Some background info about my story. I’m 47 and I care for both my parents, my mum is 86 and my dad is 76. Although my mum is older he doesn’t need much physical support. She has always suffered from depression and social anxiety and I have been emotionally supporting her since I was a child. It hasn’t been easy coping with her and my alcohol dependent father, they have always had a very volatile relationship and I always felt like the peace keeper. My father would come home drunk, she would react by shouting, crying, sulking, they would argue and then not speak to each other for weeks using me to referee.
Things changed 3 years ago when my father’s drinking and mismanagement of his diabetes meant he needed vascular surgery on both legs. My mum and I tried to support him the best we could but he kept drinking and not checking hid blood sugars. He ended up in hospital again with kidney problems and now has a catheter. The nerve damage from the diabetes is so bad he can barely walk, so he only goes to the pub which is a 2 minute walk. I don’t think he is drinking alcohol but I can’t be sure.
Within the last 3 weeks he has gotten worse, he has taken to bed and refuses to get up. We phoned the doctor and he said he has muscle weakness due to lack of movement. He said he needs to try and get into a healthy routine, eating well and gradually increasing his walking. But he refuses he just keeps talking painkillers, lying in bed and if my mum doesn’t take him food he doesn’t eat. I give him medication every day, but he isn’t checking his bloods.
I phoned the nurse and basically she told me there’s nothing they can do, I doctor assessed his mental condition and he deliberately refusing to help himself. If my mum runs after him taking him his meals in bed he is in a reasonable mood but if she asks him to get up he refuses.
She is having a new pacemaker fitted next week so she can’t look after him.
You must have the patience of a saint to be still caring for both your parents, neither of whom are easy characters to care for.
Do you live with them?
Has your Dad had a Needs Assessment? I’m not sure what social care will make of him, but it’s worth a try, to see if he qualifies for care visits to sort out his meals. If not, stock up on ready meals, etc Needs assessment | Carers UK
I don’t have personal experience of caring for the elderly, others will be along, to make suggestions.
My dad had an assessment before he left the hospital and he refused any help. The district nurse calls once a month to change his catheter and she told me he is more than capable of making an effort. Thankfully I don’t live with my parents but I do live very close. He was he won’t get up because he’s afraid of falling down the stairs.
He has had an assessment and he is capable of looking after himself, he’s just lazy and emotionally blackmails my mum into looking after him. He’s light headed because he isn’t looking after his diabetes and complains about the food he’s given. He has always been self centred and selfish, when he was up Nd about he would rather spend time getting drunk in the pub instead of caring for his wife. I have had to take time off work to stay with my mum when she had gall stones and went and left her to go on holiday with his mates.
No one can be forced to care for anyone else. Mum does NOT have to lift a finger to look after dad, and you don’t have to look after either of them. There have been other wives here on the forum who took the difficult decision not to care for their husband’s, usually because of a bad relationship between them.
Focus entirely on mum’s well being from now on. Dad has ruled the roost with his bad behaviour, but now he has to take the consequences. If he chooses not to get food or eat, that is his choice. He can’t do anything to hurt either of you now.
Where you live is really important. If you live with them, and it’s council/housing association property, you need to find out if they will allow you to keep living there when both parents die. Too many carers have found that 28 days after the last parent dies or goes into care, they will have to leave what could be a lifelong home.
I don’t know you or the full picture of your situation so if anything I say upsets you, forgive me. Not my intention.
Reading through your posts it occurs to me that this very sad situation is all about choice
Your father, it seems, has chosen, all your life, to be utterly selfish, stubborn and ‘bl—y minded.
He has chosen to ignore his wife’s needs, objections to his unreasonable behaviour and chosen to burden his family with his self inflicted problems.
Your Mum has chosen to put up with it on the whole, (she hasn’t left him), and by pandering to his demands and self centred behaviour has supported him in his self destructive path even though doing so has compounded her own misery.
They both chose to use you as a peace-maker, handy carer, general dogs body and door mat.
You did chose to live in your own home. Good for you. Does that mean you also have a partner/husband/family of your own.? BUT you have also chosen to go along with it and have been helping and therefore enabling both of them to continue same as, same as.
