Dear Annie: Dutiful daughter suffering from caregiving strain

Dear Annie: I am an only child. I have always been very close to my mother. When my husband and I married, we got a house a few doors down from my parents’ house. We would visit often after my three children came along. We have unforgettable memories from those years. When we moved to the suburbs, my parents visited every weekend. My father played golf nearby, so he would drop off Mom early in the morning and then join her later in the day.

As the children grew and moved out of the house, my parents aged but kept coming to the house every weekend. By then, my husband and I were looking forward to spending some time just the two of us. I tried discussing it with my mother, but it was very difficult, as they had never built a life of their own; they had no one but us. I tried spacing out their visits more and more, but it was really hard.

Soon after, my father fell sick with Alzheimer’s disease. As my mother’s own health started failing, she couldn’t do much and depended on me for making every decision.

My father has passed away, and my mother is now 90 years old. She lives in a retirement community and is still autonomous enough to live on her own with supervision. I have a social worker designated for her, but according to the worker, my mom is not at the point of needing to be put in a home. I have hired a cleaning company for her apartment, but I do all her errands, as she can hardly walk.

I now have lots of opportunity to travel with my husband, but I can’t, because every time I go away, my mother gets sick and ends up in the hospital. She has had many minor strokes caused by anxiety. Her doctor, who is well aware of the situation, closely monitors her. I now leave for only a few days at a time and have calls to my home phone forwarded to my cellphone so she is not aware I am gone and not at home.

I am also getting old and tired and would like to enjoy the few healthy years I have left but don’t know how. As much as I love her, I am beginning to resent her and feel the burden weigh on my shoulders. What can I do? — Tired Loving Daughter

Dear Tired: If caretakers don’t have enough room to breathe, the light they shine on others will be snuffed out. The best thing for you and your relationship with your mom is to give yourself more space. Invest time in self-care; take those trips with your husband. If you don’t, resentment will embitter you. Visit the Family Caregiver Alliance website, at https://www.caregiver.org, for information on resources and support groups.

You have already done so much. Though your mother may not be in a place to verbally express it, you are a steadfast friend and compassionate daughter.

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