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Carers UK Forum • Walking away entirely - anyone done this?
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Walking away entirely - anyone done this?

Posted: Wed Mar 08, 2017 11:01 pm
by not a martyr
Hi, I need to first say that I am not a natural carer and it is a role I hate with a passion. I chose not to have children because I dislike being "responsible" for someone else and I have recently been helping out my elderly and ill parents on a part time basis through feelings of guilt. My work and lifestyle make it hard for me to be responsible looking after others. I tried to get help for my parents, but they dismissed the carers after two days. I have now coerced my Mother to go into a home but I hate visiting her and she is unpleasant when I do, begging to be taken home where I would have to loo after her.

I'm beginning to think it may be better to pretend they are dead and just walk away as when I see them I feel so stressed that I struggle to work. This is making me feel very depressed and I feel so much better when I haven't seen them for a few days. I feel trapped into feeling like I "should be helping them" but the truth is they've plenty of money and can afford the very best of care.

Has anyone else done this, I mean, just walked away? I used to think I loved my parents but I am beginning to dislike them and resent them.

Re: Walking away entirely - anyone done this?

Posted: Thu Mar 09, 2017 8:27 am
by jenny lucas
Hi - in many ways I can resonate with what you're expressing here, because although I didn't walk away entirely, I did 'abandon' my elderly MIL. My circumstances are a little unusual, in that I'm widowed, and my MIL's surviving son is the USA, so really can't actually 'do anything'. Apart from my student son, there is absolutely 'no one else' on my husband's side of the family to 'do anything' except me.

My MIL was very, very independent - amazingly so - right up until three years ago, when, at 89, she phoned to say she couldn't cope any longer. Up till then she'd lived on her own (400 miles from me) looked after her finances so competently she actually ran a surplus from her state pension (!), and although yes, she no longer flew up and down when she came to stay, but rather I drove her up and down the few times of year she visited, she was still amazingly good for her age.

All that changed when she phoned me, and I went into 'overdrive' thinking, OK, time to move MIL south, find a flat for her near me, and for me to see more of her, check she's got food in the fridge, take her out to lunch sometimes, that sort of thing - just the way it always had been.

BUT, it was totally different - she was developing dementia and basiscally because of that she simply 'collapsed' on me. She wanted to live with me and for me to look after her 'like a child' really. And that, sadly, was what finished it for me. After nine hellish months I cracked, and I 'put her in a home'. It was 'cruel' in that she'd got used to being with me (I managed to get her back to Glasgow for meagre two week breaks once a month, and she hated it, and really couldn't cope on her own at all - like your mum, she rejected outside carers, wouldn't let them in the second time they called) (she just wanted ME), but I did it all the same.

If she hadn't gone into the home (near me, very nice - she came for sleepovers with me twice a week), then I think I would have simply taken her back to her flat in Glasgow, given her key to her (long-suffering but very kind) neighbour, and phoned SS to say there was an 89 y/o vulnerable woman with dementia who was acopic, and I wasn't on hand to do a single thing so over to them..... That was my 'desperation point'.

I say all this to show that you are not alone in your determination not to have your life 'taken over' by caring. BUT, that said, I do visit her - not as often as I 'should', and I do 'feel bad', and it's slightly more complicated as she is now, for financial reasons, in a (cheaper) care home near my 'holiday house' in the westcountry, so I tend to not visit her while I'm at home, then head west for a fortnight and visit her several times and take her out.

BUT again, unlike your situation, my MIL's dementia is now very advanced, and she truly 'forgets I exist' when she does not see me, and this has made my guilt levels drop significantly. I tell myself that she does not understand the passage of time any longer, so is happy to see me, happy for me to take her out and about when I visit (we go for drives and a cream tea - perfectly pleasant, and I chat away to her, and it's all totally doable.)

BUT, again, I had a perfectly good relationship with her all my life, so there was never any tension between us at all. I sense that this is not so with your own mother? (What has happened to your father, by the way?). You say your mum is unpleasant to you - is this only because she wants to come home (and be looked after by you?) or was there always tension between you?

