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Coping with parents as an 'only-child'


Registered User
Feb 21, 2016
Hi I've joined this forum today, and nearly every issue I've encountered so far on my journey with my mum and dad seems to have a thread already, so I'm starting this one for anyone else on here that has no brothers or sisters. Tough isn't it?!

I have a very supportive other half and three very supportive loving kids in their twenties, plus good friends, so I'm not without a shoulder to cry on or extra hands for helping over the last few years.

However, the buck stops with me. All the responsibility for making decisions in the best interests of my mum and dad ultimately lie on my shoulders, plus no-one else knew my parents when they were young healthy adults or shares my memories of happy or sad times growing up in my family. It's a unique loneliness.

My parents moved away from me just as I was starting my own family, so distance has always been an issue. My mum has vascular dementia following TIAs in her early 70's and my dad has been her carer for many years. He developed signs of psychosis many years ago but hid it well. It was only when I went on unannounced visits that I realised just how far they had declined and how basic care needs were slipping, as their home descended into a hoarded cluttered mess. It's a long story, but luckily I got Lasting Power of Attorneys in place for them in the nick of time, thank goodness.

I've had to get both my parents into respite care, get my father sectioned, move them to different care homes, spend 6 months of all my free time alone driving miles and clearing out and selling their house, uncovered all sorts of unsavoury secrets amongst the clutter, felt angry at times with them and angry at times at the system, and felt many times that it was all too much for one person to bear. But there is no way out, no sibling to take on tasks or battles, the buck stops with me.

My father died recently, his funeral was two days ago, I even had to choose what clothes his body should be dressed in, then there are all the funeral arrangements, all the letters and calls to long distance friends and relatives to field, the music to choose. And also my dad named me as the sole executor. I am absolutely exhausted. Not least because my mum cant remember he's died so I have to tell her the sad news every time all over again, no one else can share that either.....

Anyway, if any of you are in a similar situation, do post here :)


Registered User
Jun 11, 2012
I have two older sisters but I have to make all the decisions, sort out all the care , legal stuff etc etc. I just have the added stress of being ****ed off with them for leaving it all to me.

When my dad died last year ( he was not there dad but had been with our mum for over 50 years so most of their lives) I had to pick up the death certificate, register the death, book the funeral, sort out service etc and place for the wake afterwards.
It still really upsets me that they felt it ok for me to do all this on my own, the only comment I got was " I don't have a clue what to do" well neither did I.

It does suck to be on your own, but many of us on TP who have family are still doing most of it alone. It is good you have your wife to support you during these times.


Registered User
Aug 24, 2013
I agree with betsie, my mother lived with my wife and I for her last 2.5 years, in that time one brother visited once the other twice. I had to clean and sell her house alone, in that time I never took a penny off her so she racked up a good few quid in the bank, which eventually got split equally. What really did annoy me the most was that at the funeral none of them even said thank-you, not to me and particularly to my wife.

Now my wife's has AZ how many visits from her 5 brothers and sister, one came once and that's in 5+ years.
I'd rather be doing in on my own because there wasn't anybody else than doing it alone because nobody give a damn about you.
Our 3 children rarely visit as "they don't like seeing mum like that" that said one is coming tonight for a couple of days but whether he'll want to visit her (she's in a psych unit under a section 3 at the moment) I don't know, well I do because I'll make him.
At least you have friends and family for support there are a lot on here who really are coping alone.
Sorry, that all sounds a bit bleak and I understand coping with 2 parents must be incredibly difficult but if you read some of the stories on here of family fall outs, accusations being made, no visits but they can tell you how much more you could be doing...I could go in.


Registered User
Feb 16, 2016
Houghton Lake, MI U.S.A.
All of the advantages of growing up as an "Only" kind of go out the window now, don't they? ;)

I am the last of the line for both sides of my family. My Father died in 2005, and he was an only child. My Mother had a Brother, but he died back in the Eighties, and we took care of his estate back then. My Mother and I are all that's left other than Second Cousins and further who all live hours away. I am also single, which makes the 24/7 aspect of caretaking even more real. One thing about doing this is that I am learning my weak spots! I have to do everything, even the things I am lousy at! I don't regret stepping in as the caretaker, but I would have tapped into the Long Term Care help a few Months earlier to get a bit more help. I got pretty overwhelmed last Autumn, after my Mother ran into some new issues with balance and mobility, taking most of her movement and a good bit of her independence away. One thing that has helped has been talking with other caretakers, and realizing that I am not alone. I might even get together with another single caretaker and share some duties, if we can work out the logistics and deal with dueling Mothers... We might meet at the Senior Center for lunch, and take turns watching both of our Mothers while the other one cuts out to the store. The big thing that can go wrong with the "Lone Wolf" approach to caretaking is that both my Mother and myself need a bit more social interaction than we can get somedays. She needs to do some lunches with other people her age, and I need to talk with somebody who can follow complete sentences once a week or so.

