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Elderly parents

Am I being selfish for thinking this way?

38 replies

Highflow · 29/03/2023 21:48

My DF is 86, has been in really good health and independent, driving etc up until a year ago when he developed heart failure and aged overnight. He is still able to live alone, gets up and down the stairs, but mobility is very slow now, he has a lot of back pain and gets short of breath.

He has never had many friends, very much a loner, I have always felt he lived his life through me and felt obligated to invite him to many things so he wasn’t lonely.

DM passed away 25 years ago. I’m an only child.
I have 2 primary aged children.

When he became poorly a year ago and realised he needed more help, he asked if he could pay me to reduce my hours at work and ‘look after’ him. I agreed.
A year on and I’m exhausted. I go to him every other day (he lives a 30 minute drive from me).
I take the kids to school then go onto his, take him to Sainsburys or for a coffee to get him out the house, back to his, bit of tidying, take bins out/change bed, cook us both a hot lunch, clear up the kitchen and the leave to pick the kids up from school.
Then the days I’m not going to him, I’m working.
Im physically, mentally, emotionally exhausted because it doesn’t end there, the phone calls about this or that, medical appointments. Then the organising school holidays so I can still go to him
But, if I didn’t do it he would sit alone all day.
He wouldn’t eat properly as he says he is too fatigued to cook anything.

I don’t see my friends, I have no time for me. Im trying for it not to impact the DC, but it does.
Im starting to feel resentful that my life is on hold (I’m late 30’s).
I feel that he thinks because he is paying me, that I am on call to him 24/7.
I have asked about him moving nearer to me so I can nip in and out but he won’t, he likes the countryside he said. I feel there is no compromise from him.
I just want my life back to how it was, but am I selfish for wanting that, he has spent his life bringing me up, it’s my turn to repay him, but I feel so resentful and I don’t know if this is a common feeling?

I’d like to ask him to use the money to employ someone to take him out shopping, I can go back to the work I enjoy and miss and can visit him as I used to… but to me that’s like saying to him ‘I don’t care about you, what I want is more important’

Any advice would be appreciated

OP posts:
FictionalCharacter · 29/03/2023 22:08

You've been very kind but it's not working and you can't go on like this. You're not selfish. It's time for him to get other paid help, because this isn't sustainable for you, especially with two young children.
"he has spent his life bringing me up, it’s my turn to repay him"
No he hasn't! He hasn't looked after you all his life, you're an adult. And that's not how parenthood works anyway.

Highflow · 29/03/2023 22:48

FictionalCharacter · 29/03/2023 22:08

You've been very kind but it's not working and you can't go on like this. You're not selfish. It's time for him to get other paid help, because this isn't sustainable for you, especially with two young children.
"he has spent his life bringing me up, it’s my turn to repay him"
No he hasn't! He hasn't looked after you all his life, you're an adult. And that's not how parenthood works anyway.

Yeah I see what you’re saying. I guess I mean the years he spent bringing me up. Having 2 DC myself I appreciate how a parents life changes and how your child comes first all the time and the impact that has on your own life.
You're right, that’s parenting… but doesn’t make it any easier to have the conversation with my DF that I’m exhausted.
What I’d like is for him to see that and absolve me from the responsibility by suggesting carers himself

OP posts:
RoseMartha · 30/03/2023 00:08

You have to put yourself first. I know this is hard in this situation. I have been there although not in a paid sense. The constant phone calls on their own are draining let alone the rest of it. My sister or I would get a phone call from Mum up to 30 times in an hour about the same thing. Drove me nuts.

My mum is currently in a care home now sadly although they are very nice there.

It is also just a season (a time not an actual season like autumn), this will not be forever and then it will change and be a new normal again and again.

You need to decide what you want do. Maybe take him for a coffee once a week and keep his admin and appointments organised.

Then you need to decide what he needs help with.

It is a difficult conversation to explain to him that he needs carers to pop in a few times a week.

Maybe sit down with him to draw up a list of things that he needs help with.

Have you got power of attorney? Because if not I recommend that you do asap.

I also recommend you call adult social care. They can provide support for you and do a carers assessment for you as well as assessing any needs your dad has and pointing you in the direction of local help and resources.

Also have you looked onto carers allowance to see if you are eligible?

Punkyspunky · 30/03/2023 00:12

I have an elderly relative. Very independent. I have insisted that someone comes in on the days I don’t go to see the. Eventually parent has warmed to them and I am now asking them to take the shopping, for coffee appoints etc. in a way it has been via stealth that I am not needed so much now.

MarshaMelrose · 30/03/2023 01:24

It's so hard. You're either exhausted or guilty.

It seems like his main problem is that he's lonely. Could you get him to go to some day clubs? Often they have a bus that comes and picks them up from their house and then takes them to the club to meet other people. And they arrange day trips out.

And look at getting carers in to break the monotony. My mum had 3 really nice private carers that came for half an hour 4 times a day. They gave her something to eat and did a quick clean round to keep on top of everything. Then a proper cleaner came in once a week and a gardener every other week. And of course we went down to see her to check everything was OK.

