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Hello. I'm new here.
My name is Maria and I'm a 49 yo woman.
I'm dealing with anticipatory grief, and I'm not doing well.
My parents are very old, 86 (mom) and 89 (dad) , and my aunt and uncle are 87 and 88.
They all live at the same house. They have some health problems. Mother has vascular dementia, Father has diabetes, anut has vision problems and uncle has depression. (Well I think all of them are depressed)
I lived at their home for the last ten years, because I wanted to take care of them. I'm not married nor have children.
But the four of them are VERY demanding and VERY negative people. They are always complaining, arguing, offending each other and everyone. And of course, me. A LOT.
After all those years, I got overwhelmed and severely depressed.
They were very nice and loving when they were young and I love them very much.
I went to therapy for several years and took medication, but my dr. always told me that I'd never heal unless I moved out, to a different house. I didn't because they refused to have any help.
Finally, I did it two months ago. I visit them, I call them, I take care of their groceries, laundry, meds, etc, but they are very, very, very angry with me.
They call me names all the time, they say I abandoned them, and so many more horrible things.
Now I'm dealing with terrible guilt and remorse. I know they are not going to live many more years.
Was it selfish to try recovering from my terrible depression I have? I don't know what to do.
I'm feeling very very sad, I cry all the time.

I'm feeling worse than ever.

Do you think I am bad because I left them? I can't even imagine how I'm going to feel if one of them dies. :(

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I never think it's bad to take care of yourself first. If you don't take care of yourself, you won't be of any help to any of them. Older people sometimes get tunnel vision as their world narrows to just them. It's easy for them to focus on what they want and not anyone else, and this may be the case with them. You aren't likely going to change that. It would help if they could get out, away from their own environment once in a while. Some cities have a daycare for elderly where they can go and be around other people, do other activities, art, bingo, etc. Just seeing others and a different environment can help them a lot. Even at my mom's dementia care facility they bring people in to show them things, interact with them, etc.

You are doing well by taking care of their needs and spending time with them, it's unfortunate that they are unable to show appreciation, but that's how some people get esp. as they age. I read a book called "Emotional Blackmail" that really helped me because no matter how much we did for my mom, how much time we spent with her, it was never "enough". There comes a time to realize it is them and not you and let go of it. It is up to you to decide how much time you can spend on them and then stick to that. If they need more care than you can give them, or need hospice, then it's time to call in reinforcements. But continue to take care of you.

I hope you are continuing to see your doctor and get help for you, this is a lot of burden to have on yourself. Do you have any siblings that could give relief occasionally?

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Dear Maria,

You are dealing with a lot more than anticipatory grief, and I think that is obvious to all of us.

You are dealing with emotional abuse from some very dear and loved family members who sound as though they need some group therapy -- in scattered groups, not with each other right now! Do you have a good social worker involved in your situation?

And now, feralfae puts down her still-dim wand and hands you off to the real wise ones around this fire.

Blessings and lots of *<twinkles>* to you, dear heart.

It is time to bring outside help, in the form of a good social worker skilled in working with people their ages. There are ways to make this a good situation for everyone. But you cannot and should not try to do it alone.

I now follow my own advice. ;)



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Maria, my dear, you’ve asked if trying to recover from your terrible depression was selfish, and whether we think you’re bad because you “left” these four elders to whom you’ve given yourself for the last decade.

The answer to your first question lies in what your own doctor said: that you’d never heal unless you moved out, to a different house.

As for whether we think you’re “bad” for placing your own mental and physical health first, I hope our responses will assure you that taking care of yourself first is the best and most responsible way to care for your loved ones. You cannot take care of anyone if you’re not in a healthy state yourself. And even though you made the move two months ago, clearly you’re still very much involved in taking care of your folks.

I understand that you’re “dealing with terrible guilt and remorse” ~ but just because you’re feeling this way, it does not mean that you are guilty as charged. You are only human, and what these family members are expecting of you is beyond any one person’s capacity to provide. It is clear that you are completely overwhelmed and exhausted, and it is imperative that you find some sort of respite for yourself as soon as possible. Getting yourself into a state of total exhaustion will do nothing to help your loved ones, and staying there will only put you at further risk for burnout and a breakdown of your own immune system, thereby making you more susceptible to all kinds of physical and emotional illness. So I urge you to make this a top priority for yourself.

While it’s good to know that you’ve found your way to this warm and caring place, and it’s good for you to hear from all of us that you are neither selfish nor bad, I think that in addition to that, you need some expert information from an eldercare specialist who can guide you, not only in assessing and meeting your loved ones’ needs for care, but your own needs for support and respite from your duties as their primary care giver.

I encourage you to consult with a Geriatric Social Worker ~ a specialist who can offer experienced support and advice on how to deal with your situation, help you feel less helpless and alone, and assist you in exploring whatever services are available to you that you might not know about already. You can find a geriatric social worker by contacting your local Agency on Aging, or you can ask your family physician, hospital, senior center, social service agency or religious community to suggest a geriatric social worker they have worked with in the past.

