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Newbie here--apologies, I need to vent :( - Carers UK Forum

Newbie here--apologies, I need to vent :(

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Hi everyone, I'm a bit nervous about posting here because I'm worried it'll turn into a rant, and I know there are thousands in much worse positions than I am, but I'm hoping that, even if nobody reads this, just getting my thoughts down might make me feel a bit better.

About three years ago my mother started having problems with her hip. At the time, my brother was living with her but he never lifted a finger to help her. He'd get home from work and expect his dinner on the table and then would sit and play video games all night. Mom was still taking out the rubbish, going shopping, walking the dog, hanging out washing, etc with an arthritic hip.

Just as she was really starting to struggle, my brother decided to move in with his girlfriend who lived about 70 miles away. So that left me, working full time (as a carer for the elderly) making an eight-mile round trip each day to check she was okay and had everything she needed.

Her condition worsened and as I was single at the time, I gave up my rented flat and moved in with her. I managed to transfer at work so I was working locally.

Over the past 18 months, she's had three ops on the hip because the first one was botched. She's been in an out of hospital, rehab centres, and now her latest x-ray has revealed a crack in the neck of her femur, so that means another operation, probably around Christmas.

My brother has visited her twice in the last six months. At no time has he offered to help, or ask if I can manage or need a break. We had a huge row a few months ago and we're no longer speaking. My brother's now-wife has a medical condition that means she needs care, so he gave up his job to look after her. So I can't feel resentful about that, can I, because that makes me a bitch. Regardless of the fact he never offered to help before his wife became sick.

My mother is in a lot of pain and has been housebound for the last 18 months, apart from hospital visits. Because of this she's become very withdrawn. She's also on very strong painkillers which are affecting her memory. Which means conversation is dead in our household. She'll ask me something, I'll answer and then half an hour later she'll ask me again. When I tell her she mentioned it earlier, she'll get upset and deny that she did. So I've kind of stopped asking her anything unless it's absolutely essential.

She's been advised to do little things around the house by her OT but she just sits there or goes for lie downs. Any attempt from me to encourage her has ended in tears because it means, in her mind, that I think she's lazy. Then I get the guilt trip--she wishes she could do these things but she just doesn't have the energy. So I've stopped asking her to do anything.

I'm lucky in a way because I do go to work, which almost feels like a break. I get to talk to the girls at work, actually smile and laugh, but all the time I'm thinking about when I go home. I dread it. I work all day as a carer and meet some lovely people, but on the flip side I also meet some very unpleasant people, very self-absorbed.

And then I get home and it's just misery, silence and guilt. I do absolutely everything for Mom and I'm tired all the time. And I feel so resentful--resentful that my brother seems to have absolved himself of any responsibility, resentful that Mom phones him every night, tells him she loves him (I can't remember the last time she told me), and that he's pretty much golden boy.

Resentful that I'm in my early 40s and I have absolutely no life with no chance of meeting anyone. I go out for a curry once a month with friends and that is my lifeline. I'm resentful that my mother is a grown woman and yet I need to do absolutely everything for her. I'm resentful that she asks me EVERYTHING--how should I do this? Who should I call for this? And yet when I try to advise her about anything I'm accused of treating her like a child.

I feel she IS like a child. I love her but I never signed up for this. We no longer have a mother-daughter relationship--we have a patient-carer relationship. I'm ashamed to say that when she cries or sounds like she's in pain, I don't feel anything. It's like I'm at work and in 'professional' mode. I'm just numb. When I go to work I can at least put on an act but when it's time to go home, I don't want to.

Nothing ever surprises her. I try to cook nice meals and arrange little surprises for her but I just get the same old grunt and miserable face. I know this sounds really, really awful of me. Sometimes I stop myself and wonder what kind of person I'm turning into. I don't want to be this person. I don't know how to have fun anymore. Every day seems the same.

I know she's very likely depressed and I mentioned this once, that maybe she should tell her doctor about it, but whenever healthcare professionals call (she has district nurses for her ulcerated legs, one carer in the morning to help with personal care while I'm at work, and any doctors or consultants she sees) she seems to brighten up. She chats and laughs with them. They don't see any evidence of depression or memory loss. And then when they've gone or when we leave the doctors/ hospital it's silence again.

I managed to get away for a holiday in May--two weeks in America, after having to cancel it twice because of her operations. I arranged carers to visit twice a day, a friend to walk the dog, and she was very well looked after. But I felt guilty the whole time I was away. And, on the way back, I sat in the toilets at Heathrow and cried my eyes out because I didn't want to go home.

She was actually happy to see me and hugged me for the first time in as long as I can remember. But it didn't last long. The day after I came home I felt like I'd never gone away.

