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Is there marital help for my aging parents?

My parents marriage, in their twilight years, is falling apart. My Dad has advanced polycsytic kidney disease and requires dialysis three times a week. My Mom is overwhelmed with dealing with all of their affaires and is having increasing difficulty coping - and yet refuses help. My siblings and I all live far from them, and we are doing the best we can to listen and help our parents. They tried to live apart but couldn't manage for more than two days. They also have a 'stigma' about going to counseling. Any advice from the APFM community is appreciated GREATLY.
Status: Open    Jan 30, 2017 - 07:42 AM


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Feb 05, 2017 - 03:39 PM

It cannot be understated the stress to a marriage/relationship that comes through caregiving.
Not the type of caregiving that happens between two people who equally share the demands of life and marriage, but the lopsided burden that happens when one partner struggles daily to support two people single handedly.

I cared for my Alzheimer's wife for nearly a decade. (ages 55-63) During that time our 'marriage' ended. As her deficits increased (she couldnt bathe, feed or dress) she quickly ceased to be my partner. And it was impossible for her to be a lover. I was nothing but a caregiver who recieved neither money or (more importantly) recognition from anyone. Only someone who has been through this destruction of their marriage, can truly understand it.

Be assured that your parents still love each other BUT the demands of physically maintaining another (and your father losing the abilty to care for himself) destroyed their feelings for each other and likely they are bound together only by the comittment that they made to each other so many years ago to stay together and care for each other "till death . . ."
They do not want to live apart, they want to live on the familiar equal basis that they had before illness came into their marriage as a destructive force. They do NOT need counseling!

Cure? "Your mother must stop caring for your father". SHE NEEDS HELP!!!
The care burden is killing her! In fact many caregivers end up 'dying on the job' leaving a surviving spouse who is completely disabled. What she needs is somebody to help perform all the many chores that she is doing for your father. The suggestions include;

1. Bringing help to their home - visiting nurses, live in maid/caregiver, driver to dialysis, etc. Anytime someone else can perform a necessary physical task, both their lives will be that much easier.

2. Moving dad to a place where he can be cared for away from your mother. Yeah those horriable words 'placement in a care facility'. In the Alzheimers world many, many spouses (eventually) realize that once the tedious care burden is lifted through placement, their relationship with their spouse improves dramatically. Visits are much more comfortable because all they need to do is visit. The healthy spouse doesn't have to constantly be doing something to support the other person.

3. Move them both into a place where they dont have to be burdened with the activites of daily care. Leaving a home where one has lived for many years is DIFFICULT! But anytime a burden can be lifted it will make things easier overall.

Now, will your mother/parents do any of this?
Not without encouragement from their children that getting outside help is the right thing to do and if necessary their children will support the decision (certainlaly emotionally and possibly financially) But the stresses on their marriage are not because they dont care for each other, their problems are because their marriage has become very unequal.
Comments (2) | New Comment

By annamaria_manalo on Feb 09, 2017 - 11:18 AM | Like (0)  |  Report

Dear RTree,
I've read and re-read your remarkable reply with so much heart. Thank you for this. I completely agree that my parents are inseparable, in spite of the increasing discomfort and discontent. There is a bit of an issue with my Mom and her state-of-mind - a lot of her belongings are getting 'misplaced', and she's convinced herself that my Dad is doing this on purpose. It's a delicate matter because she's equally convinced of her mental lucidity. I love them both very much and am trying to find household help for them (my Mom is very very particular). Thank you for listening to all of this. You have found a new life-role in being a caregiver to caregivers. My best regards to you.

By vikki15 on Feb 13, 2017 - 10:33 AM | Like (0)  |  Report

My parents repeatedly refused any counseling, and to top that off, my mom specifically and repeatedly refused to consider that my Dad's dementia was the cause of his behaviors she found so irritating. She yelled at him constantly. They spent their last years apart and Mom even started telling people Dad had never loved her and was abusive...I cried when I went through things at the house and found so much evidence that was not the least bit true. Dad loved her and asked about her every time I visited after she stopped even visiting him altogether. I think saying that maybe let her feel less guilty about not being able to take care of him at home any more, which after a point she couldn't... and of course Mom had refused to move to be closer to me to help them more than I did. I just took pictures back and forth when I visited After a lifetime of love, and then at least loyalty when things started to unravel, it was heartbreaking.

There may not be anything you can do either but education maybe by a trusted person like a pastor or a doctor might make a dent in it. It is a cultural thing that you simply don't share family "problems" with the world. The only other thing I can think of is to try getting them on AgingCare or a similar bulletin board where others will do the educating about dementia and not taking behaviors personally, while commiserating about the burdens of care.

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