Should I feel guilty for being unhappy with my caregiving situation?

6 answers | Last updated: Sep 26, 2016
Bwildbillyjoe asked...

Should I feel guilty? I have been taking care of my mom for 4 years now. My dad is able to do most of the care for her. I relieve the nite sitter at 8 am m-thurs and spend the nite on m and wed. Dad takes advantage of me being here (83 yo-but doesnt act it). If he knows I am gonna be here he will sleep all day. then wants me to stay later than usual. I recieve no help from my sisters that live behind there house like me (they are tired cause they work boohoo) Mom keeps asking same questions over and over. I have a routine that we go by everyday, but she still asks over and over what she's suppose to do. I know its not on purpose but it is driving me crazy!! I stay home Fri-sun. because i have a 11yo son who is into sports so my wknd is full with him. I have gone through a divorce within these last 4 years of being her primary caregiver. I am ok with that because we are better off and happier now.(my son and I) My sisters not helping really irritates me cause if I ask them to do something--they always have an excuse to do it. One sister stops by and visits but doesnt stay longer than an hour. Other sister just comes by when she wants something. She is always mad at me for some stupid reason. I am on disabilty for deep depression, anxiety and panic attacks. I am on medication that I take like prescribed but it all drives me crazy. I dread coming down here-- I feel like and feel sorry for myself cause I dont have a life. I am ok with being my son's mom but sometimes it drives me crazy that I am the mom now to my mother. I really feel guilty about this and feel thats wrong. Do others feel the same?? Please tell me if I am wrong about feeling like this.

Expert Answers

Deborah Cooke is a gerontologist specializing in dementia, delirium, caregiving, and senior fitness. She is a certified dementia care provider and specialist through the Alzheimer's Foundation of America. Cooke currently manages several multidisciplinary programs to enhance well-being for hospitalized seniors and other vulnerable patients at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. She also serves on the board of NewYork-Presbyterian's Patient and Family Education Advisory Committee. She has 18 years of experience working with the aging and caregiver communities.

You should not feel guilty; however, I think every caregiver does. Your other health issues certainly do not help your sanity either. If you aren't already, please seek the help of a regular professional so you can work with all these issues. It's especially important right now.

I also understand your feeling frustrated with your sisters, and your father when he naps. I can't speak to the dynamics since I don't know everyone. Each person deals with these situations differently. For you, you take action and step up to the plate. You may want to consider having a "family" meeting to share your concerns and the needs of your parents. If you see a professional, that person likely would be willing to facilitate this discussion.

For your father, he is with your mom all the time, so respite is very important for him. If this is the case, unfortunately, this respite time comes when you are there. He may have the opportunity with the aide is there, but still feels responsible. When you come, he trusts you completely to take care of her let go of the responsibility.

Being a "mom" for your mom and for your son is very difficult. The role reversal is tough and no one enjoys doing it. I'm happy you can take the weekend to be with your son. That is also very important. Above all this is taking care of yourself. Find your positive outlets and "go" there often. Be it a walk, reading, yoga, meditation...take it! Breathe deeply and seek support from the professionals and friends.

Community Answers

Bwildbillyjoe answered...

Thank you very much. Sometimes you just feel alone. Most people around me have never been in the same position I am in so its hard to talk to them because they really dont under stand. This is why I am so glad I found this website. Alot of it helps me out. It also is a way to vent, like I did, to people who understand and can help like you have done.

Deborah cooke answered...

I'm glad that my words helped. You also may seek out a formal support group for those caring for loved ones. There are lots of them out there that people really don't know. Try starting with the Alzheimer's Association at

Your local Area Agency on Aging may be able to help too, assuming you are located in the US.

Mamazoyd answered...

