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Only child to elderly parents.

(24 Posts)
val4 Tue 14-Jul-15 18:05:07

I need your perspective please. I am an only child living in same town as parents. I am married ,have 4 children and recently gave up work due to health issues. My Dad 85, was diagnosed with advanced cancer at Christmas, and is now (contently), in a local nursing home. My mother, 70, visits him daily, as do I. I have always known that they both depend on me for all things but they have always been a v close couple.
Since my father's diagnosis, my mother has totally fallen apart and I deal with doctors, nursing home as she is "not able for it" . I visit my dad every morning and my mum visits every afternoon/evening. She Rings Me Every Night With Blow My Blow Account of what he ate , said etc. I have my own health problems and am finding it increasingly difficult to deal with the intense weight on my shoulders. I feel my 4 children are pulling me one way and my parents/guilt pulling me the other way.
Last month I reached crisis point (mentally) and we decided to go on sun holiday for 2 weeks. I made sure my dad was sett led in home and my mother had in laws, friend to call on her. I felt I needed to focus on husband and kids. After 2 days (I called my mum and nursing home daily) my mum said my dad was getting week er and she was v nervous that he was going downhill fast. After a few days I asked her if she would preferred if we came home (we were in portugal), and she said we should. So we got earlier flight and all came home week early.
Since we got back my Dad has rallied around but I feel I'm back on treadmill again. I am supposed to have more surgery for gone problem s, but my mum said she hoped I wasn't going to be out of action as I am needed! I never saw my mum as selfish but she has always had my Dad to mind her and I suppose she is frightened of being alone.
I can't help feeling laden down. I have chronic pain and often have days when I find dealing with my own kids difficult, never mind my parents on top of it. Last night my mum rang to tell me that she hadn't slept in 2 nights as my Dad's bed had been moved in room and he was confused, and I wasn't there to make decision of where bed should be!! I was on holiday.
I know this is going to get worse as Dad deteriorates. Am I selfish to be feeling resentful? How can I stay positive and on top of things?
So sorry for long post but feel I cannot talk to anyone (as am always so strong and capable! )

PurpleWithRed Tue 14-Jul-15 19:41:54

You are being perfectly reasonable and need to set some boundaries: you can't sacrifice your children to help your mum do what she should be able to manage herself. Grit your teeth, cut down the visits and don't make all the decisions.

roundandroundthehouses Tue 14-Jul-15 19:55:31

That sounds very tough on you. I understand that your Mum is going through a very hard time, but (unless she has issues that you haven't mentioned) she really isn't that old and shouldn't be leaning on you so heavily. My own Mum is 86, very frail and confused, and even she has an instinct to protect me and my dsis, and not be a "burden" on us. (This brings problems of its own, but that's another story!)

I'm going to be very hard-headed and practical here, as those of us in our position often have to be. Once your Dad has gone, you don't want to have set a pattern where your mother, at "only" 70, is already relying on you to prop her up emotionally and practically. In 5/10/15 years she may well be frail and ill, and you'll be the only one there for that. So while she's still relatively sprightly, and your children are at home with you, they need to be your priority. She has to understand that.

I would perhaps stop being so "strong and capable" for a while. Let her see that she isn't the only one who is having a hard time. You should both be supporting each other - it isn't just a one-way street.

val4 Tue 14-Jul-15 20:43:47

Thank you for replies. You are right that my mother needs to start standing on her own feet. She is fully mobile and is a v active 70 yr old with no major health issues. She is v close to myself and my children and they love her. I suppose the problem is that my Father always really looked after her and she never had to make major decisions herself. Hopefully this will happen with time. It is v difficult to step back as I feel v guilty if I'm not available 24/7. I know that is silly and my problem. (Long story.... she really is my Aunt and took me in at 5 yrs when my parents died tragically) . All my life I have tried to be "good little girl"and not upset them. Don't get me wrong , they never made me feel beholden to them and always loved me like there own child. I just never wanted to hurt them and now I suppose I still feel I have to make sure that they are not upset. Looking back at my post it is clear that I obviously have issues that I need to address. I suppose I have to try not to be the one who ho is so strong and capable. It is v difficult to change habits of a lifetime!

butterfly133 Tue 14-Jul-15 20:52:32

oh you poor thing
I really feel for you
I have 2 parents in late 70s with health issues and I have health issues too....I asked them to step back a couple of years ago because they did similar things. I don't mind giving practical help - I do mind having them on the phone daily telling me Every Single Thing That Happened at the Doctor's Appointment today.

