Former carer - scared that its going to happen again

For anyone who is bereaved or no longer providing care.
This is a really odd post, i do apologise if its not in the right place.
I was carer for my mum, who has alzeimers. It was really hard because she lived with dad and for 5 years he was in total denial, but constantly calling me over to care for her. For a long time I just went along with it. As mum got worse, i tried to talk to him and he just wouldn't have it. I live an hour away, and at the time I had a really full on job (which I eventually had to give up). As time passed i was there frequently because mum couldn't clean herself and dad wasn't doing it. At times, i am ashamed to say, i really hated my dad. I felt my life ebbing away, i could never make plans without fear of them having to be cancelled at the last minute. He would call me at all hours asking me to talk to mum, to tell her who he was etc... It was awful. I am ashamed to say that i felt really resentful at times - i know dad was desperate, and he just couldn't do it any other way, but the impact on my life, my work, and at times my marriage, were all encompassing.

Fast forward 18 months, my mum is in a fantastic care home. Visiting her is an absolute joy. I tell myself that it was an awful time, but I have put it behind me... or so i thought.

I have an elderly neighbour who has recently fallen and broken his hip. He is in his 90s. He is almost totally blind and has shaky mobility. Until recently, he was able to get out and about, but the fall was almost inevitable. I have been friendly and sometimes popped in for a cuppa, but when he went into hospital he began phoning me and trying to line me up to care for him. I told him that I did not want to be a carer again. He became very insistent that he wasn't asking me to do anything that I didn't want to do, just wanted me to take him shopping, and pop in during the evenings when he needs something from the local shop. I told him that he should not come home without a proper care package in place, because i really did not want to do this. I still visit mum, still have dad to worry about, and even have an aunty who lives alone and puts on a bit of pressure for me to visit her and do housework. I explained again to him that i have no more to give currently. He still didn't seem to take this on, and i am guessing this was his own fear. I stopped visiting and told his daughter that I wanted to be very clear that I didn't want to care for her dad. I really hoped that would be an end of it.

Today, i come home from work to a message from him on my phone telling me he's home and that i should pop around. Less than an hour later, another message which is more insistent.

I haven't answered his call, although i am feeling very guilty. he is only a few doors away. When the second message came through there was a real 'edge' to it that reminded me of my own dad. I'm feeling the same confusing feelings of anxiety and guilt, resentment and despair that i used to feel when i had to care for mum - like my life and choices are going to be taken from me, like all my priorities have to take second place. The feeling is unbearable. I feel really tearful. Im shocked by the way this has left me feeling. And, as i did with my own parents, I am also doubting myself and feeling like a bad person, whilst also feeling a deep anger.

Does this make sense to anyone? Sorry to go on so much.
I am so pleased to read that after the struggles you must have had (and I expect you've only told us half the story) things have worked so well for you and your mother. A bad person because you did all that even while you knew the impact on your life and marriage? Never!

The responsibility for setting up proper care for your neighbour lies elsewhere and if you let yourself get pulled in you will only be masking whatever problems exist. Can you fix a few evening outings with friends to keep you occupied while that happens?

You and the rest of the street can only be good neighbours if the real problems are being properly dealt with.
Hi Elizabeth,
It really does sound as if you have been massively exploited over the years. At the same time you have at least reached a point where you are learning to put yourself first.
I hope others with more experience will advise you here soon. My advice would be to change your phone number!
Does this man's daughter live somewhere else? She should take responsibility for organizing whatever is needed. That depends on how he is financed.
If the hospital has made an unsafe discharge and not planned arrangements for his care (it sounds as if he mainly wants company), his daughter should sort that out. There may also be charities who offer a befriending service if that is enough.
You are doing absolutely the right thing and should not feel guilty for not returning his call - by phoning him back you are encouraging a situation which can't continue. The sooner that becomes clear to him and/or his family the better.

I am sorry that you lost your job in the process of caring for your mother too.