No, you should not feel guilty! You are doing the best you can with little to no assistance. My husband and I had his father in our small home for four years minus 2 months. The two months were spent with my husband's youngest brother and his family and they couldn't stand it, sent him back here instead of sharing 6 months there and 6 months here. The oldest brother and his wife refused by constantly taking in more animals which made messes and no one wanted to be around. That left us and us alone. The father-in-law had no money so no where else to go. He was angry, depressed, abusive, paranoid, forgetful, and totally ungrateful that he had assistance and a roof over his head. The most we received was occasionally $100. a month to put towards food which he ate up in a couple of days since he inhaled food like there was no tomorrow. He ate more in one day than I do in an entire week.

He had had several surgeries, needed help with various tasks, could no longer drive, had to be taken to appointments such as doctors and physical therapy, would not give us power of attorney, would not pay his portion of medical bills that were not covered by Medicare; we had numerous collection agencies calling and sending bills for a couple years -- it pretty much amounted to harassment but what else could we do. Same last name, same address. They expected us to take care of his bills and we already were being stressed for money.

He would mimic me when I laughed or scream at me to shut-up if he wasn't the center of attention or didn't like what I was saying. He resented our son coming over and/or storing personal items in the building we put up on our lot. We could not throw the man out into the street -- where would he go? He would probably have died out there or we would have had charges filed against us for neglecting the elderly. We had absolutely no privacy as he would think we were talking about him and sneak around corners to listen as we'd hear his cane or walker clunking back down the hall when we were done. Our intimacy and sex life disappeared.

I was going through menopause at the time; no one cared how much stress this placed on me. The house had to be like a morgue -- dead, stale, very warm air because he was always freezing and would sit here in stocking caps, gloves, sweat pants, insulated vests, he would turn off the ceiling fans, and we live in the desert. I ended up with around an extra 30 lbs. and totally white hair. I know some other people in my life thought I was absolutely crazy for even staying with my husband. His entire family knew about this and did not offer assistance in any way because it would have inconvenienced their lives. The youngest would come into town occasionally with his family and then I'd have more work to do to entertain everyone. The oldest, who lives in the same town we do, would call my husband and ask how "dad" was doing. Then he'd call "dad" once in a while, promise to come the next weekend, not show up or call, and we'd get to listen to "dad" worry that his oldest son didn't show up.

We had no vacations, no weekends, no anniversaries, no birthdays, our friends disappeared because "dad" didn't want anyone over or insulted them up one side and down the other if they did come over, and was totally disrespectful of our lives. He constantly criticized what I cooked but when I suggested he get up and show me how to do it or how he wanted it done, he said no. In other words, he preferred to insult and belittle.

"Dad" would strike out with his cane in frustration, attempting to hit my husband or myself. He finally agreed to put himself into a rehabilitation facility because he wanted to be able to walk out of there with no cane or walker. Very truthfully, I am saying "thank God!" he died in there last year at almost 90. I am still attempting to recover and I am now back in school because my husband's mother is on the same path. We will not allow her to get one foot in the door since we found out there is no help by that family to be had. The other two sons are trying what they can to get her here like they did "dad" but we are not stupid -- not this time.

So, do not feel guilty especially when it sounds like there are other siblings. This is not a pleasant situation and unfortunately far too many families have selfish siblings and push the obligations off on one person. Pray, pray, pray for strength, and do not fall into the same situation the next time around. God Bless, I will be praying for you.

Mmj answered...

wow, you are not alone, and you most certainly have a right to feel burned out, used and stressed. Tend to yourself, rebuild, decompress. It will take awhile. No no no to mom, even if you have to move, not tell the siblings where, and get a post office box. Sound extreme? Maybe. But can you honestly say that the siblings would NOT bring mom over for a visit, find an excuse to leave, then not come back to get her?

Bwildbillyjoe answered...

My sisters wouldn't know what to do for her! They would run away screaming!! I have decided to check into Medicaid to see if she would qualify. ?My psychrist? told me for my health(mentally and phyiscally) I needed to put her in a nursing home. He said if I didnt I would end up back in the hospital--and what good would that do for anyone. It really made me think. The choices that will be made will be between me and my dad. I dont give a crap what my sisters have to say. If they dont like it, they can care for her!! That felt so good to say!!!