Do you think your parents planned you to be their caregiver?

6 answers | Last updated: Sep 21, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

Years ago I remember reading that 'rich people hire their caregivers, poor people breed & break them'. The gist was that they would find the most sensitive/empathic of the children, then break them so they weren't any good in the world, & would therefore be be available to devote their lives to caring for elderly parents. When I read this (wish I could remember where), I saw examples in the neighborhood: the unmarried teacher living at home, caring for her parents & getting deliveries from the liquor store. After her parents died, she was retired, went nowhere but for her own medical appts, until she died. There was the neighbor whose parents put down every choice of job, and even forbid his choice of who to marry. After his parents died, he went down to his basement and committed suicide, taking his dog with him. I see overweight, dowdy, burned-out women, who are caregivers & little else. And hey, now it's me!

I was assaulted at a social service caregiver job, and wound up with a chronic pain injury (multiple herniated disks), and sub-poverty compensation. I wound up caring for my mother through her long journey to death from cancer. No help from anyone, just demands and questions about "well, why isn't this done"? They'd come to visit, and I'd have yet more work from having houseguests. My father did nothing, as he's from the era when men worked, handed over the money, then did nothing. The closest sibling worked and cared for his severely autistic son.

Near the end of my mothers' life, I started cutting to relieve stress. I tried exercising, hyper-exercised, lost 45 lbs, but it didn't help with the stress. I tried drinking, even pot, didn't help. I wound up getting therapy in a 1 year treatment study, for people who cut.

There I learned about Borderline Personality Disorder. It's not genetic. This is something parents do to children. The child is raised in an invalidating environment, where the child's needs are ignored, fears and self-expression are dismissed or ridiculed. Not all children are affected the same way. Sensitive children are the ones most damaged by this environment. Studies have also shown that parent(s) do not treat all children the same and may validate some children, while invalidating others.

During the course of therapy I remembered many things, conversations which I had blocked. Including one when I was going to move out. My mother lied about the circumstance of why I was there, and threatened me with incarceration, saying "you're not going anywhere, I OWN YOU". In the years that followed, my father has apologized for not standing up to my mother more, when it came to me.

After the year of therapy ended, the therapist said it would be better for me to leave the house & move to a halfway house and continue therapy. But I had a dog who wouldn't be allowed, and my father was alone and had no one to care for him so I declined.

So here I am, with a father in his mid-90's, me in my mid-50's. He's looking forward to hitting 100, I am sleeping, or trying to, sleep up to 10 hours per day. When I sleep, I'm not here. I had a 2 day vacation 2 years ago (1st in 7 years), and came back to 6 hours of housework (bundling up trash and recycling, doing dishes, cleaning, etc). He's on a 1000mg 300mg per meal, low sodium diet, which means no take out, 1 healthy choice dinner, no fast food, no restaurants, ever. I cook everything from scratch, spend about 6 hours a day just in food-related busyness (not including shopping). I used to like to cook, not so much anymore. I am a vegetarian who has to cook traditional American food (meat/starch/veg) twice a day. I've lost weight because I'm burned out on cooking & cleaning up pots after because the only choice I have is whether to cook for myself. I often don't because it's less drudgery. I keep track of medications, take him to appointments, keep track of appointments (and forget about my own, never finished the rest of my physical therapy appts). Even when I am sick, when all the herniated disks are in full pain mode, I still have to cook his food, and he won't choose anything simple like microwaved oatmeal. He wants me to cook bacon and eggs, make sure he has a cookie or something to have with coffee. Even carrying the throwup bucket around (before the muscle relaxers kick in, causing reflexive vomiting), I'm supposed to do my job. He thinks its enough that he let me have control of the living room tv, because when the disks go painful I have to sit in the living room recliner for support of my neck.

I thought I was managing to cope, with the 10 hour sleeps providing 'not here' time. But yesterday he mentioned that my birthday was coming up & he would be giving me $40 (all the other siblings got $20, even though he is not financially hurting). I replied that it wasn't enough for me to pay someone to get a day off. He went into 'you do so much, I don't know what I'd do without you' speech, not addressing my need for a day off. You can hear his tv from airplanes flying overhead, but for some things, the hearing is selective. He doesn't want strangers in the house.

