Multiple caring roles getting to me and my sisters

I think it is bad enough having to give up a lot of your time and never really having time for yourself when caring for one demanding household of elderly parents but what if you are also caring for a second household plus having to help your own children with childcare (when they live 130 miles away). How are you also supposed to cope with that? I am getting to the point of complete despondency, didn’t get a wink of sleep last night, I am completely on edge waiting for the next phone call wanting something or other from me. My.mum is 91 has dementia. Her supposed carer is my stepfather aged 80 but he won’t do anything and has severe health anxiety. He is convinced he has cancer and dials 999 or 111 at least once a week. The ambulances used to take him to hospital which gave us real problems looking after mum but now they are wise to him so most of the time they just check him over and realise that there is nothing wrong with him. My dad is also 91. He lives a 40 mile found trip away and luckily lives in an assisted living flat. But me or one of my sisters do his shopping, I take him on holiday a couple of times a year and I run all his finances (I also run the household finances for my mum and stepfather so along with my own household that is 3 households I am running and the money is tight for both my parents so there is a lot of work to do constantly checking bills etc). He is quite Internet savvy but if he has problems with either his PC or printer he expects me to drop everything and go across and fix them. My eldest granddaughter started school this year. My son and daughter both work (to pay their eyewatering mortgage living in London). My daughter in law’s parents are dead so if there is an emergency or in school holidays my husband and I rush down to London to help. I love spending time with my granddaughters so don’t mind a bit. I have 3 sisters. The youngest spent a lot of time caring for my stepmother (dad’s wife) who had dementia but when she died my dad shared the insurance money out between all his family (each daughter, grandchild and great grandchild had £100 each) but she took offence at that as she thought she should have had it so since then she has nothing to do with the rest of us or my dad since then. My other two sisters are great, we are very close and they share the burden as much as they can but one sister is also caring for her mother in law who recently lost her husband (also to dementia) and the other sister lives in a four generation household and looks after her grandchildren on a full time basis as well as doing all the cooking and cleaning for the whole household. We had quite a difficult childhood as my parents constantly argued and being the eldest i spent a lot of time shielding my sisters from the emotional pain we went through. My mum told us every Saturday afternoon when the football results went about to be read out that if she won she would send us all to oarding school. I had to have counselling to get over my childhood and yet now i am expected to look after my parents. It is so unfair. I dont want to do it. I just want to walk away. Sorry this is such a long introduction. I am hoping I will get some useful practical tips from joining. Thanks for reading this

Helen you are doing far too much.
Firstly, your grandchildren are their parents responsibility. My aunt and uncle ended being full time childminders and had to tell them that and tell them no, because one or two emergencies ended up being full time childminders for their grandchildren by all their kids.

Have you had social services needs assessments done for all parents their needs and for your needs?
That’s the starting point. They will go through finances, savings, the financial threshold for Gvt care and for paying for private care and/or qualifying for homes etc but you probably know all that.

Others will be offering advice and information.
Have a chill out and draw breath, you are in danger of a malfunction.

You are too obliging! Stop it.
Eye watering mortgage. Not your problem. Dad’s I T goes wrong? He finds someone local.
He needs a holiday? Not your problem.
You cannot even be forced to care for your husband.
You are NOT a puppet on a string.
What do you ever get in return?
Time you went away for a well earned 2 week break. Then they might begin to appreciate you?!

Hi Helen, and welcome.

I’m going to go all legal on you, but please bear with me. A number of Acts of Parliament banned slavery years ago, and where caring is concerned made sure that it is a choice that everyone can make to care - or not to care - for whomever they wish. In a situation like yours, you can care for none, all, or a few. It’s your choice and no one else’s. Where people cannot look after themselves without the help of others, you still have that choice, and they can ask social services for help. You don’t have to care for anyone you don’t want to.

The most practical tip I can give is decide to care for yourself. Because if you don’t, they’ll need help from elsewhere anyway because you’ll be in a state of collapse. Something HAS to give.

Thank you for the replies. They are on a waiting list for a social services assessment but they have got a carer going in now for an hour and a half three times a week. So I thought I could get away for 4 nights in a caravan and booked a last minute break. Of course my stepfather wasn’t happy about that. He got a text from the doctor on Monday morning about going for a test with the dietician but immediately rang my sister and told her that he was going into hospital that afternoon and they were sending an ambulance to pick him up. She had to look after mum. She contacted social services to arrange respite care then my stepfather admitted that the visit was the next day and it was only for tests. So my sister had to cancel the request for respite care. The next day both her and me got phonecards at 7.20am. He had called 999 again saying he was in agony with his back . My sister dropped everything to go round. The ambulance had gone by the time she got there having established yet again that there was nothing wrong with him. Then she found out his appointment wasn’t until 11.30am and she needn’t have cancelled her swimming class. He hijacked my mum’s carer to help him try to book a taxi to take him to hospital as he was too lazy to get a taxi. When that failed my sister had to take him so that he didn’t miss his appointment. I had spoken to my stepfather’s GP earlier to find out exactly why he was going to hospital and found out there was a possibility he was going to be kept in so we went ahead and organised respite care. My mum and my two sisters were all very upset as my mum didn’t want to leave her home. So taking myself away for a holiday hasn’t worked out as expected.

What a shame that bedlam broke loose. I hope you had some time away on your break.

Positives -
You did it, you actually got yourselves onto a short break mode.
They have had a taste of what you are going through and haven’t liked it so they should have more appreciation.

Did you return or remain on your break? I hope you remained on your break.
If you returned, learn from it and next time stay away
Put your phone in sleep mode from 2100 hrs to 0800 hrs or 0900 hrs and hope that any dramas have resolved by the time you are back to your phone for the day.

It’s easier to say than do from the outside here.

Read this through again.
Dad is leading you all a merry dance, like an elderly toddler having a tantrum.
There is an element of predicatbility here as you went away.

“I had to…sister had to…”
You and your sister cannot be forced to do anything at all for your parents.
You have every right to a life of your own, to put your own needs first.

If mum needed respite, the Social Services could have been involved and made all the arrangements.

Next time sister doesn’t cancel swimming dad has his appointment rearranged.

Dad is clearly attention seeking. Verify everything before doing anything.

Look up “narcissistic personality”.

I know just how difficult it is to care for someone like this. I wish I’d had a blazing row with mum 40 years ago.
I’m now too old and too worn out to do many of the things I’d dreamed of doing, because of mum.

Thanks to Bowlingbun. Have looked up narcissistic personality is exactly the problem. As you say Information is power. We now know exactly how to treat him.

Counselling taught me how to avoid requests.

Requests to do jobs - I’ll do it when I get a chance - so no commitment to do it today, next week, next month…

If you are OK with doing something, never EVER start another requested job until it’s finished. Go as slow as you want, which in my case meant so slow it was never done.

Mum sat in her chair thinking of things she would like doing but couldn’t do herself, so that meant giving them to me! I was newly widowed, newly disabled, with a club and a business to run!

On my arrival at mum’s place, it was “Hello dear, before I forget…” and she would reach into the pocket of her recliner where “my” jobs were all written down. Not even an enquiry how I was after not only major surgery, but a head on smash that had nearly killed me. I loved mum, and knew she loved me, but she just couldn’t realise that I had my own list of jobs at home that I couldn’t do for myself with wrecked knees.

Accept that you will never change your parents, but you can stick up for yourself more, and manage their expectations. Once you feel in control, at least partly, it feels so much better.