Am I a Good Daughter?

If you follow my blog, you know that several months ago my dad hired a home health aide to help take care of my mom. At the time, I was feeling stressed out, depressed, overwhelmed, and even isolated, as taking care of my mom part-time had pretty much consumed my whole life. My sister and I were finally able to convince my dad that he needed to hire professional help and that he could no longer continue relying on family members to help out all the time. My mom had reached the point in her illness where she really needed professional care. As much as I wanted to continue helping take care of my mom, she needed more care than I was able to give her. I am not a trained, professional caregiver. I am a daughter. There was only so much that I could do for my mom and I was tired of seeing her go without the care that she so desperately needed. So anyway, my dad agreed to hire an aide and I realized that I needed to learn to let go. I decided that I would only go to my mom’s house to visit her and I would no longer be going there to take care of her.

It sounds easy enough, but so far, it has not been easy at all. I struggle constantly with feeling obligated to offer to help out with my mom. I know how difficult it must be for my dad to take care of her and I feel compelled to go over there to give him a break. Right now, the home health aide has only been coming for twelve hours a week and my aunt helps out one day a week. The rest of the time my dad is on his own. I do occasionally go over to visit my mom when the aide is not there and that gives my dad a little bit of a break. However, I don’t like to be left alone with my mom for long periods of time anymore because I don’t feel that I am qualified to be taking care of her now. It gives me a lot of anxiety. I always feel so bad for my dad that this is what his life has become and I can’t imagine what it must be like for him. I don’t want him to feel like he is alone or that no one cares about him. But, I also know that he has the resources to hire more help or to place my mom in a memory care facility, but he’s not willing to do that right now. As badly as I feel for him, I also get mad and frustrated with him because he’s not willing to help himself right now. He’s making his life a lot harder than it has to be. Although I struggle with feeling obligated to help, I also know that my help will only further enable him to put off getting the care that my mom really needs.

People are always telling me that I’m such a good daughter for taking care of my parents the way I do. But, am I really a good daughter? It’s a question I ask myself almost every single day. I know that I made the decision to stop taking care of my mom. I know that I had reached an unhealthy, almost obsessive, level of worrying about my parents. I know that I needed to learn to let go. But now that I’ve taken a huge step back, I can’t help but feel like I am failing them. I understand that there is only so much that I can do for my mom. She’s no longer able to do the things we used to do together when I was helping to take care of her. I know that there is nothing I can do about it. I can only be there for her. I can’t make her better. I can’t fix her. However, I feel like there is still hope for my dad. I feel like he still has a chance to enjoy the rest of his life, even though it will be without my mom. I feel like I am constantly trying to make him happy. I’m constantly trying to fix him. And I’m failing.

I feel like I should still be helping my dad. I feel like I should be going to his house every day to help out with my mom. I feel like I should be living every moment and every emotion of this horrible disease with him. There are times when I’m going about my day, just doing whatever it is and living my life, and I’ll look to see what time it is. All of the sudden, I start thinking, “I wonder what’s going on at my parents’ house right now. I wonder what they are doing, how they are doing.” These thoughts usually spiral out of control and before I know it I’m berating myself for not being there for them. I’m convincing myself that I’m a horrible, selfish person for not being there and helping them out. I’m telling myself that I’m the worst daughter in the world for letting my dad go through this alone. I think about how sad, depressed, and isolated he must feel. The last thing I want is for him to feel like he is all alone. I wish I could talk to him and be there for him, but my dad doesn’t want to talk about anything. Since he won’t open up to me and I can’t talk to him, I feel like I should physically be there with him. All the time. But, I know that wouldn’t be fair to me. I still deserve to live my life. Right?

Am I a good daughter if I choose to stop taking care of my mom in order to protect myself? Am I a good daughter if I constantly tell myself that I can’t offer to help out no matter how obligated I feel? Am I a good daughter if I only visit my mom once a week? Or if I only visit her when her aide is there so that I won’t have to help her use the bathroom and wipe herself?