I must say, I never, personally, felt that I was NOT a 'caring person' but since 'inheriting' my MIL, I've realised that actually I HATE having 'dependent' people 'collapsing' on me - and for me, I know this goes back to being raised with a mum who had MH issues. I guess I feel I've done my 'looking after another adult' and don't want to do it again??

One thing I think is for sure - when we are faced with 'caring' it can bring out all sorts of things deep inside us that are not easy to resolve. Sometimes not even possible at all.

Re: Walking away entirely - anyone done this?

Posted: Thu Mar 09, 2017 10:46 am
by StarFish_1502
Hi - I can so identify with this feeling. I take it you're an only child, like me? I haven't walked away - yet! - but sometimes I would love to. My mum and I got on quite well when she was younger, although she could always push my buttons by being critical as if by right, and asking me to do stuff in ways that didn't allow a refusal. (Much easier to say 'No' to 'will you?' than to 'you will, won't you?' but it annoys me that she never risks my honest refusal or considers I might have valid reasons to refuse.)

At 90 in her sheltered accommodation she was fast losing mobility and felt lonely, so asked me to find a home for her, but despite finding a very nice place prepared to have her, she got scared I was dumping her and decided she'd rather buy a sheltered flat again. All the same problems for her, only now she announced that she was 'totally dependent' on me. Well, excuse me, when did I agree to being totally depended on? I have son with MH issues who is regularly in and out of hospital, and at that time I still worked.

Now she's nearly 94 we have an uneasy relationship. We seem to have lost the interactions that made it pleasant though to be fair she always thanks me for what I do. She constantly reminds me that she needs taking shopping (like I could forget). She is very deaf but makes little effort to mitigate it so we mostly sit in silence, and if we make conversation she is largely focussed on herself. If I have backache she has worse backache. She doesn't notice how shabby her flat looks, won't bathe for fear of falling, doesn't see the spills on the lino, but opposes me when I offer to get help. My line in the sand? I have a little mnemonic for the 'Four Is' I'm prepared to do. WashIng - is there any, bIns - are they overflowing and smelly, pIlls - has she got them and does she take them, frIdge - throw out sell-by food (or worse, sometimes a lot worse).

I think your question is about your expectations of yourself and your perceived expectations of society, so I would say this. If you walk away completely you may find that it bites you later in the form of suppressed guilt and deep regret. Or you may not. If you do what your mother wants (and your dad? - not sure where he is in this) you will be forever resentful and depressed. Middle, entirely reasonable, way - you care about them but you won't care for them; you organise outside help and they must accept it or go without.

Re: Walking away entirely - anyone done this?

Posted: Thu Mar 09, 2017 1:13 pm
by not a martyr
Thank you for the replies. I realised when I made my OP that mine was probably a common story.

My father is currently in hospital having tests and may need brain surgery. Can you believe that on Friday before he went in he phoned me "telling me" that Mum should come home?! This when she can hardly walk, is a huge falls risk, is sometimes confused (not sure if some of that is a game for my benefit) and can't cope with taking her tablets even from dosette boxes, and of course we have no idea what kind of state Dad will be in after his hospital visit. I'm afraid I lost it at that point and shouted at him. I'm not visiting him either.

The problem with doing the "shopping, bins" etc is that my Mother is so clever and manipulative that a quick visit to sort out the basics turns into hours and there's a lot of emotional game playing thrown in for good measure. When I come home I then have nothing left to give and am a wreck. My job is in the afternoons and evenings and is very people centred and I can't cope with it after this. I've lost a lot of work as a result of bad days with them. I'm lucky I have a very supportive husband, but it's not fair on him either.

Tomorrow my husband is taking my mother to a "taster day" at a really lovely nursing home. She won't want to go there though as she will want to stay in the (slightly tatty) home she's in at the moment so she can complain that I put her there.

I'm not an only child, but I am my mother's only child.

Re: Walking away entirely - anyone done this?

