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

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