You can all make new choices and change the status quo. Your father could chose to make an effort. He won’t if there are no consequences he has to face. He is chosing not to look after himself in any way. He is chosing to put that burden onto your Mum and you, as usual. Why shouldn’t he? All he ever got, (he may think) is a bit of yelling and sulking from your Mum and I bet he doesn’t consider that his present ill health is in any way his fault and why should he try when he has willing slaves to look after him and it’s very comfortable in bed?
Your Mum could chose not to make life as easy as he wants it to be. She could chose not to pander to his demands. She could chose not to look after him at all, or just basic stuff. Give him a flask of tea, a sandwich and leave him to it. Take away privileges -does he have a TV in the bedroom- until he makes an effort. Treat him as a naughty child. Call in SS and ask for as assessment for Mum if he won’t have one.
You can chose to support Mum or not. You can chose not to support their current situation. If they both chose to carry on as normal (for them) then you could chose to let them get on with it. (I’m not suggesting that you have to do that, just saying that it is an option. As has been said, no one legally has to care for anyone else, family member or not).
Worst case scenario- Mum dies and you are left with Dad. Are you going to step into her shoes and run around looking after him? Your choice.
Depending on the choices you all three make there are all sorts of things to take into consideration. Money (of course), care packages, Care homes and so on. We can point you to information if you chose.
Remember doing nothing is also a choice!!
Everything you say makes sense. I had a breakdown after Christmas because of all the family stress. I spoke to a therapist and it seems I was an ‘Adult Child’ and have always felt responsible for my dysfunctional parents.
Thankfully I do have an understanding husband and although he doesn’t get involved with my parents care he is very supportive. My parents have been locked in a co-dependant relationship all my life and neither one has ever tried to help themselves. My dad never seen his drinking as a problem, he could chose to stop at any time, he just didn’t want to.
My mother has been in denial for as long as I can remember, he complains constantly about my dad and have threatened to leave him hundreds of time if he didn’t change. He has never changed and doesn’t want to so the pattern of addictive and enabler continues. They don’t see the damage they do to either other or me, as an only child my own mental health has suffered considerably.
I have tried everything I can, but they don’t want to change. I have asked doctors, nurses and social services for help but until my parents accept there is a problem no one can help. They seem to thrive of each other’s misery but constantly blame each other for their problems. I have decided to detach emotionally, I can’t keep trying to rescue them. I have spoken to my mum about enabling my dad’s behaviour but she seems to think she is in control of the situation, control plays a big part in the dynamics of their relationship. My dad doesn’t want help, he wants to play the victim and my mum wants to play the martyr.
I already do all their shopping, pay bills, house maintenance, gardening and arrange and collect medication. Like you suggested I’m leaving my dad a flask and sandwiches while my mum is recovering from her surgery. I check in with them first thing in the morning, after work and before bed. The rest is up to them.
Hi again Mary,
Good, re ambulance. How has that panned out?
Re your new determination. A step forward- well done you! Adult child? I’m no therapist and I may well be wrong but to me that sounds like you are still ‘Mummy’s little helper’ and ‘Daddy’s best girl’, even though you are a grown woman who should be living her own life to the full.
I understand it, I do, because I always felt responsible for my parents. The difference is I lived 5 hour’s drive away, my parents didn’t expect or demand anything much and were always supportive to me. When my widowed Mum moved away from her home of 57 years to a bungalow near me (only child) and was so appreciative of my help and accepting of any aids and outside support available, what could I do but Care? I think that a loving, appreciative parent can trap one just as much as an awkward stubborn one.
Having said that, I don’t think I would have been able to carry on at all if Caring had resulted in a breakdown for me.
You will have done this, or are planning to, but my inexpert opinion is that you and your husband should sit and have a heartfelt, honest, chat. Hubby sounds lovely, in that he is supportive, but perhaps he might actually want his wife to be free of all the family stress and available to share your lives in full? Make a plan of what you both agree will or won’t be done by you. With his support, work towards that goal.
My honest opinion is that grown children should be free to put their own lives and that of their spouses/children first while ensuring that their elderly parents have access to everything currently available. As is often said here, care manager not care giver. If parents refuse, that’s their choice. You have to make them understand, perhaps by example, that refusing help from anyone else does not mean that you will do everything for them.
