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I need some advice with a complex situation - Carers UK Forum

I need some advice with a complex situation

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Hello All

I have been caring for my disabled mother in one form or another since I was 10 years old. Currently she is married and still living with my father. They have been great at keeping me out of the massive responsibility of caring full time for my mum but there is now a massive issue that I would like some advice on.

My father is my mother's main carer, however my mum arranges all of her own care via her social workers and a local charity that advocate for the disabled. She tries to remain independant which I have always respected but there is now something that I think she will need a lot of help on.

Without going into too much detail (as it is personal to my family) my mum and dad have highlighted that their marriage is not working.

My Dad for the past 12 months has continued to live in the marital home even in the same room as my mum may need assistance in the night and with my Dad being partially deaf he would not hear her if she shouted him in the night. However, I am getting increasingly worried about both my mum and dad's state of mind with the current arrangement.

In a nut shell my mum is not handling the news very well that her marriage is over, and it seems that with him living there she is holding on to the hope that he will somehow change his mind on how he feels. I am concerned for her in the event my dad finds another partner, living with him and being reminded of this would impact on her emotionally of course, and as she already suffers from depression for various reasons I am worried about her state of mind should this happen in the current situation.

I am also worried about my Dad, he has been a rock over the past 35 years of his marriage, and he feels trapped in a loveless marriage. However he feels the obligation to stay and make sure that my mum's quality of life is maintained. This however is at the expense of his own happiness. Which he would happily do if my mum can cope with the fact that he no longer feels the way that he used to. In a nut shell my Dad does not want to hurt my mum any more than he already has, but staying in the same cycle that they are is not helping either of them.

With the current situation it is getting more and more apparent that co-habiting is not working for either of them, for my Dad's mind or for my mum's unwillingness to accept what is happening. I can see both of my parents point of view and I am concerned for both of their mental wellbeings.

The issue that we have is that they own the home that they are in, and it is unlikely that my mum will be able to keep up the mortgage payments if my Dad was to leave, and my Dad cannot afford to continue to make the mortgage payments on top of running his own place even on a rental arrangement. My Dad is concerned (and I am too) that my mum's quality of life will drop significantly if he was to leave. The issue is that neither of them seem to be moving forward with any plans or research on what can be done. As the "outsider" to the relationship I want to try and help both of them get the advice and help they need. So my questions are as follows:

- Am I able to speak to my mum's social worker (s) to raise my concerns about the situation and perhaps hold a meeting with them and mum to run through options available should they decide for my Dad to leave even where I am not her main carer?
- What help would my mum get in terms of housing? Would she still be able to live in her own home or would social housing be a better option?
- Has anyone ever been in the situation where perhaps they both need some marriage counselling to make progress on what the next step is?
- Any other help regarding this kind of situation would be a massive help

I have tried to do some research myself but there is a lot of course to take into consideration in the event of my mum and Dad living separately. My main aim at the moment is finding a way to highlight the different options and help my mum accept what is happening as well as helping my Dad get piece of mind and have some food for thought on the options that they have going forward.

Any help on this would be appreciated.
Hi Eleanor,
I can see how this is very worrying for you. May I ask how old your parents are? Whereas your dad has been such a loving support to your mum over so long, I wonder whether he isn't just plain tired. Has he got hobbies, interests or friends outside of the marital home? Because of her disability, which is of course no fault of her own, your mum has probably been the most important one, the one to be considered and looked after and her wishes may have always come first. That's a long, long time to have your own life, interests and ambitions subservient to another's needs.
If Mum organises her own care and so on, it seems she might be a strong minded woman. Good for her indeed, but it might have left your dad feeling that the only reason for his existence is to look after her. Forgive me if I'm totally off centre here.
Has dad had a Carer's assessment? I wonder if more time to do his own thing, pursue his own interests and perhaps even go on holiday might refresh him somewhat. Do you really think he's looking for a love, romance and a new wife or perhaps he needs to find himself again and broaden his horizons.
I wonder if you could get dad on his own and try to find out what will make things better for him? If it turns out that he feels 'trapped' perhaps, or 'chained to the house' maybe, then there will be things that can be arranged to give him some freedom. More care in the form of 'sitters' perhaps, maybe some arrangement where he could go away for a while a few times a year. If Mum baulks at the idea then perhaps a gentle reminder that he has needs too, in the form of some time to himself.
Maybe Dad is feeling a little desperate. Getting older, life slipping past him, same old, same old every day, which will get worse and harder as they both age, and the only thing he can think of is to leave. If you can suggest some alternatives to that drastic step and Mum will support any ideas, then perhaps it might do the trick.
I'm sorry if none of this helps, but it's what came into my mind when I read your post.
Hi Elaine

Thank you for your reply.

