COVID-19 Alert: Manage caregiver stress during this health crisis. Learn More.
Call 888-575-0946 for Home Instead services in your area.
Sharing is Caring:

When caregiving begins to take a massive toll


Question: I am a 45 year old mother with a 13 year old daughter. I have been married for 17 years and have chronic pain and am unable to work. Over the last five years I have been assisting my parents. My mother is 85, father is 90. They now reside in different retirement homes. My father has frontal lobe dementia and heart issues. My mother no longer wants the responsibility of his care & has left the burden for me to deal with. Although he is still fairly high functioning, his health is declining. Our next step would be to move him to a nursing home as he isn't functioning well at his current location. How do I even begin this process when all he wants is to live with his wife? He is in and out of the hospital regularly and this is taking a massive toll on me and my immediate family. This has taken a massive toll on my relationship with my sister, as she doesn't feel it is our responsibility to care for our parents. Any suggestions?

Dr. Amy: I doubt it will bring you much comfort to know this, but you are part of the growing ‘sandwich generation’—people taking care of both their children and their parents. Managing chronic pain on top of this makes it harder, and the fact that you and your sister have different points of view about your responsibility for your parents' care only complicates things. I want you to know it is quite common for adult children of aging parents to have very different ideas about what kind of care their parents need— as well different views on their responsibilities in providing and overseeing that care. This is often a source of much frustration for family caregivers.

It sounds like you need help finding a way to honor your sense of duty to your parents, arrange care that is appropriate to their needs and wishes, while also preserving your relationship with your sister. You two will need each other when your parents are gone. If cost is not a barrier, I encourage you to hire a geriatric care manager to assess your parents’ situation and help you make plans. A geriatric care manager can help you figure out what you can realistically handle on your own, where you need help, and what resources exist in your area. Geriatric care managers have an excellent understanding of family dynamics and can also talk with you and your sister together. Your sister may not be willing to help your parents, but she may be prepared to help you. Are there tasks she could do that would free you to handle the caregiving end of things?  The point is to come up with a plan that allows you to support your parents as much as possible while still enjoying life with your family.

A care manager can also help you figure out the best approach to talking with your father and will likely be able to help guide that conversation.  Because of your dad’s cognitive issues he may continue to tell you he wants to live with his wife, even after you talk with him. If you are unable to afford support from a geriatric care manager please consider a dementia support group. The people in that group will have likely dealt with similar issues and be able to figure out the best approach to talk with you dad and to offer him comfort.

You are balancing a lot at the moment and I’m glad you are reaching out for help. If you are unable to afford help from a geriatric care manager, call the Area Agency on Aging in your community and ask them for resources.

Good luck to you on your journey.

Get helpful tips and articles like these delivered to your email.

Thoughts and stories from others
  1. July 20, 2013 at 4:33 pm | Posted by Jill E

    I am 47 without my own children just my husband and I. My father just passed in April '13 he had what your father has more or less. My mother would have also left it to me but as it happened she passed first,10 yrs ago, and so regardless I was left. I have just come off either caring for Dad in my home or nursing home (which can be just as stressful if you care what happens while he is in a facility). My brothers (3) were of no help and many siblings feel the same as yours. It hurts I know and I admit your path looks difficult. I visited my father each day in the nursing home while he was there after doing 24-7 care at home for 3 years. I did not have children however so any help your sister will give will help you. I am unsure of the geriatric care mgr as I have never heard of one but if possible to get help in the process any funds spent will be worth it. I used an option such as this to get the medicaid started, spending down and so forth and it was worth every penny to not have the worry. You will find a solution that works for you. Do remember to think of yourself and family and know you cannot be all things. Your dad and mom will both be grateful for your help even if it is not expressed as it might have previously. I will tell you that after all I did for my father I still do not regret anything I did because in his last waking moments while we were waiting for morphine he said "Thank you" to me. So they do know you are there for them even when they seem to not to. Hang in there you will have no regrets. Take care know there are peers out here that are supporting you from afar.


  2. July 18, 2013 at 2:44 pm | Posted by sandy

    i feel your sister is so wrong in not accepting the responsibility of taking care of your parents... i too have pain, i have fb and cfs i have just moved closer to my son so he can help me if i need it, i just turned 57 yesterday and i feel very useless because im not able to be as independent as i would love to be as i have in the past... i feel, we were raised by our parents no matter what the situation was we didnt just walk away and say let someone else deal with OUR problems... we are there as parents no matter what.. why cant our children take care of us for our next stage in our lives... i wish i had someone to take care of me for even a month i would love that i am tired/old/ and have some depression.. anyways you can see how i feel about it all... it will get better, just dont be afraid to ask for HELP and there are ppl out there that will help you get thru it all without feeling guilty... have a wonderful day... and pls give yourself a pat on the back and a big hug...


Share your thoughts, stories and comments:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Ask Dr. Amy now!

    Dr. Amy would love the opportunity to answer your questions.

    Your personal information is kept private and confidential, and is used only to communicate directly with you regarding your question.

    All fields are required.

    By submitting this question, you agree to the Terms of Use and disclaimer for this site.

Find home care near you or your loved one: