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At breaking point

  • 08-03-2020 12:00am
    #1
    Registered Users Posts: 166,026 ✭✭✭✭


    The last 7 months I have been adapting to my mother's terminal illness. She is at home with my father, who has not taken her illness with cancer well. I was living with my boyfriend, of 4 years and saving to buy a home. Over the last number of months I have ended up moving home 5-6 nights per week, and would stay over regularly to be with my parents. I have 5 other siblings, 2 are abroad, and the others are married with partners and children. We are a tight-knit family, and two of the siblings live nearby to the parents and we all have keys to Mam & Dad's and have dinner 2-3 nights there per week.

    My mam is end stage breast cancer and there's nothing more that can be done. She will go to the hospice soon and we were given a prognosis of short months. My parents are in their mid 60s, recently retired and are what I would call, old-fashioned in the sense they do not like attending doctors, hospitals or generally engaging with health care professionals.
    Over the last 2 weeks, two of my siblings have taken time off work to be at home. We all met last weekend as a family and discussed Mam's wishes and how we can all be there to help. My sister Jane and brother Luke have been calling around in the morning, and spending some hours at home during the day. My father has issues of his own, so whenever a healthcare worker comes to visit Mam, or the GP a sibling generally has to be present as Dad is unable to remember the advice given etc.

    I am still in work for the moment, but can take sick leave if necessary or annual leave. I have been at home every night, which is now beginning to have a huge impact on my relationship with my partner, who has never had any bereavements or exposure to illness within their own family.
    Yesterday I planned to take it away from the parents home to spend time with my partner, but my Mam became unwell and the G.P came to visit. My two siblings spent 2-4 hours at home each, and once the evening came they began guilt texting me to come back as they will not stay overnight. I think I have allowed the situation to occur with me spending every night at home, as now there is a presumption that I am always going to be there. I haven't had a normal weekend in 8-10 weeks and have seen less and less of my partner, who I now feel is becoming resentful of my family not helping out with the night time.
    I am coping well with my Mam's illness and am happy that when the time comes for her to pass that I will have done everything within my power to keep her at home, and comfortable. My sibling who lives abroad has visited twice in 3 months.
    Today my partner sat me down and discussed the impact of the home environment on me, and on our relationship. Whilst my partner is generally supportive, they are not often attuned to what's going on and can't see when I am actually in need of emotional support. We've had more and more arguments over the last 4 weeks, due to stressors and situations where we have planned time together or had to cancel a reservation due to me not being able to manage to get away.

    I have fallen out with my sister Jane due to her reluctance to support the night shifts, and yet again, am spending another Saturday night at home with my parents, wishing I was anywhere else but here. I'm sorry if this is a bit all over the place, I am exhausted and trying to organise my thoughts. I am not sure how much more I can cope with before I have a serious breakdown.


Comments

  • Registered Users Posts: 684 ✭✭✭zapper55


    Your partners lack of empathy is adding to your stress but I would suggest parking that for now and dealing with the overnights issue.

    You need to sit down with all your siblings together and dial in the one from abroad and say that you are at breaking point, you cannot continue to do the majority of the night shifts until she goes into the hospice. That a rota needs to be set up so that everyone contributes. When the sibling from abroad protests, which I'd imagine they will, suggest the option of paid care for a night a week.

    And a rota for medical appointments also. This bs about guilt texts has to stop, they are adults. I'd be making that clear too.

    I know you probably dont want to go down this road but what happens if you are too exhausted/ get sick and cant be there? I'm sorry your siblings are laying this at your door, presumably because they have kids and you dont? But its not good enough.


  • Registered Users Posts: 5,585 ✭✭✭Princess Calla


    Yeah I second the rota.

    I've some experience from every angle on this one.

    It's hard to keep all the balls in the air at once.

    Can your boyfriend not stay one or two nights with you too in the family home?

    I do think a set routine is key, that way everyone knows what they are doing each night and can plan the rest of their commitments accordingly.


  • Moderators, Social & Fun Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 6,210 Mod ✭✭✭✭HildaOgdenx


    I'm so sorry, OP.
    This must be very difficult for you, without the added stress and feeling close to breakdown through lack of support.