I like Dusty's suggestion of arranging a few evenings out.
Dear Greta and Dusty,

Thank you so much for your kind replies. You are both so spot on. Caring is so hard, that awful sinking feeling when it all sits on our shoulders. For me it always far outweighed the rewarding side of caring for mum. I am grateful that I have this now that mum is in care - i can do as much or as little as I want to for her, depending on how I'm feeling. Even though she is very advanced, I feel a little of our connection has come back. I think its something you just can't understand if you haven't been there, and its maybe why my neighbour thinks its ok to expect this from me. You are so right, Dusty - there is so much more to the story than can ever be put down in words. I am guessing that is probably the same for both of you, too.

I think I am definitely exploitable (not sure if i've made that word up!) when it comes to this situation, Greta. It's like I'm feeling a responsibility that I know in my logical mind isn't mine - which is sort of how I used to feel around my dad. He had so many opportunities to get carers in, but he just didn't do it, and yet I ended up feeling responsible for my mum. I need my guilt 'chip' removed!!!!

Im my heart I know that answering my neighbour's calls is not a good idea, but I am equally relieved to hear somebody else saying it - i doubt myself to much! My whole feeling in staying away was so that I didn't give him the wrong impression. And I think you are right Greta, a lot of the issue will be that he needs company. I will suggest befriending charities to his daughter if he continues to ring (and changing phone number!!) And Dusty, I think your idea of being out for a few nights until he settles into his own situation is fantastic advice, which I am also going to follow.

I thank you both so much. It's funny, i really thought these feelings were well and truly behind me. I am so grateful for your kind words, I am very happy to have found this forum.
Take control. Block his number. He is NOT your responsibility.
Elizabeth, this is outrageous behaviour by your neighbour! Don't return ANY calls, and yes, block his number. If you have contact details for his daughter, phone her now to tell her that her dad needs care, and you are NOT going anywhere near him!

Then blank him COMPLETELY.

The elderly can be 'ruthless' - make no mistake about that! Your father behaved appallingly to you in refusing to accept his wife needed residential care, and has basically 'brainwashed' you into thinking you 'should' provide care for all and sundry!!!!

NO YOU SHOULD NOT.

So often, alas, we need to be 'given permission' to take our own lives back. I needed that from a friend of mine (a former counsellor) when I was agonising about putting my own MIL into a care home, rather than let her go on living with me (she'd been with me, on and off, for six months - and it was HELL ON EARTH for me. She STOLE MY LIFE - )(I'm widowed, and there was NO ONE ELSE BUT ME!).

My friend sat me down, and my 'choice' was to rent a flat for her near me (I NEARLY signed the lease), or put her (for about the same amount of money!) in to a care home. If I'd taken the flat, I'd have had to spend EVERY DAY there looking after her - she COULD NOT be left on her own any more (dementia)!. BUT I felt SO guilty at 'putting her in a home' at 'abandoning' her, at 'betraying' her etc etc etc.

My friend sat me down, then said she would go and talk to my teenage son upstairs on uni vacation, to see what he thought (he'd seen me 'fall to pieces' in the six months I'd had his gran with me - he was already away at uni ), and she came down and said 'Your son says to put Granny in a Care Home'....

And the weight just FELL off my shoulders! I wept with relief that I was being 'allowed' to do what I desperately wanted to do ,but felt SOOOOO guilty about.

Elizabeth, it is a tribute to our 'better natures' that we feel we 'should' give up our lives for very old people WHO HAVE HAD THEIR LIFE ALREADY, but we MUST resist that. We are NOT obliged to give up our lives for our OWN parents, let alone, in your case, for a 'selfish neighbour' who is ONLY thinking of themselves, NOT YOU.

If you want my 'permission' to block his number and wash your hands of him, here it is IN CAPITAL LETTERS!

And I know everyone else here will give you it too!

To be honest, I think it is OUTRAGEOUS that he is even voicing this to you - how DARE he? (I suspect he was either always selfish, or is getting dementia....!).

So, yes, block his number, call his daughter (and DO NOT say anything other than - 'your father needs care, over to you').

Actually, thinking about it, DON'T call his daughter - who knows if she isn't as selfish as her father! (I would hope not, but you never know).

This is NOT your problem. NOT YOUR BUSINESS.

