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Like most people I have my own set of problems to deal with (work, kids, husband, biz, shopping, errands, staying active, friends, keeping my sanity time, etc). ONE THING, I've noticed that many ppl (adult children) are struggling with and dealing with aging parents THAT have the following characteristics. -Cranky -Resistance to medication -Argumentative -History of mental illness -Sometimes abusive to their children I have the SOME of the same problem(s) with my mother (who's now 82). ...and yet many of the caretaker adult kids still feel obligated to help? (including myself) Why do we do this? How does this all work out in the End? Jesus....help us!
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We do it because we've been "conditioned" by society to be ANTI-SELF. Its the philosopy of Altruism that brainwashes people to think of others first---before themselves. No other animal in the kingdom does this.
Remember, if you can't take care of yourself, you won't be able to help ANYONE else (no help to kids, husbands, family, friends, no job, no career, and then---no happiness----only misery).
Nancy - Tenn
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Society (western and many eastern cultures) has brainwashed and controlled the prolitariate for centuries now.
We have been particularly brainwashed by the philosophy of Altruism, which is based on the theory of self-sacrifice. It is a poisonous way on thinking in that it goes against the laws of nature, that being the first rule of nature is self-preservation. Without the inborn nature of survival, NO SPECIES will can survive and eventually grow to be extinct. The philosophy of Altruism teaches that it is in Man's Best interest, to sacrifice the present for a reward in a non-reality in the future, a future that has no concrete basis or logic to grasp from but is in effect the philosophy of "mysticism" the most diabolical and Evil work against mankind in that it attacks the thought process of human kind and conscious of every rational human who contemplates morals and judgement. Within reasonable forms of consideration to the point of self-sacrificing one's own life for the twilight of another is a decision that is both individual and exclusive to the person. It is a far different experience to take care of the dying, then it is the joy of raising the new-borne. So much so that it has become one of the biggest business functions of medical care in the 21rst century. In the very words of the mystics, "let the dead bury the dead." Pursue life and all its riches while you still can...for one day the twilight hour will be upon you. And you, if truly you love your children will want them to not sacrifice one moment of it holding your hand....but in splendor and pride will wish them more greatness and joy, and through this wish perhaps brought to fruition, will find joy in your last moments knowing that you were instrumental in helping another find joy in a world badly in need of it... This is true love....
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I think it there is something very unique to the caregiver situation, above and beyond the religious or societal tenet of altruism. I read an article yesterday that sort of shocked me, and I'll post it here for your reactions. I think this article explains better than almost anything I can say "why we do it."
http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2012/04/deficit-caregiver-personal-responsibility.html The son, in this case, is accused of having a deficit in "personal responsibility." I would most likely not behave as he did (assuming there was not some horribly abusive relationship with the parents) but I also would not call his behavior a deficit in personal responsibility. Personal responsibility is, by definition, the obligation to take care of your own needs and desires, without expecting anyone else to do it for you. This guy is being lambasted for failing to pay attention to his PARENTS' needs. The comments (which were closed before I could add any) uniformly agreed to the judgment of the author, and felt it was irresponsible of the son to expect the health care system to step in and find a placement for his parents. We do this (take care of our parents), I think, because society imposes upon us the judgment that this is our responsibility. Those of us who are responsible people do not take our responsibilities lightly. I could empathize a bit with the hapless son in the article - I remember that "deer in the headlights" feeling when I first began to realize that I was expected by my mother, her friends, the rest of my family, etc., to drop everything and spend my life taking care of my mother until her life was over (or mine was, whichever came first). I never imagined I would do that, never imagined I'd be called upon to do that. I always figured if my mother could not take care of herself, she'd go into assisted living or a nursing home, or she'd be at death's door anyway and the time of hovering around her would be short. This son seems astonished at the expectations being put upon him by his parents' doctors, and frankly I can empathize with that. To top it off, he is being labeled as an irresponsible caregiver, when never at any time does it appear that he has agreed to be a caregiver, or understands himself to be such. He is treated as a caregiver (and an irresponsible one) by virtue of the fact that his parents have needs they can't meet themselves, and there's nobody else around. That's why we do it, I think. Pressure, pressure, pressure.
