I just can't be a carer again

Hi all, I hope you are all well. I was the sole carer for my Mum for nearly 15 years. She passed away a few months ago. To be honest at the time she passed I was pretty much running on fumes as I worked full time and looked after Mum who had become increasing infirm over the years and I was exhausted, burned out and at times suicidal. There was no help, Mum would not consider carers and I had my own health issues which were worsening - and I was ignoring.
After she passed I had a massive period of adjustment - which is still ongoing - but I have reached a place of relative peace. My mental health has improved massively and I have a sense of freedom which I have not experience for many, many years. I miss her of course but I not bring her back as she was so poorly at the end.
However, my Father and Step-Mother who live many, many miles away are beginning to hint, very heavily, that they cannot cope and nobody comes to see them. (She has six children of her own who all live locally.) Dad keeps asking if I am going to sell Mum’s house and give up my job - then starts talking about how much they need help. I just know what is coming. I have explained I cannot afford to give up my job as I will have no pension in the future as I am single. Nor would I get a job as good if I moved. But he keeps asking.
My step Mother does not think Men should do women’s work and five of her kids are boys and her daughter does not want to take on their care. I have a lot of surgery in the coming year due to my health problems. They also want someone to help with the care of one her kids who has some disabilities. So that is three people.
None of the other kids will help, even when one of them goes into hospital. After caring for my mum, on my own for 15 years I just feel I can’t do this again. I would have a massive loss of income, lose my pension, sell my home and give up all my autonomy. Plus put my own health and issues on the back burner again. I couldn’t bear to go through that again. The others would not help.
Add to this the fact my step-mother has always treated me quite badly as I am not one of her kids. None of the step family send me Christmas or birthday cards or invite me to weddings etc - none of them called me or sent me a sympathy card when Mum died. Dad did not even send flowers. My step-mother never speaks to me on the phone when I call and for a period of years refused to let my Dad speak to me (to be fair he did not stand up to her).
I am going to visit soon and I am pretty sure they are going to either lay massive hints or ask flat out. I feel very guilty because this is my Dad. I am just not prepared to give up the rest of my life, which it will be as her slightly disabled kid is younger than me, to look after the three of them. After 15 years of looking after Ma I never went to be a carer again - but I will feel very guilty saying “absolutely no”. Am I being selfish? Why do I feel so bad? It’s only a few months since I lost Mum, I resent the fact they are even hinting about this so soon - am I wrong? Advice please, I feel so conflicted. :frowning:

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Hello Julie-Ann

i’m sorry for the loss of your Mum - my condolences.

You may not like what I’m about to say, but I’m going to say it anyway !

DO NOT let them “guilt trip” you into caring for them - no one can be forced to care for anyone. It does not sound as if they cared or had much sympathy for you or your Mum when you could have done with it - they have “family” on tap so let them step up to the plate and muck in to help.

Tough - so why should you ? It seems to me that it’s a case of "well Julie-Ann doesn’t have Mum to care for now, she can come and look after us. " Would be “nice” for them to have a slave on hand to jump to their bidding wouldn’t it ? And I regret to say that is exactly what you would become.

You’ve done your bit - you deserve to be able to enjoy the rest of your life. It is probably going to be hard to do but you must keep saying “NO” - don’t provide excuses/reasons as to why you can’t, just keep saying “NO”. If they need help there are other avenues they can investigate - social services, professional carers etc (oh yes, I forgot they will cost money and you come free of charge !)

You are not being selfish and you must get rid of the guilt monster. Please Julie-Ann do not do it - get counselling if necessary, but JUST DON’T DO IT.

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Just stand firm Julie and say you have done your share of caring and her own children will have to step up this time.

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Hi Julie-Ann,

I’m glad you’ve reached out on the forum. Heartfelt condolences for the loss of your Mum. You must still be so tired and worn out. I’m relieved to hear your mental health has improved massively as you shared you were

Before anything can I suggest that you focus on whatever you’re doing for yourself, that is improving your mental health. 15 years is a huge amount of time, and you may have shared your point about your mental health as a passing point, BUT I wanted to pause on this suggest that you create a space & time for YOU because I wouldn’t want to advise doing anything until you’ve identified support for yourself, in addition to this forum of course!

