Toll of Caring For Elderly Parent


Nothing prepares you for caring for an elderly parent. It is a role that research indicates falls mostly to daughters. Why? Is that because we are seen as having motherly, empathetic loving traits?
Is it because we are accepting, as many baby boomers did, of delaying our careers for motherhood – so we are experienced at self sacrificing? Or that our businesses or careers can be set aside or impacted and we will accept that ? Or we will juggle our worklife and personal life – accept and catch this ball of caring.

I think probably a combination of all the above. I care because of love. Of family. Of expectation. It often means the denial of my own needs and because caring for an elderly parent is a duty.

I struggle as a carer. Some days I wish I wasn’t a carer – they are the days mum is aggressive, argumentative, accuses me of taking things from her unit that I have never taken – but she has I find, misplaced.

Other times, we enjoy our time together – especially when it involves, tea and cake or some bubbly.

But mum can no longer drink and eats very little, although her enjoyment of berry pancakes, cream and ice cream is unaffected!  And mum still licks the plate! LOL

In the past 20 months I have had to close down my business consultancy “My Business Doctor” thereby ending decades of supporting and assisting local start up and established businesswomen. I have reduced my celebrant business of conducting ceremonies from around 65 a year to 2 – 3 a year.

I have stopped attending many of the business networking events as I feel so out of the business loop. I feel overlooked, inconsequential when introducing myself at business events. I stumble over how to introduce myself. Decades of career development, managing teams, huge projects and working with a diverse range of businesses from all industry areas – all in the past.  I didn’t intend to go from Working to Retired. I semi retired into micro businesses – initially as it felt right and would give me time to spend with my first grand child. No thought of caring for an elderly parent.

That is one toll. The toll on my business. The toll then that results in struggling with identification of who I am. Who I am without my business card.

Then there is the emotional and physical toll. As a carer I find my body seems to be on 24/7 alert. The adrenaline in the body…ready for that call….of which already are many….for help of the latest ambulance ride to hospital.

The call of ‘I don’t feel well, can you come and get me breakfast”. “I don’t feel well, can you make an appointment with the doctor for me today.” “Can you go shopping for me, I want to make……receipe” (last time mum cooked a chop – she fell asleep as it burnt and the fire alarm was screaming but with her deafness issue she was oblivious)”.
Or “there is a message on my answering machine………… I think it is a call from ………… but I can’t understand it…..can you come and listen to it. I go around and she has deleted it but decided she knew how it was from and made up some story!

“My washing machine is ticking, I need you to take me to buy a new washing machine. I have rung and someone is coming to fix it tomorrow. Mum couldn’t remember who she had called. “Someone from Yellow Pages”. I go around and find the noise is the laundry tap dripping. After ringing many numbers in the yellow pages, there goes another few hours.

Expect the unexpected. And cope with the unexpected.

The toll. Well I do find I resort to comfort eating. A regular apple muffin and coffee for morning tea. I biscuit here and there. After a particularly stressful demanding day, a drink or two of wine and now it is summer a drink or two of Bailey’s on the Rocks.

None of the above help. I am the heaviest I have ever been. I just don’t have the motivation to exercise (I also help care for young grand daughters). The drink – in winter a glass or two of sherry – just seems to calm me. Don’t talk mindfulness – I struggle to find time alone – and also the discipline to incorporate daily.

I find after drinking alcohol that if exacerbates my arthritic inflammation. As I suppose does the ongoing emotional stress.

I somethimes think of myself as the Dutiful, Undutiful Daughter.

I provide care because…..well because…..I have to. I wouldn’t not provide care. I do have a sibling – and he helps a few hours one day a week, and ad hoc depending on how busy he is will pop in for a cuppa tea or a swim in the retirement village pool with mum – or take her for lunch. But he goes away so often for 2 – 6 weeks at a time (for 6 months when I was ‘handed’ mum to care for). He also is often unavailable with a bad back or other ailments. At least when he is here I have a sense of a back up but big stretches of juggling alone take their toll.

As does mum’s often aggressive attitude to a variety of things I try and organise that will help her. She sees it as trying to boss her. That I am trying to take over. That she still has her marbles. That she is capable of thinking and making her own decisions. As dementia issues are increasing, this I think is the part that wears me down the most – and I am sure raises my blood pressure. And leaves me exhausted. It is a struggle. And of course a mother daughter relationship fraught with arguments and difficulties re-emerges.

