Dear Loveawake: I'm married and have two boys ages 11 and 12 who both have A.D.D. I work three, 12 hr. night shifts. I work nights in order to try to be home for my children on their return from school so I can help them with their homework which they really need. My husband works during the day so one parent is always home in an effort to try to keep consistency with the boy's schedule. My dilemma is this. I'm feeling squeezed because of my parent's situation. I am an only child. My dad has been very sick for 7 years with Alzheimer's. I have made every effort to try to be there for my mother throughout these years. The more I do for her the more she demands. I was spending more time with my parents than my own family. I then began to feel that I was not good at anything. When I was with my parents I was riddled with guilt that I was not with my children and visa versa. My mom has the finances to care for my dad and I helped setup full-time help in her home and also helped her with renovating their home for handicap access so my dad could be cared for at home. My mother will not let my dad go to a nursing home for care and insists on taking care of him. It's great that she wants to do this but I live an hour away and can't be there all the time. My dad is getting good care and I have tried to get my mom into a support group but she refuses to go. She expects me to help more. I cannot give anymore than I am right now. I stopped going over there 3 to 4 times a week and now go once or twice a week. Recently my aunt told me in confidence that after my father dies my mother is planning to write me off. I was very hurt and being around my mom is like walking on egg shells. You have to watch what you say or there is an explosion. I don't call her anymore because all she does is yell at me and hangs up. I feel sorry for her but I have a family to raise and need to be there for them. I just wish I could do it guilt-free and not constantly feel torn. I feel such a weight on my shoulders and I feel like I'm drowning. I wake up in the middle of the night with constant worry. I wish I could find some peace of mind. Am I wrong with how I'm handling this situation? - Jackie
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Dear Jackie: You are in a very difficult situation but I'd rather you feel guilty than neglect your own children and destroy your marriage. Your mom is feeling the strain of making the decision to take care of your father at home all these years. Asking you to alleviate this burden by spending all your free time with her is not fair to you or your family.
Caring for someone with Alzheimer's has to be one of the most difficult things to do but it had been her decision to care for your dad at home. I honor that. She also has the right to decide that she doesn't want to go to a support group. What she doesn't have the right to do is demand that you give up what little time you have with your family to be her caretaker and be the one who gives her all the emotional support she craves.
You sound like a very loving and nurturing woman and your mom is very lucky to have you in her life. She should be praising you every chance she gets. There is nothing more frustrating and hurtful than being unappreciated and always thinking, "No matter what I do, it's never enough!" Since that will always be the case, you are the one who has to set the boundaries and decide what you can and can't do. Remember, no matter what you decide it will not be enough for your mom.
Sit down with your mom and tell her how hurt you are over what your aunt said. Let her know how much you love her; that you are doing the best you can, and you are sorry that she feels it's not enough. I believe that as our parents get older and can no longer take care of themselves, it is our responsibility to make sound decisions on their behalf and make sure that they are taken care of to the best of our ability. That means we have to take a good look at out own financial status, our own time restraints, our own health and our own family commitments. Given all that, I can't imagine living a life free of guilt. - Loveawake