Should I have to give up my life to help my mother and grandmother?

A fellow caregiver asked...

Is it wrong to force a caregiver to support themselves? My mother is a caregiver to my grandmother. However, she is unemployed and has been living off of an income from my sisters and me. She refuses to give up any of her duties to get even a part-time job, so I have had to move in with her to help cover the cost of both of their care. I feel like I can't move on with my life, and that I'll be trapped here forever. I can't leave them because of guilt.

Expert Answer

As Founder and Director of Circles of Care, Ann Cason provides caregiving, consulting, and training services to individuals and public and private organizations involved in eldercare. She is the author of Circles of Care: How to Set Up Quality Home Care for Our Elders.

Stop and think: How many years did you feel trapped being Cared for By your mother? Now you feel trapped caring for your mother and your grandmother.  

Any time you feel trapped by caring, stop and take a breath.  Picture yourself in a cage. Feel the bars of that prison.

Are you trapped by guilt? Is the guilt sharp like the bars of the cage? Is it cold? What color is your guilt? How does it smell? Can you taste it?

 Make friends with your guilt. Think about how fortunate you are to have identified your problem. Appreciate your intelligence.

SEE ALSO: Find In-Home Care Help Near You

You are not trapped by caring for your mother. You are trapped by your own mind. Try to find some help. You indicate that your funds may be too low to find a counselor.  If so, start with these suggestions.

  • If you are a member of a church, ask your minsister for help.
  • Try to find a caregiver support group.  Get a referral from the Area Agency on Agiing 
  • Try going to al-anon meetings. It is free and they are good at working with family relationships
  • Find a meditation group.   Meditation can be a gentle and effective way to make friends with yourself.  
  • As you feel better about yourself, the goodness will spread to your mother.
  • Starting with yourself is most effective. You won't feel trapped by caring for your mother.
  • Soon you will be ready to explore creating a care team or a circle of care so that the task of caring for your grandmother is spread around.  
  • Instead of giving up your life, you will be taking a beneficial fresh start.


My response above has created a great deal of discussion. I would like to add more information so that readers are clear on my meaning. Feeling trapped by caregiving is a very common feeling. I sometimes felt trapped when I was caring for my father. I loved him so much and sometimes I felt he demanded too much from me. Over time I began to see that my guilt at not being able to help in the way that he wanted was just that: guilt. I needed to work with my mind. I got some counseling and also attended a support group for awhile. It was especially hard as I was a professional and felt that I should know what to do. That's why I wanted to offer advice to the woman who sent in this question, who indicated a lack of funds to find help for herself.

I have always felt that ONE person should not have to be burdened with care, although many are. They say it takes "a village to raise a child." For someone who is old and at the end of life it takes even more. The reason it takes more is that elders often do not want help except from family. Because it is often a thankless job, we as caregivers need to find ways to appreciate ourselves for the care and compassion we give. My desire is that this questioner will find a way to let go of her guilt and find others to help her care for her family. But she needs a helping hand.

There are many more ways to find help than those I suggested. Many of the people who answered gave excellent suggestions. Also, if your community has an Area Agency on Aging, they will be able to direct you to other resources. This web site as well as others have chat rooms where you can communicate with others in a similar situation. Most hospitals can suggest support groups and connect with people with county services.