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Concerned about my dad - He is a caregiver to my stepmom. She is very mean to him.

Posts: 2
Joined: Apr 2009

My stepmom was diagnosed 4 years ago with Pancreatic cancer. She has always been a very strong minded, very opinionated, very strong willed, strong personality woman. I have never liked the way she has treated my dad in the 30 years they have been married. She has always corrected him and raises her voice to him all the time. This is one of the reasons that my brother and I have not always been that close to my dad or to my stepmom. We couldn't stand the way she treated him. I just spent 10 days with my dad and stepmom and it was nearly unbearable for me to be there with them. She has so much anger and meanness toward my dad. My dad is doing everything he possibly can as her caregiver. He is so loving to her and just does as he's told. He never talks back to her while she barks orders at him constantly. Not once did I ever hear a thank you to him for anything. She just sits in her chair and barks commands at him and runs around like a puppy with his tail tucked between his legs. I am 50 years old and watched this going on for a week. My dad and I had many, many talks about her behavior toward him. He said he didn't know what to do about the anger and just deals with it. I sat there and watched him and would cry when I would go to bed at night. I can't believe that he puts up with this treatment from her. She has always been this way toward him, but now it's 10 times worse.

He is attending a support group at the medical clinic she goes to for her chemo sessions. He said that it has helped somewhat. He said it gets very emotional at times. I was just wondering if anyone else has experienced seeing such a meanness to them. It is breaking my heart just knowing everyday that my dad has to deal with her.

I'm afraid that my dad could have a heart attack or stroke just from the tension that she induces onto him. I talked to my stepbrother about her behavior and he said he has noticed it too and that he needs to talk to her about it. He also said that my dad needs to get some backbone and not let her talk to him like that. I saw her hit my dad twice with what little energy she has. I almost blew my lid. I kept quiet the entire time and never said anything back to her. Now that I am back home, I am so angry with myself for not sticking up for my dad. Right now, I could care less what happens to her. I know that sounds horrible, but if you were in my shoes and could see how she is, I'm sure you would agree. I'm not a hateful person and am disappointed in myself for even saying this out loud.

She kept saying that she only wants to have positive things to read, watch on tv, etc. Everytime she opens her mouth you can hear the anger and the negativity. Every sentence starts with "I HATE" or the tone in her voice just tells you how much she hates everything. The weird thing is, she doesn't project this anger to other people, only to my dad. It is making me sick to my stomach just thinking that he is living like this. He doesn't deserve this treatment at all.

If anyone can give me any advice that I could give to my dad, I would so appreciate it. I'm very sorry to sound like I do, but my loyalty and concern right now is towards my dad, the caregiver. The loving husband that has put up with this woman for the last 30 years and now is being treated so badly. Thank You.

soccerfreaks's picture
Posts: 2801
Joined: Sep 2006

You clearly have issues with stepmom, but I would advise that a man who sticks with a woman for 30 years and is at her beck and call must find something about her that he has found appealing over the last 30 years, even if you have not.

I would further advise that, based on the information you have provided, dad is a big boy, capable of making his own decisions.

I would add that stepmom, regardless of how she has acted in the past, is now in the midst of the cancer experience, is scared, angry, frustrated, confused, needy, and demanding.

That, my friend, is not unusual.

My advice would be to you rather than to dad, and it would be to either be part of the solution, or refrain from creating a problem.

You can help your stepmom, be there, assist her with whatever her needs are, or you can stay out of the picture, if that better serves everyone's best interests.

As for dad, I would only advise that he take some time for himself: to be a good caregiver, one must take good care of the giver. If he is not doing so, he should take some time for himself, tend to his garden, go fishing, take a long walk, whatever it is that he finds helps him to release stress and enjoy some time away from the wife.

It will serve them both well, and may help you as well, knowing that dad is looking out for himself, too.

Take care,


zahalene's picture
Posts: 680
Joined: Nov 2005

Your post sounds very like the relationship between my parents for the (I presume) whole 61 years they were married. Since my mom died 4 1/2 years ago after an extended period of struggling with several different health issues at once, my dad tells anyone who will listen that his 61 years with mom were 'the happiest 61 years of his life'. And he isn't joking. He apparently only remembers (perhaps deliberately) whatever good times they had and 'forgets' all the stuff that went on that bothered everyone else in the family so much. He is one strong man.
Your dad has apparently found a way to manage whatever grief he absorbs from this relationship. And, as for the, 'tail between his legs' attitude you witness, he is probable like the little boy whose mother insisted he sit in the corner for some misbehavior. He informed her that he was sitting down on the outside but was 'standing up' on the inside. I expect your father is standing up somewhere. Maybe you need to just stand with him.

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