Good Luck, you have taken on a tough task, but it is a necessary one. In the end, I am sure I would have huge regrets if I didn't step in and help to the best of my ability.


Registered User
Feb 25, 2014
Radcliffe on Trent
I was luckier than some TPers that my brother and sister didn't argue or criticise any of my decisions relating to mum and were supportive. But they didn't volunteer to do anything much either. When she died I made a point of identifying some responsibilities they could do and basically insisting they took on something, even though it felt by then it would have been easier to do it myself!

Just picking up on Kevini's point about finances, I was sole LPA and certainly did not feel any guilt about claiming expenses (eg petrol for 120 mile round trips to visit, take her to appointments etc) from her funds. Partly that was because I felt that since I was putting in the time there was no reason they should gain financially as well.


Registered User
Feb 1, 2016
herts uk
I too am an only child, also with supportive partner and 3 kids (2 in their 20s & a 12 year old). My dad died last summer, he didn't have dementia but had been v poorly and disabled for many years following a stroke during cardiac surgery. Mum had been very forgetful for some time but she and dad seemed to prop each other up, albeit with a lot of help from me.

I had to deal with everything after dad died, the paperwork, the funeral (mum said she wouldn't come to the funeral because it was too upsetting for her! I ignored that) and all the while you're trying to deal with the loss of your father.

Since we lost dad she has gone downhill, the grief, depression and lack of routine seem to have accelerated the memory loss and too much white wine doesn't help!

I don't have the distance issue as she's only 5 miles away but, as far as she's concerned, I am exclusively responsible for her well being and happiness and I find it exhausting. Even when I'm not there I'm worrying if I'm doing the right thing, should I see her more/less, should I make her see the doctor for a formal diagnosis or just let her get on with it..

So, yes, I know where you're coming from, the buck stops with us and it's hard..


Registered User
Dec 14, 2011
I'm an only too, and completely get what you're saying. Sometimes it's just too much. Too much to do, too much responsibility, and for me the added stress of two Deputyships and the knowledge that every year I have to explain myself and my decisions to the CoP. My family are loving and supportive and my friends are great, but ultimately it's all on my shoulders. I fantasize about being free from it and just having my own issues to worry about. I can't tell you how good that fantasy feels! Actually, you probably know!!

On the other hand, I'd rather be on my own than have siblings who don't help or have very different opinions on what should be done. I would be very resentful.

Anyway, we plod on. :)


Registered User
Feb 21, 2016
Yes I guess the hardest part is having to shoulder all responsibility for your parent's welfare. If you're an only child you KNOW you have no choice but to suspend everything else that you can drop from your own life, to deal with whatever the next crisis is with your mum or dad, or both in my case.

At the darkest points in recent years I couldn't help feeling resentful that they had left their lives in such a mess for me to sort out. I gave them hardly any grief when I was a child and they cared for me! The flipping over of parent and child roles is such a tricky one isn't it, and lasts just as long in years it seems when dementia is involved.

I fully see how arguments or indifference from brothers or sisters must be an awful thing to deal with too, I just find it hard to imagine, as my kids get on really well and I can't imagine them not all pitching in if I needed help.

There's such a lot to learn and do when dementia strikes isn't there. Suddenly you're plunged into legislation, finances, NHS policies, legal documents, mental capacity acts, skip hire, and helplines etc and all without any training or preparation. I had to go part time in my job as I needed two days extra every week just to handle my parents' affairs while I was clearing their house, looking for bills and documents, cancelling scam policies they'd been sold, dealing with power of attorney stuff, and visiting them both in separate care homes. There's a limit how much I wanted to vent on my other half, and always thought sharing some of this with a sibling would have been awesome.


Registered User
Feb 21, 2016
Kevini your situation sounds really harsh, I'm so sorry your family aren't giving you the support you clearly deserve.
It really grates when folk say they don't want to visit people who are really ill or psychotic because it will upset them and they don't want to see them like that. It's all a part of life, time folk stopped brushing harsh realities under the carpet eh
Have a hug xxx


Registered User
Feb 25, 2014
South coast
When dementia comes in through the door family relationships go out through the window.

I have a brother, but he has not been to see his mum for 18 months (and that was only because I insisted). He does not phone me about her and his only interest was about her bungalow sale. I have sole Court of Protection (I understand exactly about having to justify all your decisions to the CoP) and I have single-handedly cleared mums bungalow and dealt with all the legal side. My OH has recently been diagnosed with FTD and apathy is a huge symptom and he gets literally nothing done, although he does go on at me about things that "need doing". My 2 children are both married, have big problems of their own and do not live close-by.

