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Bad relationship with my father - have you experienced similar - any advice please? - Carers UK Forum

Bad relationship with my father - have you experienced similar - any advice please?

Tell us a bit about yourself here.
I am such a lightweight when compared to what other people are coping with - and a failure as a 'distance carer'.

I don't know where to start .... please excuse the ramble.

My widowed (grieving) 86 year old father had a stroke in May this year. He lives a two hour drive away. Initially, I stayed with him for about two months and since then I have spent two days a week with him, occasionally I haven't been due to illness.

At the time of the stroke, the prognosis was "poor", however he has recovered well, albeit with left sided weakness and worsened (unacknowledged by him) depression and anxiety. The specialists say he is at very high risk of having another stroke.

Currently he is independent in his home and can go out alone for short exercise walks, although he is weak and unsteady on his feet. He lives comfortably in a nice bungalow in a lovely area with fantastic neighbours and has no financial worries.

By way of background, prior to the stroke, he was not in good health, physically or mentally, having had major heart surgery in 2014 and then my mother died later that year. I supported both my parents throughout and prior to this time, my dear mother had been very ill with multiple health issues for years. It was still a massive shock when she died - it was sudden and violent, she had a heart attack right in front of my eyes at the hospice, my father was out of the room at the time. I am haunted that I couldn't "save" her.

I have one elder sister, she and her family have been estranged for nearly 14 years, the situation is irreconcilable. My father hankers after her and her large family. I am the "disappointment" daughter as I never had a fantastic career or children. Another story.

My father is a lifelong pessimist, in fact glass empty rather than half full. He can be a very negative, critical, angry man - although to the outside world, he can be charm personified. I guess we all have good and bad character traits. My relationship with him has never been good, we have always clashed terribly as I challenge him in a way that my mother never did. She spent her life calming (enabling?) him.

I have not worked or had an income for some years since my contract ended and then becoming involved with driving back and forth to help care for both of my parents. I also have health issues. This combination of events has put a huge strain on my relationship with my husband and on our finances.

Lately things have deteriorated with my father, too much to explain on here and I now actually feel nauseous at the thought of having to spend time with him weekly, be away from my home - and phone him every day. I am okay with the lone two hour drive each way, doing practical stuff, buying all the things he needs, sorting out admin, taking him to hospital appointments, shopping etc etc - however what I find so hard is to be in his company while we're sitting down and I have to listen to him go from one negative subject to another, to another - and there is always a tension between us that things can kick off. This must be as much my fault as his. I don't know how to grief counsel an elderly, sick man who refuses all offers of outside, professional help.

He sees my involvement as "we only have each other" and "payback" for being my father. I do acknowledge this, however I am not sure how I feel about this debt that I owe. These words swirl around my head: spoken by my mother a week before she died: "You have never been able to do anything right in his (my father's) eyes, from when you were a child".

My emotions constantly richochet from Resentment to Guilt.

I am depressed, ratty, weepy, menopausal and feel I am a useless wife and daughter and have intense feelings that I would like to run away - where to, I know not ...

I am not what my father needs. I can't cheer him up in a way that his (estranged) grandchildren and great-children would. Our relationship is toxic and unhealthy for both of us. I don't know how to make it better or establish boundaries and am **deeply ashamed** of myself that as a middle aged woman I am not able to sort this out. It's claustrophobic, intense, there are no other family members involved. My father has two elderly sisters he speaks to occasionally on the phone but never sees due to distance. The thought of the future fills me with all-consuming dread when I wake at 3am.

