The stress can be overwhelming. Expectations can be overbearing. In short, you are overloaded and you need solutions to the headaches -- literally and figuratively -- that set upon you with the fury of locusts and the weight of an elephant.
Cynthia and Tracy are finding this out the hard way -- they are living it. They've written me seeking advice on their situations, which they come at from different angles, different stories.
Let's see what I can do for them.
My 95-year-old mother lives with my husband and me. I am under a great deal of stress and have no one to talk to. I am looking for a support group before I absolutely go nuts and become one of those women who “just disappear” and no one hears from them again.
I cannot talk to my friends whose parents are deceased or are in nursing homes because they tell me to be glad my mom is alive. I cannot talk to my daughter because she is her granddaughter, etc., etc. So, I need a group where I can vent and talk to other people in the family caregiving role. I would appreciate any help you can give me.
Cynthia F., Anchorage, Alaska
I'm so glad you want to talk to a support group. It will surely help. There are a range of different support groups in every city, so you should be able to find something to attend. I would start by calling assisted living facilities, nursing homes, churches, hospital social workers, hospice, even funeral homes. THey all typically maintain lists of support groups.
But if that doesn't turn up what you want, call different organizations and associations like the Cancer Society and the Alzheimer's Association. They may not have exactly what you want, but they also are likely to have information on different support groups in your area. Remember that even if you can't find exactly what you want, family caregiving is similar for all disease states and conditions, and most any group might be beneficial to you.
I hope you find a group that will help.
I have just stumbled upon your column and immediately feel relieved. My name is Tracy. I am 49 years old and have minor physical problems.
I have a husband who is a 100% disabled vet. He was disabled when we married and has been on medication for many years. The medicines and pain cause emotional and mental issues I have to deal with.
A few months ago, I completed the task of moving my father to a small house beside us. He has chronic back problems and is showing signs of dementia. I expected a gradual increase in problems, but was thrown into shock when, over just two days, he seemed dramatically worse! My father seems content in his new home (even relieved) and is adapting well. I, on the other hand, am not.
Honestly, there are days I feel quite depressed -- even trapped. On the other hand, I love my men so very much! I want to keep both of them home and happy, which they are. So, why am I so down?
Do you have any suggestions for me -- besides running?
Tracy D., Knoxville, Tennessee
You are under a lot of pressure taking care of two people you love. Give yourself a little time to adjust. Give them a little time to adjust.
Your feelings are completely normal. Every family caregiver has those feelings. Be sure to find ways to give yourself breaks; that will help. Also, make sure you get help taking care of them. You do need it, and they need it too.
When someone has signs of dementia, they have trouble making changes. That's probably why your father is reacting the way he is and seemingly getting a lot worse fast. It may be temporary because of the change, but why don't you talk to his doctor about the situation? Try to conduct daily life on a regular routine basis; that helps a lot when dementia is involved.
You are feeling a little overwhelmed right now -- and that is understandable. Take one day at a time.
I have written columns that may help you understand your situation.
The first column is on caregiver guilt, which all family caregivers experience. One column is about improving your life and your loved ones' lives through humor. Then there are three columns on Alzheimer's disease, dementia and caregiving for someone with these diseases. You'll find these columns here:
I took care of both my parents at the same time, and you can take care of your father and husband at the same time too. Good luck.