I also encourage you to explore additional resources, such as those you’ll find listed on my site’s Care Giving Links page. See, for example,

Caregiving Café - This website provides a directory of useful links, contacts, resources and information about all aspects of caregiving, in order to more efficiently and effectively provide care to loved ones or to oneself when care is needed; to inform and to educate caregivers about rules, regulations and care; to 'meet' other caregivers in order to gain support, friendship, motivation and ways to cope as well as to exchange ideas; and to provide caregivers with a comfortable and inviting place where they can 'take a coffee break' from their duties, remembering that everyone needs time and space to recharge.

Caring for the Elderly - Here you'll find online resource listings for the elderly, their children and caregivers, compiled by Jane Gross of The New York Times.

SeniorsList – Find Senior Services (e.g., Area Agency on Aging; home care; adult day care; assisted living facility) in your own community (search by zip code).

Benefits Checkup - A free service of the National Council on Aging (NCOA), a nonprofit service and advocacy organization in Washington, DC. Many adults over 55 need help paying for prescription drugs, health care, utilities, and other basic needs. There are over 2,000 federal, state and private benefits programs available to help. But many people don't know these programs exist or how they can apply. BenefitsCheckUp asks a series of questions to help identify benefits that could save you money and cover the costs of everyday expenses. After answering the questions, you will get a report created just for you that describes the programs you may get help from. You can apply for many of the programs online or you can print an application form. Types of expenses you may get help with include medications, food, utilities, legal, health care, housing, in-home services, taxes, transportation, and employment training.

Caregiver Relief Fund - A social venture committed to caring for caregivers that provides resources, assistance and a voice to over 50 million Americans who are currently caregivers to the chronically ill, aged and disabled.

Medicaid – Find Medicaid information by state.

Medicare – What Medicare covers.

Gail Sheehey, Advocate for Caregivers

AARP's Caregiving Resource Center

Adult Day Care: Your Questions Answered

Assisted Living Directories - See Grief Healing's Care Giving Links page for listings.

CaringRoad.com - An online community of family caregivers whose support network will help you meet other family caregivers who understand and empathize with how difficult it is to sustain this important role. You can base your search on the illness you're dealing with, your relationship to the person you're caring for or your geographical location. Based on the information you provide, this unique database will generate a list of other family caregivers in similar situations.

Finally, while I can offer you all sorts of resources I've managed to find on the Internet, the question arises: Where will you find the time or the energy to follow all these links and investigate which resources would be of greatest use to you and your loved ones? That is where a geriatric social worker can be of such enormous help to you, my dear. That person will be able to sift through all of this information and help you find what best fits your individual circumstances. I hope you will think of this as a gift you can give to yourself, and one you need and so richly deserve.

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Thank you Marty.

I feel as though a lamp has been lit for Maria.

Maria, I am so sorry you are going through this very rough time. I am so glad you have found this place, and we welcome you to join us around this fire. There is wonderful compassion and loving support here.

Come back often and let us know how you are doing. I know we will all be thinking of you.

I hope you are eating well, taking vitamins, staying hydrated, and doing some meditations each day. You deserve all the loving care you can give yourself. :)





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I do hope you will come back and keep us posted on how you're doing. The book I mentioned would be a good one to read Emotional Blackmail, it helped me greatly in learning to not cave in to my mom and let go of the guilt at the same time. Toxic Parents helped me as well, but only you would know if that's applicable in your situation, it was in mine.

Marty gave you a whole host of places to look into and start! I hope you don't feel overwhelmed, perhaps a couple of calls a week would be a good place to start. You didn't say if you're working outside the home, but if you are, I hope it's a place that you like. Do you have a support system (other family, friends)? Church? If you've been caring for four elderly for quite some time, you may have cut yourself off from the rest of the world, in which case it'd be a good time to start reentering the world, developing contacts, acquaintances, friendships.

You are not only not bad, but I'd nominate you for sainthood! Understand though, that sainthood may not be a good thing for you, being well balanced, whole, in tune with yourself and your needs would be something to strive for. Too many of us have been there, although not all to the extent you have been!

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This came to me via email this morning, Maria, and I thought of you immediately:

Do You Need Help Caring for Your Loved One?

Caring for a loved one is rewarding but can be overwhelming. You are juggling the demands of caring for everyone, but who helps you? It's common to feel alone and overwhelmed by all that you have to manage. We want caregivers to know that it's ok to ask for help and to say yes to offers from friends to bring a meal or share a visit. Caregivers just like you have said yes to a helping hand. You can too.

Lotsa Helping Hands | Communities of Support, Just for You

Lotsa Helping Hands offers an always-free service designed to make your life easier as you care for your loved one. Now, you can privately organize your network of friends and family to help. Free communities include a help calendar for listing activities that you may need help with such as rides to medical appointments or a warm meal after a long day; community building features for emotional support; and a place to update your community of helpers on how you and your loved one are doing.

Create a Community Today

More than 1.5 million people have trusted Lotsa Helping Hands to help organize life during caregiving. If you need help or know someone who does, create a community today.

