Question: My mother has dementia. She is unable to walk and has a variety of other health issues. She requires 24/7 care. My problem is that my brother is unwilling to do much to help. I spend a minimum of 65 to 70 hours per week taking care of her. That does not include taking her to the doctor, shopping for groceries and picking up meds and supplies. Because I am semi-retired, he thinks I should do most of the care taking. I have given up participating in all the organizations and classes I took before Mom needed so much care. I work as a substitute teacher and also an enrichment teacher for an after school program. How can I make my brother realize I need some time away occasionally to relax and recharge? I am so tired and worn out, I'm not sure how much more I can do.
Dr. Amy: This is not a sustainable situation. As you say, you are tired and worn out, and don’t know how much more you can take. Many caregivers—women especially, I find—put the needs of other before themselves. Sometimes, it is to the detriment of their own health and wellbeing. You need to be very clear and concrete with your brother about the tasks involved in caring for your mom and where you need help. Many times family members don’t know we need help and really don’t know how to help if we don’t tell them specifically what we need. If he is not able or willing to help, find other sources to lighten your load. If you can afford home care, that is a great option. A home care service can come to your house and help with everything you now do—from personal care and meals to housework. If money is an issue, you can call the Adult Services Unit of your county Department of Social Services to see if your mom qualifies for assistance. I also encourage you to call the local Alzheimer’s Association. They may have a support group you can join. They will also be able to talk to you about the types of practical support that are available in your community. And please remember your friends and community groups as possible sources of help. Many times we forget there really are people in our lives who would love to help but don’t know we need some assistance.
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