Skip to main content

I have placed a fictitious name for the writer.

I have been a caregiver for 3 years. I failed miserably at living; and decided it was time to see a psychologist. My Problem with living life was, I never set healthy boundries In my life.

I got a book called boundries, when to say yes and when to say No. This book saved my life.

I started working at an assisted Living home. I set my hours for what I thought I could successfully handle - 3 days a week. I moved to 4 days a week for 6 hours a day. Then I moved to 4 days a week 8 and 1/2 hours. This allows me to gear myself up for the 5th day, if I am called in to help for shortages or call offs.

I put myself in the main focus to meet goals, One at a time. I have never been better in my life. I have reached every goal I set, which was alot. I gave myself a date to , complete accomplishment and then I told my boss, my next goal. I asked if there is anything else in the area that I was working on that needed fine tuning. In doing this, My self esteem and confidence went up. I didnt have time to look at anyone else but me. So I didnt have time to judge others work or get in gossip sessions.

In doing this I have to fight to keep the bullies off my back and I take alot of crap from my coworkers. I try to keep focus on being a teamplayer, and working to my best ability. Life is so satisfying. I feel like I am 100% balance and boundary oriented. My residents look for me every morning, and if I have a day or 2 off they usually save everything for me to do for them because they trust me. I have become a very significant person in over 100 lives and in my coworkers lives.

Learning to give of myself and what the Lord wants for me in life, And not punishing myself in self pity has made me very efficient , resourseful and I matter. Balancing home with kids and a husband, and work, is of hard. I think setting boundries for good balance 100% will help anyone in this field get the best in life and in others.

My name is Happy, I am 38 years old and I learned how to live life by becoming a caregiver.

Original Post

Replies sorted oldest to newest

That is a beautiful letter and a beautiful and inspiring story. Boundaries are a must and it took me decades to even understand and want to change that part of me that (in my work) couldn't say no and boundaries in other areas of my life as well. I make sure I take a boundary class every now and then as CE to remind myself. But I can tell you that having boundaries does not mean caring less, it only means you now care about you...too. It's like a stack of cinder blocks being lifted from your shoulders when you can comfortably and without guilt know when to draw a line. We hear this all the time, "take care of yourself first" other wise how can you possibly take care of others. Even the airlines tell us to use the oxygen mask on yourself first so you can be of help to another. Thanks so much for sharing that.



I've been thinking a lot about boundries... I've had none for most of my life, so its a relatively new thing for me. Reading this thread again helped a lot to get some thoughts straight in my head.


My mom is constantly trying to send me on guilt trips. To have all my attention on her. To rush to her side etc etc. Hubby said something to me yesterday which really got me started on this boundry thing. "she wants to be the centre of attention, you're giving her all your attention as she is always on your mind, you stop everything when sends you messages"

It was the absolute truth. She was controlling me and I was letting her, because I was so full of guilt I reckon its my lot in life.


After the years of taking care of her at home, I was pretty much broken. Over comitted, over spent, over.. everything. Now that i'm trying to have a life of my own I feel guilty. Her living in a frailcare facility isn't a concentration camp, but she carries on as if it is, and somehow I got caught up in the feelings that somehow I must make her life better, at the expense of my own.


Well, the tide has turned and I've put the boundries in place. if I feel guilty about it, GOOD - that means I'm doing it right. I'm taking care of myself for a change.

1) I refuse to go on guilt trips.

2) I refuse to break myself physically/emotionally/financially just to keep her happy.

  - she constantly wants  to go out for trips. if there isn't at least two other people to help me move her than its not happening. If the nurses at the Home can refuse to help because 'they get hurt, she's too heavy'. Then I too can decline.

 - I'm not her punching bag, I will not buy into her miseries

 - I will not jeopardise my family and our future because of her constant expenses. I will not be bullied by doctors, pharmacies or nurses to PAY, PAY PAY. I have said No on two occasions now and I wasn't struck by lightening or anything. I do have a say, I'm not just the money tap.


So, boundries can be set, and they can be enforced.


here's to taking care of the caregiver.



Hey Skwirl, Good for you! It's about time isn't it? Look, the fact of the matter is some people are controlling and it is up to us to draw that line as you are finding out. You are entitled to living your life as fits your needs just as your mother lived hers as it fit her needs.


 Guilt trips are another way of controlling and if you ask me, it's a pretty low way to go (been there with my mother). Love doesn't involve purposely controlling and hurting others just so their life can be the way they want it to be. You obviously have hit on a nerve with me because I find it so insulting to be manipulated by someone because of their own selfishness (my mother).


 Take care of yourself, your life, your husband. He's right. May I suggest that if it is difficult to transfer your mom that if she wants to get out more to perhaps try dieting to lose some of the weight will be healthier for her and less dangerous for others. You deserve loads of credit and I know how hard it has been for you. be good to yourself.

HI Gail


So far so good is what I can say


Whenever ma tries the guilt trip thing, I shut it down by telling her I don't appreciate this and this, and I will simply ignore these kinds of messages in future. Showing that she actually is quite lucid and knows what she is doing, her next message completely changes in tone and intention. Amazing.