All of this means that if I dont do something - it doesnt get done. So many times I feel at a loss to know how to do something and there really and truly is no-one to ask, so I have to work it out myself. I am so isolated and alone. I have family, but no-one to turn to.


Registered User
Oct 18, 2010
North East England
Actually, I think it is the realisation that you are now the " Grown up" that is scarey. I am/was the middle daughter of three, Eldest sister lives 7000 miles away, younger sister died age 39, me, middle one, lived 10 minute walk away from my late Mum. So I made all the decisions.

Being the grown up to your parent being the child is wrong.:rolleyes:


Registered User
Feb 25, 2014
Radcliffe on Trent
Actually, I think it is the realisation that you are now the " Grown up" that is scarey. I am/was the middle daughter of three, Eldest sister lives 7000 miles away, younger sister died age 39, me, middle one, lived 10 minute walk away from my late Mum. So I made all the decisions.

Being the grown up to your parent being the child is wrong.:rolleyes:
Craigmaid you have definitely put your finger on a key point. It does feel wrong to be telling your parents what to do or worse still making decisions without even consulting them even when you know there's no logical alternative. Since mum and parents-in-law OH and I are the oldest family members and that feels a little scary too. I wonder if our parents felt like this when all the older relatives had gone?


Registered User
Oct 23, 2014
I hear you.

Hi. I have not posted on here for a while but felt that I had to respond. I am an only child with no father and a Mum who has vascular dementia and is in a RH. She is now in the late stages. My partner is ill and I have no kids. I also have no other family. My Mum made no POA and I have had a 2 year nightmare with Court of Prot to get guardianship. I am still waiting. Her Vascular Dementia was a result of her own neglect and alcoholism. I try to be as compassionate and empathetic as I can, but I do resent her for the position she has placed me in due to her alcoholism and the fact that she made my life a misery due to this. I wish I could tell you that the loneliness gets better - It doesn't. You just find a way to 'build a wall around it' and manage day to day. The only thing that gets me through this is the knowledge that there is no one else there for her and I am her advocate no matter what. It is normal to feel overwhelmed and negative about this situation; made through no fault of your own. Please know that others understand and know what you are going through. X

Amy in the US

Registered User
Feb 28, 2015
Hello, Crunchy. Just wanted to join in as another only child. Welcome to TP and I hope you will find it a supportive and helpful resource for you.

First, please accept my condolences on the death of your father.

I'm a carer for my mother, age 73, with Alzheimer's and no short-term memory. She went into a care home near me a year ago, after a crisis and stay in hospital. She'd previously been living alone with no support or services, 100 miles from me, and I was putting a lot of miles on my car. My parents divorced when I was young and my father died some years ago. My mother is also an only child. I have a very supportive husband. I am it for family for my mother.

I definitely understand feeling overwhelmed, isolated, lonely, resentful, angry, and upset about/by the situation. None of us asked for this but we are saddled with the responsibilities nonetheless. Some of us, myself included, are further burdened by not having had a good relationship with the person for whom we are now caring. While my mother was not abusive, like some of the parents of TP members, we have never been close and I don't have warm feelings for her, only a sense of duty. Here in the States, depending on where you live, we do have a duty of care and I hold Power of Attorney, so, yes, it's down to me.

Some of the other issues you mentioned in your post really resonated, such as clearing out her belongings, finding all sorts of stuff that I wish I hadn't, and the never-ending administrative and paperwork issues. I feel like it's a slow death for me, by paperwork, some days. (I don't know why anyone bothers with physical torture, just make them do our jobs for a week and they'll talk! This is humour, in case you can't tell.)

I have several close friends who are also only children and it's interesting how we differ on the subject of siblings. Some say they always wanted siblings and others don't. I admit that it wasn't until I was faced with dealing with my mother's dementia diagnosis and the subsequent duties that I started to see the point of having a sibling, as I agree it would be so nice to have someone to share things with. (I didn't even feel like that when my father died.) However, the horror stories I've heard here on TP and in my support groups also give me the perspective that while I may not have anyone to share the responsibilities with, I also don't have anyone to argue with, or whose permission I have to ask, or who disagrees with my decisions, steals money, or drags me to court repeatedly. I'm not saying all families are like that! Being an only is more responsibility, but less complicated. I don't think it's good or bad, just the way it is.

Thank you for starting this thread and hope to continue to see you around on TP.

Best wishes to you.