I’m hoping that you have a close friend or someone you trust and can chat to? If not, I’d recommend reaching out to the @formercarers or bereavement cafe I’m sure folks will offer other suggestions too.

In this space, you’ll have the time and ability to take stock of things. Unfortunately, there’s a LOT of paperwork, admin, and decisions to be made when a parent passes. Something many of us can attest to! Hence, why you need to recoup 15 years of sleep and brain space.

From What you’ve shared & How you’ve shared it, I’m sensing just how worn down, tired & still ‘gritting’ you’re doing with the dynamics with your dad & step mother. BUT I think you’ve already made the Right decision for yourself. You already know you are quite within your rights as a free-thinking human being , that you won’t take on the caring role, you don’t want to, and recognise the guilt-tripping they’re doing.

Right now you have no energy, or strength to confidently defend yourself. I think that’s why you feel conflicted. Hence why I strongly vote you Don’t visit your father & step mum but focus on You. You could use the excuse of probate admin, or just say you’ve got other plans. If you can gift yourself more space and time, I think you’ll regain even more confidence AND perspective.

As carers, unfortunately, the majority of the time we are having to explain, defend and educate people because unless they have direct carer experience they don’t understand what we do. Your dad and step mother can have whatever expectations, assumptions, say whatever, and feel entitled, doesn’t mean you have to comply with them! I can start to imagine - based on what you said, just how they’d treat you as well. There are services they can go to for support! BUT right now you have v little energy & brain space to explain/defend!

I’m hoping that with more time to yourself, to be kind to yourself, to grieve, and start making decisions that no longer involve your Mum (which is really tough in itself!), you can reframe & refocus on yourself. This is your life, no one else’s. You’ve been amazing caring for 15 years! if anyone deserves to be selfish it’s you (guessing that’s hard to believe right now!). don’t let others dictate how you should live, life’s too precious!

Lastly, connecting locally with other carers and former carers may boost the support you need around you right now, which could deflate some of the ‘power’ that your father & step-mothers interactions have on your thinking…when you’ve been focused on your Mum for so long connections & connecting may have dwindled (I hope not!).

very long response! Main takeaway advice - I vote you don’t visit them, you focus on yourself, and create time, space, and experiences for yourself including connecting for support. This way you can grieve, and re-inspire yourself for what you want to do moving forward, without coercion. Then you can more easily & with confidence, handle the interactions.

BIG hugs, empathy

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Hi Julie Ann, Don’t go and see them, make an excuse, but don’t go.
Dad, your stepmother and all her children have all behaved terribly badly towards you, they really don’t care one bit about you. I’m not trying to upset you, not everyone has a perfect family, mine certainly wasn’t. No flowers for you, no invites, means now is pay back time. Love should be a two way street, you love family, they should love you. You are still grieving for mum and recovering from caring too. What you need now is a holiday, preferably out of the country, so you can leave all your troubles and cares in the UK, and start finding yourself again. I thought the “old” me had gone completely, but on holiday discovered she was just in hibernation. I still have my son with learning difficulties to care for, an ongoing battle, but for 2 weeks, I eat, walk, swim and laugh my way round Western Crete with some new friends. One is also a carer and an ex social worker, we understand each other and don’t have to explain. You need to rediscover yourself, and build a new happy life for yourself. You deserve every happiness in the future. and you won’t get that by being a slave to dad!

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Julie, I agree with all the advice offered. You are too vulnerable to visit just now and be pressured into how much they need you to care for them.

You have done your caring duties and it’s someone else’s turn.

If your step mum raised her boys to be ‘little princes’ who don’t share the chores then that’s her own doing. It sounds like her own daughter has put her foot down. No way should you feel guilty.

You need to focus on your own health and wellbeing and save for your retirement.

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Hi Julie Ann
Please try hard not to feel guilty. I understand it’s not easy if it’s your nature. Its mine too.
You definitely have cared for long enough. Your dad has others to help. Time to care for yourself now and adjust to a different way of life.

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Hi Julie-Ann. It’s perfectly normal to feel guilty, and that’s fine as long as you don’t give in to it.

You have a right to your own life. You’ve every right to refuse to care, and since they don’t appear to consider that six other people should be guilt-tripped into caring, they’ve no right to expect it of you.