Sometimes you have to get others involved to save yourself. Because, honestly, this is a long haul and you can easily burn out. Which sounds ridiculous but everyone who's done it appreciates what you're going through.

This will actually help your dad because he'll get to socialise and honestly it's the boredom and loneliness that really destroys the quality of their life in the end. You could go once a week and take him shopping and out for lunch and just enjoy his company and make memories to treasure.

Youdoyoubabe · 30/03/2023 01:31

Yeah age old and tough question, could he just come and live with you or you with him then it is only one household you are running. If you sell or rent out one of the houses as well then that could help with the finances too. With all due respect he is 86 so this won’t go on for ever, but it could be 15 to 20 years at the most so you do need a plan.

clairea123 · 30/03/2023 01:35

Please be honest and tell him how you feel, how you’re exhausted and it’s too much.
I didn’t. I feel that the years spent caring really impacted on my children as they grew up and has meant that they felt they were never prioritised.
I wish I had done things differently.
if he has the money to pay- he can pay someone else- then when you spend time together you can be the daughter and not putting out bins.
take care. I know how exhausting it is with primary aged children.

Enko · 30/03/2023 01:54

is there any chance of him moving closer to you or is that a complete no go?

I work in retirement and trust me you are going way above what I see many " children" do for their parents. Its important to remember you as well though.

I do get how hard it is to work out and sort out. Start with having a conversation with dad see if you can work something out you both feel ok about. He will remember what it is like having a primary aged kid so perhaps go in from that angle?

finalwhistle · 30/03/2023 07:39

I agree with PP.

I'm in a similar position but not as far down the line (mine is younger and can manage more for himself), and at least my DF lives close by but I definitely feel resentful because mine relies on me so much to get him out of the house (he has ideas about what he'd like to do, but isn't motivated enough to do things yet refuses help with his mental health)

I think when we get to the point when mine needs someone to do all his shopping/housework we will have to have a serious conversation about paying someone to do it, because having the responsibility for him really drags me down. People say "oh well it's payback for him bringing you up" but in fairness he had very little to do with us as kids, he did his own thing while DM did it all.

MereDintofPandiculation · 30/03/2023 08:17

Argue that you’d like to go back to being a daughter, to have quality time with him.

See if he’d qualify for attendance allowance, which isn’t means tested. Easier to spend money that you’re given to look after yourself than to spend your own money.

Can you start by getting someone in on the days you don’t go? Sneak them in from there?

I think you may find some reasonableness in him. Most people who come on here in this sort of situation aren’t getting any payment, the fact he offered to pay suggests he doesn’t think it’s the default duty of the daughter.

cptartapp · 30/03/2023 08:26

Your thinking is back to front.
If he lived and cared about you he wouldn't allow you to jeopardise your career, pension, mental health, time with your family in the prime of your life to run round after him indefinitely. Is that what you'd ask of your busy adult DC?
We scrimp and save all our lives to buy in care as needed and let our DC live their own lives. My DM ended up on BP medication and anti depressants doing this for my GM. It tainted her memory of her irreversibly.
You need to step back. His response will indicate what sort of person he is.

MissedBreakfast384 · 30/03/2023 09:27

What happens if you go on holiday for a week or fortnight ?

Why don't you suggest that you get 2 days off together week ?

Apply for attendance allowance, it is not means tested & carers allowance

Suggest cleaner (who chats to you DF) once a week to help spread the social requirements

You can get repeat medecine delivered free by local pharmacy. Reorder via phone or Internet

Suggest take DF to local library & see if any groups or courses he / you can join
I've seen recently that schools are looking for people to hear children read

Can your DF use the bus or investigate if you can swap bus pass for taxi, check with your council

Do you pay into a private work pension ?
If not you may be missing "free" money/ contributions from your employer too & life insurance

If he won't cook if you don't visit, can you leave something that just needs heating up or he orders take away ?

What would he do if you lived several hours drive away & were not so free to help so regularly ?

Highflow · 30/03/2023 10:23

Thank you for your replies. It’s so nice hearing from people who ‘get it’.
If you haven’t looked after an elderly relative I don’t think you can understand how all encompassing it is… I certainly didn’t before I agreed to look after Dad.

A few good ideas. I have broached a group to him and he looks at me like I have 2 heads. As I said, he’s very much a loner and doesn’t understand the need or warmth that comes from friendship or companionship (but does like mine and my husband company, and his siblings when they were alive). When I’ve said to him I haven’t seen my friend X for a while he sort of shakes his head like ‘silly girl wanting friends’.

I did go on holiday for a week. I was going to get private carers to do welfare calls but he was adamant he could manage if I set him up with a lot of shopping. My friend agreed to be on standby for an emergency.
He was a state when I came back, hardly eaten all week, the occasional ping meals.
But still said it was fine without a carer.

I like the idea of ‘wanting to go back to being his daughter not his carer’, I think I’ll broach it that way.

OP posts:
cptartapp · 30/03/2023 11:38

You have a choice in this OP. Remember that. And your life will pan out as a result of the choices you make.

MissedBreakfast384 · 31/03/2023 04:09

I have a relative of similar age & no siblings

I think that you are doing too much !