Registered User
Feb 21, 2016
I totally understand the "slow death by paperwork" comment! I am having a short break now from it while I wait for my father's Grant of Probate certificate to come through, then it's full steam ahead once more as my executor duties kick in :(

There's also the slow death psychologically I think, as you become so immersed in old age, illness and dying that it's hard to escape from the thought that: " this may be me in not so very long", it's a morbid mindset I have to work really hard to shake off. Now my father has passed away and I only have one parent to care for, and she is reasonably settled anyway, I'm going to have to try to pick up the pieces of my own life and remember how to have guilt-free fun again. That's the plan anyway!

Group hug for the only children x


Registered User
Dec 18, 2013
Hi Crunchy

You are so like me, in your words, thoughts and desperation . But don't give up , you can do this. Us only children are a special breed we have inner strength that really is there and will get us through. Believe in yourself , pat yourself on the back , you are doing ok .

I don't mind admitting I am 55 married with a really supportive husband , no brothers or susters, no children , mum in a nursing home for Alzheimers, and a Dad who lives 5minutes from me who is distraught and in denial that he is loosing his wife of 61 years and I don't mind admitting I too feel lost at times, angry , resentful of those with extended family and just battered and bruised from the 12 years this has been going on.

I guess for me like you the responsibility of feeling you are letting your parents down is overwhelming sometimes. But because we are the people we are and the happy memories that we have that is why it all hurts so much. In a weird way that makes us privileged. We have good memory's . The reality is we are not letting them down and I am sure as children we "tested" them , so when I feel I can't take any more of being the only one , I take a deep breath , and try my best to carry on.

I was told we also need time for us, I scoffed at the comment it's easy for others to say this with extended family's , but it's true we dined to take a break and look after ourselves. I still struggle with seeing my mum slipping a way and the fact I can't stop it. We are not super human, and that's ok !

You are an important person in this ghastly experience and like all of us can't change what's happening , but it's ok to feel the way we do, you are stronger than you think .

Stay strong . You will get through .


Registered User
Aug 25, 2015
South coast of England
Yes, I'm an only child and I hear you.

My father died some 20 years ago. We lost touch for 15 years after my parents separated, regained contact after my son was born and saw each other only a few times before he died. I have since discovered that he has a half sister and I have met her - but she has an idealised view of things, with my father being the angel and my mother the demon.

Mum had one sister and they never really got on. My aunt died last year and Mum seems to have forgotten that she ever existed (told the memory clinic assessor that she was an only child!). My relationship with my cousins is friendly but distant - we live 200 miles apart and have little contact.

My son is supportive but lives in London and works long hours. He doesn't come home often but does phone Grandma occasionally.

Hubby is very good. We helped my in-laws nurse his mother through her terminal illness last year and he is pragmatic about the situation with my mum. But his family don't see each other often and my Mum was 'clingy' even when she was well, so he doesn't totally 'get it'. He's having to do a lot for Mum at the moment as I am recovering from spinal surgery and am quite limited at the moment!

TBH, the future terrifies me! Mum isn't bad at the moment, she was diagnosed with mixed dementia just before Christmas and is coping in her sheltered accommodation with a little help. She has no property and little money. There is no way she will be able to self-finance in the future - and our situation is comfortable but not 'well off', there is no way we would be able to fund care homes long-term either. I cannot/will not have Mum to live with us - I could not cope with that physically or mentally. But that is easier said than done as I know that it will take a severe crisis before the State steps in!

Mum is reasonably healthy - but she will be 90 next month. I pray that she will die before the dementia really gets hold :(


Registered User
Feb 21, 2016
How lovely to see so many replies, I wish I'd found this forum years ago, we all have such difficult experiences and it's comforting knowing others are going through similar things, ghastly though a lot of it is.

I think there's an intensity being an only child, you are the sole focus of your mum and dad's hopes and aspirations when you're growing up, quite a lot of pressure and less room for hiding behind distracting siblings maybe. When my dad died this month, he ended the letter he left to me and my mum with his will, with the words: "We are one", which really brought home to me how intense the bond between the three of us was, despite the usual fallings out and many periods where they drove me nuts ;) I realise that even though I'm in my 50's and have done everything possible to help them in the last decade, some of it against my dad's will as the dementia set in, I always wanted their approval in some way. Maybe that's something only children feel more intensely? After the funeral, I had such a strong urge to chat to my father and check he was happy with everything I arranged for it. That's going to be part of a long readjustment I suspect


Registered User
Dec 17, 2012
Us only children still seem to struggle. Though i think each carer in their own way has issuses.
I am very grateful (?) That i can make the decisions even the heartbreaking ones without having to justify.
However i am very well supported by my husband, son and mum's oldest brother.
We have just entered the .. end of days bit. However long that lasts

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