I did the right thing because it's surprising how quickly capable people can turn everything over to the younger person - I'm nearly 40 - and brush aside health issues. I totally understand how you feel.

Re surgery, what does your mum "need" you for and how else can it be provided?

DP has also had issues with his parents - who live really far away - because they refused to get carers in when they were entitled to it. They actually thought it was okay to call him for weekends to do practical things. So I'm wondering if your mum needs help, how else can she get it? And if she can afford to pay, will she - because sometimes I know people won't, not because of cost but because of a stranger in the house etc. You mention pain so clearly you can't do a lot of practical nursing stuff either?

Sorry to say it but with some people it can be a thing - they won't take a hint and you have to speak out. I have to remind my parents periodically about my health issues. They always look shocked. It's so weird, it's like they can't shake the idea that a younger person can't have physical health problems!

val4 Tue 14-Jul-15 21:08:19

You are right butterfly. I don't think they really get that I am in pain and barely able to cope some days. My gyne says I need to have abdominal surgery to alleviate adhesions from numerous surgeries, as they are causing problems with bowel and pelvic pain and I have large cysts caught up with scar tissue. I think that my mother is afraid that Dad will get worse when I am " out of action", and she needs to know that I am on call to deal with Dad's doctor s etc.

val4 Tue 14-Jul-15 21:11:55

My mother has a sister in law who calls every morning and helps with ironing etc. She also has cleaner every 2 weeks. She drives and is totally mobile, so really doesn't need any practical help at moment. I think it is moral support can decision making that she is having problems with.

butterfly133 Tue 14-Jul-15 21:35:15

Right, I see. I have sort of had the "moral support" thing but it can be quite problematic because ultimately the decision is in the hands of the patient, in my humble opinion.

I did also raise that with a brain full of other problems, it might be fairer to raise this with others, but they have so many friends who are also ill, it can be hard. Do you feel able to say that you need a break even from the worry and the conversations?

val4 Tue 14-Jul-15 21:50:25

I don't know if I can say that to her. She constantly tells others that she does not know what she would do without my help and support. While it is nice to be appreciated cit does put even more pressure von me and makes it v difficult to step back. I think I will talk to my doctor about surgery and then tell my mum that I need to go ahead with it.

annandale Tue 14-Jul-15 21:56:12

This sounds so exhausting. Does your dad not worry about you?

Could your partner pick up the phone more often? Say every other day to start with? Train him to say that you are too tired to speak tonight, and you will catch up tomorrow night?

Then also pick a day or two in the week not to go to see your dad?

butterfly133 Tue 14-Jul-15 22:43:21

val, that sounds so familiar! I know it's not fun to have an honest conversation but I do think it's better that I had it. Otherwise, I honestly think they'd be on the phone twice a day with updates of the Latest Depressing News.

It's too long to go into but I did also try the tactic of "can't talk, must lie down, too tired" and it simply made her alarmed. So I had to explain - I'm also an introvert by the way - that I felt much of the time I actually wasn't helping them, but rather indulging them and then the cost to me was my other relationships, because I'd run out of energy to deal with those. I was very careful and very calm about it and even though mum in particular tells the world she can't manage without me, she did back off a bit.

You must go ahead with your surgery if that is what is needed. She cannot discourage you from taking care of yourself on the off chance that she might need you for something.

Meanwhile, is it worth trying to distract her by talking about nice things? I do find that I can sidetrack the Depressing News updates with talk of politics or even what's on TV or just whatever nice news might be doing the rounds.

val4 Tue 14-Jul-15 23:03:22

Butterfly, you seem to have great insight into my challenges! I will make effort to step back little particularly now that 4 children are on holiday from school. In fairness she will be first to say how busy I am with kids etc ,but when 'crisis' hits she forgets that and leans on me completely! Will try and be stronger. As they say steps! Thanks for taking time to answer. I hadn't meant to off load so much information, but once I start.. .!

