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Coping with parents as an 'only-child'


Registered User
Nov 23, 2015
Advice about helping in a crisis.

Hi.My Dad is 87 and in the mid stage of Alzheimer's and my Mum is 83 and looking after him.I live 100 miles from them and since the death of my brother in 2011 I am their only child. I call Mum every day for about 40 mins without fail,so know their routine etc.Mum has refused to get any outside help,as she thinks it demeans My Dad,and I know if she is ill I will have to drop everything and go and help.Can anyone please advise me what I would do in such circumstances,trying to look after them both.At the moment they don't even have a bed for me,although I have asked Mum to get one in case I need to stay.Would there be anyone I could turn to for help and advice in these circumstances,I am getting very anxious and worried how I would cope.My own health isn't great and I lost my 29 year old daughter in very traumatic circumstances in 2014,since when I have never really recovered although I hide that from my Mum.Mum is getting very tired and I can't persuade her to get anyone even to stay with Dad so she can have a break,it is very frustrating.How would I access help if the worst happens and she can't look after my Dad.My husband has just been diagnosed with anxiety and depression and I can't seem to stop worrying that anytime I might get the call to go,without even a bed to sleep in there.I'd be very grateful for any advice.Sending love to all.


Registered User
Feb 1, 2016
herts uk
Just about to go and pick mum up to bring her to mine for the day - our regular Saturday routine. Really not in mood, found out yesterday that my daughter has an abnormality in her brain originally picked up in a sight test.

We're now in that horrible waiting period, waiting for the urgent referral to the specialist team. I won't tell mum because she'll make a huge fuss, probably burst into tears, and then forget about it or she'll become fixated and keep asking me the same questions over and over...

Today I really wish I could phone a sibling and say 'I'm having a hard time - your turn'. :(


Registered User
Dec 17, 2012
Oh Carrie sorry to hear that.
So horrible to be pulled within generations.
Hope the abnormality is slight


Volunteer Moderator
Aug 31, 2003
Oh I'm so sorry to read about your daughter. The waiting must be awful.

Sent from my iPhone using Talking Point


Registered User
Feb 1, 2016
herts uk
Thank you both. Have now dropped mum home, she doesn't like to be out after dark. Nearly told her about my daughter when she started going on about what a mess my car is, 'tissues everywhere' (for my sobbing daughter on the very slow journey home from the hospital).

I just want things to hurry up so we know what we're dealing with. In the meantime am caring for a frequently weepy, moaning mother and a (justifiably) frequently weeping, frightened 13 year old.

Am distracting myself by making my Christmas cake and looking forward to watching Strictly with the daughter later on. Keep on keeping on....


Registered User
Dec 17, 2012
Carrieboo I think times like you are having now is when I miss my mum the most.
I really hope your answer is soon


Registered User
Mar 8, 2014

Just come across this thread and understand completely what people have to say.

My father died two weeks ago. My mother and I spent five weeks in hospital with him until the day he passed away. My father had always looked after everything pretty much. They had a very old fashioned relationship where my mum looked after the house and my dad looked after the finances and bills. She cared for him at home for the last three years with the help of carers.

Now I am left to look after my mum and sort everything out as she hasn't a clue. I've taken her to the solicitors to sort out probate quickly so that the house can be transferred into her name and the finances sorted quickly and I sorted the funeral.

I live with my partner 200 miles away and he has been a great support but I feel like I'm having to ensure everything is in place for my mum so everything continues as normally as it can for her when I return home and to work. I feel so guilty and sad but there is no other option.

To make matters worse we have no other family and my mum has no other friends.

Throughout my dad's dementia she refused to go to any groups and it was a fight to get her to have carers.

I worry about her having enough money as she only has minimal savings of her own so am trying to sort out dad's finances and change over all the bills.

She hasn't worked since she gave up work to look after me 35 years ago and never returned to work after I went off to university. I always hoped she would but my parents lived in their own happy bubble.

It's so much to deal with/worry about on top of everything.

I just hope things go smoothly and mum somehow decides to go out and do voluntary work as I suggested to build her confidence in good time and then get a part time job but I don't know. I worry she'll just sit at home and expect the money to look after her as it has all these years in the form of my dad. She's not extravagant by any means but she's only 55. I'm fighting to get some of dad's pension for her as they weren't married and there should be some savings but I doubt they'd keep the bills paid and her for the rest of her life.

I've suggested classes and courses but it's all too much of course at the moment for her. I feel like I'm selfishly pushing her along to get her on course so I can go back home and not have to worry about her every day. I suggested going to events/classes at the local library in the hope she'd meet a friend or just get out the house or for her to just getting some books to read at home but she just brushes it all off and tells me she'll be ok.

I must get back to work and move on with my own life. I'm starting a new job in a couple of weeks and need to get my head straight for that but I just feel so responsible for her and know I won't be able to read letters and fill in forms etc from 200 miles away.

Has anyone else been in this situation?



Registered User
Dec 17, 2012
Emmy how are things going with your mum ? Xmas coming up will be hard I am sure ?
When dad died unexpectedly may 2014 mum the next day went into care. I had been doing their finances for a while as dad had numerous physical issues and could no longer pay online bills due to arthritis.
Mum had no capacity to pay bills


Registered User
Apr 15, 2011
East Yorks
In the same position!

