Taking care of family has always been a tradition in my family. And because of my experience, 14 years at SSA I was determined that I would take care of my mother. I took care of my mother in my home from 1979-1984; however, in January 1985 she decided to stay in California after a Christmas visit with my cousin and his wife. I was lucky that in May 1989 I was able to travel to CA for a visit with her and we spent a wonderful week together. Soon thereafter she suffered a stroke and was to sick to take care of herself and unfortunately I was also ill at that time and unable to go to California to take care of her. I could not afford the cost of a Careflyt to Virginia for her so I was in a real dilemma. My cousin and his wife, without consulting me, put my mother in a nursing home and she died very quickly thereafter of natural causes. But I never have been able to completely resolve the issue of "not doing the daughter's duty" no matter how sick I was. Unfortunately neither has my family they no longer speak to me and it is as if I never existed.
In May of 1998 my 88 year old father-in-law became unable to care for himself. He had developed sudden onset of (Macular Degeneration partial but legal blindness) and had suffered from severe loss of hearing over the years from and from his service in WWII. I had known this man since I was 17 and he was always good to me and he was a good friend of my mother. I was living in Oakland, CA, at the time and had re-married his son my first husband and it seemed right to move to San Diego and take care of him as the other children in the family were not willing to do so. So David and I packed up and moved into his four bedroom house in the San Diego area. He was healthy and strong he just could not see or hear.
To my chagrin he had discharged his house keeper ostensibly to save money several months before we arrived. Needless to say the house was more than dirty. The refrigerator, well I will not discuss it here. In any case I was on a mission. I cleaned and cleaned, and cooked and cooked, and was the perfect little care giver. At first things went well I was full of do goodness and he and I shared a passion for baseball and watched every Padre game that year, they one the NL Championship, we took trips to the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park.
I chauffeured him to all his clubs retired officers association and other similar activities including his weekly Macular Degeneration support group. In I guess June of 1998 his daughter bought him one of those special radios for the blind and a tape player provided by the National Association of the Blind which also supplies unabridged books on tape. And that is when I first started to suffer from some burn out. He played that radio all day and listened to books most of the night. Needless to say the volume was rather loud, actually more than loud you could here them from the sidewalk outside of the house.
Because he was retired Army we got a special ID for me so I could accompany him to the Navy Exchange and the Commissary. He had always done all the shopping in the house and wanted to continue do it so I went along with it. There were also trips to his private eye physician. Oh ya an bowling once a week. Then there were the side trips to the pharmacy at Balboa Naval hospital,.
I NEVER HAD A MINUTE TO MYSELF. AND WITH EQUAL EMPHASIS I ADD THAT I ALLOWED IT TO HAPPEN.
Finally in October 1998 I joined a care giver's support group. Most of the folks were caring for parents or spouse with Alzheimer's. But our issues were very much the same exhaustion and no time. Finally I asserted myself and bought a head set for him to wear when listening to tapes and the radio (that psych torture they do to our enemies by playing loud music or sounds 24 hours a day works), I stopped allowing him to try to shop and cut about three hours out of the time I spent with him a week, in addition I demanded that my husband and his other three children in the city help (they did not like that at all). Next to the support group the two things that help me the most were a book called the Forty-eight hour day and the dissertation a friend had written on Care Giving For the Elderly (she said other than her professors I was the only person who ever read it).
This is probably way to long but the problems in care giving are huge and take an enormous toll on the care giver. My father-in-law died in December 1999, in his home, in his easy chair listening to books on tape. I was not there however. Because of problems with his son and the other children would not provide any assistance I finally moved out in May 1999. And again I am not forgiven.
Doing the best I could was all that I could do and it was not enough. I recommend before undertaking any such task be sure you have a support system, assert your self when confronting an older person who you respect even when the are grumpy and stubborn. Be very careful you are not putting your self at risk.