I know I sound horribly selfish, and I suppose I am. I just thought that at this stage in my life I might be married and have a life of my own but I look ahead and I can't see that happening. I have some great friends (again, I know how lucky I am) who are there if I need them but I try not to burden them too much because I don't want to be that miserable person I am at home.

Again, I don't know if anyone will read this but I just wanted to get my thoughts down. Thank you.
Lisa hi, and welcome.

Believe me, if you want (ie, need!) to rant, you've come to the right place! Loads of us here rant away merrily (or rather, not very merrily!!!!)

Anyway, I can quite understand your frustration with the way things are in your life with you mum. You're sort of 'trapped on all fronts'. That's never a good feeling! (I was similarly trapped 2 years ago when I 'inherited' my 89 y.o formerly ruggedly indpedendent MIL, who'd become increasingly helpless and then went into full-blown dementia. For about a year my life was 'swallowed up' by having to look after her, and I just 'could not' see any way out! However, I 'solved' the problem - er, for me, not her, alas - by finally accepting she could never again live on her own, however close by I moved her, and that to have her live with me would have resulted in my complete nervous breakdown and (I kid you not....) my suicide - looking after her 'ate my life' and it simply wasn't worth living.)

So I do appreciate where you're coming from.

Can I say the following?

First of all, 'write off' your brother. I know you're burning with resentment, very understandably, at how he utterly didn't lift a finger for your mum, but as you say, these days he's had his 'come-uppance' if you life, and has had to become a carer anyway. Sort of 'now he'll learn!' I guess. It's also galling that your mum STILL sees him as 'golden boy' and that is, alas, all too common with parents - and is, of course, the reason he never lifted a finger to help her. That said, maybe what she was primarily getting out of it was simply her son's company.....as I grow older, and my own son (at uni) makes a life for himself, I'm increasingly understanding just how much parents become simply grateful for ANY time that our adult children spend on us or with us. So presumably simply 'having her son at home with her' is what was 'repaying' your mum for all the work she did for him.

Now, on to you. You say you live with her to look after her - but you also mention that when you were on holiday she seemed to be coping well, with the professional care you organised for her. Is there any reason, I wonder, why that professional care should not be the norm for her? That would allow you to move out again, and have your own life once more.

Or, as a sort of 'halfway house' maybe you and she could both move, and have a set up whereby she is in a kind of granny annexe, with professional care most of the time, but with you nearby, and then the two of you spending some time together, eg, at weekends.

It's sad what you say about the mother-daughter relationship being lost, but alas that is all, all too common when it comes to elder-care. WE become 'the parents' and 'they' become 'the child'. The trouble is, they still think of themselves as 'parents' when it comes to 'not doing what we want them to do for their own good!' - ie, they want to be 'helpless' like a child with new 'Mummy' (us!) looking after them, but they want to retain the 'power' of being the adult as well.....hence the conflict!!!

Your possibilities are, of course, constrained fundamentally by whatever the financial set up is. That will determine how much freedom you can have. The bottom line, however, is, and please never forget this, NO ONE 'has' to look after their parents! We have no legal 'duty of care' and sometimes we have to remind SS/NHS of this forcibly! And sometimes, sadly, we even have to remind our carees.....

Finally, you do NOT sound 'selfish' at all. You sound like a normal human being who just wants a fair crack at their own life. Noathing wrong with that at all! The only challenge is 'how to achieve it'!!!!
Hiya Lisa,
Join the gang and if you are a horrible person, so am I and so are lots of us on this forum, but actually we are very nice, very unselfish people who are struggling with a lot more than we signed up for just like you.
You are not alone in feeling like this at all! Resentment, oh yes, anger, definitely, guilt of course, exhausted and stressed and all the rest of it.
Now, is Mum suffering from early onset dementia, is she affected by her medication or is she just a misery who 'enjoys' playing the martyr? I guess Mum is in her 60/70s? So am I. I've had a hip replacement too, only once thank goodness, (so far) and I don't have ulcerated legs, although I have had cancer in the past, and I'm looking after my 99 yr old Mum who is just as wrapped up in her own woes, won't go out and also is bright and cheerful with carers and other visitors. I do remember the hip pain as being pretty awful and I also remember the strong painkillers affected me. Your Mum is having a bad time of it, constant pain is a horrible thing, but so are you in pain of a very different kind. You can't do much about Mum's condition until the next operation hopefully sorts her out but you can do something to improve your life.
The first thing I would do is go see the GP for yourself. Tell him/her how it really is at home and how you are suffering from it. Make a list of the 'symptoms'; the forgetfulness, the withdrawal, the lack of communication etc before you go so you don't forget anything. Tell GP that your health is suffering. Tell GP that you don't know how much longer you can look after Mum. (Well, you don't do you? Even if you have no intention of giving up right now). You might get somewhere but if not then you have at least made them aware.
Secondly, up the care. You'll know yourself that some 'care' is 'companionship'. Chose a night, or an afternoon or whatever and get yourself out somewhere. Those friends of yours might be glad to join you for a trip to the cinema, a meal, the pub? You don't have to arrange care for the whole time you are out. An hour in the middle just to check on Mum and make her a cuppa etc? If no friends available for such a trip find a night class or a club or a history society, anything that interests you and join.
What does Mum do with herself when you are at work and she is alone? Anything? Or does she sit in lonely misery? In my area there are groups who visit or befriend people. Anything like that near you?
Your brother. Well, just maybe Mum brought him up to be looked after by her. Maybe he was so blinkered that he couldn't see what was happening or didn't know what to do or was just plain lazy. Whatever it was if he has had to give up work to care for his new(ish) wife then he sure knows now. However having discovered what caring is all about he hasn't got room for you or Mum. His wife is the most important thing. It's sad that you have fallen out.
Keep posting. I'm sure you'll have lots of advice and empathy from all of the 'looking after mum/dad' people on here.
Elaine X
I'm going to start a new thread.....do we need a book covering all the aspects of caring for a very elderly parent?
Hi Jenny and Elaine, thank you both so much for replying and for your advice. Deep down I was thinking along the same lines, but sometimes you need another person--particularly one who understands your situation--to confirm it.