With thanks for reading if you have managed to make it to here.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Hi J, welcome to the forum. It sounds like dad is incredibly negative, preferring to find fault in those who try and help him most. I suspect you have now fallen into my term of "Clapped Out Carer Syndrome".
I've been a multiple carer too, but at least our four elderly parents lived locally, although that too can be a mixed blessing! I had counselling aimed specifically at dealing with my mum's unreasonable demands when I was very ill, it worked wonders. I was enabled to think differently about my caring role. To feel proud of what I could do, not beat myself up about things I couldn't. I learned how to say No and how to manage mum's endless list of jobs. Most of all, I learned to set my priorities. My son with severe learning difficulties was top of my list, as he couldn't speak up for himself. I would suggest some priority setting would help you too. Children FIRST, then husband, and dad third in the queue. He can have help to do lots of things, either self funded or by the LA, if he asks Social Services for a Needs Assessment. I take it he didn't give you anything for your petrol or the care you gave?!
I had a never satisfied relative who ground his children down and seemed to get some sick satisfaction from it. He tried it once with me - and he ended up being the loser for ever more. Dad will never be satisfied, so give up trying. Make any excuse you like, the care is broken, you are ill, whatever. Maybe think of yourself as his care arranger, finding a domestic, etc. but don't sacrifice yourself any more. You and your husband and your children need time together to enjoy yourselves!
Hi J
Welcome to the forum. I live with a very negative 90 year old father so I realise that this can be quite draining if you don't take control.
I was reading Jenny's post on another thread where she was explaining about the baseline of caring being not having to do any at all. Any theat we take on board is optional and our choice. Obviously we do it for different reasons, duty, love, habit, inheritance and many more besides but I think getting your head around being in control of things rather than reating to them is an important one for your own sanity, however dominant Dad has been in the past.
The other thing that struck me about your post was mentioning the menopause. Don't underestimate what an effect this can have on your sanity and don't be afraid to speak to your GP or health food shop or forums for ideas on dealing with it. It seems to come at a time when we need more strength than ever before and we suddenly find ourselves not sleeping and being over emotional. Take time to look after yourself and put you at the top of the list.
Perhaps Dad has never had care before but has he had a recent needs assessment or did he slip through th enet when he left hospital? If so contact Social Services and see what they say- by the sound of things he will be self funding , and he will also not like it and not want and not think he needs it. This is where you must toughen up mentaly- he does and you know that. Yes it will be hard and he will moan but then he is moaning anyway isn't he? You need to get your head in a place where you can walk out of the room and laugh at his glass empty comments with your sanity intact. Make sure.you go out and get away for breaks rather than trying to sit and listen for hours at a time.
Have you had a carers assessment? Ask for one at the same time, also get yourself recorded at your father's GP surgery as his main carer/point of contact as this will help in the future.
Get your father a regular cleaner, perhaps it will be easier to sell theidea to him as help for you rather than for him. Somtimes these grumbling old men still think we are their little girls and look out for us, although blink an dyou miss it.
Thank you so much for replies - I am reading, re-reading and digesting.

Yes I am definitely clapped out at 54.

What I find difficult is deciding what I should and shouldn't do and allow, in my role. Giving myself permission.

After the stroke, he had Early Discharge Community Rehab carers in 3 times a day, who were excellent. Social Care, Stroke Team, Physiotherapists, GP - all were involved. When the time came for him to transfer to agency, he decided that he didn't need any help at home. The Key Social Worker was surprised at the refusal. He has made a good recovery but I feel he whacks himself out by doing too much at home . He rebuffs the idea of a housekeeper and any other support - mainly he doesn't want to pay for it - he is very "measured" with his money - and says that he can do everything himself. Recently he has started vacuuming and ironing his shirts, he wants to do it but I feel it is too much.

Feel awful about this but I'm planning to stand back and to visit every other week (hospital appointments allowing) so that I can at least get in the right frame of mind for job search and be here for my husband (we don't have children).

I haven't yet had a carer's assessment and this is something I will look into.

Re: menopause, it has been hideous and started early-ish at 44, I attend a Meno Clinic and take HRT, it helps but only partially, migraines also returned at this time which can make driving unsafe.

I do need to learn how to take control of this situation - I'm so grateful for all your advice.
His care would have been only partially self-funded but he still refused, as he is able to shower and dress himself, although it wears him out and takes a long time. He gets angry with me for interfering when I make suggestions. It's hard to know what to do for the best.

He wants his wife back, he wants my (estranged) sister and her family - there are no solutions to this. It's just all so depressing and I certainly don't and can't bring any joy into his life. Am I responsible for trying to make him happy ...
Hi J

You are already moving in the right direction- no you won't be able to make his problems go away so stop trying and "wasting your time and emotional energy".
My father is s self funding but as his carer I got 2 hours a week fully funded help for me as carer, so do press on with the carers assessment.
This is a really good web site for menopause chat
Also recommend you take a look at Thyroid web sites as it all seems to be interlinked especially relating to being "clapped out"
Given that your Dad is 86 an dhas had a stroke he could well have some Vascular Dementia. Another great web site is Talking Point from the Alxheimers Society who also discuss Vascular Dementia. It might be worth taking a look even if you have not recognised any of the early symptoms- you may be surprised- stubborn, selfish, money minded, not acknowledging the need for help- it is not just forgetting you left the car keys or what you had for breakfast. If you think it fits then try to get a GP to do a referrral to a memory clinic , perhaps under the pretext of routinely visiting an elderly patient as he will surely never agree to it.
Hi J
A lot of the symptoms/feelings you describe may as much be signs of stress (or even depression) as much as menopause.
Your fathers attitude to you over many many years will have been takings its toll emotionally and psychologically, it could be considered as bullying. No wonder you feel you are the one who is at fault. He's conditioned you to think this way for years. He is wrong.
I'm not going to comment more on him or his situation as I am more concerned about you.
For anyone in a stressful situation it is vital you ensure you have:
● someone to talk to ( professional counselling for preference, friends and forums otherwise)
● Regular exercise ( preferably in the fresh air)
● To eat healthily
● Regular 'me' time for you and for you alone
● An appointment with your GP to see what they can offer, perhaps mild medication or access to well being therapies such as meditation

