Dad won’t take care of Mom

My mom has cancer and my dad is not stepping up — he won’t even give her enough medication.

You need a support group, says our elder. Why not start with your siblings?

Dear EWC

I am looking for advice in regards to my ailing mother and stubborn father. I just turned 20 and I commute to college full-time near home. My dad works two hours away from home and commutes four hours each day during the week. My mother was diagnosed in 2011 with metastatic breast cancer. By 2016, the cancer spread to her brain and she received whole-brain radiation treatment. She has suffered long-term side effects since 2018, including hallucinations, agitation, mobility issues, and emotional dysfunction. As of this month my mom declined further after a seizure. She is now unable to walk, incontinent, and mostly in a state of agitation all the time.

Through this journey my dad has been difficult. My parents are both in their sixties and quite stubborn. I am the only sibling at home and willing to help my father. I have done a lot for my mom since I was really close with her. My dad gave me a hard time about everything I tried to do for my mom and still does, such as getting a caregiver in, setting my mom up for disability income, taking my mom to chemotherapy, watching her when I get back from school and my days off, and setting up Medicare. I have been yearning to take a vacation, but I cannot because I help watch my mom.

However, my dad has been incredibly difficult in regards to medical follow-ups and medications. My mom really needs 24 hour care, but my dad is worried about affording it and thinks we are fine right now. I understand the financial aspect, but when I try to connect us to resources that could help, it backfires because my dad chooses to not follow through. Currently I watch my mom, her cousin comes in after me, and then the aide for a few hours a day. But the aide and I are struggling to lift my mom from the wheelchair to the toilet or to the bed. I have injured my back three times in one week because of it.

Additionally, my dad doesn’t like giving her medications — he will give her less than the prescribed amount or none at all. The caregiver is becoming frustrated and doesn’t feel comfortable caring for my mom without the proper medication distribution. She has become such an asset for my family and the thought of losing her makes me worried with me attending school and everything. I move out next year when I graduate college, but in the meantime I am stuck at home. I have tried to bring things up to my dad but often he doesn’t listen or take action. I know it is hard for him; it is hard for me too, but it is really a struggle. It is hard enough watching my mom suffer and losing her; I just wish things were different. I would appreciate any advice!

Renee replies

I am very sorry to hear that your father isn’t taking the responsibility he should with your mom. Your emotional wellbeing and your mom’s physical wellbeing are now at stake.
You say you are the only sibling left at home. Where are the others? Are they aware of what is going on? Is there any chance that all of you can have a family meeting to discuss this? Is there any possibility that your father would listen to them? You need a support group, and your siblings would be the best way to start. You have mentioned your mother’s cousin. Can she be part of the support group? Perhaps other family members?
The fact that your father under medicates your mother or at times doesn’t give her meds at all is a great concern. He is putting her life at risk. I would let her doctor know what is happening and ask his advice.

There are many services available to people, but the sad fact is that people are unaware of these services. The people who do this kind of thing are patient advocates. Look online to see if there are services like this in your area. Or you can go to the National Patient Advocate Foundation to get advice from them.
I am curious about your saying that after you graduate, you will be leaving home. I totally agree that you need an independent life. What would happen to your mom then?
Please work on getting a support system for yourself. Make sure people know what is happening. Both you and your mom deserve to have the best lives possible. And neither one of you should suffer because your father won’t take responsibility.

Letter #: 453477
Category: Family

One Comment

  1. This same thing happened when my mom was sick, but instead my dad would just leave and go to work (he was a contract ER doctor at the time and worked in different areas of the state for 5-10 day periods). I really think my dad just couldn’t emotionally handle that is wife was going to die. Either way, my sister and I took care of my mom for her last weeks on our own. I was only 24. I was so confused and just couldn’t understand my dads choice to continue to go to work during that time, but now think he was just trying to cope like the rest of us. He really couldn’t handle losing his wife. I actually think it was for the best (for me at least) because I got to be there with my mom and that time feel, to extent possible, peaceful. My dad was kinda hard to get along with and it would have been much more stressful if he had been there.

    I’m SO sorry for what you and you’re family is gong through. But I would say spend every minute you can taking care of your mom. I don’t regret any time i spent giving meds, taking her to appts., dealing with hospice, swabbing her mouth, sleeping in the bed with her. I regret all the minutes that I chose to do anything else.

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