    I 100% agree with zapper. You will need to say it to your family, that you are exhausted and that a rota is required, with paid for care, if necessary.


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,149 ✭✭✭The_Honeybadger


    Was getting angry just reading your post. Your family are taking advantage of you OP and it cannot go on. Seems they assume you should do most of the heavy lifting because they have kids and you don’t. As suggested, sit them down and make it clear that you are willing to do your bit but you expect them to step up as well. The rota is an excellent idea.


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,812 ✭✭✭Addle


    I’ve been there OP.
    However, I have a supportive partner.

    You can make plans and rotas and beg, but just not everyone is going to be as conscientious as you. You will be shocked. When you accept that you’re not going to get the help you should, it will become easier.

    You will never regret this time. When your mother passes, you will know you did your utmost for her. There is great comfort in that.


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  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 6,799 Mod ✭✭✭✭Hannibal_Smith


    I wonder OP whether you and your siblings have children? The neck of them guilt texting you. Is it a situation where you're the only one without children so expected to do more?

    I think if it was my husband and it was his mum or dad, I would put the world on hold and let them focus on their dying parent. They will never get this time back and there's a heartbreaking full stop at the end of it.

    There's always that one sibling that does everything and its very unfair. And if you're at breaking point, a rota is a great idea. Certainly a word with them anyway that you're exhausted and need a bit of a break. But do it of your own accord and not because your partner has pushed you into it.


  • Registered Users Posts: 564 ✭✭✭Yellow pack crisps


    I’m in this position now OP. Looking after my mother. Again like you I’d have many siblings. They just really turn up when something of an emergency happens and then they are super hero’s. But they couldn’t care less about the nitty gritty things that need to be done. I’ve just accepted it as it would end up annoying you so much. Like you I work full time. It’s a really difficult position to be in. Preparing meals, making sure tablets are taken, making sure tablets are collected, cleaning, laundry and the negative affects that looking after someone who knows their life is soon ending, their understandable negative thoughts become your own also and it’s exhausting. Only thing I will say, I wasn’t particularly close to my parents and looking after them both (father passed away a couple of months ago) for the last while has been nice also because we got to know each other a bit again. A lot of anger I had for them is just not there anymore. It is taxing though, it’s exhausting, it affects my own relationship and also my work. But I took it on and although it was meant to be shared more, siblings just leave you too it after awhile. Completely selfish on their part. But that’s how it goes.


  • Registered Users Posts: 166,026 ✭✭✭✭LegacyUser


    Hi OP. I was there in your position. I did the most out of my siblings. What I think was important for me was to remember that everyone deals with things in their own way. Also, each bit of time I spent with my mam was totally my own choice. I don't regret a second. I was with her any chance I had. I wouldn't like to be in my siblings' positions. Just bear that in mind.

    Next, is it really necessary (no need to answer, just a question to ask yourself), to sleep there? Are you *really* needed at night time right now, or could you stay late and then go home to sleep?

    Finally, I also had ****ty support from my partner of four years. We also lived together. He had also never experienced bereavement. It came to a stage, when I realised he was making my life worse, not better. He would give out to me for not having the shopping done, or for leaving a cup on a counter. He wasn't empathetic to my situation at all. I found myself explaining why he had to go easy on me. However I also felt I did not have the heads pace (as in, literally didn't feel I had enough space in my brain) to deal with that stuff, because of what was going on with my mam. We eventually broke up (after about a year). I do think we broke up because of the strain... But on the other hand it was a 'good' test of the relationship - Despite what I had thought, we couldn't get through the tough times as I would have expected.

    Take care OP. Do what you need to do for you. When your mam is gone, you don't want to regret anything. xx


  • Registered Users Posts: 166,026 ✭✭✭✭LegacyUser


    OP here.

    Thank you to all who have replied.
    Just to answer some questions.

    Myself and my younger sibling do not have children but the younger one lives abroad.

    We have sat down and agreed a rota, on two occassions actually. This has not worked and I think it needs to be re-discussed over time as over the weeks my Mam would have a good few days and thus the other supports would withdraw. The eldest sibling barely visits, but once there's an emergency is the first on scene acting like a superhero.