(I suspet he'll go into a care home himself actually.)
PS - I think once you've blocked his number and got HIM off your case, you need to sit down, ideally with a friend, and think through what you are, and what you are NOT prepared to do for:

(1) your mum
(2) your dad
(3) your aunt.

First, I'd say your aunt can be 'written off' completely. NOT YOUR PROBLEM. (Does she have children of her own? Even if she doesn't STILL not your problem!)

Your dad is more difficult, and you need to decide how much of YOUR life you 'assign' to him, as he ages, and how much NOT.

Your mum thankfully is in a good place now, and yes it's great that you have 'reconnected' - it is VERY common on this forum for carers to discover that once 'someone else' (ie, the care home staff!) are doing all the 'chore caring', that we, family members, can actually spend what time we spend on them for NICE things. With my MIL in her came home, I could visit (in the early days she came and had 'sleepovers' with me even, before her dementia was too bad), and take her out for nice drives, and we'd stop for lunch, or a cream tea etc, and then I'd drive her back to the care home and 'hand her over' an 'someone else' would take over, and get her to bed, and the toilet etc etc etc. BLISSS.....

It is also VERY common on this forum for D&D parents (dependent and demanding!) to 'invent' work for us. But it is not the 'work' they want doing, it is US. So your aunt probably does not want her house cleaned by you, she wants YOU. It is a 'call for attention' as much as anything.

If your aunt wants her house cleaned, it's time for her to hire a cleaner.

FAR better that you set aside say a 'regular visit', and STICK to that. If you, say, pop in for tea every other Sunday, or whatever, and make that ROUTINE, and tell her that, ie, that you are ONLY going to be seeing her at SET times, then you just have to block and blank everything else.

Finally, get an answerphone! It's been a godsend to loads of members here - all those endless phone calls plaguing us, go to voicemail, and you DO NOT PHONE BACK.

Wishing you all the best - there is LOADS of support here for those landed with D&D parent, and we can show you how to manage their never-ending demands but STILL give them love and companionship but on OUR TERMS (mostly!)(as in, yes, we do do SOME of the things they want of us BUT NOT ALL OF THEM!)

Kind regards, Jenny
PS - I TOTALLY get the 'dread'.....

When MIL was still limping on in her own flat, and I was in a ghastly cycle of going to stay to look after her there and then bringing her back home to me for weeks on end, then finally taking her back home (to HER dread...), and on and on and on (she lived 400 miles from me!) (it was PUNISHING), I remember once, crossing the border into Scotland on my way to bring her down to stay with me YET AGAIN (when my own life just STOPPED - EVERY day, ALL day, was spend looking after her - I called it Hotel Jenny!), and I simply pulled off the motorway, and sat in a layby and HOWLED!

I would have given ANYTHING to be able to turn the car around and FLEE southwards again. I just DREADED arriving at her flat, being there, looking after her, bringing her back to me for weeks and weeks and weeks.

So, yes, I totally 'get' the dread.... (and the anger and resentment! Oh, that in spades!)
"I told him that I did not want to be a carer again. He became very insistent that he wasn't asking me to do anything that I didn't want to do, just wanted me to take him shopping, and pop in during the evenings when he needs something from the local shop."

!!!!!

Firstly, he WAS asking you to do something you didn't want to do - and you had just TOLD him you didn't want to be a carer again!

Secondly, he doesn't want a carer, he wants a servant......

How are things going? Do keep us posted. We DO know what it's like here, to be so torn between 'duty' and 'love' and, yes, 'resentment' and even 'anger'.

It's very hard for anyone with a sense of duty, or worse, a sense of compassion, to RESIST being 'used up' by others 'in need'.

I know we are always taught the parable of the Good Samaritan, but you know, we DO have a RIGHT to 'pass by on the other side of the street'!

I sometimes wonder whether, if EVERY TIME the poor Samaritan went on a business trip he ALWAYS found some chap beaten and robbed in the gutter, and EVERY TIME he had to bind him up, and look after him, and see him right, etc etc, don't you think he'd have finally got fed up???????

I don't wish to sound blasphemous, but remember, even Jesus didn't stop to cure EVERY lame and blind folk.......!

I think there's a message in there for us.....
Elizabeth - well done so far! Keep going ...