Melfish Tue 14-Jul-15 23:16:57

Val, I too am an only with elderly parents, well parent as DF passed away. DM had a stroke not long after he died and is in hospital. I visit 3 times a week, it used to be daily but I really couldn't cope with going every day on top of working and dealing with DC. It was more a time thing rather than anything else, dealing with the guilt is the worst. I felt bad as Mum used to visit DF every day when he was in hospital and I wondered if she expected me to provide a similar 'service'. However she had no other committments and also had me to do visiting to spread the load, whereas I have no other regular support to call on. Now Mum has moved to a hospital further from me I have an excuse to assauge my guilt as it takes far longer to go there daily.
Could you perhaps scale down your visits to your Dad to 5 times a week to allow yourself a bit of time to do other stuff?
You must sort out your health needs; so many people are dependent on you keeping well that it is essential that you stay in good health. You can always tell your mother that you will be less able to help if you are ill- would she get the hint?
Mum (before being ill) was totally useless regarding sorting stuff out on her own as DAd did it all, or so I thought. I told her she had to sort out things like paying her own bills and explained that I could not do this for her as I did not have PoA and that the bank tellers would help sort it out. Amazingly she did manage to sort standing orders etc, but you have to be tough about it.
It took DH having a strop to make me realise that the most important thing is to draw a firm line as to how much you can cope with. I must spend time with DC and DH as they are also my family and not completely overwhelm myself with Mum's problems as I cannot solve everything.
I also told Mum that she must not call after 9pm as it would wake the DCs- she had me going there at 3AM on occasion- her guilt regarding waking up DCs was the only thing to work-my lack of sleep is not important - could you try that with your mum?
Your mum seems to have some support from her sister in law, so perhaps allow her to lean on her a bit too.
If yr dad is lucid then surely most decisions regarding his care will default to him rather than yr mum?
Sorry to go on, your post struck a chord with me.

whataboutbob Wed 15-Jul-15 13:53:22

Just wanted to say you are all trying very hard, and I understand what it's like even though my situation is somewhat different now, as Dad's dementia has progressed he is no longer able to get to the phone (and ring me 20 times a day, as was his habit). I think asserting yourself becomes necessary at some point in the process. With my Dad the moment came when he repeatedly hit DS1 and DH found out. DH told him quite categorically that if he was ever to hit him again, he would no longer be welcome in our home. The hitting stopped immediately. He had enough sense to know it was not in his interests. I think elderly people can become so focused on their own needs and vulnerabilities that they are virtually oblivious to others' preoccupations. It is OK indeed necessary to put one's foot down every once in a while, and it sounds OP like you know the time has come. That doesn't mean you are selfish, unappreciative of what they did for you etc. But you can't let your feelings of obligation mean you are run ragged. Once your mother understands that a new deal is on the table, she will realise there's no point complaining and will probably adapt and make the best of it.

val4 Wed 15-Jul-15 14:06:44

Thank you all so much for your advice. It really helps to write it all down and get another prospective. Today my mum rang to say that the priest was calling to Dad today for anointing and Dad wanted someone else there. Previously I would have jumped in and felt obliged to be there. I didn't, and told my mom that I was preparing my daughter for camp (she leaves tomorrow for 2 weeks).
I got my younger boys hair cut and then we all visited Dad (when it suited me). For once I didn't feel guilty about putting my children first. The priest is arriving at 2 pm and my mum has gone to home early to meet him (she normally visit s from 3). My mum and Dad are v stressed about this visit, ; but I refuse to get sucked in! It seems that the smallest things are being blown out of all proportion.
I also made appointment with Doc for tomorrow and I will ask her opinion on what I should do re surgery.
Thank you all again��

ImperialBlether Wed 15-Jul-15 14:14:04

Would your mum consider moving into sheltered accommodation near to where you live? She would have a lot of company there and it might relieve you of some of the pressure.

It must be incredibly hard being the only child and having all that responsibility.


val4 Wed 15-Jul-15 15:11:23

She lives just across the road from us and is way too active to think she needs sheltered housing. I think it is in her dealing with Dad and his health issues that she thinks she needs my help, even though he is under palative care and is being excellently cared for in local nursing home. I ye think the problem is that they were incredibly close couple for 45 years and now she finds future without him frightening. That is why she thinks she needs me to take over for her.