First of all Jenny, I'm so sorry to hear about your own situation with your mom. That was a very rapid decline and for someone who was previously so independent, downright cruel. It must have been hellish for you to deal with and you absolutely made the right decision to take a step back for your own sake.

Also, one thing in particular you said resonated with me: that when the child/parent role is reversed, the parent still sees themselves as the parents and therefore 'in charge'. That didn't even occur to me. Such a simple yet insightful observation.

Elaine, I'm also very sorry to hear about your mother and your own health troubles. You have my admiration and sympathy. I'm very lucky in that I am reasonably healthy aside from the occasional niggle, so I should be grateful for that.

My mother is 69 but her condition has aged her, physically and mentally. I will take your advice as I think it's about time I spoke to her GP. I have been wondering for a while if there are the first signs of dementia there, but I do know that morphine can affect memory too so I think I've been 'accepting' it's the morphine and nothing else.

Mom has always been a bit of a martyr and hypersensitive, so that's just part of her personality. She's also always been very dependent on others--my father when they were married (they're divorced), my brother when he lived with her and now me. I have taken a step back and told her she needs to order her own meds, confirm appointments and such because up to a while ago I was doing all of that. I'm trying to give her more responsibility but it's a slow process because she takes offence when I suggest something, and sulks. Again, this is the way she's always been so I'm not attributing that to dementia or anything similar.

As for moving out, unfortunately that's not possible at the moment due to finances, and to be honest I think I'd still be running back and forth even if I didn't live there. The physical and chores aspect is easier living under the same roof, it's just the lack of interaction and her physical and mental inertia I'm finding hard to deal with. I have considered getting more care for her but to be honest I believe that will make her completely dependent on others when she doesn't need to be.

She is in a lot of pain and I do understand that but, she is physically capable of doing things around the house and has been encouraged to do so by her OT--but won't. She doesn't do any of the exercises prescribed to her and when I remind her she huffs. I actually heard her telling my brother on the phone that I nag her all the time which was really hurtful. I'm simply trying to encourage her to be more independent but, returning to Jenny's observation, she is the parent and she knows best.

As for my brother, I have let him go and I'm trying really hard to let the resentment go as well, because it serves no purpose, won't change anything and only causes hurt.

Again, thank you both so much for taking the time to comment. It helps to know I'm not alone and has made me realise things could be a lot worse. I will certainly make an appointment with Mom's GP and hopefully take things from there. xx
Lisa, I'm glad it's helped a little.

Definitely take on board that 'paradox' about the role reversal - that they want it 'both ways' - they want us to look after them, but ONLY on their own terms!!!! (There are LOADS of people here in that situation, if you start reading some of the other threads you will see that your situation is by no means, sadly, unique, which I hope 'cheers you up' in a way!)

I personaly think the key word you've used is 'dependent' in describing your mother, that she's always had 'someone else' to 'look after her'. I've never understood why parents bring children up that way, as presumably your mother was, nor why husbands continue it!

However, no reason why you should do the same!

It does sound like there is a battle going on between you and your mum - YOU are trying to make her 'grow up' (finally!) and take responsibility for herself -and she is fighting it every inch of the way! She's sulking, complaining about being 'nagged' and refusing to cooperate. What does that remind one of? Oh yes, a child!!!!