I need to exercise. I need to find a exercise routine. I need to find exercise that I will enjoy. I need to lose weight. I need to modify my diet to reduce inflammation pain. I need to feel recognised. I need approval and a feeling of being loved. I need to work out a way to cope long term.

Mum at least is now on a Package – Level 2 and is having a cleaner come in once a fortnight. Honestly, I believe that if mum would only consider moving to an aged care home she would enjoy it. Mum likes company. She at the moment has many hours sitting at home watching TV. But mum won’t inspect or consider an aged care home.
I have started to think…..mum might continue to live like this until she is 100. The latest ACAT is for Level ¾. The assessor said that if she had care this is the level she would need. She is receiving that at the moment from me – majorly – and when around – from my brother. So I have started to think….how will I cope. I don’t want next year to be a repeat of the past 6 months in particular.

Her dementia is like being in limbo at the moment. She can make decisions but her brain is often confused and she has short term – increasingly short term memory loss. Caring is a responsibility that cannot be professionalised. Like becoming a mother for the first time, it cannot be prepared for.

How long can I continue in this limbo state? How can I motivate myself – or engage someone to help me – to lose weight and regain stamina and health?  In the meantime it is school holidays and I am caring for my 5 year old grand daughter 3 days a week, ongoing of the just turned 4, of one day a week….so I must go……

All photos purchased: Fotolia, shutterstock and 123RF

Hubby left me in charge of the waterproofing tradie and Tomato Relish Receipe

WaterproofHubby left me in charge of the waterproofing tradie – whilst I made Tomato Relish

I know, strange heading….but hubby left me in charge of the tradies for our bathroom renovations whilst he had a well deserved day of golf.

“It’s just the waterproof guy, “ he said.  “It is all straight forward, all he has to do is put on the waterproof, so there should be no issues.  Just in case, he said would leave his phone on silent and check it from time to time whilst he is at golf.

“I have to go – it is the Veteran’s championship – I can’t let my mates down”, he said.

No worries, I replied, you deserve a day off.  Hubby has been project managing as well as doing some of the bathroom renovations himself.  It is during this time, that I am so pleased that I married a handy man and I don’t have to think further than, what time of fittings do you want, what kind of bath do you want ….easy stuff….. And that is as it should be, I have my hands, time full with caring for my elderly mum and regularly my two little grand daughters aged 2 and 4.

So the waterproofer arrives.  Checks the room….oh he says….I wasn’t told it was an upstairs bathroom….I need to go back and get the waterproof that goes onto tiles on the floor, he said.

Bathroom RenovationThen he asked about around the bath……there is a gap….what are you doing there. I looked at him blankly and answered….that will be tiled…..ah yes….but there is a problem.  Looking at me he said, where is your husband?  Deciding not to worry hubby – although  did call but he didn’t answer, the tradie went off to get the right waterproof stuff.. I ducked out and bought the ingredients for a tomato relish.

So, we are both happily active, Craig with his waterproof job, and me boiling tomatoes and chopping 1 kg of onion.  OMG…..next time I will buy already chopped and frozen onion!  So I am scooping the tomato out of the pot to peel the skin and chop, feeling very confident of the relish – which I have not made in decades.

Oh, um….can you come up here…………EKK…..sure…. I have smelly onions and squished runny tomato everywhere – that is because I am a messy cook.

Bathroom ShowerThe issue this time is under the cupboard…and that it is not angled, and also the thingo in the shower that sticks out he informs me is not very long and once it is tiled, we will have problems screwing the shower head onto it.  Well rather than ring hubby I have a brain wave, so I search amongst the bathroom renovation file and find a plumbers card.  I ring the plumber, he doesn’t answer….I leave an URGENT message, and thankfully he calls back a few minutes later. No worries he says, there are ways around it.  Craig looks unconvinced and says once he does the waterproofing, that any issues, we will have to remove a whole panel.  I put my trust in the plumber and say oh well, just go ahead, it will be fine.

By now hubby has called back – but I miss his call and he leaves an unhappy message….where are you…..you should answer – have the phone on your hip…..you called, what is the matter?

So I call back and put him onto Craig who gives him an update on all of the ‘issues’ .  Never mind, go and relax and play golf, it can all be resolved easily, everything is proceeding OK.