    My partner could stay over a night or two but I don't want that because the environment isn't an easy one.
    @Addle, I agree once you accept that someone won't be as you expect things become a lot easier. And it is a good way to reframe my problem, as I am lucky in a way, to be spending so much time with my Mam in her final days.

    @Hannibal_Smyth - I don't have children, nor does my youngest sibling but the rest do. We are all close in age, I'm mid 30's and the rest are 30's/40's.
    @Yellow pack crisps - I related to a lot in your post. I have gotten to know my parents on an entirely different level and I will forever be greatful for this.
    @lgetit - Sorry about your relationship. I've had some of those thoughts about compatilibility with my partner and whether they can fully support me but in fairness they've been by my side and these times are not exactly easy. There is an awareness also, that I can say things honestly, when they are being selfish etc, they are easily reminded that I need empathy right now.I don't think it would be wise for me to analyse this all too much, as I wouldn't be for making any big decisions about the future of the relationship right now.

    I said it all last night to my sbilings last night as I was about to explode, and the few who have been involved were apologetic but in reality things will stay the same. The reason I have to be at home every night is because this is my Mam's wish. There are times when I want to walk away, and do as the others do, but I am unable to be this selfish, even if my partner feels this would be justified.


  • Moderators, Social & Fun Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 6,210 Mod ✭✭✭✭HildaOgdenx


    I've nothing much to add, OP.

    A very good friend of mine had a similar scenario. Her mam is gone now, and just recently she said to me 'I have no regrets'. She knows that she did everything she possibly could and is glad that she did.

    It was very tough at the time, I know that. Only one other sibling stepped up, but they were limited by other circumstances so my friend did the bulk of it.

    Mind yourself.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 4,812 ✭✭✭Addle


    Above and beyond to help her dying mother?! And a ‘martyr’ because she’s doing her best and would like her siblings to be involved.
    Qwerty, you read like the kind of sibling who wouldn’t be helpful, or partner who wouldn’t be supportive.

    OP, have you any hse home help?


  • Administrators, Politics Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 25,947 Admin ✭✭✭✭✭Neyite


    Caring for someone is exhausting. Feeling like you are doing it all without support is very isolating and depressing. I'm usually one for advocating being all calm and reasonable but your partner honestly deserves a serious talking to.

    Bluntly, this current status quo is temporary. If they can't support you during this then they aren't the person you need. What you have going on right now is that your mother needs you, your dad is floundering and your partners job is to help you facilitate that and support you to the end and during your bereavement when it comes. That's part of what being in a long term relationship is. If they can't do that, then maybe it's best that you see these things before you committed to a 25 year mortgage. But relationship issues are for another day.


    With your siblings, set up a group whatsapp. Don't ask them for a rota, TELL them that a rota has to happen because you simply can't do night time care AND work during the day every single day. They need to step up, it's that simple.

    Emotionally, all you can do is take it day by day. Do you have someone supportive outside of the family for you? A friend you can go for a walk with? Someone to listen and blow off a bit of steam with? if you do, take them up on any support they can give.

    All the best.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 22,651 ✭✭✭✭beauf


    qwerty13 wrote: »
    I had a friend telling me stuff like this for months.

    First thing I’d say is that every one feels under pressure. And that they feel that their own circumstances are more worthy than others, as in “I have kids” “I have a stressful job”.

    Ultimately the only fair division of duties re your parents is equally amongst siblings. If they don’t like it, well they can pay to be absolved from their share.

    Not that simple. Its not like you can abandon your kids for a couple of years, and stop paying your own bills and working while you quit everything to care for a parent.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 22,651 ✭✭✭✭beauf


    qwerty13 wrote: »
    It did also occur to me re your mother’s wishes: is it that you stay in the family home, or some sibling does?

    I did also wonder if you’ve been martyring yourself. Does your mother really need you to stay with her so much?

    Ps; I don’t meant to sound horrible, but it strikes me that you may be going above and beyond, and that’s what your partner is getting fed up about.