It's a little more complicated than just that. First of all my mum and dad are both 55 years old. My Dad works full time and my mum of course with her conditions does not work. I am unaware whether my Dad has had a carer's assessment but I am guessing with the level of care my mum has they have taken this into account, my Dad likes to stay as out of it as possible.

I stay over a few times a year to enable my Dad to go away to re-charge his batteries, and my mum has care in place to ensure that she has people coming in whilst my Dad can go out during his weekends. This issue is not just down to that my Dad feels trapped as he only looks after my mum.

There's much more behind the reasoning for their marriage breakdown which I dont want to disclose on here. But the fact is that they are both unhappy and going through the same cycles over and over even with the arrangements we have in place to ensure that Dad has his own time. He loves to run and completes several half marathon's a year which he travels about for, and always makes a long weekend or week long holiday out of it to re-charge his batteries.

The strain at the moment is more the emotional ties, where my mum constantly asks him whether he has "changed his mind" and has in the past expressed that she would be better off "not here" which I do not feel is fair at all on my Dad, and I am Sad that my mum feels that way too.

Me and my Dad have a fairly open relationship and he has on occasion asked me what I would think if he did end up finding a new love. My answer is always the same, I'm a big girl and I am happy as long as they are happy. I would much prefer both my mum and dad to move on emotionally but it is difficult in the current situation, which is why it is looking more and more apparent that my Dad will eventually opt to leave.

My mum on some levels is a strong minded woman yes, which is a massive inspiration. But on other levels she finds it hard to deal with certain situations and much prefers to throw her head into the sand and hope the situation will resolve itself. This situation being one of them.

I'm not unsure how I can best help both my mum and dad, I know a lot of it will have to come with both of them being willing to sit down and discuss the options properly and come to a conclusion.
1 can see this is very worrying and emotional for you. I wonder if by a remote possibility, if your parents would agree to marriage guidance. Even if the outcome is that they do not remain together, an outsider could put the problems into perspective. They are both entitled to some happiness and peace, & you certainly are!
Hi again, They are younger than I expected which makes a difference. Your father is young enough to make a new life and within the confines of her disability, your Mum could too.
I don't expect a Social Worker would speak to you alone but should have no objection to you attending a joint meeting but whether they would know the answers----?
My advice to you personally, based on a little unrelated experience with a family member a long time ago, is try not to take all the responsibility for their happiness on your shoulders. You are obviously not 'taking sides' and are 'there for them' but if their marriage has broken down then it is their problem and they have to work it out. I know that sounds harsh but it is true. They are both grown ups too. It's not your fault or even a problem you easily can fix. Perhaps if you can step back a little emotionally, it will help you see the trees from the wood.
They need to decide whether it's divorce and selling the house, in which case you can help Mum find somewhere appropriate and work out what benefits she would be entitled to and a workable budget, what care help she would need, equipment and so on. Dad appears to be fit and healthy enough to sort himself out. Or whether they will carry on as they are, both getting more and more unhappy, in which case it could be harrowing for you too.
The help line here will probably be able to advise if you e-mail them your questions.
I can imagine how badly you feel about it and how much you want to help. I hope it all works out for your sake too.
This might well be a very controversial and 'unacceptable' comment, but do you think your father might stay to 'look after' his wife, if he had another relationship 'simultaneously'.?? There have been some members here who say that is what they have done - ie, they have remained committed to their care role, but have found 'comfort and consolation' in having a 'second relationship' as well.

I think the main factor would be as to why your father wants a divorce. Is it the caring that has finished the marriage, from his point of view, or is it his wife 'per se'. If she were not disabled, would he still want to divorce her?

