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I've been caring for my mother, who has dementia, for five years. Now I have breast cancer. How do I continue to care for my mom while focusing on my own health?


Question:  My mom came to live with me, my husband and two older children five years ago after she had a minor stroke. Her memory is affected and she has other health issues, including dementia. Lack of support from my siblings has always added stress to my life. Now I have stage four breast cancer and my husband and kids are my caregivers. I don't know how to continue taking care of my mom and focus on my own health too. I feel a lot of guilt pulling away from mom while dealing with my depression and problems.

Dr. Amy:  The goal here is to make sure both you and your mother get the support and care you need. You do not have to do everything yourself - nor can you. 

You need support to help you through this challenging time. I encourage you seek counseling and consider joining a support group. Your local hospital can make connections for you, and so can the Cancer Society. It's important for your health that you find a way to let go of the guilt you are carrying. A counselor can help and so can a leader of a faith community if you are a member of one. You are doing your best. You've cared for your mother for five years. You can only do so much, and it's important that you take care of yourself first.

Your mother needs care, too, of course. If your husband and children are not able to care for you both, they need to find outside help. Options include adult day care for your mother, in-home care, having friends and family help out with meals, errands, and other chores. It's important to ask for help. I wish you strength.

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. June 19, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Posted by Cindy

    Long term care facilities do cost alot of money. Your husband is your best ally in getting your siblings to step up. If the money is not there for dementia facilities look into getting a social worker to evaluate. They can recommend a dementia facility that would accept her social security in full for her care. Again a social worker must deem her incapable of taking care of herself. Being that you are health compromised you might be able to get a caregiver in to take care of her and payed for by the state. Check it out. Have your husband tell siblings THEY need to do this NOW for you. Your an angel in disguise....


  2. June 8, 2011 at 12:59 am | Posted by Pat Roy

    It may be time to explore long-term care for your Mom. A day program and in-home care would certainly offer immediate help, but it takes time and energy to make arrangements and supervise her care and still leaves you with weekends and evenings. Your kids and husband can help out, of course, but as they are your caregivers now as well, that is asking a lot. So call those siblings and tell them you are facing a serious health issue that needs your full attention. If none of them are willing or able to step up and care for your Mom, would they be willing to help look for a good long-term care facility. Though you are probably going to feel guilty no matter what you do, you can take comfort in the knowing that she is safe and well cared for while you focus your energy on your own health for now. Keeping a good thought for you during this difficult time.


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