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Maria, here is another service I just read about this morning, and it made me think of you. It's called eldercare mediation, whereby a professional mediator works with families and sometimes with professional caregivers and their clients, to solve problems surrounding care, estate planning or any kind of aging-related issue. The mediator sits down with everyone involved and facilitates conversation in a safe and neutral manner, so that they can really understand each other and find creative solutions that work for everyone.

Go here to learn more about this service: EldercareMediators.com

See also

Caring for Parents Who Weren't Good Parents

Senior Care Directory

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  • 2 weeks later...

Prayers are flowing to you and your family, Maria. I can't imagine how you even have enough strength to deal with one thing let alone all that you are dealing with today.

You have been given many links from Marty to guide you. I hope you have time to read some of them.

You are important ~ please take care of you.



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I join in those prayers, I'm sorry your mom isn't well.

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Dear Maria,

I am sending lots of healing prayers and energy, and also sending loving {{{hugs}}} for you and your Mom. I am so sorry you are going through this terribly difficult time, and I know you must be feeling even more anxious than usual. I hope you can feel all the loving care and prayers from everyone here.

We are holding you and your Mom close in our hearts. I will be watching here for any updates, and I know others will as well.




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Maria, my dear, I'm so sorry about your mom, and I cannot imagine how her health issues are contributing to your stress.

I know that you have precious little time to come back here and check in with us, but I hope you know that whether you have time or not, we are here for you, we are thinking of you, and we are holding you close.

I just stumbled upon yet another article that made me think of you, and I'm posting it here for you, whenever you have time to read it. I realize that all of its content may not pertain to you and where you are with your mom right now, but I'm hoping some of it may help you with the other elderly in your care:

By Carol O'Dell, Caring.com contributing editor

I'm afraid I won't be able to continue being my mother's full-time caregiver. She's in her mid-80s and lives with me in my small house. She has mild dementia and other health problems, and she's a hoarder. I fear that if I move her to another living arrangement, such as a nearby condo nearby or even a care facility, she'll really go downhill. She's terrified of living alone and wouldn't go willingly to a facility. But I also feel as if it's come to a "her or me" situation.

I work full-time, but her care, physically and emotionally, is increasingly all-consuming. In the past few years I've lost friendships and even dating relationships because she's so jealous and petty.

Now that I have a health crisis of my own (I've been diagnosed with lupus), I feel that I have to start taking better care of myself -- and I don't even know how to begin. I'm exhausted and worried all the time, to the point of almost being too paralyzed to make any decisions.

First, let me state how wise you are for realizing what you can and can't do as a caregiver, daughter, and woman. Caring for your own health and life is paramount at this point. You're to be commended for keeping all this in perspective while still caring for your mother as best as you can.

Before you do anything, sit down and make a plan -- not only for the level of care she requires now but for what she may need in the future. She might be hiding some of her physical and cognitive issues. Further, health and mental decline isn't always slow and steady. She may trickle or plummet. It's hard to say; you have to be ready for anything.

Given her age and declining health and condition, I'd lean toward incorporating her longer-term care into whatever decision you make. Moving her into a condo might not last long, and it would add costs in terms of in-home health care, housekeeping, and so on. And she may simply be unable to live on her own. You need to look at her finances, her insurance, what Medicare can offer, what your community has nearby -- all the possibilities that could help her in the state she's in now, plus the state she could be in five years from now.

Go ahead and talk about possibilities such as assisted living (although if she has a memory disorder and hoards, she might already be past what many assisted living facilities can offer in terms of support). You might also consider live-in care, home health aides, Meals on Wheels, community and volunteer care, and help from your siblings or other relatives. There are many ways for her to receive assistance from someone other than you -- and she could develop friendships and supportive relationships with peers or even health aides, depending on where she's living.

It will take a good bit of your time and effort to research all this and then to implement the necessary changes for your mother's life. And you'll need to realize that some changes won't work out and will need to be adjusted. But this effort will pay off. It will also give you the opportunity to think about your own future. Double-dip and begin to create your own long-term plan.

While you're researching all of this, see if there are local adult day services where your mom can spend some time one or more days a week. She may be busier and happier with more social contact with the outside world. And you can get some needed rest and "alone time" while you make plans. Or, even if you're at work while she's away, you'll know you'll come home to a tidier house and a happier living companion.

Your statement that you're "exhausted and worried all the time" tells me that you're deep in caregiver burnout. I implore you to take action. It's not going to be easy to begin to put yourself first -- to eat well, take your medication, get enough sleep, and begin to reconnect with lost friendships and other relationships. Your body is asking for help. Don't ignore it or tell yourself to be last on the list.

As hard as it is to say out loud, your mother is in her mid-80s. I hope that she's had a good life, with family, friends, and adventures big and small. You deserve the same. Do what you can to manage your mother's care with love, kindness, and consideration -- and with healthy boundaries. Carve out the time now to invest even more in your own life. That's not being selfish. That's being responsible for the gift of life that you've been given.

Reclaim your life and your home. Believe that the more you do to bring balance and wholeness to your own life, the more you'll be able to benefit your mom as well.

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