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Children Not Helping Stepmother with Father's Care



"As an only child, I take care of my husband who has Alzheimer's. He has children who contribute nothing besides criticism. They have the means. I am pretty much burnt out. I love my husband, but I could use more support, physically and financially. How do I handle this?" - READER



Caring for a spouse with Alzheimer’s can be a long, lonely journey, which is exactly what you are describing. You are dealing with a progressive disease that robs the individual of memory and eventually requires round-the-clock care.  You may already be struggling with his physical limitations like feeding, bathing, and toileting. You are also likely encountering his inability to carry on a conversation, remember people, and say and do things that are out of the ordinary.

One of the biggest challenges you face is that you are not the mother of his children. If they do nothing but criticize, your relationship with his children is strained. You are not one big happy family, and right now it would be helpful if you were all on the same page.

You did not mention his first wife, the children’s mother. If she is living, this could be a factor. Their loyalty to her, dead or alive, may be hampering your relationship with them. Since your husband will likely lose his ability to dialog with the children, it is now up to you to be that bridge. I realize that you did not ask for this, no one ever does, though it is your reality.

I recommend that you summon the courage to ask each child for something. Please be sure that you ask kindly. Let the children know that you need the assistance and that it will take all of you to keep him at home. 

I would start by asking them to do something as simple as sitting with their dad while you grocery shop. Perhaps they could escort him to doctor appointments? Start small with your ask and seek a weekly commitment from which you do not wavier. That does not mean the time and day cannot change, but do not take the task back once given. It may be running a weekly errand, cutting the grass, or grocery shopping - whatever would provide respite for you. Be honest and tell them, individually, that you need a bit of help.  Explain that you are in need of a break now and then.

I do not know if you can tap the children for financial support. Most children have families to support, college, weddings, and other expenses. Paying for their father’s care may not be in the cards unless they are quite well off. I would start with physical support and mention financial assistance if you feel comfortable having the conversation with a child who can really provide the support.

If the children flat out refuse to budge and provide any form of assistance, it is likely time to begin exploring a new living situation for him. If you have limited finances, Medicaid may apply for him.  

I wish you the best on your journey with your husband and success with gently moving the children to step up a bit.

- Photo by Anthony Metcalfe on Unsplash

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