    What you mean I assume is they need to plan a sustainable care plan going forward and see if its workable for all concerned. It may be that being a home isn't workable. Despite it being what everyone prefers.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 22,651 ✭✭✭✭beauf




  • Closed Accounts Posts: 22,651 ✭✭✭✭beauf


    Neyite wrote: »
    ...Bluntly, this current status quo is temporary. If they can't support you during this then they aren't the person you need. What you have going on right now is that your mother needs you, your dad is floundering and your partners job is to help you facilitate that and support you to the end and during your bereavement when it comes. That's part of what being in a long term relationship is. If they can't do that, then maybe it's best that you see these things before you committed to a 25 year mortgage. But relationship issues are for another day....

    Have to say I would have a problem with how the partner is dealing with this.

    Perhaps though the partner feels the OP is having to shoulder an unreasonable amount of the load and has expressed that badly. Not everyone, partners, siblings deal with these situations well.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 22,651 ✭✭✭✭beauf


    qwerty13 wrote: »
    I would agree - but even in terms of bereavement, I would say that people simply don’t get it until it has happened to them.

    This is true and some people never get it. They just aren't that effected by it. Too self absorbed.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 22,651 ✭✭✭✭beauf


    qwerty13 wrote: »
    Of course not. But if people choose to prioritise their own partner / kids, the least they can do is contribute financially so that the burden doesn’t fall on one sibling.

    Harsh (practical) as it is, the choices are that the sick person stays at home or not. Which means that time and/or money needs to be spent. No one sibling should have to contribute the bulk of time or money. And if a sibling can’t, or won’t, contribute time - then they should contribute money. In my opinion.


    They might not have money either.

    There might no choice in the prioritization.


  • Registered Users Posts: 166,026 ✭✭✭✭LegacyUser


    Hi Op - I sympathise so much with you as I also have been through this over the past few years with my father, and it has damaged the relationship between my siblings beyond repair.
    It is unfortunate but one person will always take on more than others and they will be allowed do it. Your other siblings know that you will not allow your mother to be on her own and that you will guilt yourself into doing it, even if they don't guilt you.

    I really think you need to go back to them again and try to get some kind of agreement in place, because when your mother is no longer with you, it sounds like your dad is going to need help also. If they are currently expecting you to everything for your mam, this will continue with your dads care and you can't go on like this. You need to be assertive with them and clearly state that you cannot continue with the amount you are currently doing and that they have to take more on.

    Like others have said, you will never regret spending the time with your mother, but you need to look after yourself also. I also agree with what other posters have said about your partner - until someone has been through this themselves they really don't understand it, try as they might.

    Best of luck in this difficult time.......


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 22,651 ✭✭✭✭beauf


    Anon109 wrote: »
    ....yet again, am spending another Saturday night at home with my parents, wishing I was anywhere else but here. I'm sorry if this is a bit all over the place, I am exhausted and trying to organise my thoughts. I am not sure how much more I can cope with before I have a serious breakdown.

    I would say its important to take a break. Even if its just to go out for walk somewhere nice, get a lunch somewhere different. You need to recharge the batteries now and then. This is like a marathon, you have to pace yourself.

    Personally I just stopped engaging with siblings or in laws. I knew it would end badly. I just did my own thing. Like co-coordinating visits so maximize cover, was just impossible to co-ordinate, so I stopped trying. Far less stressful.


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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 22,651 ✭✭✭✭beauf


    qwerty13 wrote: »
    I’m sorry, if someone can’t give either their time or money to a terminally ill parent, and leaves it to a sibling to pick up the pieces, they’d want to have a very good excuse. And even if they do have a good excuse, that doesn’t mean it’s fair on the other sibling.

    Well you can't give what you don't have, no matter how unfair it is.


  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 15,409 Mod ✭✭✭✭woodchuck


    Mod note:

    That's enough back and forth please. Let's keep things on topic - please only post if you have advice to direct to the OP.


  • Registered Users Posts: 24,118 ✭✭✭✭Sleepy


    Anon109 wrote: »
    My partner could stay over a night or two but I don't want that because the environment isn't an easy one.
    Then perhaps a one-off night or two is all you'd need to do to get him to realise what you're going through and how to support you better?


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