As for what you are planning to keep doing – shopping – order online and get it delivered. Pharmacies will often deliver medication and surgeries are online too. Cleaning – hire a cleaner. Odd jobs/gardening. Pay for it to be done. (YOU don’t pay – they do. Are they both receiving attendance allowance? If not, why not?) Put bills on direct debit, Cut your visits down. If they need help in the morning or to get to bed, get Carers involved. Substitute a call for a visit. After work maybe?
Give your supportive husband the top place on your attention list.
Life’s too short. (An active life most certainly). You have spent at least half yours in thrall to your perceived ‘duty’ as your parent’s child. Time to take control?
Trying to help.
My dad is in hospital thankfully. The ambulance person told my mum she really needs to get help sorted before he is discharged back home. They could she is stressed and not coping.
I’m going to the hospital tomorrow to make sure my dad doesn’t get discharged without a care package in place. He can’t walk unaided, and as well as a catheter he is also incontenant with his bowels now.
My mum is 86 and can’t wash him and change his clothes or support his weight. I’m not sure who to contact in the hospital or do I contact social services?
They don’t claim any financial help. Should they be getting attendance or cares allowance?
I’m waiting to hear from the hospital if they are keeping my dad in. I hope they are, my mum is so much easier to deal with when she’s not totally stressed out with his bad behaviour.
They really are a toxic mix, I’m hoping some time away from each other might make them realise how bad they are for each other. It’s another addiction they seem to be addicted to the drama and negativity they bring out in each other, but they can’t seem to stop it.
I’m making a big effort to protect my sanity. I have thought about going back to my therapist but deep down I know I need to detach myself. My mum can be difficult but now in a nasty way, I don’t have a problem helping her and she is always appreciative. I can’t cope with them both, he getting cross when he does get the same attention as she gets. But she is willing to make an effort and help herself, he just wants a slave.
I can’t afford to let me health suffer any more, I’ve already had to reduce my hours at work due to stress and exhaustion. Hubby and I are going out for the day, just escaping for some fresh air and I long walk, and somwhere nice for lunch.
I so relate to your situation. I had a very similar one a couple of years ago with my difficult parents who were also in a toxic situation.
You have completely done the right thing. Things changed when with the help of the forum I decided Dad couldn’t come home from hospital into my Mum’s care. He didn’t need to medically be there. But I held my ground and just said there was no one to care for him if they did send him home. His needs were more than your Dad’s, and he eventually went into a care home. But he was also a deeply selfish man who up until this point had refused all help at all. My Mum was a doormat who chose to be a martyr to him throughout her marriage, often at our expense. I completely agree with all Elaine says about " choice". You are not responsible for your parents actions/inactions.
it was hard, but don’t be bullied by the hospital, social services etc. Proper help needs to be in place before he comes out.
Best of luck. Things changed for me and I hope they do for you too. Sending a massive virtual hug as it really not easy. xxxx
My circumstances are different to yours because my lovely husband is in a nursing home because of strokes and vascular dementia. ( hospital at the moment). Its a long sad goodbye.
Im explaining this, as you clearly love your husband and he you. Enjoy your partnership with him, do more nice things together, like you plan to today. You and he are very important. I understand its not easy, with all that is going on with your parents. Take it from me please, that its a must that you put yourselves first as much as you can.
I hope to read you have had a wonderful day out and recharged.
Stepping back from a toxic situation to preserve yourself and your marriage is hard to do, but it must be done. Mum and Dad have both had choices several times in their lives, and still do and while it is hard to watch if they make the choice you wouldn’t , it is their choice.
I watched an alcoholic friend commit suicide over a very slow 7 years, during which time she became bitter and nasty. I believe alcoholism causes physical changes to the brain cells and often means this happens. That coupled with the cussedness of old age means that Dad’s behaviour and their relationship is only likely to deteriorate.
It is hard learning that you have already done everything you can, there are many many people out there who wouldn’t have tried as hard and for as long as you have, but it does sound like now is the time for you to start looking after yourself and your relationship. That doesn’t mean walking away totally but doing enough to make sure their basic needs are provided for (if they can’t provide for themselves - have they become over dependant on you perhaps? ) by outside providers such as cleaner, gardener, online shopping, paid for carers. That way you are still overseeing their care but can also look after yourself.
Sadly neither of them will change. I fear they will only get worse, but there is nothing you can do about it. Please don’t let yourself get dragged down into this any more, you are worth saving and have much life ahead of you to live and enjoy.