Tomato RelishI then get on with my relish.  Three hours of peeling, chopping, tasting, stirring and wondering why the relish wasn’t thickening.  Ah, I think I should have drained the excess juice before boiling. I am using a sketchy recipe I was given.  I stood at the stove top for a couple of hours, stirring, gradually adding a bit more cornflour, then draining the excess liquid….good idea….then again, more flour, a little more curry, a little more mustard, chilli. Tasting, stirring, tasting, stirring….until hurray……it tasted great and was the right consistency.

Another day of retirement has passed…..in charge of the waterproof tradie…don’t call me to help with any renovations. And a day where I finally made a delicious relish.

Mind you, I am not too keen on making another and even hesitant about using the relish. OMG….I never realised HOW MUCH SUGAR was in a relish!!!!!

Tomato Relish Receipe – as  I was given it and in brackets what I learnt or did)

3 kgs of tomatoes – chopped  (well after you chop them and add them to the onion, drain off the juice)

1 kg of onions ( OMG chopping 1 KG of onions – I think I would rather chopped frozen onions, except I wonder how much extra liquid would be in these once they thawed)

1 KG Sugar (OMG I had no idea there was THIS much sugar in a relish. I ended up putting in around 750 grams. Don’t put all the sugar in at once….you can always add)

750ml Vinegar (I held some back, but ended up using it all and a dollop more)

Small handful of salt (well you will have to be careful with this if you have big hands)

Boil for around 20 minutes  (I suggest you look at how much liquid you have, because after about an hour or so, I twigged I had to much liquid. I drained and have frozen the excess liquid)

Then add

2 tablespoons mustard powder

2 tablespoons curry powder

Mix to a paste with a little vinegar , add and simmer for another hour and thicken with cornflower.

Tomato Relish 2(I added a clove of garlic and also some hot chilli. I mixed with the liquid from the pot all the dry ingredients. I added I would think around another teaspoon of the mustard and curry powder. I added – I am guessing but I gradually added as I was tasting, the extra curry, mustard, chilli and extra cornflower, until finally I got the right consistency and taste.

I am not sure how it would affect the taste using a sugar substitute.


Relish in jarsGood luck if you make it and let me know how you go.

I will put bathroom reno photos up onto my facebook page.

Tips for Coping with Retired Hubby

RetiredHoney….I’m home for good – 24/7

About 2 and a half years ago after I left my corporate job and was in a routine of my own and helping my daughter with her baby, hubby retired at 60 years of age.

At first, everything was fine….it was summer – and lovely and hot, so we spent much of our time, swimming, relaxing at home and caring for grand-daughters.

At that stage my micro business as a celebrant was growing , I was working as a business coach …..and I was just very busy with work.  Hubby was happy, pottering around the house and the garden completing projects.  In between he played golf, helped look after the grand children and going out to lunch with me, reading, watching the share market and footy panels on TV, watching the footy replays, and also some travel.

36300530_sThere were times however when I woke and thought…..OMG….he has retired.

This living together is 24/7 forever!

Especially on days when he would ask me in the morning at breakfast…

“would I be home for lunch”….

“what time would I be home”….from where ever I was going

if I was going down to the shops…… “oh….I might come too”

and what’s for tea?  EKKKK!!!

Oh….and there is nothing on the calendar, so you mustn’t be doing anything today!

Now for the past 2 years in particular, I provide a very high level care and support for members of my family, which has had a huge impact on my time and therefore on business activities.  Hubby has been fabulous…when he is not at golf….he is a fabulous dad and Poppy.  A Poppy who has not problems playing dolls,  with 2 and 4 year old granddaughters, and no issues changing dirty nappies for putting the girls to bed. In fact he just loves his time with the girls and is a highlight of his retirement.

However, so many women I have spoken to struggle with the 24/7 living with the hubby who says “Honey…I’m home for good”!

Comments I have heard include:

Hubby puts me down.  I don’t feel relaxed anymore…there is tension in the home

Hubby is critical of the things I do and say now that he is home 24/7

Hubby won’t do anything.

Hubby is so controlling.

Hubby won’t belong to anything.

Hubby only wants to go out with me all of the time.

Interestingly these are statements that I have heard by a number of semi or fully retired women. They are struggling with the hubby being at home all day every day.  The relationship is under strain, particularly where the retired hubby is not involved in anything.

Living with a retired hubby can be a huge new stress and re-adjustment in life.

Now I am not saying all husband and wives have issues. I know and see many many happy retired couples. And no doubt there are some retired hubby’s who might write a blog on their retired wife….but this is my point of view, experiences and observations.