Personally, I'd suggest simply telling her 'you do things, Mum, or they don't get done! No one else is going to do them!'

That way she has a clear choice - take responsibility, or take the consequences. YOU are NOT responsible for what happens then if she doesn't take those responsibilities.

She'll fight it (oh, she'll fight it!), so you will have to Hold the Line. it won't be easy, and it won't be quick, but it does sound like you are on the way to achieving that.

However, you will also, I suspect, need to grow a thick skin - you have to become 'immune' to her 'punishments' of you for trying to force her to take responsibility for herself. You have to simply 'not care' about her sulking, her complaints, blah blah blah, etc etc. It has to be water off a duck's back - don't get upset, don't get angry, don't get exasperated. Just ignore it. When it ceases to work, she'll stop doing it!

It does sound a little like she's trying to 'show' you that 'I can't be left on my own, or bad things happen to me!', in order to force your hand. But that is her problem, not yours. It truly is.

I'm not saying be hard and uncompassionate, just firm and resolute. Like a parent has to be. :)
Thanks again, Jenny. it really is kind of you to virtually 'hold my hand'.

I think my dad enabled that dependency in her--they both held very traditional gender roles in my childhood home: man goes to work and deals with money, bills, etc, and woman keeps house. When they divorced she hit rock bottom and was severely depressed for more than a year. She eventually came through it but by then she had my brother and I jumping through hoops (that's not meant to sound cruel) because we'd been so worried about her. My brother lived with her and they continued to perpetuate those gender roles.

Unfortunately, my brother taking over the finances was a disaster and he got both of them into a lot of debt--and guess who had to bail them out. Well, I bailed her out for a while but had to draw the line somewhere. Then he moved out and I moved in, and inherited a ton of bills all in HER name. It took a while but I sat down with her, made a budget and I was a tyrant about it, lol, but we got the debts cleared eventually.

So now I'm in control of everything and I suppose that's one of the sources of my resentment--that she's a grown woman and has never really tried to be independent, although writing this down and seeing it in black and white, I suppose I've done my part to 'enable' her as well. So you're absolutely right in saying that I need to start delegating and NOT stepping in if something doesn't get done.

You're also spot on when you say I am not responsible for the way she feels (unless, of course, I was being abusive, which I'm not) and that she makes the choice to be offended or sulk about something. Which means that I also make the choice of getting stressed about these things.

As for the thick skin... I'm working on it. :)

I can't thank you enough. Sometimes it's hard to see the wood for the trees, as they say. I'll try to put some of your advice into practice. Wish me luck!
Lisa, sometimes what these forums do to help is simply 'reflect back' via other people what we ourselves actually think all along! Knowing that others also feel the way we do, can be really 'empowering'. I also think that sometimes reading other people's views sympathising can give us 'permission' to do what we want to do. I know myself that I was given 'permission' to put my poor MIL with dementia into a care home, though I felt guilty (don't we all!), people here, and friends in real life (and my son!), confirmed it would be for the best, given the intractability of the situation, and that there was, in my family set up, absolutely no one else to help with MIL at all (apart from my bro - and (a) he's not really anythignto do with her and (b) he's got enough on his plate!)(my BIL, her surviving son, lives in the USA, and so there is nothing practical that he can do - he's very grateful for all I do by the way!).(And I'm a million times more relaxed about my MIL now thankfully, and take her out regularly and we go for drives and have cream teas :) )

Anyway, with your mum, I do see why you and your brother 'rallied round' - though in the great scheme of things, perhaps her sad history shows just why those 'traditional' marriages were so fatally flawed. They ONLY worked while the 'big strong man' stayed around to look after their 'delicate frail wives'.....

(Sorry, I'm sort of assumign it was your father who debunked from teh marraige, not your mother opting out - unless she was running from a grim situation, which, sadly, can also be associated with 'traditional' marriages - ie, the 'big strong hubby' turns out to be a Controller!!!!!)(I'm making wild guesses here, I might be way off the mark, in which case apols to your father!)

But the end of any marriage is traumatic, and I do see why you both felt you needed to support your mum - a habit that sort of just drifted on and on by the sounds of thigns...

It'sa shame (!) that your brother was so financially irresponsible (interestingto speculate what is happenign to him now??!)(though agian, mabye he ws never raised to have any responsibility for money??) - but good that you pulled it all back together again. However, and I only speak personally here, whilst I would suggest making your mother take responsibility for herself, it might be prudent NOT to include handling money in that!!!! Best probably for YOU to keep control/guardianship!!!

I hope that things are a little clearer for you now, and that you can see a better way forward. I hope that by stepping back a little, allowing your mum to take the consequences of her (in)action (but keeping maybe a watching brief over her without her realising???) you will be less frustrated??

Wishing you well, Jenny