She sms'd last night asking me how much I spend exactly to keeping her there. So I gave her the list and a total. She was shocked... then came back saying isn't that too much to pay since all she has is a 1/4 of a room, and has to chicken everyday. (not entirely true, I checked - they get large amounts of one type of food given to them for eg, and so they first use up the items that will expire first, like chicken, then use the rest... to my mother's eyes, its just seas of chicken...)

I replied that yes it is a lot, but compared to other places its not so bad, and this is the best I can afford. She hasn't come back yet after that. I do wonder though why she was asking - she either wants her pension given to her to spend as she feels, or she is pushing again to leave to come stay with me again. Which is not going to happen. It is interesting that she is finally asking how much it all is though.


Just knowing for certain that I am already doing the best i can possibly do for my mother is a huge weight off my mind, my perspective on things has changed so nicely, I actually feel way more happy!

you are doing such good work Sk... somehow, my sense is that you are not coming from the little girl taking care of your mom anymore catering to her whims.. but responding in more of an adult fashion. One day you will be able to really set a boundary and sit eye to eye with her and explain to her about her own childish behavior and her unreasonable demands on you.. that if she chooses not to change, she's on her own... it sounds harsh... but it becomes a wakeup call for them to respond in kind


keep it up....




Hi Gail


Thanks.. at the moment though I feeling hugely fragile and not okay at all. Yesterday was a rough ride... in the afternoon it felt like I was coming apart at the seams. Massive headache, dizziness, fighting myself not to cry. When i got the bus to go home, I was overcome by my old feelings that tell me a panic attack is on the way. Since I was on the bus I couldn't exactly let that happen, so I literally pulled myself into not moving an inch, holding my jaw tight shut until it hurt to make sure I breathed through my nose and wrung the skin off my hands while I waited for the pressure on my head and chest to abate. Of course tears still got past my eyes, and I was wiping as discreetly as I could. Thankfully hubby was next to me, and held on to me until I calmed. At least with him there no-one would come and ask 'what's wrong'. Last thing I need.


i got home, worn out, cried a bit more, had a hot shower, ate something and went to bed. This morning I feel like I've been through the wars, one harsh word and I'll fall apart again.


it appears I'm probably going to have to go back onto anti-depressants.. I don't want to but since I need the help I can't be brave about this. My levels of anxiety are just crazy right now, I don't want to go shopping, I don't want to go out, I don't want to speak to people, I don't want to answer the door because that means I have to speak to the person there. 

I guess I should put this down to a setback. ..


Thanks for listening



Skwirl, when I turned on my computer and read your post, I was like wth!? What has happened to put you in this horrible state? Have I missed something here? Please try to get hold of yourself for your sake or you may end up in ER! I mean panic attacks themselves may be "harmless", but eventually the stress can cause some serious medical conditions. I think you probably know this though.


 If this is because of your mother then maybe it's time you rethink your place in all of this. I mean nothing, nothing is worth your risking your health. I am also concerned if you are trying to get pregnant because taking serious medication like that cannot be good...nor can the stress. Are you in therapy? Is that something you would consider?


 I wish you well and please try to remove yourself (somehow) emotionally from whatever the situation is that's causing this stress on you. I know it's not so easily done, but this is exactly what I had to do because I decided my health was a bit more important!

Hi onelifetolive


Thank you for your concern. Sorry for worrying you. I'm feeling a bit better tonight. Still got the tears on standby, and feeling very fragile, but at the very least I've calmed down.


I've struggled with depression all through my caregiving years, and it got to a point that I contemplated ending it all because I simply couldn't see any way for things to improve. The anti-depressants helped to give me a leg up and I managed to continue coping. It seems to dig its claws into me in cycles, every few months or more, sometimes I think its just to remind me that I can't really completely cope with life on my own.


No worries on the getting pregnant part, if I have to go back onto anti-depressants there is no way I would try to get pregnant.


At the moment I'll be going to the doc to get checked out, and then see if going back on to the anti-depressants will help me.


Hubby thinks I may be experiencing a form of ptsd, from long term caring (which entailed, trauma, and emotional abuse) and that is perhaps why I'm having these extremely strong reactions.


I can't remove myself any further from care-giving. Ma is already in frailcare, I've put off seeing her for months now because I dont have the emotional energy to go through her 'draining me dry'. i still have to pay the bills for her, which I cannot get away from.

I just have to reach a place of stability and climb up again. I always somehow bounce back so with some help I'll get there.


Sk, I am so sorry. Out here we have what is called a "payee". Someone who handles the clients money and bills for them when they are not able to. Is there any way (ask a social worker) you can have this tremendous burden passed on to a "payee"? Please try to get to the bottom of what causes you to become so down on yourself. I realize it is *about* your mom and her care, but there seems to be something deeper and i think hubby is right on! If you are trying to pay a "debt", I think you have paid the price already.


Running late getting ready for work and so I need to keep this short. ttyl. Smile there girl!!!

