3.6 million parents lived with their adult children in 2007—up 60 percent since 2000—according to census data released this month. The migration of elderly parents into their children’s homes represents a sea change from the 20th century; it’s a family system more akin to, say, Japan’s, where intergenerational ties are much tighter. But the shift in dynamics is causing growing pains that, for some American caregivers, are nearly unbearable. On online message boards, adult children voice anguish over matters both financial and emotional; many complain about their parents’ increasingly intolerable personalities as they slip further into dementia. Here are some caregiver conversations from a public forum at AgingCare.com.
shadyldy131 Mar 5, 2008 i have been caring for my elderly mother for 7 years. the stress that is on me is unreal. my only sibling, a brother, died 2 yrs ago, as did my husband. My mother is very controlling and wants to rule my life. she treats me like i am a teenager, and when i complained to her about this, she said, well you act like a teenager. i have friends who i like to visit, who live just down the street, but each time i go down there, she acts as if it is a slap in her face…HELP
sjohnson9 Mar 7, 2008 Shadyldy131, I know exactly what you are going through. I am also treated like a teenager and still get reminded of all the things I did wrong growing up. And I'm 48 years old. My mother has absolutely no trust in me whatsoever. I've been trying to start a small business and she tells me what I should or should not do. I enjoy going to car shows on the weekend, and she makes me feel guilty if I go anywhere, yet she will not go. I am on a very strict low salt diet for blood pressure, and she still goes to the store and buys things that I am not suppose to eat. And if I don't eat them, she pouts and tells me how much money she has wasted...When my stepdad passed away 11 years ago, I sobbed and cried, because I knew my life was over. From that moment on, she would try to control everything about me. If you need to vent—I'm here and I understand.
Decor426 Mar 8, 2008 I am in the same position as both of you. My Mom sits there all day and plays dictator, acts like she doesn't appreciate anything, and you are disrespectful if you state your views. I'm 44 and I can't wait to GROW UP. What will the stress do to our health?
mlv3000 Mar 11, 2008 Decor 426 I know exactly what you mean. I was in Hurricane Katrina and lost everything. I had to take both of my aging parents in. My dad had 3 strokes and is in a wheelchair and my mom is healthy, but nervous and has aches and pains everyday. I have been helping take care of my dad with my mom for 20 years. She refuses to put him in a nursing home, but she is the real problem. She has become a dictator since she lives with me. She wants to tell me what to do all the time. I take her out the house everyday, even if its for 2 hours to go to Walmart or the Pharmacy, which has become my life. I live at the doctors offices 3-4 times a week and that has been for the past 20 years. I have never had a real life with my husband and children because I was always trying to take care of them. Don't get me wrong, my kids always came first, but my husband sometime got put on the backburner…I'm feel so differently about my mom now, when I use to love her so. I feel like she has taken my life away from me.
Decor426Mar 12, 2008 mlv3000 I think we harbor resentment at our mothers because we know they can be stronger and they are not stupid, but they have thrown in the towel so to speak. I find that my mother doesn't want to do any activities because my Dad can't anymore, I think she would feel guilty if she would. Believe me my Dad wouldn't mind if she did something it would make all of us happier.
