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How do you deal with a martyr 'healthy' parent?


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My dad..

Next to my mom he is the strongest person I have ever known. He also has what I call the martyr syndrome. He will not let anyone help him with my mom. Don't misunderstand, mom is fully functional and mobile and all that but there are chemo rounds every 3 weeks and weekly trips to the doc and Scans upon scans-you all know about that. I live 30 minutes away and have plenty of time off work that I could take to help. He is an electrical contractor and just started to work again and is working 12 plus hours a day. My mom will be going back to work soon, but she cannot drive, so he will be going to work via her work and then back to pick her up in the afternoon.

I volunteer to help all the time and he says 'your mom is not your responsibility she is mine'

I have let him know how concerned I am about his own health and call everytime I know there is an appt to offer a ride to give him a break and he will not ever let it happen.

This week he said 'St Paul is a big place and you would not know where to take her but thanks for offering'

I take her flowers almost everytime I go to their house on the weekends and always get the lecture that I should not be spending my money on that-bring them dinner and get the same lecture. I think there is nothing wrong with trying to help-I guess he has thinks I am the child and should not be taking care of them.....hmmmmm

Anyone else have a well parent that will not let anyone do anything for them to help? Any creative ways you can suggest to get dad to let me help!

I know this is just his way of coping and I accept that-I just do not want him to feel all alone in this fight

Blesings to all


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My husband wouldn't let anyone else help - until I made him go back to work. He was okay with my mother "Becky-sitting" while he was at work. My parents lived half an hour away at that time (we now live next door to them) and my mother would ride with my father on his way to work, take my boy to school, sit with me all day and make sure I got all my medication on time and pick up my boy from school. My husband still took me to all my appointments, even the daily radiation. It was something he NEEDED to do.

He needed the escape of going to work, too. He may not have known that at the time, but I did (he was driving me freakin' crazy!).

I would suggest taking it easy with flowers, though. I had problems breathing with flowers in the house and they ended up in the garage or upstairs in my step-daughter's room. I wasn't eating a whole lot during radiation so any food brought was really brought for the family - and it was a help to not have to worry about cooking it or finding something appetizing when I just wasn't hungry...

Maybe you should make dinner for DAD because HE is so busy with work and Mom, etc. Tell him HE does so much for HER that you'd like to help HIM out like she does (full circle, by helping take care of Dad you're actually taking care of Mom...)

Anyhow, don't give up, maybe back off for a bit until you see him getting frazzled. Don't say "I told you so", just step in and give him a hand. Men don't like to ask for help, but appreciate it when help mysteriously arrives JUST when they need it.

Good luck to you,


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It's a toughie! All I can say is keep doing what you're doing -- keep offering and letting your dad know you're there at a moment's notice and that you are concerned about the burden he is under and his own stress load. Martyrdom is rough -- maybe ask him what can you do to support him in this (all his nos to what you are trying to do and all).

It can be hard as a primary caregiver to know what you need from people around you -- asking what you CAN do for him might get him to thinking. There's an inherent "I'm gonna' do something, so what is it?" in that question.....

Hope this helps,


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I'm not in you same boat, but we are tyed up at the same dock. Mom does everything for Dad, even half carried him up the stairs because they were so happy to leave the hospital. They did not let my brother or me know so we could help get Dad home.

They will let me help with tiny things. IE: the mail rubberbands that they save I can take to the post office, pick up some almond extract because Mom is making chocolate mousse for my boys. Maybe it is not the task but the interaction. The maillady knows Dad saves rubberbands and asks about him. The almond extract has a smell that we all love.

There is no changing them, no arguing. I'm sure the offers of help give support. Especially since you are specific and know when the appointments are. Just having you be aware and caring must be a blessing for them.

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Something we talk about a lot here too is a parents desire to keep their kids in the kid's position. With a disease like LC, it is easy for the roles to switch, and often even necessary.... but it is a tough pill to swallow for the parent. I wonder if BOTH of your parents aren't trying to preserve that traditional feeling of "Mom and Dad take care of the kids." It might be something they both need to feel a little more 'normal.'

I agree--keep being available, and find other ways to step in and help out. Bring over meals before they have time to cook, or... just go hang out for a while.

It's hard because the caretaker in you wants to do anything you can for your parents but both I know both my Mom and Dad wanted me to be the 'daughter' as much as possible.

And it's important that even if things progress, you try to affirm your role as daughter and their's as parent--even if tables start to turn.

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Keep doing what you are doing to help, regardless of what your dad says. The business is his way of coping. He can't fix the cancer, so he tries to fix everything else he can.

