When it’s Time to Stop Being a Caretaker

Everyone has their own personal limits. Their own measuring stick, with a point where they just can’t take any more.

My mother — who is now the primary caretaker for my grandmother, who has Alzheimer’s disease (and a host of other health issues) — chose her stopping point a long time ago. She decided that it would be time for my grandmother to go into a nursing home if my grandmother couldn’t recognize members of the family anymore. As long as my grandmother can recognize her children and grandchildren, mom is willing to jump through hoops to keep my grandmother at home.

For me, the stopping point was far more selfish. I had spent a good deal of time over a three year period dealing with my grandmother’s physical and mental health. My family had a crutch in me — I lived in the house with my grandmother and was there at almost all times for whatever happened. They didn’t have to worry so much because Aimee was always there.

I started feeling very frustrated and resentful. Dealing with my grandmother was difficult. She needed insulin injections morning and night, and someone to make sure she was eating three meals and not leaving the stove on. As the cognitive impairment progressed, my frustration increased. My grandmother entered a very combative stage, and I was an easy target. She used to tell me that I was fat, lazy, and irresponsible. I didn’t dress right. I was bad to my dogs. I was poor and making her pay for everything.

She didn’t know what she was saying. That’s part of Alzheimer’s disease. But it still hurt. I was frustrated, but couldn’t be frustrated at her, because five minutes later she wouldn’t remember having said such mean things.

I had no outlet. And when I started having dreams about lashing out at my grandmother — both verbally and physically — I got scared. If my mind could entertain the possibility in a dream, does that mean it was something I could do when awake? I didn’t want to get to that point, but I could see it as a possibility.

That was my stopping point. I moved out within months. Shortly after I settled in to my new apartment, my mom and I were talking on the phone. “You don’t sound angry all the time anymore,” she said.