mlv3000 Mar 12, 2008 Decor426 Do you believe that the people being taken care of survive longer than the caretaker? If thats true, I'm already 46 years old and have been doing this half of my life. I hope thats not true, but I did say I would never quit. Appreciation does go along way with how you feel about taking care of someone. I will never do this to my children. I told my 20 year old daughter to put me in a home before she should make her life miserable taking care of her daddy or I. She said Mom, you don't have to worry about that you will go in a home. Love that kid! Cat Mar 13, 2008 I don't know what the relationship is with your mom, but you really need to find out what is going on with HER—your issues unfortunately are secondary to what is happening. try to imagine what would happen if you knew that you were losing it…we are all going to be there someday...the purpose of what we have chosen to do is care for someone as they are now—*not* to rehash issues from our youth. If you let go of that and allow you to like them as a person—it will make you both happier. truly, my sympathies, I am not dismissing your feelings. I am a caregiver for my mother with no help from anyone...and it is very hard. You will burn yourself out and do your mom a dis-service if you dont take care of her perception of reality FIRST. The reality is now, not old stuff. cindi Mar 14, 2008 I have been looking for a place where I can seek support, advice, and just vent. I am so happy to read the above letters especially from MVL and Decor. I, too, am a caregiver to a very difficult mother who is 82 and a father who is 84 with nearly 3 years into Alzheimers. My mother never was the type to say go out and enjoy yourself honey. So, there is no shift in personality there. She is actually better then she was before. The reason for this is because she lived with my brother and his wife for 6 months and was asked to leave. Then 16 months in a senior residence. I am her last place to go so to speak. It took me one year to decide to offer for her to move in. It has taken all of the skills I have learned from my counselor and then some to deal with my mother. I do believe that my mother has the attitude that we were brought up to take care of them and it is our duty. This is especially prevalent in asian cultures. My mother being asian, always put it in my head that kids should take care of aging parents. Because of this attitude I do believe there is little true appreciation and gratitude. I do love my parents, even my mother...(laughing)...but it is a drain. Roni Lake Apr 2, 2008 After reading all of these comments, I saw a pattern, all you need to let go of your concern for your "borderline" family member's approval. When my mother pulls her manipulative tricks…I simply do not respond to her. I do not return her manipulative bitter phone calls, she will go from sugary sweet (I have gifts up here at home for you) to vile venom calls, she also plays the mom who so very concerned about my well being, "please just let me know you are alright etc." I have finally at the age of 52 seen through all her tricks and I am simply bored to death…My advice, if to let go, realize you are dealing with a mental illness, not so much your loved one. Don't try to make sense of mental illness, it is what it is, and they will not change. Let go of the guilt and get on with your lives. I finally did after 52 years of abuse. audrey Apr 3, 2008 I am 80 this year and live with my daughter and her family, I do the gardening, washing, ironing, a lot of cleaning, cooking and baking, walking and caring for our three small dogs. I offer my advice if requested and make myself generally useful. I dont regard it my right to live here, but a pleasure and I deal with my health issues as they arrive. Nor do I expect to go out when my daughter does, but if taken to a theatre etc. thoroughly enjoy the treat. I am dependent on them for transport as I no longer drive, but confine that to doctors, banks, shops etc. when I know they are going.Sharing time together is good, but normally by 8.30 to 9pm I retire to my own room and tv, radio, books etc. and enjoy time with my small dog. From being eleven years old, I had to help clean my parents home and after I left I went back to help my mother by cleaning for her as she was working but unwell for many years. When she died I took on the care of my father and travelled every week to his home to clean for him. He came to live with my husband and I following a fall and my sister and I cared for him until he died at 96, we loved having him, he was in a wheel chair and although we had some carers for him in the mornings and evenings, he was a very active man, a real character, pithy, often very strong minded, but he brought happiness to us all. After this my own husband became ill for some years and sadly went into Alzheimers but I cared for him at home and with help from morning and evening carers to get him up and put him to bed I managed to give him the love and care he needed. When I came to live with my daughter and her husband I didnt expect to sit back and be waited on but slowly found my place here and despite one or two health set backs have kept very active, finding much pleasure in the garden and all the things I do... To anyone taking in a parent I say, dont discount them, dont let them sit in a chair and do nothing, get their help in small things and all household events. often they are too worried to ask and feel they may be intruding and sit back. Give them a chance. Think how they feel suddenly not being the masters of their own fate. Often embarrassed and upset by having to ask if they can do something. I regard myself as so lucky and hope to go on doing all I can to be a welcome and useful member of my new home. I hope you dont mind a comment from the other side of the fence!!!!