gym rat :) Sig other and I could easily hike 20 miles in a weekend. Today, I can't even hike around the block. That 7 years took a major toll on my health.

My bucket list is now a thimble.
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to freqflyer
Report
memsobelle Feb 19, 2020
I am so so sorry to hear this. My greatest fear was to get to the end of this mission and then find myself I’ll because it happens to sooo many.

I did make myself go to the gym throughout and try to take care of myself but it was hard.

Slowly I’m coming out of my tummy issues but it will probably always be my weak point.

i wish you peace and good health.
(3)
Report
See 1 more reply
Not sure that there isn't one person on this site that can't understand or identify with what you have gone through. And yes, going through so much in the last 10 to 12 years did take it's toll on me. My dad passed away in May, my mom 4 years ago and my sister 6 years ago. Add to it that during all of this my husband had his own health issues with several heart procedures. I used to love to do things: golf, go out, volunteer at church, travel, exercising and be spontaneous. I've lost some of that. Not all but a lot. Not really depression but I haven't done them in such a long time just hard to get back into it. I always think.....tomorrow. My body is broken right now. I told myself it was ok to sit back and not do ONE thing for a while. After all the dr. appts., hospital visits, financial mtgs. and running errands and that was just for mom and dad let alone trying to take care of my husband and our home. Give yourself some time to just breathe. You've been through a long arduous journey. Hopefully your health will improve with time or at least can be controlled with little to no pain. My thoughts and prayers go out you and all the others on this site that are doing the best they can and are hanging on by their weakened fingertips. Good Luck and Blessings to each one of you.
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to pargirl
Report
memsobelle Feb 22, 2020
Blessings And prayers to you, too! We are all in this boat together and over the years this site and each of you have been a precious ally. I truly don’t know what I would have done without this site and all of you.

Please take care of yourself. I wish you all the best.
(1)
Report
I think it can be common for the caregiver to "fall apart" when they are given a break from caregiving. For example, when my daughter was born, my MIL came to visit after putting FIL in a nursing home for respite care due to his dementia. MIL had a heart attack in my living room! They had to zap her numerous times in the ambulance and she needed 5 bypass surgery.

Before that, she just kept pushing through, because she "had" to.

I'm fairly confident that you will get your health issues straightened out and be able to enjoy your life!!
Helpful Answer (5)
Reply to againx100
Report
memsobelle Feb 16, 2020
What a story! I hope your MIL is ok!

Thank you for your kind words. I wish you all the best.
(1)
Report
JacobSonBob:

Outdoor activity, especially gardening, hiking, backpacking or other activity by which people interact with nature, as opposed to contemporary society  (traffic jams, crazy drivers, texting, online gaming, etc.) have proven to be very relaxing, diversionary, and helpful.

Good article from a backpacking forum:

https://backpackinglight.com/nature-therapy-backcountry-mindfulness-wellness/

(hint:  if you open the link in IE, the photos are deleted.  Edge shows them though.)

The concept of "forest bathing" is one that addresses communion with nature, and is becoming more broadly known in the outdoor communities:

https://time.com/5259602/japanese-forest-bathing/

My sister and I discovered this decades ago, probably when we were both teenagers and visited Mackinac Island.    We found and spent some time in a forest scented with the odor of pine; we were surrounded by greenery and felt as if we were living a Green Mansions life.  

FreqFlyer and GDaughter also addressed issues related to the stress of caregiving, the sometimes rapid response required, the acclimation to it, and the sometimes abrupt cessation when someone dies.   

