Dealing with elderly Father

by Brenda
(New Jersey)

My father is 85 and he remarried after my Mother passed away. I get along fine with his wife and him except for the fact that he calls me with all of his problems (health and other problems as well).

I get myself so worked up trying to solve his problems that I have anxiety attacks. I guess I just want to know if this is a normal response. I really think he and his wife should be dealing with their health issues and other things as a married couple and that if it were something life threatening I would of course want to know, but I don't think I need to be helping with normal everyday issues.

I want to know how I should deal with this issue and I guess also how normal is it to get so upset over something like this? Do I need help or is he wrong for laying everything off on me when his wife as I see it is just as capable. Thanks.

Ben's Answer:

Is it abnormal to be having panic attacks after talking to your dad about his problems? Well, it's certainly not what everyone would experience, but it's not uncommon to feel this way.

If your father is using you as a place to vent his worries, fears, and negativity, and it is causing you this level of anxiety, then you are not doing him or yourself any service by allowing it to continue. If his wife is of sound mind, then you are absolutely right to feel that she should be filling this role - not you.

I think it is always best to just be honest. "Dad, I love you and I care about your health and happiness, but I get so overwhelmed sometimes when you tell me about your health problems that I actually have anxiety attacks. I want to be there for you if you ever have an urgent problem - but I have to take care of myself by not listening to ALL of your problems."

Give it a try.

Best Wishes,

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