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Posted: May 15, 2006

Practical Caregiving

Emotional and Physical Abuse -- Is This Part of Caregiving?

What do you do with a father who mistreats the daughter who cares for him, tries to choke her husband, and thinks the world owes him a lot? This daughter thinks it may be time for a nursing home. Let's see what I can add to the situation by answering this letter from my e-mailbag.
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Dear Jean:
 
My mother died a couple years ago. My Dad is 79 years old and is a diabetic with kidney failure. My husband and I have been taking care of my Dad in our home since Mom died, and we have had to do everything for him. My brother and sister live out-of-state so they don't help, but they do listen to my cries.
 
A few years ago, my father loaned us money, and we have been paying him back. We do appreciate his loaning us the money very much. One of the problems now is that he is always bringing it up and he gets mad if we can't do what he wants immediately. He has always manipulated us and has always made my husband and I feel like low-lifes.
 
Dad has tried to choke my husband and occasionally tries to hit him. He has hurt his granddaughter, and she would not be upset if anything happened to him. Dad has told me that he loves to upset the children and that he is here on earth for people to please him.
 
My family has been through a lot, but before my mother died, she said she wanted me to take care of Dad. I don't think she meant for us to be his slaves. I haven't said anything to him because I want to keep peace in the family.
 
There are a lot more hateful things he has said and done. He has made me think I wish the Lord would take me. How do you feel about putting parents in a nursing home? Please let me know. Thank you.
 
Kari D., Boston, Massachusetts
 
Dear Kari:
 
Nursing homes have their place. Given the situation you described, I think you should put your father in a nursing home immediately. Check into the nursing homes in your area and find one that has an opening this week. Make sure the nursing home knows that you are to be part of any decisions or changes made, such as your dad’s medications. Be on top of things once he's in the facility. When they call about something, promptly respond and talk with them about it. Perhaps you will need to talk to the doctor, also. After all, you still want the best for your dad.
 
You said your mother wanted you to take care of him when she was gone, and I can tell that you want to do that. But taking care of him does not mean that you have to do it all yourself -- or put your family in danger. Your responsibility is to see that he gets good care. His making you feel that you “wish the Lord would take” you indicates that he should not be living in your house with you or your family. Do something now. Don't wait until he seriously hurts someone. There is no way he should be allowed to physically abuse your family, and trying to hit and choke your husband is abuse. There is also the emotional abuse he gives to you and your family. Stop putting up with it.
 
My next suggestion is for you and your family. Talk to a counselor about why you and your family have put up with his hurts, both emotionally and physically. You don’t want to ever allow anyone else to do that, and you don't want to feel guilty about putting your dad in a nursing home.
 
Perhaps your dad will actually like it better in a nursing home than he does with you. He will be with other people in his age range. They will have many things in common to talk about. But if he doesn't happen to like it, don't get upset. He sounds like he would not like it anywhere.
 
Please let me know what you do.

© 2006 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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