I think that phenomenon and related issues are why caregiving needs to be addressed by the medical, psychological, and psychiatric communities as a form of PTSD (now PTSS - syndrome as opposed to "disorder").  
Helpful Answer (5)
Reply to GardenArtist
Report
memsobelle Feb 18, 2020
It is definitely PTSS. Thanks for sharing!
(3)
Report
See 1 more reply
memsobelle: I had to do a doubletake reading your post. My 95 year old mother just passed on New Years Eve, after being in hospice care for a week. Cause of death was Advanced Dementia and Congestive Heart Failure. The last year in particular was very difficult, for both of us. She was in a Memory Care Unit at a good facility, but the stress and strain of caring for her, and watching the horrible descent into the ravages of the disease, took a terrible toll on my mental and physical health. Having said that, I, like you, coped with it fairly well over the months by a very active gym schedule and satisfying volunteer work. That all changed radically with her death. I powered through all the issues with the funeral, including dealing with some estranged family members who came crawling out from under the rocks after 20 years! to see what they could get. They subjected me to on-line bullying and harassment through the whole process so I shut down my own social media account. After the funeral and out of town family left, I was flattened...at some point during the preceding weeks I had badly sprained my already arthritic left knee. The pain was excruciating. And I'm not sure even "how" I injured it - I was so pumped with adrenaline that I wasn't even aware I had hurt myself until the adrenaline that had been coursing through my body for 3 weeks started to dissipate. I'm now finishing a month of physical therapy for the knee which has improved to about 90% usage, more stiffness now than pain - and have resumed some of my gym activities. However, two weeks ago, my IBS symptoms of years, reared their ugly heads. I've never had such an awful attack. Dicyclomine and antibiotics, now just finishing those and relatively better. It's ALL STRESS - and it's clear from what others have written and my own experience that it's "normal" and explicable.
One of my gym friends (who also went through some of these issues) noted that it's like you've been climbing a mountain for a long time to sustain "where" you had to keep yourself to take care of your loved one for such a long time. Their passing throws you off a cliff...and you can't expect that you'll just dust yourself off, stand up, and climb easily back to the point of feeling good again. It will take time, I'm learning. I'm right there with you. Keep up with the physical activity, socialize to the extent you can, work at getting back to some sense of normalcy when you feel you can...but give yourself the gift of time to heal. Don't be discouraged with the "bad days" - everyone has them, ours feel a little more intense at present. And stay in touch here. This forum is a wonderful place to come. Big hugs!
Helpful Answer (5)
Reply to ESP505
Report
Hermacj Feb 20, 2020
Thanks for your reply I lost my husband in November 2019 after being in hospice with bone cancer. After his death I am having knee problems which I never had before. Going to therapy now hope it gets better I don’t want a knee replacement. Not sure how my knee problem started probably all the up and down and walking I did for him and squeezing around his bed to pull him up. Thanks
(2)
Report
See 1 more reply
Yep! IBS is definitely triggered by stress. I have dealt with it for 20 years now. My mom is a strong trigger for mine. And she just keeps “keeping on”. She’s in great health at 93. It’s sad really how they suck the life and health out of us without a thought or care. I am drawing boundaries but it takes strength and energy to hold the line. Good luck to you now. Your time starts now.
Helpful Answer (5)
Reply to Momsgoto
Report
memsobelle Feb 22, 2020
I wish you all the best and hope your mother continues to be in excellent help and your able to set the boundaries you need. Thanks for your answer.
(0)
Report
I'd like to suggest you embark on an intensive program of caregiving for yourself now. Some ideas include grief support groups, yoga, engaging a good therapist and psychiatrist for relief from anxiety, depression, and possible PTSD, pursuing a long held passion, goal or acquiring a new skill from your bucket list such as learning a new language, travel, art. Massage therapy, surrounding yourself with positive, life-affirming people, etc. can be wonderfully helpful. Having excellent medical providers are obviously a key component as well. Studies in several disciplines including medicine, geriatrics, and health psychology have definitively shown many measurable negative health effects directly attributable to stress. Perhaps best known is of course cardiac events but many other negative health outcomes have been shown to be the result of stress, especially when it is long term. Insurance company actuarials actually lower the expected length of life of people experiencing stress. In other words, unmitigated stress can even kill so keep up your attention to your health and wellbeing. You're aware of your needs for self care and it sounds like you're dedicated to healing your body, mind and spirit. There are so many great ideas here in these responses! I need to do them myself and now I plan to! You have inspired me.
Helpful Answer (4)
Reply to LesleeCares
Report
memsobelle Feb 22, 2020
I wish you good health and healing for you, too.

Regarding your comment about a bucket list, two years ago I started studying American Sign Language and it has been a fascinating journey. Who knows, one day I may be good enough to actually provide a service to someone!

Thank you for your sweet comments.
(0)
Report
Me, myself and I.
I feel your anguish and sorrow. So much of your story is mine and I won’t rehearse it. Suffice it to say, God bless you for all you’ve done for your parents over the years. Maintaining their sense of dignity and respect. Pushing through even beyond your breaking point. You continued, often without encouragement or help from family. Now take care of you, as you did them. Find yourself, again and do you. Be positive. Smile, read, look, laugh, pray...repeat.
My 92 year old mom is yet living and she is doing better than I am. My health issues came about while caring for her. I do understand.
Helpful Answer (4)
Reply to OhMyMe2
Report
pargirl Feb 20, 2020
Big Hugs......
(1)
Report
See 1 more reply
See All Answers

Ask a Question

Subscribe to
Our Newsletter