Hi Skwirl:


Just want you to know that you are not alone... When I went to visit my mother last, I took her some raspberries and when I sat down I entered the "flee" mode. I got up and ran. I am sure she was surprised thinking I would visit for a bit. It was an anxiety attack!


As with any mother/daughter relationship, we have some issues. Afterwards, I have to focus on breathing to get through these anxious periods. I do feel it helps if I just do it and be patient with myself. (That is why I am always saying to take a deep breath, and then another, and another...). I know that I quit breathing altogether when I am stressing.


I agree with onelife that it would help if you could get assistance on paying the bills for your mother's care. I don't know if that is possible where you are but perhaps you could set up billpay through the bank which might ease your burden a bit. 


Keep the faith Skwirl! You are stronger than you think and have such wonderful insight. Keep looking at the blessings in your life and stay strong...


Hugs, Glenda

Hi Onelife and Glenda


Onelife - unfortunately there isn't anything like 'payee' system here. I've been thinking about having a debit order put through my account instead of actually physically paying them myself, but that only make a small change. If I really have to think about it, the whole being responsible for mother's debts forever and forever don't make me feel warm and fuzzy, the other fact that any family are completely not interested in helping me doesn't do any good either. I suppose the complete uncertainity of how much of my salary will be 'taken from me' for the next 20 years or something does make me anxious. I sometimes think of all the things I haven't done with my life and it mainly because I didn't have money for it. I get a pretty good salary, its not peanuts - but with the financial burden of my mother's expenses I can't make a way to work half-day, I don't have enough savings put away, I also can't go on a proper holiday. My last holiday was 1.5 days in Cape Town, and that was rather expensive...all these things I can't do seem to pile up and I get hugely resentful towards my mother. There is also the very real aspect of me, that I get a form of security from money in the bank. Growing up poor and not having enough of many things, having my last R500 in the bank makes me very anxious, I get testy with hubby because of course his bank account is already empty. He can live hand to mouth and it doesn't get to him, me - it gets to me big time. Having savings make me feel better. It's something that I understand I do, but in some instances its a bad thing. I can't be so dependant on money to feel secure, but that is simply the truth of the matter.



Thank you Glenda... it mean so much to know I'm not alone. I often feel like running away when I visit ma. I usually only last 30 min at best, 10 min at worst. Just having to hear a single sentence of my mother's complaining makes me tense up. Breathing... so taken for granted, and so incredibly important. I'm concentrating quite a bit on even breathing. Not over-breathing, just even regular breathes, it really does help.


Thank you both for being there for me, it means more to me than I can properly express



Hi Gail


I could never think you cold!  I consider you one of my closest and greatest friends.


Since the government facilities in SA are so terrible if I were to throw her on the mercy of the government she would properly be dead within a week. I'm not exagerrating, the hopsitals are beyond hopeless, and government frailcare centres are jammed full of people and the waiting lists years long. A friend of mine with bi-polar was in a government hospital and due to complications of them changing his medication he died. He was 37 years old and he's gone. I firmly believe that if he was in a better hospital where there was resources and proper caring nursing staff he may be alive today. My mother has being many times in a government hospital and without me to shout and stomp my feet to get her help she wouldn't have been helped...


On that background, if I were to stop paying for the frailcare (which is only government subsidised and the government decreases their subsidies whenever they feel like it) it is noted in large letters in the contract that she would be immediately offloaded at a government facility if there was no family, or I would be roughly informed to fetch her immediately. I can understand there harsh stand on this, they're not a charity and they have a lot of people to accomodate.


On the medical aid side of things, if I were to stop paying that. I would have to pay cash for her chronic medication each month, if she needed the hospital it would again be to a government hospital because paying for private hospital is beyond expensive.


If I were to stop paying entirely...  she would be chucked out of the Home, I would have to take her in, and take care of her at home (Which I simply cannot and will not do) if she was offloaded at a government home they would call me to fetch my mother as they have no space. if she didn't get her chronic meds every month... I don't know how long before not taking MS meds anymore start to cause havoc?


Overall I feel that if I stop paying I'll be signing her death warrant, there are no safety nets here. No government intervention when there is no-one to pay. I do wonder sometimes that if I die tomorrow that is exactly will happen to my mother. There is a chance that her nephew and niece would take her in, but for how long? They don't want to help out with money now... how will they react being lumped with all the expenses when they are nearing their retirement age? The entire situation is plain impossible, and a lot of this is due to my mother not being the least bit prepared for her retirement, and definently not caring one iota about paying for her own medical care. If anything happens to me, I'm pretty sure no-one is going to pick up the torch. 


She did ask recently how much all this is costing me. Her argument is that it is too expensive so she should come live with me and then it will all be better. If I had to take my mother into my home again I will probably pack my bags and run away for real. I can't go back there. That thought scares the hell out of me.


I hope that explains it....



It explains it perfectly... One day, I hope you can sit with your mother and explain what you have written here... asking her how she would want things handled god forbid something were to happen to you... this might put it all into a different perspective for her... and it might change her attitude....





Add Reply

Link copied to your clipboard.