Carmen: Family Relationships

Currently, Carmen also needs to be available for her mother who was diagnosed with cancer a year ago. Her mother is now in a long-term care facility near her father, over three hours away from Carmen. Since she has a lot to manage, given her parents’ needs, Carmen told Lily, “I need you to maintain through this. Because I can’t handle you off the rails and then mom.” Carmen realizes that Lily may not always tell her she is having problems, but knows that Lily will call when she really, really needs her. Lily recognizes the challenges that Carmen faces as she balances the needs of family members and helps out in ways that she can. She noted that Lily is a “very empathetic person.”

She does feel sorry for herself sometimes and because she’s lived on her own, she’s a little selfish. My world is the world. For the most part, she’s empathetic to my situation and wants to help. But physically, she’s limited. Like my dad’s housecleaning, she’s unable to do that, so she make calls to the bank, sets appointments, and does research about resources and services. She can do things on the phone or computer, quite well. Our family situation has been absolutely a roller coaster.

Carmen helps her parents with managing their finances. She will soon help with selling her father's house, packing, and moving him to a smaller home. She is trying to be there for her father who is overwhelmed, trying to do repairs on his house, and not eating well. She reflected, “If he can just hold out and enjoy it [the new home] for a couple of years, I’ll be happy, happy, happy.”

In the past, her parents were not helpful in responding to Lily’s needs.

When times are bad, really bad, it’s pretty much a full-time job [providing support for Lily]. Days and days and days of getting her to a place where she can function independently. And taking that time away from my work and my family. It’s frustrating because my mom is no help whatsoever and never was. She’s a conflict avoider and doesn’t like hard things. There are times Lily’s really hard. She’ll [mother] say, “Oh, I’d come down, but there’s not really much I can do.” She’ll send my dad. And my dad and sister don’t get along well, especially in those sensitive situations. I can’t remember one time when my mom ever came.

Carmen explained that her father does not understand bipolar disorder. He will comment that Lily is “acting weird again.” She talked about the genetic connection in her father’s family and recalled her grandfather was hospitalized for depression.

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