Am I a good daughter if I put my own needs before my parents’ needs? Am I a good daughter if I choose to spend time with my husband instead of my parents? Am I a good daughter if I try to separate myself and my life from my parents and their lives? Am I abandoning them when they need me the most? It sure feels like it.

Am I a good daughter if I’m feeling happy or having fun while my mom is suffering and my dad is miserable? Am I even allowed to feel happy at all? Isn’t that selfish of me?

These are actual thoughts that run through my mind on an almost daily basis. I’m doing my best to learn to let go and to remind myself that I still have to live my life. That I can’t let my parents’ lives become my life. I have to say that I’ve done a good job of separating my life from theirs and trying to let go, but that doesn’t mean that I feel good about it. It is a constant daily struggle. I have to constantly pull myself out of these negative thoughts. I have to force myself to stop beating myself up over every little thing and telling myself that I’m not a good daughter because I’m not helping out more. It took my parents fifteen years to get pregnant with my sister and then me. And, I don’t think they did it just so we would give up our whole lives to take care of them when they got older. I know this, but it’s still hard to let go.

Maybe there’s a compromise between giving up my whole life to take care of my parents and completely abandoning them to live my own life. I don’t think I’ve found it. Have I found it? It certainly doesn’t feel like it. No matter how much I’m doing for them, all I think about is what I’m not doing for them. I’m always questioning myself. If I’m not helping out anymore, does that mean that I’ve abandoned them? Or does it mean that I’m trying to find balance in my life by caring for them without actually taking care of them? I don’t think there’s one right answer. Some days I feel one way and other days I feel another way. It’s a daily struggle and it’s not going away any time soon.

A very good friend of mine, who is a mother of two, gave me some very good advice one day. She said that as a parent, you always want your children to have a better life than the one you had. She said that she never fully understood this until she had children of her own, but it’s very true. She told me that my mom wouldn’t want me to give up my life to take care of her. My mom would want me to live my life and follow my dreams. She would want me to do all the things in my life that she never had a chance to do in hers. I have to believe that.

So, am I a good daughter? I really don’t know, but I’m doing the best I can.

 

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10 thoughts on “Am I a Good Daughter?

  1. Hi Lauren, I always felt the very same way; with my Mom who had Alzheimers, and later my Dad with COPD. I just lost my Dad and still obsess with the “what ifs”. It just shows how much you care and what a big heart you have. We can only pray, we did our best; even when it feels like not enough. Hang in there, you are a wonderful daughter and caregiver. Right now I a, just lost. XO

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    1. Thank you, Sherron. I do agree that it shows how much we care and how much we love someone. I’m so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine what you’re going through. Hugs to you and hang in there! Thank you for reading!

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  2. Your mom and dad had you so you could grow, flower and develop a wonderful, fulfilling and happy life of your own. They did not have children so that one day they will have caregivers. It would make your parents unhappy to know you could not excel and enjoy this precious life they gave you. It’s a gift, don’t waste it or give it back. Embrace yourself and the people you love but don’t live with anxiety and upset over someone else’s destiny. Your mom would scold you if she knew you live with so much upset. Your dad loves you and knows you are doing a lot for both of them. But, i agree, don’t enable him, help him come to the conclusion what the next step is. You are blessed to have such good friends and family and a strong loving husband. Don’t waste it away or you’ll have a whole new set of regrets down the road. Live for your parents, thank them for the gift they gave you…LIFE. 😙

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    1. Thank you so much, Sherri! Very well said. I know my mom would not want me to live like this. My dad wouldn’t either, if he knew how much it affected me. Aunt Diane always says that my mom would be so upset if she knew I was doing certain things for her. She would never want her daughter to see her like that. I’ve been thinking a lot about how these are years of my life that I will never get back. I need to find a balance between helping my parents and living my own life, without letting Alzheimer’s consume it. I’m working on it lol. Thank you for reading and for your comment. It means a lot to me!