Posted: Thu Mar 09, 2017 1:18 pm
by bowlingbun
If mum has "plenty of money" then she can arrange and pay for her own care. If she doesn't like the home she is in she could try another, and another, and another. She will never realise that the reason she is so unhappy is that it's the choice she is making for herself.
I've known many people who have always put the blame on everything which went wrong in their lives on someone else. I firmly believe we are responsible for our own happiness. If your mum wanted to, she could be very happy in the home, with the food, with the sunshine, the daffodils coming into bloom, the blue sky. However she prefers to be miserable. That is HER CHOICE.
There is so much I could be miserable about, having a son brain damaged at birth, being disabled in a car accident, finding my husband dead in bed... and that's only the tip of a very large iceberg. But I choose not to be unhappy. I have a lot to be thankful for, sat here (doing paperwork when I'd rather be outside, but that's my choice, as when I've finished I'm going to do lots of sewing this weekend) I can see the sky and the clouds, my backdoor is open to my conservatory, lovely warm air floods through the house.....
Don't let mum drag you down. Decide on how often you will visit, once a week is a lot more than many residents (mum should be grateful that she has any relative near enough to visit at all!) and then arrive about an hour (or less) before lunch or the evening meal. Then after an hour you will have to leave.
Try this for a while, and see how it goes. After each visit, see how you feel - and write it down in a diary or notebook. It might help you balance duty and guilt, to ease your conscience.
(This crossed with your last post, but is probably still relevant).

Re: Walking away entirely - anyone done this?

Posted: Thu Mar 09, 2017 6:42 pm
by jenny lucas
Starfish (nice to see you back on the forum!!!), I LOVE that summation - 'You care ABOUT her, but not care FOR her'.

Brilliant - I'm going to hang on to that!

As for the 'games'....it's astonishing, isn't it, how incredibly infuriating they are. What a complete turn off. How they spoil what could be a tolerable, even good relationship, and can send you from Calm to Crazy in seconds....

Non-Martyr: I think when one faces manipulative people, the only thing to do is to write down what you WILL do for them, and what you WON'T, and literally take that list with you all the time. Whenever something is said, refer to the list, and see which side of the paper it falls on! If it's the 'Won't side' then say so.

Your dad, I assume, is trying to 'get back to normal' again, in his life, with his wife at home, and everything 'as it was'. It's really, really hard to mentally move on, to accept that life for themselves will NEVER be the same again, that the past has gone, and the future is bleak.

I think it's wise for your husband to be taking your mum to see another home, not you. She will not 'play him up' (and her confusion could well not be deliberate, but genuine, and may indicate dementia setting in - it can present in various ways, not always obvious....).

If they have plenty of money, then that solves a HUGE problem of practical care, even if it's you who has to organise it.

As BB says, in the end they are responsible for their own happiness.

It would be nice if you could manage to construct a mental 'cordon sanitaire' around yourself, so that you can almost develop a 'whatever!' dismissiveness to what they come up with, so it doesn't get to you. But easier said than done!

Overall, caring for elderly parents is a challenge even when the relationship has been excellent, but when there have been tensions anyway, it can be particularly difficult.

Re: Walking away entirely - anyone done this?

Posted: Thu Mar 09, 2017 6:46 pm
by jenny lucas
PS - I would say, by the way, that 'anti-carers' are probably fewer than 'pro-carers' in general, but that may be because there has been a much better relationship between parents and children for most carers, or that there is a strong emotional bond. I often wonder how 'anti-caring' I'd be if it were my own mother, because I feel that although I am fond of my MIL, and she's been a very good MIL to me for nearly 40 years, there are no 'heart-strings' which, to my mind, are essential if one is to do 'real caring'.

For the record, there are examples of carers-for-parents on this forum that are incredibly moving and devoted - I can think of one person in particular whose devotion to her mum with dementia brought tears to my eyes, she was SUCH a loving daughter (and the mum was delightful and so appreciative too).

