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Dear givemestrength,

First, let me say I'm sorry for the loss of your son. I can't even imagine what that must feel like except to say that if I lost my daughter, I would have no reason to get up in the morning. She is truly the one ray of sunshine in my life.

Secondly, the rest of your story really disturbs me. Like you, I am single and trying to care for my elderly parents. Mom is 88, has severe dementia and is completely immobile due to two broken hips over the past five years. Her mind is completely gone and she needs assistance with everything and I do mean everything. It is like taking care of a 112 pound baby. My father used to be in relatively good health but in the past four months he is has been in the hospital five times. Until yesterday, I used to say four but he is now back in the hospital. The last trip to the hospital resulted with a pacemaker being put in his chest. Yesterday, I took him again to the hospital with weakness, dizziness and body aches. After xrays and tests, he was once again diagnosed with low blood count. We thought for a while he was losing blood but it appears that his body is not making blood. Averaged out, it seems he is now needing blood every month. Dad is 90.

Last week, my parents moved to an very nice assisted living facility in their town that has a new dementia/alzheimer's wing. They can be in their apartment during the day and night but if dad wants to do something or go somewhere (which is doesn't because he's legally blind and can't drive), the staff takes mom to the dementia unit. They feed her and care for her there. In a perfect situation, this would be the ideal set up but it isn't. My father gripes and complains because he can't be in his own house.

Over the course of the past five years, my father has done just about everything to manipulate me into giving up my life to take care of them. Last Monday, I returned to my job after being off them them on FMLA for three months. While I was off, I was with them daily and working on a plan to get help into the house so they could remain there and have my mom still be cared for without it causing my dad to become ill from taking care of her. Due to my dad's verbal outbursts and negativity about having a stranger in the house, he and mom ended up moving into this apartment. Now you tell me. Isn't that just about the silliest thing you've ever heard? Leaving a 4-bedroom home where they've lived since 1962 and moving into a one-bedroom apartment, all because dad doesn't like people in the house and having his privacy invaded. Just before I was ready to return to work, dad became verbally abusive to the caregiver that was there and it ended that she left and they were alone again. Dad expected me to pick up the pieces and live with them again. I have my own home (Dad would love for me to sell my house and move in with them) but I'm just stubborn enough and selfish enough to want to have a little of my own life. Like you, I'm not married. I'm 53 and I don't have any sort of social life, either. This is because I was at their house every weekend before taking the leave and then I was there every single day and night.

I have no siblings that can or will help. My oldest brother (who lived in North Carolina) passed away three years ago. My oldest sister (who is 63) has dementia and her husband cares for her. The younger brother who is 62 has himself a wife 20 years his junior and he just doesn't want to. He's like an overgrown teenager. All he can think about is his hot rod restoration hobby. He's retired but he can't find time to come down to see mom and dad and help out. He hates my father and he won't bother with it any more. So here I am. Doing all of the work. I know that if my sister was well, she and I would be sharing the load. June is just the sweetest person and we used to work together to help mom and dad. But that's not the case any longer. I'm stuck with a lazy, selfish, self-centered brother who doesn't see anything in life except how it affects him. So be gone with him, I say! I'll take care of the situation the best way I can. Except that when you wrote your story, a flood of pain came to me because I realize that you have it so much worse than me. To be truthful, I don't know what I would do if I had my parents living with me. I think I'd probably just go nuts. I've always been independent. That's the one thing that my parents taught me how to do.

My dad is difficult but I understand him and can usually get through to him after a bit. My mom never wanted any of her children to have to take care of her but I don't think she ever realized that this horrible disease would take hold of her mind, either. Dad lives in a fairy-tale world, thinking that if he just keeps working with mom, she will get better. Denial, denial, denial. That's hard to deal with when all roads lead to nowhere.

Anyway, I just wanted you to know that I really do understand what you are feeling about having your life taken away. You have a tremendous load in your basket. I know that I could give you simple advice and tell you to get your own place and let your parents get their own but I don't know you and I would never tell someone to do something because it is up to the person involved to make their own decisions about their life. But I can say that I REALLY feel for you. I mean that, sincerely. I will suggest finding a therapist to talk to about your situation. I talked with one briefly and am now seeking out another in my own town. Another member of this site has been talking to one, too, and she says it has helped her alot. You're not weak by doing this, believe me. This situation is nuts and you need to find someone who can help you figure out how to either live with it or change it. If you don't, the stress will kill you. Caregivers usually dies before the people they care for do. That's a fact.

I'm not quite sure why our lives end up like this sometimes. Maybe lessons ... maybe just because we have been chosen because we can do it. Hang in there. I'm thinking about you and praying for your situation to get better.

~Jane
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