Stuck and Frustrated

I’m not sure whether I need advice or just reassurance right now, but I know I need someone to listen… I apologise in advance for the length!

I’m a 27 year old who has found herself suddenly thrown into caring for her 50 year old father.
A year ago my dad had a car accident (not his first, but his worst) and although he walked away from it he was very much affected by it. He began suffering from Agoraphobia, and had anxiety attacks when he heard loud car engines or motorcycles. My dad has suffered from a range of mental health disorders including severe depression and anxiety, and has attempted suicide several times throughout his life (the first happening when I was only 8 or 9), but I think his accident just sent him over the edge and amplified everything. He has also had a lot of problems with his physical health, and at only 49 has spinal and back problems, severe lung and chest disorders, and more recently had developed arthritis.

When he had his accident my dad had been on sick pay for 6 months because he could no longer do his job (it was physical) because of the arthritis in his hands. His accident left him with the reality that he would not be able to go back to work, and, because of his anxiety and deteriorating health, would never drive again, and he expressed that he might start needing help around the house. He had no money and had used up his savings. He was going to lose his house or end up homeless, and obviously I couldn’t let that happen.

My boyfriend and I decided to take over the financial responsibilities of the house and were going to move in with him. My dad was happy to give us the house, and we would convert a downstairs room into his bedroom for future accessibility. The house, however, was a shell and needed fully refurbishing. My dad had been living in one room for 5 years (which was only finished because I did it for him when he moved in) and hadn’t wanted to get a loan to finish it off. He was also a bit of a hoarder. The house was full of junk, odds and ends, and he’d filled it with so much stuff to be used in it that you couldn’t get in anywhere to actually use it! So that was what we had to work with.
I have OCD, so it was really difficult for me to not just throw everything away and be rid of it (and to be honest by the time we sorted it all out we near enough did just that) but I worked with my dad to get it all done.
Fast forward one year and a large bank loan later and we’ve near enough finished.

We’ve been living in the house now since January, and I love our home. We were planning on finally starting our own family (something I’ve wanted for a long time, but wanted to wait until we had things sorted).

Unfortunately, my dads health has gone downhill very quickly. Because of his agoraphobia he refuses to go to the doctor/hospital and has been coping with phone appointments only, and because of this he hasn’t had blood tests in a long time and they have taken him off of his arthritis medication, which I am almost certain has led to his sudden problems and worsened condition. He has trouble walking, climbing stairs is a big struggle and his shoulders have become so bad that he can barely lift or open things. We were just about to sort him visits with an occupational therapist when lockdown started, so he hasn’t had much in the way of that either. I completely understand the reasons behind him being taken off medication and why the OT hasn’t been out, and I don’t blame them at all. I know the problem is my dad. He is set in his ways, and gives up easily. He would rather take extra pain medication (I’ve even caught him drinking to numb the pain) and ‘just cope’ than badger the doctor to get a phlebotomist our to the house to take his bloods, and he only recently got back in touch with the OT to get his plan started (which he received but hasn’t even looked at!)
His memory is also getting bad, but I think, above all he’s in denial about it all.
I feel like I’ve been taken for a ride in some ways. My father seems happy to say he’s made me responsible for him but is unwilling to do anything to help himself, or me, out, and is equally unwilling for me to do it for him. He isn’t so bad that I can take over all of his affairs (otherwise he would have had those bloods taken and therapy started ages ago!) but he’s also in denial about the help he does need (I.e mobility and agoraphobia).

I’ve never had a close relationship with my father, although he likes to put me on a pedestal for some reason, and I’m struggling to keep my composure day to day. Lockdown has made it so much worse. I feel like a nagging mother, and it’s wearing me down. I want to help him, but it’s like he’s prepared for me to do everything except that. It’s almost like he’s resigned himself to being sick and in pain and doesn’t care about doing anything about it, and doesn’t care about the affect it has on the people who care about him. He’s given up and he’s adamant he’s not making it to 60, but I know that doesn’t have to be the case if he just let me help!

I feel obligated to him because he’s my father, frustrated at his lack of caring, guilty for dragging my boyfriend into this and totally stuck.

My family doesn’t realise how difficult this is, and I have no one to help me (my dad is estranged from his family and his partner isn’t capable of doing much).

How do I help someone who doesn’t want to be helped? Does this mean I can’t start my own family? Something I want more anything? I feel like the life I finally thought I had is over before it began, and I can’t seem to turn all of this into a better situation, one where we’re all happy!

I feel like I’m watching my dad slowly kill himself…and all I can feel is pity and anger.

Where were you living before you moved in with dad?
Do you now legally own part of the house?

Hi Emma. It sounds like you’ve been through a really tough time for a long time now. You sound like a kind and caring person, who has been responsible for your father since you were quite young.

I’m nice, but only to a point. While it happens quite often, I don’t think you should be put in a position to pause your life for him. Or rather, be putting yourself into a position where you pause your life for him. I’m sure other people might disagree with me. I’m 27 with a single dad too actually.

My father hordes and DIYs the house into an accident-trap. He’s very strong willed and doesn’t want to spend money on improving it. He won’t clean it either. Similar to you, I’ve tried nagging and asking and fighting but no changes. He’s been like this all of his 65 years.
For me, I’ve learnt that he will not change and that I need to change around him. Your father might be more hopeful.

In my case the more work I put in the worse I got burnt. Which frankly I expected because he’s always been like that. I don’t know how to you can convince a person who doesn’t want to be helped to see their doctor and organize their affairs. My father also loves that I would clean up the house for him, but never that he’d stop drinking, go to his appointments and pay someone to repair the bathroom or install safety bars). He’s happy to see me make all these sacrifices and efforts, but will do very little himself.

For me, I’ve decided to mostly get out of the cycle. I’ve spent the last decade with depressive bouts, losing my home, being screamed at and controlled -only when I moved out and reduced contact with him did I have peaceful days. I used to think I was an angry and depressed person -I’m not at all. I just lived in the wrong place with the wrong person. So much was caused by him -but also caused by my decision to live with him.
Decide your priorities and what do you want from life. How can you reduce your stress? or control your OCD? Possibly bring in a mediator -that’s been really helpful for me. The mediator keeps the conversation calm and can help hold both parties to account on taking their responsibilities. (Conflict mediators is often the name of this profession, they’re a kind of counselor in many ways.)

I’d also consider what elements are being caused by the lockdown or other temporary situations. I don’t think I’m speaking clearly, but basically:

  1. He may not ever change, you might need to change around him. Only do this so far as it doesn’t hurt you.
  2. You can have a family and the life you want. But also don’t panic about doing these things immediately. Things often look very urgent now but in retrospect you may be surprised you were in such a hurry.
  3. Don’t let him stop you from having that family.

That’s my two cents. I’m at a crossroads myself where he is getting sicker and people want me to live with him -but I remind them it’s not safe physically or mentally for me… but they still wish I would.

I’m sorry you worked so hard with a good plan to help your father and your own soon-to-be family and it’s not working out. I hope you’ll be able to come to an agreement with him and that he’ll get the help he needs -or at least let you help him.