Your priority should be you & your own children first

My relative is the similar age, lives alone independently & a weekly cleaner. Neighbours were very helpful during covid restrictions.

I live a several hundred miles away & go away on holidays
I do visit regularly
I do help with hospital appointments, times of illness, other things that need sorting out if I am available
I do take them on a holiday & days out
They don't like using taxis, but will if I am abroad

I strongly suggest that you get a local cleaner/helper to share the load with you

I think that you need more time away

Good luck

MissedBreakfast384 · 31/03/2023 04:16

You do have the choice to go back to work FT & visit your DF in your off work time. He cannot stop you doing this.

I work FT

This may actually be better for both of you ?

You could also use this to implement getting other helpers into his household

Equalitea · 31/03/2023 04:18

It sounds like you’ve been very kind. Too kind. You and your children need to come first! Is he too fatigued to use the microwave? You could visit once a week/month whenever and he could reheat meals you batch cooked in the microwave, or buy ready meals!

If your dad is paying you, he can afford to pay someone else and your relationship can go back to a parent/child one rather than employee/employer. The only concern I have is that he would still be phoning you about appointments etc and you might end up being on call 24/7 for no pay.

Number24Bus · 31/03/2023 04:19

You are not being unreasonable at all OP.

You've tried this, it was kind of you to try it but it's not working out and you're not happy. This could continue for years so you need to act now or you'll be miserable for years. It's all very well to say that he refuses carers, refuses to move house etc. He's not the only one who gets to make choices about his life - now it's your turn to refuse to take on this role. Your decision is just as valid as his choices. Then you can talk to him about alternative options - but only after he's 100% clear that the current situation is not going to continue. He needs to accept that he'll either need to pay for help or move to a retirement living flat. My in laws are in one and it's working out really well for them (and for DH, who couldn't carry on supporting them).

MereDintofPandiculation · 31/03/2023 10:13

We scrimp and save all our lives to buy in care Speak for yourself. I’ve scrimped and saved to pass a decent amount to my children. It’s only relatively recently that the expectation became spending years, even decades, reliant on others. My grandparents were carried off relatively swiftly with heart problems that today would be dealt with relatively routinely. So I completely understand older people not wanting to fritter away their children’s inheritance on care for themselves.

That said, OPs father is not of this mindset - he’s willing to pay his daughter.

MobilityCat · 31/03/2023 10:31

I'm getting older and three of my children have said when I can't manage any more on my own, I can stay with them. Two of them have said that they will build a granny flat in their garden so I will be close but still have some space for myself.

704703hey · 31/03/2023 11:11

In answer to your original question no you're not selfish. It is absolutely draining when they're intransigent and don't realise you have your own life to lead.

This is so much easier said than done but you need to toughen up and establish boundaries.

704703hey · 31/03/2023 11:49

P.S. I'm going through the same thing myself so understand how difficult it is when they expect so much from you!

Hollyhocksandlarkspur · 31/03/2023 12:04

What you are doing is amazing, compassionate but bot sustainable and sounds as though it is to the detriment of your own health and family. So what would be your ideal? How much time would you like to spend with DF and what would you like to do for/with him? Are there any activities you enjoy together that could be regular so he has something to always look forward to?

Once you have decided what you are happy to do (not guilted into doing) make a list of all the other necessary jobs, but try to encourage him to still do as much as possible eg getting meal out of fridge/freezer and microwaving.

Using his own funds/attendance allowance organise cleaner, gardener, carers, charity that do lifts to medical appointments, prescription dropoffs, supermarket delivery.

If he won’t heat up meals, then can he have meals on wheels service locally? Or carer each lunchtime to prepare for him? (Both DMs do this)

Please put your own health first. Parents choose to have children it is not about paying back at all. You care for him but need to give what you want to/are able to. Please get your old balance back! Good luck OP.

neilyoungismyhero · 31/03/2023 12:07

It's crappy getting old, it really is but that's life sadly. It shouldn't mean we get selfish and helpless and insular and have no regard for our family's lives.
You do need a proper talk..he might like the countryside but he isn't doing/able to do much in it from what you say so maybe moving closer to you would help. If he wants to stay where he is then he should be prepared to accept carers coming in. Your young family and yourself need prioritising. It's not selfish and children don't owe their parents. If I want to wallow in my poor health or lack of friends that's my issue not my children's. I think some older people feel bitter about their circumstances and the people they love get the brunt of it all.

WoolyMammoth55 · 31/03/2023 12:07

Hi OP, my situation is not as bad as your by any means but just on the food point: my FIL will eat (and seems to enjoy) meals from these two companies:

They are pre-made, oven or microwave to heat up, but FIL (who isn't very motivated about eating) likes these ones enough to bother! He's very fond of the lasangas and pies especially, but obviously you'll know what you DF might enjoy.

For us, buying in for him from these places made the difference between fed and happy, vs hadn't eaten all week because couldn't be bothered. So they're worth a try. You could try making one when you're there with him, sort of saying you need a rest and don't want to cook from scratch this time, and then se how he goes with it?

Realise this isn't the whole solution for you! But just getting him more independent with feeding himself might be a step in the right direction. Best of luck.

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