Enough is Enough! I Quit.


Every day, Rebecca goes to her mother’s house in Oakton, gets her out of bed, gives her breakfast, and dresses her. She spends the day with her, as she is working from her mother’s home. Sometimes, when Rebecca arrives, her mother will greet her with, “Oh, it’s you again.” And, throughout the day, she complains about everything, tells Rebecca to stop eating so much, and expects to be waited on hand and foot. Rebecca is struggling to get her work done and to maintain her sanity. Rebecca moved her mother, now 83, in with her and her family briefly after her dementia was beginning to get worse two years ago, but it didn’t work out. This new arrangement also isn’t working.

Recently, Rebecca found her mother on the kitchen floor, and Rebecca hurt her back trying to pick up her mom. Being injured (and depressed about the situation), Rebecca realized that she could no longer do as much for her mother as she did before. Rebecca tried hiring numerous home health aides, but her mother didn’t like any of them and kept firing them.

Rebecca explained to her siblings that she is at the breaking point and that she thinks a nursing home where their mother would get full-time care would be best. Unfortunately, her siblings, who don’t live nearby, disagree. Rebecca loves her mother and respects her siblings’ opinions, but realizes that she needs to take action quick. What can she do in this difficult situation?

Most of us, when we have a vulnerable loved one, want to take care of them, but in many cases, we can only do so much. Below are some options for people in similar situations to help them maintain their sanity, while ensuring their loved one has the best care:

Admit that the situation needs to change: It’s okay to admit to yourself and others that when you’ve had enough, you’ve had enough. No one who is burned out is able to do his or her best to care for another person. Don’t let this happen to you. The idea is that you’ve done all you can to keep your elders safe and to help them through some tough times. However, if times have gotten tougher than you expected, and you must look for other options, it’s okay to admit that something has got to change.  We have had numerous clients who have had nervous breakdowns and suffered episodes of severe and debilitating depression because of the overwhelming stress of caregiving.  Don’t let that happen to you.

Reframe the situation: According to geropsychologist Sara Honn Qualls, director of the Gerontology Center at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, “Rather than an either/or decision, I encourage adult children to think of it as, ‘I’ve been providing care in one way, and now I need to provide it in another way.’”

Discuss Options with Family: Your decision to not be the caregiver, or to be a different kind of caregiver, will impact others, including your loved one, your immediate family, and your siblings. As in our example, they may disagree or resent your decision. When you explain that you can’t keep up caregiving as it has been, it’s best to let siblings know that you are not telling them what to do, but sharing your thoughts. It’s helpful to consider options before the family get-together. Also, seek ideas from them. If the discussion gets contentious, rather than argue, tell family members you have done the best you can. If there’s pushback, stay calm. You might say, “Maybe I could have done this or that but I have truly reached the end of the line and I can’t do it anymore.” If it’s realistic, tell them they are welcome to take over.

For some families, it makes sense to find a neutral third party with clinical training to run, or at least attend, the meeting. That might be a geriatric care manager (now called “aging life care experts”), an elder mediator, or a family therapist. Please see our list of trusted referrals for recommendations.

Identify key people (friends, family or professionals) who can support and guide you through this change process. A support group is a good place to express anger, anxiety, frustration and sadness about the caregiving experience. Many of the participants in similar situations can also help provide ideas, based on their experiences, for how to talk to siblings, find a good nursing home, etc.

•Assume as upbeat an attitude as you can, and start looking at other options.
Treat it as an adventure, even if your elders are complaining. Do your best to detach from their complaining and look anyway. Try to be cheerful but firm about any help you seek.

Taking Care of Yourself

Your own health can suffer when you are struggling with caring for yourself, and caring for a loved one. Therefore, you need to put self-care — such as exercising or meditation — on your list and treat it like any other important appointment.  If you don’t know how to meditate, please click here for an excellent free e-book that will quickly explain the benefits of meditation, and quickly teach you with several different meditation techniques.

If you are coming to the end of your rope with caregiving, you need to get help. Guilt isn’t an option. Think of this as giving more care, not about you caring less. Do it for your family and do it for yourself.

Medicaid Asset Protection

Nursing homes in the Metro DC area cost $10,000-$14,000 a month, which can be catastrophic for most families. Do you have a loved one who is in a nursing home or nearing the need for nursing home care? Or are you simply looking to plan ahead in the event nursing home care is needed in the future?  Life Care Planning and Medicaid Asset Protection is the process of protecting your assets from having to be spent down in connection with entry into a nursing home, while also helping ensure that you or your loved one get the best possible care and maintain the highest possible quality of life, whether at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home. Please call us to make an appointment for an initial consultation.

Fairfax Elder Law: 703-691-1888
Fredericksburg Elder Law: 540-479-1435
Rockville Elder Law: 301-519-8041
DC Elder Law: 202-587-2797

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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