Has your mum been disabled all her marriage (ie, your dad married her knowing she was disabled and accepting it at the time), or has she become disabled during their marriage? The phrase 'in sickness and in health' can sound noble and 'easy' at the time, but umpteen years on it can be quite, quite different....

It's a very sad situation all round.....sympathies to the both of them alas.
Hi all thanks for the reply.

To answer the "controversial" question. My Dad has been doing this over the past 12 months he is quite happy to co-habit and care for my mum is she can accept that they are no longer together, this is the part that my mum isnt able to accept at the moment.

Although yes is can be daunting at times to try and help them, I am under no illusion that it is down to them ultimately to make the decisions they need for the best.

I'm concerned with what help my mum would have if my Dad was to leave... the only way to do it would be to sell the house and split the money, which, as you said my Dad would be able to manage himself as he is in full time work. But for my mum she would have the issue of having to arrange a new place to live, more care which has been hard to arrange at the best of times due to council funding. She already has the "maximum" support due to her situation but if they were to sell the house she would not be able to cover the costs of running a home, and would likely need to be put into council/social housing to which there is normally a massive waiting list.

I have advised both of them to have some form of counselling to air the issues and options to help them go forward, but my Dad says with her state of mind she wouldn't be able to cope with it all, even if we were to have a family meeting and discuss it ourselves. So its kind of like being between a rock and a hard place.

Thank you for the comments it has helped to air it a little and have some suggestions on where to go next. In hindsight I think that ultimately they both need to decide what exactly is happening before we look into the options and deal with the emotional side of things first.

Thanks all xxx
Alarm bells!!!! If they sell the house and split the proceeds, then that would leave mum with a pot of money. Social Services would then expect her to pay for ALL her care, until she was down to £23,000. I'm sure there may be ways round this, but you need to speak to the Carers UK helpline to start with, and then a specialist solicitor, before they do something they will regret for the rest of their lives.
Hmm.... is your mum hoping he'll 'change his mind' about continuing with what I take (??) is a second relationship outside his marriage (and I am making NO judgement here - the one thing we learn on this site is to judge no one till we've walked in their shoes - and they in ours!), OR, 'change his mind' about actually leaving her (ie, moving out'?

It seems to me there are only three available possibilities for them:

(1) Your dad gives up his other relationship (if I've understood that correctly) and only has your mum in his life, and cares for her till she dies (or he does)

(2) Your dad continues with his second relationship, but stays physically with your mum, to care for her, and has some degree of emotional attachment to her but not a 'full' marital one (Delicate point here, please don't say if you don't want to, but I'm sort of assuming that 'marital relations' in the physical sense are no longer possible because of your mum's disability, EVEN IF your dad were still 'in love' with her)

(3) Your dad opts for the second relationship exclusively, leaves the marital home, and no longer provides any daily care for your mum, and moves out. (see point below about divorce)

Are there any other options available to him?

Do I take it your mum prefers Option (1)? (Most wives would, I have to acknowledge.....)(but these are not 'usual circumstances' of course)

In terms of Option (3)m, I think BB offers timely warning that it's essential they understand the full financial implications of divorce upon your mum's care situation. It could be that just 'moving out but not divorcing' is the 'safest' thing to do, but that might limit your dad's options on re-housing himself. I guess they could 'downsize first' and then the 'left over money' could be used by your dad to re-house himself?? (But if they're not divorced, and then have 'available cash' or 'second home', your mum's care package might be compromised)

Overall, it's a desperately sad situation all round. I feel for all of you! No 'Happy Answer' anywhere....

One thing to bear in mind, perhaps, gloomy thought though it is, is that even without your mum's disability, their marriage might yet have ended anyway. It's SO common for this to happen - I'm far more your parent's generation myself, and it seems to be happening everywhere - mostly men leaving wives, but not always, sometimes the other way round. I find it desperately sad, but there it is. So, it could be that your mum would find herself divorced even without the complication of her disability and the toll it's taken not just on her, but her husband. Not easy at all....
PS - I also think that YOU will be affected by any divorce/leaving your mum. It's almost inevitable she will turn to you more, in the absence of your dad. That may well take a toll on you, too, both in practical terms, and emotionally.