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That blog post was a total attention grab, especially with the disclaimer down further in comments " To be fair … there is much information missing that would put his responses in a very different light." Then why did you go off and demonize the son in the first place? He may be a clueless caregiver, but it sounds like he is clueless that he
is a caregiver. When the time comes that my husband has to step in to take care of his mother, someone is going to have to have that same talk with him. Denial and misunderstanding are strong forces. Negligence and ignorance are two different things, even if they have the same outcome. Third Sister is absolutely right. Many of us are doing this because society imposes the judgement that it is our responsibility. So many caregivers end up in way over their heads as a result of trying to meet societal expectations instead of listening to reason about their own capabilities. The pressure is intense, and unrelenting, and the situation is going to get worse as an aging population with less and less financial resources saved up for retirement lives longer and longer through high tech medical interventions. There isn't a good answer, except to recognize that not everyone is cut out to be a caregiver, and not everybody is automatically a caregiver just because their parents need assistance.
Fed Up w MIL
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Interesting comment on the societal expectations. As applies to parents. What about spouses? My father chafed enormously at the caregiver role for my Alzheimer's mother. He had no interest in learning about the disease progression and hoped things wouldn't get worse. They inevitably did and she became a real handful. Somewhere at that point dad said "I'm not a caregiver. Never have been one, and never will be a caregiver." But wouldn't get help for her either. At one point, he told me he would rather die and leave the problem to someone else. Voila! He dies of a sudden heart attack and she's my problem.
And you know what? I find that society forgives him (feels sorry that she may have stressed him so much that he died) because he has a old man from a certain era, but I'm expected to just pick up the pieces. Mom has been placed ever since dad died, but I still need to manage all her affairs which is a lot of work.
Third Sister - FedUp wMIL
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As to spouses, I do think it's a whole different story. You do stand up before family, friends and g*d and vow to stand by that person "in sickness and in health." If those words mean anything, they mean that if one of you needs care, the other provides it. Along the way, you do receive the benefit of years or decades of partnership, companionship, advice and counsel, and various other types of assistance that a spouse provides. It's a two way street, and one that one signs up for voluntarily.
With adult children, on the other hand, there's no volition involved. No vows, no promises. There may not even have been a history of mutual support and benefits, although people always assume there was. You don't have the comfort of knowing that the other would have done the same for you, or would if positions were reversed. It's a one-way street, all the way. I keep remembering an incident a few years ago, when my mother was still getting around by herself. I had moved to Florida to live near her, believing that she needed help with a few household tasks, the ones that required heaving lifting or standing on a ladder. I wanted someone to be nearby in case of emergencies also, of which there were a few with a stent surgery, a detached retina, and several falls requiring medical attention that first year. Well, one summer afternoon I went to the store and when I came back out my car refused to start. I was a few miles from her house and I called her while waiting for AAA. If they towed my car, I'd need a way to get home (with my dog, who was taking shelter under a palm tree because the car A/C was not functioning of course.) Mom said "Well, I can come get you, but I have to be back by 2 because I'm going to a pot luck on the beach and I'm driving with so-and-so, so I can't be delayed. In other words, if AAA was going to tow my car, they'd better do it in the next hour because otherwise she wouldn't be available to drive me home. Luckily the AAA tech was able to fix the problem on the spot and get me going again. But I remember this from time to time, how she couldn't show up late for a party to help me, but I'm supposed to put my life on hold for years or decades to help her. Go figure.
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Its sad to grow old and not have your faculties. Its also VERY TOUGH to take care of elder parents.
Unless you have a caretaker mentality---and the TIME to do so---i would highly recomend getting someone else to do it (a professional)---if you can afford it. OTHERWISE, there is a good possibility that you will spend some of the BEST YEARS of your life---destroying your career and in misery caring for someone who is physically and mentally falling apart. IN short---you will become RESENTFUL for having to do something that you really don't want to do. Like i said....growing old is tough...very tough. You have to make up your mind though----"who's like does your belong to---you or your elder parents?" Dont' get me wrong...i think you should help out when you can. But the idea of becoming a MARTYR For another Human is just not healthy for everyone----period. Including the PARENT. Today's generation faces enormous pressure from the economy, spouses, kids, bosses, BILLS, shopping, eating, cleaning, paying bills, AND now the added pressure of a dying and fading parent is just horrible. I believe they call it "the sandwhich generation." I love my mom....but i have to love me first. She would want it that way...most parents don't want to become a burden to their children. Its sad, very sad. BTW. i believe that article was embellished quite a bit.
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BTW...who says its anyone's responsibility to take care of another human being? Granted, we all want to help our parents live comfortably.
We have Fantasy...and then there is Reality. ...its tough!
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jason has made some good points. Perhaps the only time you are responsible for another human is when you are a parent, or when you enter into a contract (not necessarily a written one) as a marriage can be seen to be. Or if you AGREE, promise...? Like adopting a child, or even adopting a pet. Or you just make a promise.