So I reflected on what my now 88 year old mum did with her retirement time – as she lived with an often grumpy old hubby who had not many interests and didn’t like to go out – except for lunch – dad liked a good feed – once he turned about …oh…probably around his late 60’s.

Tips on Living and Coping with a retired hubby

My Mum – Role Model

Take up a sport

Lawn Bowls Match

Lawn Bowls Match

My 88 year old mum always kept busy in her retirement.  She is a great role model to me in regard to what she did to cope with my dad who was a non joiner and as he aged was more and more reluctant to go out anywhere.  Mum joined many organisations over the years after she retired. Initially she joined a bowling club….and dad soon followed her….and they had a year of two playing bowls together before he didn’t want to play any more….but mum continued and made lots of friends.  Other than that……dad really just pottered around the house and went travelling wherever mum organised oh and started to go to church a few times a week and prayed a lot.

Later when she had given up bowls, mum took up table tennis and played until she was around 80 year old.

Now whilst my hubby plays golf 3 times a week…..as much as I have tried…..I am absolutely hopeless at golf.

GolfI would love to share a sport interest with hubby…..and I know he would love for me to…..but honestly…..

I have really really tried…….

but I’m just no good with little balls,  they just won’t go where I want them to…..soaring up in the air or in that bloody little hole.

Joining a local gym and attending fitness classes and crochet in a creative crafting diva’s group, is more my current interest oh of course and coffee and chats with my girlfriends.  I observe with interest that many of the girls when they have completed the stretching or Pilates class (majority of participants are over 60) , go to the gym café for coffee and chats….and stay there until nearly lunchtime.  Not sure why they are not hurrying home!

Belong and Attend Club/Organisation Meetings

My mum joined Probus and ended up the activity officer.  She would organise the day trips and longer trips for the women.  It kept her busy in a coordination role, committee meetings, general meetings as well as going away for the day or for longer.  She did this for many years.

Mum also was a member of the local Garden Club, took up playing cards (which now in her late 80’s she plays 5 to 6 days a week), joined a patchwork craft group, was a member of the Red Cross and at one stage a volunteer for a local historical house….which dad occasionally helped out with.

Women meetingCurrently I attend at number of women only business and networking meetings. I love getting out to listen to a speaker (particularly if the talk is relevant) and catching up with friends and meeting new people.  I am considering starting my own Retiree Women’s group, as I do find it difficult – to find meetings where I connect with the speaker or the topic….rather than ”been there done that”….so I am seeking women 55 plus who have stepped away from the corporate world and re-defined themselves.


Book clubs –mum attended the VIEW Club, and used to go to meetings, outings and the book club. I have joined one that meets on a Tuesday night for dinner. Not too much chat about the actual books we have ‘read’.


Man shoppingI have a great system….hubby takes Miss four and a half grocery shopping on a Thursday morning. Occasionally I go with them, but generally I stay behind with the 2 year old. Hubby doesn’t like me going….he says that he spends more on the groceries.  He always takes a list. Problem is that I haven’t always remembered what I really need. What I am cooking. So each week, I top up anyway.

But yes, I am very lucky I have a hubby that likes grocery shopping.

Men’s Sheds

These are growing in popularity.  I would love hubby to go. However he and some of his mates, found out that we women, behind their back, were trying to leverage each other off the other, pretending that they WERE interested in a Men’s Shed. Damm…we got found out!  A very powerful statement though was made: “Why do we HAVE TO DO ANYTHING?”  ‘I’ve worked hard all my life, for decades….now it is finally my time to just relax and do whatever I want to do, if and when I want to do anything.” GULP!!!!

How foreign an idea is that to me and many semi or fully retired high profile, corporate leadership type of women.

Things to fix

I always seem to have a list of things to fix inside and outside of the home.  Bunnings is a favourite place for hubby…and thankfully he happily fixes things.


One woman I know plans multiple holidays each year, both international and domestic holidays. Staying with friends, travelling with friends, making new friends who can come and visit, travelling to see family………. So the mostly stay at home hubby….at least he is out and about…..as a travelling partner and hopefully absorbing and enjoying all the he is experiencing and always has something to talk about.

My mum also initiated all of their travel – mostly around Australia.

River CruiseHubby and I have taken two overseas holidays…a European River Cruise and also a Mediterranean cruise.

Loved these and we are likely to take more overseas travel and look forward to more domestic travel.



