Sometimes caregiving for mom is just too much and just don't know what way to turn anymore, what can I do?

2 answers | Last updated: Sep 20, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

Today Mom took a nap after lunch. When my husband woke her up~~he helped her up and she got half way to the bathroom and said she was going to fall. He helped her but practically had to carry her to a chair. Later she said it wasn't her legs~~but she was dizzy. She really didn't know which it was. Then she said she was never dizzy. But her legs hurt from below the knee~down. She does have reallly bad knees and wears supports for them. But when she says she is going to fall,she just lets all her weight go and she is dead weight. She even picks her feet up off the floor if you try to help her. We have had Mom and Dad for 12 years now. We lost Dad 4 years ago. Up until then Mom was his main caregiver. Then one night she said "I just can't do this anymore". That was the night he passed in his sleep. We are so tired and just don't know what way to turn anymore. My husband promised them they would never see the inside of a nursing home. Sometimes it is just too much ! What can I do? My husband has a barother that lives 45 min. away and he rarely comes around and will not help financially. He and his wife took Mom for a week (to give us a break) and after 5 days we had to meer them half way. They just can't do this anymore.

Expert Answers

Linda Adler is the director of Pathfinders Medical in Palo Alto, California. She has dedicated her professional life to helping patients and their families find optimal ways to deal with medical challenges. She has worked in all facets of the medical establishment, including primary care, research, and policy settings at UCSF, Stanford, and Kaiser Permanente. Her current focus at Pathfinders includes crisis management, mediation, and advocacy.

This does sound like a difficult situation. So it's time to take some action, not only to help your mom, but also to reduce your stress. I know that you're feeling as if the situation is hopeless, but if you use the resources that are available to you and make some changes, you'll find that things really can improve.

First, you need to get a competent medical team involved. Does your mom have a primary care provider? If so, have they identified why your mom is falling? If not, please establish a relationship with a doctor as soon as you can. Once you have a better understanding of what the problem is, you'll be in much better position to find resources to help you.

Second, you need to get at least some short term help around the house. You mentioned that your relatives haven't taken on their share of responsibility, but there are other ways for you to get the help you need. Do you have friends or neighbors who could stay with your mom so you could catch your breath, even for a short time? Even a brisk walk or a cup of coffee with a friend could go a long way to helping you feel better about the situation. In the longer run, perhaps you need to bring in a trained caregiver, even for short periods of time. I know this may sound like an expensive option, but there are many resources for obtaining help at home. Please check the resources on this website, under the "in home" tab: you'll find that are hundreds of articles that can help you to come up with an economical solution.

Third, I'm concerned about your husband's promise about never placing your parents in a nursing home. While I certainly understand why he'd feel this way, I wonder if he made this decision without exploring the options that are currently available. Things have changed drastically over the years, and there are many caring, reliable facilities that can provide good care for your mother. Have you taken a look at what's out there in your community? Could you go and visit a few places, with an open mind, to at least explore the options that you might consider? Sometimes we promise things without realizing the cost of those promises; I urge you to at least think about this.

Last, it's critical that you take care of yourselves, and your marriage, during this time. Perhaps you can attend a class and learn some stress reduction techniques? Or you could join an exercise class? Are you getting the sleep you need? If not, perhaps you can work out a schedule to ensure that each of you gets a "night off" regularly so you can rest.

The bottom line here is that you need to come up with a detailed plan that you can follow to improve the situation. I'm confident that if you and your husband sit down together to look at your options and resources, you can roll up your sleeves and make some changes in order to make things better for all of you. While it's not easy to sort this out, a careful, thoughtful approach can really change things for the better.

Community Answers

Sjolley2 answered...

I was caregiver for mom for the last 6 years of her life after my dad passed away. She had Alzheimer's. I learned to reach out to get help and access expert resources. We have a local Senior Center and they have Adult Day Programs - my mom didn't want to go at first so I took her for a couple of hours at a time. She grew to love it and the socialization and friendship it provided. She could tell stories about dad about her and their pets. At 82 she learned to dance. It was a blessing for her and a relief for me for her to be in a safe, loving environment. At the senior center they have advocates who helped me navigate all the agencies for support - Veterans Admin for Aid and Attendance benefits, access to financial and legal advice, respite care for me, other benefits for mom. Some offer meals on wheels and light housekeeping. I was connected with the Area Agency on Aging who had other programs to help me and mom. I learned some very important things - as mom's disease progressed and she aged her needs changed and some things I said I would never do had to happen for her best interest, safety, wellbeing and quality of life. I learned I needed to adapt to mom's needs and I couldn't do everything on my own and to take the help and support of all who could help.