ImperialBlether Wed 15-Jul-15 17:36:08

She's trying to make you her new partner, isn't she? It's not fair on you or your family.

twentyten Thu 16-Jul-15 20:44:57

Hi val. It sounds really hard- but other posters are right- you must put your health and that of your dc and dh first. The more you can facilitate help and support for your dm before you are consumed. Please take care.

slippersmum Thu 30-Jul-15 21:51:18

Oh I am an only child with a very needy elderly mother. This is one of the reasons I had 4 dcs. The responsibility is truly overwhelming and I really feel for you. I honestly hope I die before I get to the stage where I affect my dcs life as my mum has done. That sounds awful doesn't it but I just would hate to do it. I cannot go on hol. I have tried but she always has some kind of accident a couple of days before. It's really put a strain on my dh and I and I can see his point. All I can offer you is empathy which prob isn't a great deal of help!!

val4 Wed 12-Aug-15 22:35:46

Hi all, Just latest update. My Dad passed away last week. We are all in a bit if a fog at moment, even though we knew he was not well. My mother is coping surprisingly well. I don't think it has really hit her. I have spent all last week organising funeral , sorting out Dad's pensions etc, and my mum's entitlements now she is a widow. She Rings Me few times day when she thinks of something we/ME must sort out. I am really finding it difficult and have not time to even come to terms with death.
My dh is aware of strain I'm under and spent weekend sorting out some paperwork for her, but due to work commitments he can't help during week. She tells everyone that there is no way she could cope if I wasn't taking care of things. I am aware that I'm going to have to step back at some stage. I am not sleeping and am losing my cool with my kids constantly.I also haven't shed a tear for my Dad even though we were v close. I think I'm on automatic pilot.
My DH that I should just do the once off forms, phone calls etc , and that when my mother gets passed this first stage of shock , she will be able to pick up the reigns herself.She tells me to she knows things are tough on me at moment but would fall apart without my help.
I appreciate all your advice and empathy. It is going to be a tough road and I hope I deal with things properly without hurting my motherm

val4 Wed 12-Aug-15 22:38:56

Sorry for all errors on post. Phone playing up!!

WyrdByrd Thu 13-Aug-15 21:14:08

Hi val, I'm really sorry for your loss thanks .

It's such early days I don't know what to suggest in the practical sense right now, but I hope you manage to get things on a more even keel and have time to be with your own little family and grieve for your dad.

I'm an only of elderly parents too and it's getting increasingly hard to cope. My mum sounds quite similar to yours in that she is very capable on a practical level but extremely needy emotionally which I think makes dealing with her all the more frustrating at times.

Thinking ahead a little, is there any chance her SIL would stay with her for a few days so you could get away for a short break somewhere without mobile reception?

Melfish Thu 13-Aug-15 23:02:04

Val, I'm sorry for your loss. My DM was equally grief stricken when DF died, but in practical terms was useless and basically refused to have anything to do with sorting the funeral or anything else. DM was also v needy emotionally which I found irritating to deal with.

I encouraged my dad's brother and sister to help with the funeral arrangements and between us 3 and the undertaker, sorted it out well. Can you mobilise some of your dad's relatives to help with organising the practicalities e.g. Wake etc? the undertakers are usually very helpful with the other funeral aspects.

Regarding sorting out stuff for your mum, I made the mistake of undertaking the probate myself which isn't hard but is quite time consuming. I know you have more committments than I did so you might want to hand it over to a solicitor to do if you have to apply for Probate. It should be one less thing to do for you. DM has now developed some health probs and I am having to sort out a nursing home for her now and I have found it too much dealing with the aftermath of Probate and her stuff too. I felt like my mum had a monopoly on grief and I don't think I've had a chance to grieve properly myself for my dad. I went for a nice long walk around a local park without my phone which I found helpful but I could do with more.

Enough about my stuff, just to say that the more you can delegate to others or professionals, e.g. Undertakers or solicitors then do it. In hindsight my parents had sufficient funds to do this and I should have passed more to these groups to sort out all the post death stuff out (and if mother complained about cost to just tell her that if she wouldn't help then we'd have to get someone in at cost). It is astonishing how much paper needs to be generated when someone passes away.

It is an odd time between death and the funeral but please give yourself time to think about your dad and delegate as much stuff as possible. As long as it gets done properly it really doesn't matter who does it.

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