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  3. Hi Lauren : I totally understand where you are coming from. My Dad is in assisted living now since his personality changed so much towards my Mom. They will be married 54 years with 52 of them being best friends. Now he takes out his frustrations on her which I understand he’s a smart proud man and knows exactly what is to come since he experienced it with his Mother and brother. It’s tough being essentially in the middle. I am my moms sounding board, go to person and my Dads advocate. I feel that it’s my job to protect him as he did for me growing up. I resent the fact that I have a brother that hasn’t seen my Dad in 9 months and that I will never forget. I visit my Dad 3 x a week minimum and if I don’t I feel guilty yet when things were ok it would be a few weeks between visits. I struggle with the balance as well and my thoughts are always with the situation and it’s hard to get a break from the emotional turmoil that comes with the disease but I also know that my Dad would want me to take care of myself and never be a burden as Im sure your Mom would as well. You are a good daughter and have to take care of yourself. I’m sorry that you have to go through this.. Take care

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    1. Alisa, I’m so sorry that you’re going through this, as well. It’s such a difficult thing to deal with. I’m sorry that you feel like you’re stuck in the middle. It’s hard to be there for everyone else and still take care of yourself. I understand feeling resentment. I actually wrote a post about that, as well. It’s a few weeks back, but it’s called “Let’s Talk About Resentment.” You should read it! I let go of my resentment and started focusing on what I do. I feel guilty enough about what I’m doing or not doing, I don’t have time to worry about anyone else anymore lol. Just know that you’re doing your best and there will be life after this! Alzheimer’s does not have to define us or our lives. I tell myself that every day. Thank you so much for reading and reaching out! Take care!

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  4. I found your blog via the Love What Matters Facebook page. My Dad was in the earlier stages of dementia in the late 2000’s right around when my mom was diagnosed with cancer. She died in 2010 a month after she turned 64. My dad died last February.

    I’m only telling you this because I can relate to what you’re going through and the emotions you’re experiencing. What you said is so true: “Maybe there’s a compromise between giving up my whole life to take care of my parents and completely abandoning them to live my own life.” There IS a compromise, and that changes by the day, week, and month. There is only so much you can do, don’t beat yourself up too much. I know, easier said than done, right?

    Your friend’s advice was very wise – take it to heart! And keep doing things like singing with your mom, things that can bring both you and her a little moment of joy. For my dad, it was McDonald’s milkshakes. 🙂

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    1. Kim, thank you so much for reaching out! I’m sorry to hear about your mom and dad. I can’t imagine losing either one of them yet, let alone both. I’ve really been working on trying to find a balance between living my life and taking care of my parents. Thank you so much for your kind words. It helps more than you know! I will do whatever I can to make my mom happy for as long as I can. And now I want a milkshake lol! Thanks again!

      Lauren

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  5. I’m going to take a slightly different approach to your dilemma. And I want to be clear that I agree it is hard to find a balance. Taking care of our ill parents is truly a sacrifice. It’s not clear from this post what kind of care you are deferring to professionals, but you mentioned helping her in the bathroom. That brings to mind the countless diapers that my mother changed. I’m thankful to be able to do that for her. A wise woman told me, having already lost her mom, that one day my mom would be gone and I’d really miss her. She advised me to cherish the time I have with her now, despite the trials. However, we each have different abilities– not all of us are born caretakers, for example. So it is more challenging for some to make that sacrifice. This is just another way of looking at it.

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    1. We have a home health aide a few days a week. My dad is her full-time caregiver and my mom lives at home with him. He has been very reluctant and stubborn about seeking more professional care, even though she needs it. I agree that I will miss her when she’s gone and so I cherish every single moment I have with her. I spend a lot of time with my mom and I’m grateful for when the aide is there so I can just be her daughter. I don’t think I could ever say that I’m thankful to be able to help her use the bathroom, but I do understand what you mean by that. It’s a very difficult journey and it’s different for each one of us. Thank you for reading my blog. 💜

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