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Second time around as caregiver, having trouble coping this time

Posts: 4
Joined: May 2010

I hope long posts are acceptable here. I really need some coping advise and don't know how short I can make this initial post. Please bear with me, just this once.

This is my second time around as primary caregiver for a loved one as we face the final stages of cancer at home with hospice care. First time was with my grandma, who raised me for most of my life. I actually moved back into the house with her when it came time to settle in with hospice. Physically and emotionally, I would not have lasted much longer had the end not come when it did. That was five years ago. Not a day has gone by that I don't still have haunting thoughts about being the one who gave the final dose of morphine before she passed. Even tho I was instructed by hospice nurses to go ahead and give it, it is always in the back of my mind that she died about an hour later. Don't get me wrong, she was in her last hours anyway, and was moaning terribly in pain. She needed the morphine....but there is just something about me being the one who gave that final dose that I just haven't been able to shake. Other than that, tho I was exhaused, we made it pretty good through the ordeal. I was so grateful it was over quickly and I got back to my life.

Now, five years later, I am in the same position with my mother. My niece and I are the primary caregivers. I live 250 miles from mom, so for the last year, I have commuted to her house, staying 3 to 6 weeks at a time. A niece covers for me for two weeks when I go home to "recoup" and spend time with MY family. I used up all my Leaves of Absences at work, so I have quit my job to be able to take care of mama. (Fortunatly, I have a great hubby who supports me in all this.)

Since I was raised by my grandparents, mom and I have never been very close...but I do love her and she is a very sweet person now...but it hasn't always been that way. Now, spending so much time in the old house, with bad memories and with the people who caused the bad memories during my childhood is taking this thing to the 10th power with me emotionally. This was hard enough with my grandma whom I adored and who adored me. It's different with mama. I love her, but the old triggers in that house and with mom and dad's basic personalities are really messing with my head this time. I am the loving caretaker (on the outside); but inside I am angry and resentful. Of coarse, I NEVER let that show...EVER. That would just be mean, and my grandma didn't raise me to be mean. That being said, the good news is that thru this, mom and I are discovering things about each other that we truly love and admire. She is not exactly the same person she was when I was young, and I am finding a side of her that is very lovable when the meds don't have her totally zonked. We are reconnecting in a wonderful way...just in time for her to die. Wow. How unfair is that?

Wondering if there is anyone out there who is the caretaker for someone they were estranged from for most of their life. Any feedback, advise would be so greatly appreciated. Actually, I feel a little better just finally speaking (typing) the words. Can't talk to family members because problems of the past are "taboo" subjects in our family. If I don't find an outlet where I can discuss this and "empty out" this turmoil, I am afraid I will have a stroke or something. (Doc just put me on anxiety meds yesterday with spiking blood pressure that blows thru the roof unexpectedly, for no apparent reason. I have never taken anything other than aspirin for headaches before. Go figure.) Thanks for being here. God Bless you all.


HeartofSoul's picture
Posts: 732
Joined: Dec 2009

I have not personally been a caretaker for someone I was estranged from in my life but i can listen to you, provide feedback, give comfort on those hard days , and be here.

Heart of Soul

Posts: 4
Joined: May 2010

Thank you so much, Heart. I am ok at the moment, because I am at home with my hubby right now recouping from the last trip to mom's. Got to see my kiddos and precious grandkids. But when I have to go back, I may really need support. Being the caregiver is the hardest thing I have ever done, both with Grandma and now with mama. It's scary and exhausting. Mama is extrememly high-maintenance, not just because of the cancer, but because of her general personality, tendency towards addiction to the drugs hospice provides, and general dysfunction that has always been a part of our family. Those things combined guarantee a 3- to 6-week stay with roughly 4 hours sleep in given day. Probably sleep deprivation plays a huge role in the trouble I am having dealing with this also.

Grandma wasn't that way...I actually moved right into the same bedroom with grandma...we had a blast, up till the very end. It was a fun "slumber party" every night, in spite of her symptoms and pain...that's just the way my grandma was. Only grandma could make her own death bed a FUN place to hang out...she was a phenomenal woman! Oh, if mama could only grab ahold of a bit of grandma's outlook on life. Anyway, thank you so much for being here. And I will definately keep in touch. God Bless You.

abrub's picture
Posts: 1852
Joined: Mar 2010

You should not go through this alone. Do you have a trusted preacher or counselor with whom you can feel free to open up - no holds barred? I've dealt with "things that must remain unsaid" in the family, but have a therapist to whom I say all, and who keeps me in perspective, allowing me to behave and project the required image as needed, while still knowing that I am being true to myself as well as to my family.

If not through your church, you dr should be able to recommend a counselor or therapist. It might be good to have someone who will understand your perspective, and guide you through your feelings.

You must take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else.

Posts: 4
Joined: May 2010

Hi abrub. Thank you for responding. No trusted preacher or counselor at this time. I live in a very small, rural community where everyone knows everything about everyone. Not a great place to tell all one's secrets. It's funny, but I never really thought I would need help dealing with any of this. My grandma and grandpa raised me with with such love, faithful guidance (he was a minister and taught me well), and confidence; that the old issues were just never a part of my life. Honestly. It has only become an issue since I was forced to jump back into that old family group because of mama's cancer. I have several brothers and sisters who will not step up and do this, and someone HAS to. No matter what the past was...she is dying and she needs help. My dad is elderly and he needs help to. Soooooo, for some reason, God has chosen me to be the one to go back into that dark world I left so many years ago and try to do the right thing. I thought I was "good enough" to handle this. Am discovering that I was just "self-righteous" enough to THINK I could handle it.

So, I did go to a doctor (because of the new blood pressure problem). He put me on mild anxiety medicine to see if that will help. And I knew I was gonna have to reach out and at least find someone I can share with. It will be hard when I have to go back to mom's in a couple of weeks. I am thankful that I found this site. Will probably be pretty active on it when I get back to mom's. It is nice to know you all are out there. Thanks so much and God Bless You.

Tina Blondek's picture
Tina Blondek
Posts: 1566
Joined: Nov 2009

Hi fanniemae and welcome to our caregivering family. Just wanted to tell you that I will also be here for you to lend an ear, shoulder, knowledge, or experience with. It is sad to hear that your siblings will not step up to help you, but this is nothing new. It happens a lot. Thank God your parents have you. I was a caregiver for my dad, he passed away this past March from esophageal cancer. Coming to this site daily lifts my spirits. It helps me with my grieving process. Come here whenever you feel the need and we will be here. Peace.

grandmafay's picture
Posts: 1639
Joined: Aug 2009

You are in a very tough spot. Caregiving for someone is hard whatever the circumstances, but it sounds like you are also struggling with some real baggage. If hospice is involved ask them about counselors. They are there for the caregivers as well as the cancer patient. I am glad that you have talked with your doctor and gotten some medication. The number one rule of caregiving is probably the hardest. It is take care of yourself. I am glad you are getting the chance to get to know your mom better. Also, you will never be sorry that you helped your mom when she needed it. Had you not chosen to do this, you might have had some real regrets.

Now about your grandmother, I am sure that you cared for her with love. I am also sure that giving her morphine to make her comfortable was the right thing to do and did not hasten her death. The cancer is responsible for that You did the best you could at the time. That is all any of us can do. Let go of any guilt you may have concerning her death. Try to hold on to the good memories you have of her and make new memories with your mom as long as you can. Take care, fay

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