I never thought I would be a care giver to my parents. For me it was huge as I was never a parent, although I helped take care of my terminally ill niece in a very minor role during her 13 year battle with CF. During those years, I did get a clue about facing death. I was standing at the hospital room door when she died. I heard her last breathe and saw the look of despair on the faces of her parents, on my brother's face....and I decided that I couldn't birth a child of my own. (no genetic testing available in time for me). I learned several things during that time that helped me care for my Mom and Dad. The BIGGY was pick your battles and barter. Niece could be a little tyrant at times..I couldn't understand why (when I was staying with her in the hospital) that she had to have the perfect spotless banana. I talked it over with her Mom, (my SIL) and she explained to me how very little control the child had over ANYTHING. She was constrained in the hospital, had tubes in her veins, swallowed huge pills, had her lungs washed (lavage)put up with all sorts of "treatments". Well that made sense, so when I stayed with her, I learned to laugh about the hunt for the perfect banana in the hospital cafeteria. Once she caught me moving the Doles sticker to cover a blemish. OK, what does this have to do with the topic? the subject of care giving?
ONE THING, I've noticed that many ppl (adult children) are struggling with and dealing with aging parents THAT have the following characteristics. -Cranky -Resistance to medication -Argumentative -History of mental illness -Sometimes abusive to their children I have the SOME of the same problem(s) with my mother (who's now 82). ...and yet many of the caretaker adult kids still feel obligated to help? (including myself) Our aging or terminally ill family member (notice I restrained from referring to a loved one?) feels ill, it hurts to move, it hurts to be told you have no choice after having been an independent and responsible adult human, it hurts to need help in the bathroom. For some of you, that family member never seemed to be independent or responsible and that is the truth for some, but there WAS something they felt was theirs, some level of privacy, some level of choice that they are losing. In the case of an elderly family member...one that has lived in the same place for years, who used to be able to make decisions that were respected, now is experiencing confusion, blames the meds..Now being considered a child, now not even having a choice about what's for dinner?? and maybe the meds ARE a problem but no one listens?? Caring for an elder isn't about being the new BOSS of their lives. PICK YOUR BATTLES. Give whenever you can. Yes they will still be in pain and failing in the abilities to do what used to be so easy. YES, being afraid and fear about who, what, when, can bring out the worst in a person.
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Give up the Fantasy...the fantasy that life is a Fair and that our parents will die comfortable and at peace in bed....surrounded by loved ones to send them off to the next life. THIS IS A DREAM!
Most of us who are reading this forum are here because we have been duped into the above thinking. Our emotions get the best of us...and FOGS our thinking. Its not easy...but think logically. Your ailing mother/father...if they live long enough, will develop Alzheimer's disease...and then forget about all the work you did for her...and may even then accuse you of robbing her, paranoia episodes, police calls, midnight hospital runs,etc. You like those odds?....I don't! Don't listen to me...get the input from a Social Worker who specializes in Seniors. Get Ready for years of hell....all because you can't or aren't tough enough to say GOODBYE. SAY GOODBYE NOW....and save your own hide before its too late. If you are stuck being a caretaker for your Elder Parent...just look at the following list -career sacrifice -personal life sacrifice -depression -sickness -suicidal thoughts Walkaway as someone did a thread on here before. Just think of it this way....if you are a parent (as i am) and your thinking is sound....you don't want your kids to resent you because you've become a burden to them....I KNOW I DON'T want that for my kids. Send me home...
BC @ Tom
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I understand your point.. but it isn't always the case about Alz and other dementia. My dad died at 87 from cancer and there was NO cognitive decline except what was induced by pain meds. Mom was misdiagnosed with Alz, by a lazy PCP in her early 80s, but she lived to 94 and she knew me and my brother until the day she died.
Both of my parents had Hospice at the very end and both did die peacefully at home. It isn't a fantasy. Granted, both of my parents waited to be left alone to depart the physical life, not surrounded by distractions. Granted, it also isn't common, and if you can't handle the reality, home care WILL do more damage than good. But it isn't a fantasy. Now for ME.. I have no children, so it isn't happening.
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I'm not here because of any fantasy that my mother will die peacefully in her bed - that idea has never even crossed my mind. I'm here because my mother is old and can't manage on her own and can't afford paid help or assisted living, and I am the only one of her adult children that she was close to in her pre-elderly life. I'm here because there's no viable alternative to having one or more of her adult children help her on a daily basis and I'm the one she reaches out to. I don't think it's fair - it's monstrously unfair as far as I'm concerned.