So I'd hate you to think we are all 'anti-caring' here! BUT, it depends on the relationship pre-caring I suspect.....

Re: Walking away entirely - anyone done this?

Posted: Thu Mar 09, 2017 10:37 pm
by not a martyr
Again, thank you so much for all your replies. You see, this is where to come when one is feeling desperate..... because you are all carers and probably far more generous and adept at it than me! ;)

I think I need to take some time to think about what I am prepared to do and you have all given me food for thought. A few months ago I would have been horrified by someone expressing views about abandoning elderly and ill parents to professional carers, but I guess it takes that thing called Life with its hard knocks to make you walk a mile in someone else's shoes and understand. I think that above all, just as an initial reaction I feel a little empowered by reading your responses, and almost "given permission" to feel a little as I do and perhaps be a bit tough. As someone in their 40s who has never had to look after anything more than a dog or cat before I guess it comes as a shock to this sensitive flower to be chucked in at the deep end where not only are you feeling responsible but also unappreciated, or even resented for trying to help. I do understand things aren't easy for them either and I swing between anger at them and deep sorrow for them.

I will write more soon probably when I have digested what you have all had to say. I just hope that I can give back a little of what you have already given me at some point, perhaps to someone who is new to all this lark, much as I am.

I am really humbled and in awe of some of you who have cared for others for years. I don't think I would have it in me!

Thank you. xxx

Re: Walking away entirely - anyone done this?

Posted: Thu Mar 09, 2017 11:41 pm
by Elaine
Hi there,
Very many of us 'fall', or 'side' into caring feeling that it is 'what we should do', and 'I will cope' without the slightest clue as to how bad it is going to get. Some people have such a fantastic relationship with their appreciative parent(s) that the joy of caring for them overcomes the hard times and stress. To take over this life changing task already knowing that it is not something you feel at all comfortable with is a short road to disaster. I applaud your realisation that it is not for you and personally feel that to take on their care personally is a bad idea all round. As has been previously advocated elsewhere on this forum to be a 'care organiser', therefore ensuring that your parents are in a good place, with friendly and caring people to look after them , whether in their own home or in a Home is the best way forward. There's no need to feel guilty about not being a full nursing/ cleaning/housekeeping team all on your own and thereby giving up your life for however many years.
I personally think that walking away completely, (as in never seeing them again), might play on your mind in future, but rejecting the full-on caring role and organising alternative care with an overseeing role should be acceptable all round.
Your parents want to be younger, healthier, able to manage, back to how it used to be. Of course they do, and so will you and I when that time comes, but there's no magic wand. All you can do is what you can do. All they can do is live through the twilight as we all must, resent it as we all will. That's life.

Re: Walking away entirely - anyone done this?

Posted: Fri Mar 10, 2017 9:05 am
by helena_1512
I can relate totally. I walked away from caring from my late father last year. We had never had an easy relationship. I had spent a lot of time trying to organise care for him as in people to take him shopping and cleaning.I did write to the GP and Adult Social care saying that I was not in a position to care for my father and they had a duty of care to him as a vulnerable adult.

I also had to threaten the Hospital and the Care Agency who were eventually put in place by SS, with a solicitors letter as my father had told them that his daughter lived over the road and was his 'carer'. I also found it very hard to deal with the constant phone calls telling me that my father was not eating or taking his pills and one day, refused to come out of the shower.

It was frankly very hard as I am an only child but I was NOT going to be bullied/emotionally blackmailed into being driven to a nervous breakdown. Thankfully, my GP was the same as my father's and he was very very good. I also found people on this Forum amazing and very supportive and non judgemental because like you, I was terrified I would be judged and found 'wanting'.

Do I feel guilty? Honest answer no but I do feel sad. The other option is to realise your feelings are normal and set boundries. You could write to the GP and Adult Social Care saying that you are not in a position to care for your father. My father had money to organize his own care too but was very mean and wanted me to do it, despite the fact that I am the carer of my much older husband. Old people can be amazingly selfish.

So it is your decision but I for one would never judge your for walking away .....