Look after you first.

And if that means you’re best not to visit for a while until you feel stronger, fair enough. That’s part of looking after you.

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Agree with the posts. Stand firm and do not visit. You have every right finally to your own life and getting it back.

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Firstly sorry for the loss of your Mum. It’s always a big wrench when you lose your Mum. I have to agree with everyone else. Don’t fall for the emotional blackmail from your father and step mother. They not only have not helped you, they’ve actively ignored you, and offered no support. You’ve done more than enough looking after Mum, time to look after yourself. They are not your responsibility, and just want an unpaid slave. It’s going to be hard, as you’re clearly a caring person. Try to get some counselling for yourself, you are coping with bereavement, and a counsellor may be able to help you get perspective.

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I first had counselling when mum was very ill, and nothing I did was ever enough. My counsellor supported me when mum died and afterwards. Just having someone to talk to who was concerned about me as a person, not telling me to do even more when I just couldn’t, was so helpful.

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Heya.

The church was very helpful to me when I was in the hospital ten years ago. After six weeks of treatment I found a guitar and I have not looked back ever since. I also talked to a hospital chaplain for some more spiritual advice and tips on how to cope. I recommend that or a independent counsellor in the community or based at the hospital as well. Best wishes. It can and does often help in order to combat the stress. Seriously. Try it and see what happens next as a result.

Being a carer unpaid is rather hard work for sure but there are numerous trained professionals and other tried and tested methods in addition to fix the strain of it all. Talk to a few different people about your options. Make some brief summary notes. You may even qualify for financial support and other sources of help. In any case do look into it at least.

Oh my lovely what a hard place for you. I lost my Mom last year and feel for you. As adjusting is such a roller coaster. I care for our youngest daughter and my husband and I fully understand your exhaustion.
You must not let these selfish folk abuse you. For that is what it is. Your loyalty is to yourself now. You and only you can protect yourself. I agree with advice everyone has given. If you visit you face being trapped so simply dont go. Tell them you dont feel strong enough to visit yet if you need an excuse.

Our youngest daughter is quadriplegic and night time ventilated, when my Mom had a stroke the family thought that as I had already given up my career to care for our daughter i should step in and care for my Mom. I refused , it was for many reasons just to much. It caused a rift and a lot of hurtful things were thrown at me. My sisters wouldn’t even talk to me at my brothers funeral. It was and is hard and always will cause sorrow. However it was what i had to do and it was the only time in my life i have said no to them.

If I could do anything to ease your pain I would. Just know that others have walked your path, you are not alone . Be strong and say no for you need to care for yourself. xx

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You have to do what’s right for you. If you feel obligated to care that will cause resentment.

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I have convinced myself and given myself permission to tell White lies when faced with these types of pressures and questions and I know some might tut tut but I rehearse them so they sound right, small price to pay for sanity and your own life.Please heed the replies on the foum
And gird yourself. Good luck Joe

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Hugs. You are in my prayers.

It’s high time Julie Ann cared about Julie Ann.

I know this is all too easy for a stranger to say but sometimes strangers, who have no emotional attachment, are in the best position to advise.

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Julie-Ann, I don’t get on to the forum very often so first of all, hi :slight_smile: And I’m very sorry about your mum and the effect the caring had on your own life and health - an all too common story and one that rings true for many. I just want to echo what everyone else is saying. I have also struggled with guilt and saying no over the years but having spent many years now caring for my son (who of course I love dearly but oh my days, it’s destroyed me) there is no way I would care for anyone else now, beyond anything more than a phone call, pointing them in the direction of social services (or whoever else might be relevant) or picking up a couple of bags of shopping if I was going that way anyway. Truthfully I think they have a cheek to ask or expect it, especially when there are five bone idle men living nearby who can get off their backsides and pitch in. I suspect the daughter has very sensibly done what you should do and said no way. As others have said, if saying no is too hard then avoid - you can’t visit because you have a terrible bug/the car broke down/you fell down a well, anything that works for you. I hope you put yourself first and focus on your own health and future - I think a lot of us have found that when the time comes that we need help everyone else is too busy. Thinking of you xx

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You are in my prayers.

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