GrandchildrenHubby and I spend a huge amount of time with our little grand daughters. Sometimes it is very tiring – exhausting – but it is also wonderful to mind and care for them as we are contributing towards their development. Yes, I know some grand parents live a long way from their grand children – we are lucky and blessed to have ours live so close to us.

See a Counsellor

On a really serious note.  Honestly…..don’t hesitate to seek some counselling – either alone or with your hubby. At the very least….if they won’t join anything, then take my elderly mum’s advice….get out yourself every day….live and enjoy your life.

two seniors having dinner on patio.

two seniors having dinner on patio.

Initially and from time to time, I have had counselling. Yes adjustments and compromises are required…..and I am not saying it is easy. We have our days – and sometimes days of days……or days of weeks – when we irritate each other….but when you have a balance then this stage of life can be fantastic…..some of the best years of your life.

Must go….hubby is going through the fridge and cupboards and letting me know of items out of date, and that the left over pumpkin I didn’t use up has gone off.  Sherry time!

Note:  All images used are personal photos or purchased.

Choosing a River Cruise Ship Cabin

imagesChoosing a River Cruise Ship Cabin

It can be difficult to decide and choose a River Cruise Ship Cabin.  Ultimately the level of the cabin will come down to personal budget which will influence then the level and location

After asking around and reviewing the cruise ship cabin layout, we finally decided to go for level 2.

Storage Space in a River Cruise Ship Cabin

WOW – so much storage space!  So much, that we had no clutter around our cabin – more storage space than many many hotel rooms. So don’t worry about space. We put our suitcases under our bed – and there was so much cupboard space as well as drawers!

River Cruise Ship Cabin with Port Hole

On Travel Marvel Diamond, these cabins are on level 1 – the size of the cabin is the same, but you just have a port window.  So yes, your trip may be a trip of a lifetime and you might think, well we will spend most of our time on the sundeck and in the lounge!  Sorry but the sundeck will be closed for most of three days – and therefore the lounge may be crowded.  Also whilst the sundeck is closed or whilst cruising you are feeling tired, you won’t have the opportunity to just chill out in your own personal space, lie on your bed and watch the view pass by.

10418145_10152219958698034_5485072401951861357_nRiver Cruise Ship Cabin with Ceiling to Floor Window

On Travel Marvel Diamond these cabins were available on level 2 and 3.  We chose Level 2 and were very happy.  I get travel and motion sick very very quickly and didn’t feel sick one.  The boat was stable even when large barges past us and cause large river waves.  The boat didn’t have personal balconies – and having completed the tour – if I was to do it again….and I could afford it, yes I would book a cabin with a balcony. However, I was very happy with our cabin.  Loved lying on the bed and watching the scenery glide past.

The bed in the Travelmarvel Diamond does not face the window however. Check before you book, as to have been able to lie on the bed actually facing the window would have been much better.

Location of your River Cruise Ship Cabin

We chose mid ship and were very happy with that. Our cabin was around the 6th cabin from the reception. Just far enough away from the reception which can be noisy and busy due to people making enquiries, picking up their boarding passes, sitting in the chairs talking, gathering in large numbers ready to disembark or purchasing from the ship’s shop.

Also if we forgot something, it was not far from the dining room or lounge to go back to the cabin – or if we had to quickly go back for something we needed to take on the tour that was about to leave!!!

We overhead a couple of people who had cabins at the very end, complaining about the smell and now I think of it, we did at times get smells from the kitchen (Cabin 210)  however our friends directly opposite us in Cabin 209 did not have this problem.

With the sundeck closed for long periods – smokers were very limited in where they could smoke.  Someone on level 3 one cabin above and down from us, did stand at their ceiling to floor window and I could smell the smoke, but this was not a regular occurrence.

Level 3 is obviously great – that bit higher, however again go for a mid ship cabin – as the tour director had her desk on this level as well as there are chairs for people to sit on and chat –AND any noise from the lounge.  There was also a computer station on level 3 – with two computers.

WiFi in Your River Cruise Cabin

The satellite went up and down due to low bridges, then many times you are cruising it would seem out of range and so the wifi connection was very unreliable. Unfortunately during the 3 days when the sundeck was mostly closed – and one had time on one’s hands…there was very little internet connection for updating social media or Skype connection to family.

Tip for Choosing your River Cruise Cabin

If you can afford it – go for level 3 mid ship.  Otherwise level 2 mid ship.

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