The first rule of caregiving is to take care of the caregiver. That means your dad has to watch his own health in order to take the best care of your mom. Hopefully, with time, he will allow others to help him. It is not a sign of weakness to reach out to others, it is a strength. And it would give him more time to be a better caregiver. I gladly accepted offers to help and were grateful for them. Don

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I agree with Debbie (dchurchi) on this one. I get offers of help from family and friends all the time, but I don't need help. This is what I do. I've always cared for my husband and I'm perfectly capable of continuing to do what I've done for over 29 years. There is nothing wrong with me for goodness sakes! I'm healthy and take care of myself as a caretaker. Neither one of us works. We want our children to live their lives as normally as possible. Their only concern is being able to see their Dad as often as possible. We love to see them and visit with them when hubby has been able over the past 18 mos. My son and daughter-in-law even lived with us for a few months when they moved back to our area. I don't think you should be calling your father a martyr -- has he complained about the care of your mother?? You may be putting a negative spin on something that isn't a negative. When help is needed, it will be asked for. I think this is more about you feeling helpless, I get that a lot from my sister-in-laws. They really want to help in some way. I've been on the daughter end of the deal too, so I've seen this situation on both sides. You visit and support as much as you can, but it is your parent's call whether they want more help, not yours. My husband says if the roles were reversed in our household, he would feel the same way that I do.

Hope this gives you a different perspective.


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When my step father insisted on doing everything I felt that he took claim as owning her. He had all the control and I had none. I wanted to be included, this woman was put on earth to give birth to me among other things. Of course a step parent may be different so I don;t know it this is helpful.

What I did to make myself available was this... i went to the infusion center or radiation office during her treatments, then I went to the dr appointments with them. I would ask questions that they wouldn't ask and it sometimes irritated them but at least I wasn't haounding them with questions after the appointment, becasue I heard it first hand.

Soon my step father realized that it was nice for a change of pace to be able to leave for awhile (during a 5 hour infusion) and mom wouldn't be alone. Soon he let me take her to treatments (not all but some). I made sure that he knew that maybe the help i needed to give was not only to help him and mom but to help ME feel included and bring me closer to my mom.

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Happy Friday Everyone!

Thanks for all the suggestions, opinions and support. Doing everything for everyone is the way my dad has always been, it is the way he shows loves and always has been and i accept that

-it is just exacerbated by mom's ilness. You guys are right that this is his way of coping-he hates that he cannot magically heal her and he is controlling and 'doing' everything to know that he is taking the very best care of the person he loves most in the world.

For him, like every spouse I am sure, this is excrutiatingly painful to watch. He does not complain really so much as make comments that are kinda smart *ss to us like when mom doesn't want to eat after he has fixed a healthy meal after working 12 hours he might say ' come on maggie, I cant be the only one trying to make you better' or it's hard work taking care of you maggie, you gotta help me out too' or off to go get medicine for her and I offer to run by on the pharmacy on my way to their house for him ' no it's okay followed by- if it wasn't for me nothing would get done around here'

he is just coping the best he can I know, I talked to him about it a lot last night and honestly, he is terified that 'something' will not get done 'right' if I do it and it will kill her and I think he is going thru a phase where he is just flat out tired-8 years is a long time to worry and wonder.

also, mom is feeling great now and he has this feeling of impending doom-like the calm before the storm you know.

Personally, I want him to know he is supported just like my mom and last night we talked about the fact that mom is not the only one effected by this disease-he doesn't see it that way, and I understand he feels it is his priviledge to care for her at the same time as it gets old. I know those are normal emotions. He knows I am here and will do anything they need-I see them every weekend and talk to them 4 times a week on the phone and he says that is enough support.

I just want to wave the magic wand too and make it all better for them you know. No one deserves this disease.....

thanks for allowing me to vent once again.

Blessings and Peace to You All


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What I would do is continue to ask what you can do to help, even if it is housework, getting the car washed and vacuumed, etc. Let him know that you realize he is fully capable and doing a great job (he needs to hear this!), but you will continue to ask what chores you can take, or if just a visit would be what's needed most.

Or maybe you could take your mom out to get her nails done, or to a movie so he can have some time for himself.

But he needs to know that you also have a need to assist in some way. Ask if you could go with them to the next appointment for test results. It doesn't matter who drives, but having an extra set of ears is extremely useful, as everyone hears and interprets things differently, and usually soneone will remember a question the patient forgot to ask or discuss an issue that may be forgotten in the appointment time frame. But you do have to respect their privacy. Try not to be hurt if they want to get results, etc privately before they share them with you.

It is important to not give up on asking; sooner or later he will need it and may not ask for help.


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  • 2 weeks later...

i recently just thanked my mom for taking care of my dad so well during his illness. my mother tearfully replied "it was MY privilege". i totally understood her. you know, when two people make that vow, til death do us part, somehow, i understand how the priviledge calls in to play. of course, your dad needs help and support, but also, it is time together. and it is a time to show support for the other person who you have dedicated your life to.

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