My mother has said that she doesn't want to be a burden to me, but I guess she figures it's out of her control. She needs help. She can't manage without it. I think she's got this worked out in her mind somehow so it's not as bad for me as I feel it is. Maybe she believes that the fact that I'm doing this means I don't mind and it's not a problem and there's nothing else I'd rather be doing with my life. My mother never had to care for her parents and perhaps she has no real idea what a burden it is. Perhaps she's forgotten what she was doing when she was my age and it doesn't ever occur to her that I would like a chance to live that lifestyle too. The fact that she might develop dementia and forget all the sacrifice I made for her doesn't matter to me, because her gratitude is meaningless to me to begin with. She's grateful - so what. It isn't giving me my life back. No, I'm not tough enough to walk away. If there were any decent alternative, if my mother could afford paid help, I'd be telling her to use it so I could have a life. I feel I'm stuck with this until she either dies or becomes so disabled that she has to go to a nursing home and can qualify for Medicaid.
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I gave up the idea that my parents would go peacefully in their sleep a long time ago - they're both determined to go, kicking and screaming to the last breath despite constant protests that they've given up!
They definitely "ping" on the given list of criteria! -Cranky -Resistance to medication -Argumentative -History of mental illness -Sometimes abusive to their children I've had to set definite limits of what I will/won't allow. My family comes first - and *nothing* will shake me from that core belief. I'm no good to *anybody* if I'm being run ragged and pulled six different directions. My parents are still capable of making decisions and getting around - I *insist* they put those abilities to full use. My parents finally learned that calling *me* in a medical emergency only gets the response, "CALL AN AMBULANCE." I cannot tell you how many times I've had to dish out that lesson. You don't call me when you're having chest pain or shortness of breath or you are so dizzy you can't stand up, in the hope that I can take you to the doctor *tomorrow* - you call an ambulance NOW. Demands are met with the response, "NO." Whining, crying and tantrums are met with, "NO" and me hanging up and letting all calls go to voice - including threats of suicide, which, for my mom means, "I didn't get what I want!" (*Caution - you have to know exactly *who* you're dealing with - and I do. My mom cries suicide when she doesn't get her way. She's been doing this the entire 48 years I've been alive. That's my disclaimer, and I'm sticking to it. ) When the time comes that my parents need additional help, we'll have to discuss in-home aids or the possibility of assisted living. I cannot and will not become a full-time or even a part-time caretaker. See rule one - my family's needs come FIRST. Any time I feel I'm being taken advantage of or taken for granted, I take a step back and start letting their calls go to voice, only to return them when *I'm* good and ready to deal with them. Sometimes I'll tell them to hire somebody - an accountant, a contractor, a gardener, a handyman, a cleaning service. The cleaning service is the only one being met with a huge wall of resistance because mom thinks *I* should come over and clean her house from top to bottom, including scrubbing the walls. I keep telling her I won't do it until she clears out her clutter - that usually settles that. But she will hint, "I wish SOMEBODY would wash my walls..." To which I sing-song, "I wish SOMEBODY would open a phone book to "Cleaning Services" then pick up the blower and actually CALL ONE if they are SERIOUS..." When the day comes that I have to start making hard decisions for my parents, I will do it - but I'll not be swept up slowly and insidiously into becoming their caretaker or moving them into our home. There are lines I won't cross - and I know "somebody" won't come in and do the paperwork or find assisted living for them. That will fall to me. I'm okay with that - but I'm not okay with being nit-picked to death and just won't allow it to happen. I've had a lot of practice at taking a deep breath and stepping back so I can see the forest and the trees - and never forgetting my family's priorities come *first.* You cannot explain to a hungry pet that your mother kept you six extra hours having a tantrum because you wouldn't take her to the mall, so you had to appease her by sorting catalogs. Nope. The ride stops and I go home. I play hardball when I have to - and softball if at all possible, which isn't often or it's seen as a weakness to be exploited. I know it's different for everybody, but the one thing I hope any reader takes from this is a grounded sense of SELF. It's okay to say "no" and you don't have to live your life being a people-pleaser. You don't have to be altruistic unless you really want to be - but if it starts getting out of hand and you're being perceived as a doormat - step back, breathe, regroup and *do not let anybody force you into anything you're uncomfortable with.* Don't be afraid to say, "NO." Don't be afraid to say, "This is beyond my capabilities and I need help." Don't be afraid to say, "I am being forced/boxed into an impossible position that isn't healthy for me or my parent(s)." Never lose your voice amongst the constant chaos. Find your center and never deviate from it, no matter what life throws at you.