As you get the above in place you will start to be able see the situation from a different viewpoint and to work out for yourself what limits you want to put in place.
Dad is unlikely to change and you will need to be strong physically and mentally to face what ever comes.
I was widowed at the age of 54, when my husband had a massive heart attack. At any age, being widowed is difficult, and I imagine the older you are, the more difficult it is. After 10 years, I'm doing well in many ways, but an enormous chunk of my life is "missing". The more you do for him, the less inclined he will be to learn to do things for himself. If he has refused help, then don't replace it. Just remind him that the offer of help from Social Services is there if he needs it. If he'd rather struggle than pay for care, then that is his decision, but don't do the work instead of someone else. If you don't go every week, he will miss it, but will survive. Say something like "We are going to ... on the 20th, so I'll be here on the 27th, shall I bring you a casserole? (or cake or whatever you know he likes). This shows you still love and want to be nice to him (even if he's too miserable to say thanks).
You say "should I try to make him happy?" but I think that possibly it's a lost cause.
I think you are being rather hard on yourself, describing yourself as a "lightweight" when you are doing a two hour drive each way every weekend. That's a long time and a lot of fuel, especially when you know that you aren't going to get a warm welcome on arrival.
Research has shown that the very elderly, defined as the over 85's, gradually lose the ability to see things from someone else's point of view, they become very self focussed, as opposed to selfish (although in practice it probably feels the same to those caring for them). So try to see this as part of the natural ageing process, rather than dad being inconsiderate towards you personally. Frailty is the price you pay for living a long life, I'm sure dad would rather be young, fit and well again, but wouldn't we all?
Try to balance his needs with your husband's needs, and your own. It's really important to look after yourself, even if it means saying "No" more. You are no longer dad's little girl, but a grown woman, who has a life of her own.
Hi, I'm going to be blunt! When a parent thinks of you that 'you can never do anything right since you were a child' they automatically forfeit ALL consideration and respect. That is a disgraceful attitude for a parent to have, to see no value at all in one of their children. And made even worse when they fawn over another 'favoured' child.

Not only do they forfeit all consideration and respect - because that attitude demonstrates that they have NO consideration and respect for YOU! - it also means that you will NEVER be able to 'win' or 'earn' or 'deserve' (!) consideration and respect. You could stand head first in a bucket of water for them and it wouldn't win it! Your father will NEVER 'esteem' you.

So don't bother to try. He doesn't deserve it, and you can't achieve it anyway, because he's 'determined' to think so badly of you.

I do feel that at the moment you are trying to 'win his regard' - as so, so many 'rejected' children do, tragically - by looking after him. He's made it clear to you that you are 'interfering' etc, so leave it that way.

Sit down with your husband and work out 'what do we do about dad'? - and the answer may well be 'nothing'. And that would be a perfectly valid answer.

Your father created this bad relationship by his rotten attitude towards you. Your only reaction is to seek to minimise the damage to yourself.

If you really feel any kind of 'sorry' for him, then suggest to him to get a cleaner, have carers in, etc, tell him you will organise them, etc. If he refuses (as he has, and doubtless will), well, then let him get on with his life the best he can. You could warn his GP what he is doing, and also point out that your father will need patient transport to hospital appointments, unless that particular thing is one you'd be prepared to do.

I do think the bottom line, though, is that your father is behaving has he wishes to behave, and therefore let him get on with it. You can never 'deserve' his love, no matter what you do for him. He's made that clear from the off.

And, in a way, you know, he's already getting the punishment for being such a lousy dad to you - the daughter he DOES fawn over doesn't want to know him! I think that says it all, really.
Thank you all so much for taking the time to reply - you all speak so much sense. I am reading and re-reading to take it all in.

Jenny, you are so perceptive and summed up exactly the lifelong relationship. My behaviour I think is over-compensatory (at high cost to myself) knowing that I don't and have never have matched up to my estranged sister and her large family. What a pathetic place I am in, haunted by sibling rivalry as a middle aged woman. I must try and do something about this for my sanity and seek some form of counselling.

This has made me think about the whole aspect of how one feels about the person they're caring for - it's hugely complex - and how that relationship strengthens or weakens.