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 :)
I too, am an only child. Yes, you may have close friends etc, but it is difficult when the buck stops at you. I had to choose my dads coffin when he died in 2011 (not a nice experience). In 2012, my mum moved in with me. I had the responsibility of selling her house, clearing it out and moving some of her things 127 miles. Since 2012, mums dementia has become much worse to the point where she has to be supervised to do any little task. She cannot get dressed on her own now and we have to remind her to go to the toilet. We have an argument to get her into the shower and if she lived on her own, she certainly wouldn't change her clothes! She is incontinent in the night (urine... we use Tena pants - available from the Incontinence Team). Crunchy, I too have to tell mum that dad is dead - and we are 5 1/2 years down the line! It's so very hard isn't it....
Mum went into respite in November (for the first time). It was so difficult. She was staying in bed until late afternoon and therefore missing meals. The Carers weren't bothering to put her hearing aids in etc... So, after 10 days, we bought mum back home, only to realise 3 weeks later that we are so very stressed again....
I am responsible for deciding as to when mum goes into full time care and I keep on delaying the decision, however, looking after her is impacting on my life and relationships. It is always 'next year' as I feel so very guilty even thinking about it. 'Next year' never ever comes around however .....


Registered User
Dec 14, 2011
Hi Munchkin :)

As an 'only' too I know how it feels to have the buck stop with me.

I just wanted to say that care standards differ and where your mum was doesn't sound that great. I looked at several care homes for my mum and chose the one i felt would suit her and her needs, and I'm sure she would have been miserable in some of the ones I rejected. So don't think that what you found in respite is the norm. Also, it often takes a while for the person to settle. Dementia and changes don't tend to mix well.

And I say the above because I think that my mum should have gone into care sooner. My health suffered a great deal as I struggled to support her 'independence' and she gained nothing from it. In care, she is extremely well looked after, has as much social interaction as she wants, and my time with her is more social too, rather than as it was, a constant of problem solving.

So it can all be ok, or as ok as things get in dementia land.


Registered User
Dec 20, 2016
So so sorry...

...to hear of the heartbreaking tales on here.

I just joined the forum as I am beginning to admit that I'm not winning the emotional war and hopefully writing feelings helps.

Only child to long time divorced parents. Lost Dad 2014 to Parkinson's and the mum that brought me up on her own is a shadow due to AZ. She's still at home but for how long I don't know. Trying to change my work hours to help her more and reduce another stress.

I am so lucky to have a massively supportive wife but for the first time in many years my panic attacks and anxiety /depression are back with a bang.

Anyway, thoughts to all whose lives are affected.


Registered User
Sep 30, 2013
Hi SiPie, I'm not an only child, just feels like it sometimes. Just wanted to say that my anxiety and depression are also back with a bang too. Have supportive other half, lovely kids, part time work but it is still a traumatic, horrible experience losing a parent this way. And the mum I knew has already gone, replaced by a suspicious, waspish, disgruntled child like person. Just awful.

Sent from my iPad using Talking Point


New member
Oct 2, 2017
My first post. Read yours and wanted to say your story is worse than mine. I can't imagine how difficult your journey has been. What is your situation now ? Are you still supporting your mum?
I live 100 miles away from my mum. Dad passed away 10 years ago and mum's health has gradually deteriorated. I've made a lot of sacrifices for her; temporarily moved in after hospitalisation and serious illness. It took a toll on my marriage and had to withdraw slightly. What's so difficult is they become unreasonable, inconsiderate and selfish with this disease. I'm an only child like you and I would desperately like to have a sibling to talk to. I love my mother even though she hasn't always made it easy for me to do so. If she makes it to December she will be 94. Yes, she's had a good innings. I constantly struggle with resentment because I feel my efforts ( I regularly drive from Dorset to London on Wednesday and return on Saturday to be with her ) are unrequited.
How much of it is down to character and how much down to her dementia I guess I'll never know. I feel the more I do, the more she takes advantage. I want to continue to love and respect her, after all, that's what we're supposed to do.
I think she needs 24 hour support. Waiting for a capability assessment. Been told that moving people from their home is a last resort. Have told mum she can live with us but she doesn't want that either. She's so stubborn. Maybe I would be too. Bottom line is she's not eating, not taking her meds and turning heating off and forgets what you told her an hour ago.
If this doesn't make any sense it's because its been dispatched in haste.
I'm going to seek out other carers and attend meetings to share experiences and frustrations. I wish you well. Johnny boy.


Registered User
Aug 4, 2017
I’ve just come across this thread and wondered if anyone has any advice. My mum (76) was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in February. I am an only child (aged 38) and live 180 miles away. My Dad died last June and since then I have become responsible for Mum, even having to arrange Dads funeral. I am feeling very overwhelmed, I have a supportive husband and 2 kids aged 3 and 6 so my life is full on even without Mum. I ring her twice a week and visit every 4-6 weeks but that is taking it’s toll on me and my family. I don’t know what the answer is, Mum isn’t bad enough to need to go into a home but she is only just functioning in her own home. I have arranged a cleaner and gardener but she is ok at washing herself, preparing meals, washing clothes etc. But she doesn’t do any housework or look after the house. Her memory is getting very bad though and I worry for her safety but I can’t be there to keep an eye on her.