Wow, tmi. Back to the point. I don't think I would be where I am without my mother targeting me. The therapist heard more, and said that, with this information, she would have been surprised had I not made the decisions I had, and had there been other outcomes. The vote was for damage being on the nurture, not nature side. I am wondering if anyone else out there who has wound up not doing so well in life, not alot of self esteem, is a sole caregiver, even though there are siblings who have lives? If so, do you remember differences in the way you, as opposed to your siblings, were treated? Were we all kneecapped early on, so we would be available to fill the need?

Community Answers

Mmj answered...

Wow, no feedback? Thanks everyone. And a sincere thanks for the guy who sent me a hug.

Caring community answered...

Hello MMJ, Thank you for posting your question. If you are taking care of a loved one with Alzheimer's or Dementia, you may consider joining Steps and Stages, which is a resource that provides family caregivers with expert guidance and community support specific to their loved one's stage of Alzheimer's or Dementia.

You may also find support in our forums of caregivers at

Marlenal answered...

I am very sorry you are going through this. Some of the demands by your parents rings true to me. Like you, I thought about all the caregivers whose dutifulness were taken for granted and they ended up without lives of their own and I wanted to avoid that for myself. As tough as it may be, you must try to do things that you enjoy and try to squeeze them in. I had to demand it of myself. Caregiving to elderly parents is one of the toughest jobs. My mother just passed away last month, but I still have to look after my father. He is 91 years old. Though the doctor says he should be on a restricted low-sodium, low-fat diet, he has never followed it, and he is still going strong. For my mother, who followed this same diet, I would form a relation with local restaurants and instruct them to prepare take-outs with no salt, little oil. They were happy to do this. You may want to consider doing this instead of making all the meals from scratch. Who knows, maybe your father would like the "variety". Perhaps even try, "I'm going out to see a friend, or see a movie". It will do you good, I think. My prayers are with you.

Mmj answered...

My father doesn't have Alzheimers or any dementia, but refuses to do anything but write checks for bills, eat, read the paper, and watch tv (NY1 news and Andy Griffith on an endless rotation so loudly that earplugs don't help). Thank you for the idea of checking out cooperative restaurants! We certainly have enough around here. Most all of my friends are now living out of state. I used to visit them all the time, but can't get away for even an overnight. He used to take the dog out in the morning, and I would sleep, because I would do housework when he was asleep, because it was quiet. Now I have to wake up early to take the dog out, and the tv is blasting when I return. I'm up late and up early, and the earplugs aren't strong enough to create silence. We had a water failure which drenched 2 floors, and I have to handle everything, along with the daily stuff. I told him that likely I'll die before he will, and he said "no you won't'. I said I'm doing too much and have no sleep, and he started talking about something else. He doesn't want to hear it. I'm starting to give away hobby materials, and sorting out who gets what for a will. No time to use the hobby stuff, and the only place I feel is mine (bedroom) is too cluttered because by the time I finish with the daily work, I'm too weary to clean. And there's no area left to even sort anything. I'm unemployable due to chronic pain from multiple herniated disks, so this is pretty much it. Probably when the dog dies of old age, I'll follow. I'm severely burned out, but realize there are people in far worse situations.

Marlenal answered...

Please hold off from giving away your hobby stuff. It takes so long to collect the supplies or tools and at older prices that if/when you have enough creative energy to even think about them, you may be glad that you saved them. You can always give them away later. It is not surprising your dad's comment. He sounds ornery. Still, I believe that when you tell him you are going out (for mental break), he'll eventually get used to it. It will be an emotional investment for yourself. You have earned this long ago.

Caring community answered...

Hello Anonymous, Thank you for posting your thoughts and caregiving challenges. Consider visiting a few of our other resources, which may be helpful to you in your quest for support:

  1. How to Avoid Caregiver Burnout
  2. How Can I Tell the Difference Between the Normal Stress of Caregiving and Depression?
  3. When no one will help
  4. The Emotion Nobody Talks About (article)

Please let us know if we may help you find additional resources to help you take care of yourself through your caregiving journey, we will be glad to help in any way we can.