Providing nursing care to a family member


I start Nursing I in January, with this semester wrapping up with a final tomorrow. My mom is suffering with dimentia and this weekend was admitted to the hospital in A-fib with CHF. She accused her husband of abuse and there is risk because taking care of her has been so stressful. She is totally dependent for assistance with all ADL's. The family is looking to me to assume a major role in management of mom's care now since I am entering the profession and also oversee the nursing care provided while she's inpatient. In south Florida the patient census is busting at the seams and the nurses know I'm a nursing student. I've been feeding her, transfering her to chair, helping with diapering, been left with the responsibility of getting her to take her po meds, basic hygiene and trying to calm her down using therapeutic communication. I've arranged for case management and placement to a rehabilitation facility.

This is so stressful and I was hoping for a bit of R&R before getting into my first semester but taking care of mom now seems to be my responsibility. A lot of me in the role of daughter has turned off and me as nurse has turned on. Everyone else in the family has turned to emotional jelly. The opposite thing happened to me. I got very objective... almost like this was another patient and not my mom, seeing things from all angles. I started preparing my own nursing diagnoses and care plan. This has been a baptism by fire. I feel like if I can handle this, I can handle anything first semester has to throw at me.

I'm not sure I'm reacting in a healthy way to my mother's deteriorating condition but I don't want to stop to figure that out. I'm afraid that if I do, I'll lose the ability to give mom and the family what is needed.


517 Posts

I had to stop and post. I'm so sorry you are going through all of this. Don't worry about what is a "healthy" way to react to your mom's condition. Phooey on that. Do what comes naturally -- as it sounds like you are doing.

Look at it this way.... We all have gifts. Recently, we had a police officer who had been shot in the head and was in ICU. His wife was a nurse. The news stories talked about how she'd just move IV lines and ventilator tubing aside and climb into bed with him. He later died. As a nurse, you aren't intimidated by the lines and tubes and environment. I have friends who vomit if they ENTER a hospital to visit someone because it makes them so anxious.

What I'm trying to say is that you can give your mom something the rest of your family cannot. That is such a gift! You just need to do as nurses always must - take care of yourself too.

Hang in there!

Hugs, PJ

live4today, RN

5,099 Posts

Specializes in Community Health Nurse.

((((((((((RNKittyCat)))))))))) My thoughts and prayers will be with you and your family, and certainly for the healing of your mother. Your family is blessed to have you, so is your mom. Just take an hour out of each day and devote that time to some R&R for yourself. An exhausted caregiver is not what you or your mom need. Keep in mind that you are subject to healthproblems yourself if you do not take care of you first, then you'll be able to have enough energy and inner peace to continue the fine job you are already doing for your mom. :kiss


80 Posts

Specializes in ER then CVICU now.

Sorry you're going through this. My father had leukemia and everyone looked toward me to care for him as he deteriorated, well I did and it was a very stressful situation for me, but I always found a way to at least get some rest and do something for me once in a while because if I didn't I would've cracked.

I wish you luck and I hope you do take some time out for yourself because even though she's your mother you need to do yourself first and foremost. You can and will get through this!

Trauma Columnist

traumaRUs, MSN, APRN

153 Articles; 21,231 Posts

Specializes in Nephrology, Cardiology, ER, ICU. Has 31 years experience.

So very sorry you are going through this.

jnette, ASN, EMT-I

4,388 Posts

Specializes in Hemodialysis, Home Health. Has 10 years experience.

((((((HUGS))))))) and best wishes to you and your mother, RNKittykat.

Yes, it truly IS baptism by fire. I hate that this had to happen so early in your schooling... you certainly didn't need any added stress. And yet, you are being afforded a true opportunity to learn and grow with first hand experience.

I just hope the others in your family don't expect too much from you and offer support and a lending hand in her care.

You can't do this alone... employ their help and take the breaks you so well deserve !

Good job ! :)

Specializes in ICU, CM, Geriatrics, Management. Has 17 years experience.

Kitty -- So sorry to hear of your present situation. All the best with that.

You've gotten super advice here. Will only emphasize the point about recruiting other family members to help care for your mom. If necessary, coach / direct them on what to do and then escape for a while so you can keep yourself healthy -- mentally and physically.

Has 7 years experience.

While this is a wonderful opportunity to give a unique gift to your mom, it is also an opportunity for you to experience what so many of us "helpers" have trouble accepting: support and care from others.

Let this be a chance to share both kinds of giving--the direct, obvious kind, and the indirect kind, where we let others feel the joy of helping US.

Prayers go with you....

wonderbee, BSN, RN

1 Article; 2,212 Posts

Specializes in critical care; community health; psych.

Thank you everyone for the compassion and insight. I'm pretty numb. I'm not alone in this situation but much of the decision making and supportive hands-on care has fallen to me and there's just no way out of it.

I've had to swim upstream against family codes of heirarchy and gender perceptions that are pretty ancient and well established. That makes family support tentative and uncertain. My nursing education will still take priority. This is a determination I will hold on to regardless. It's my firm commitment. Mom is going into a safe facility and we will all have to adjust to the new demands. Now I have to study for tomorrow's final. On top of it all, I got stuck with jury duty later this week. At least the beach is right across the street and all it takes is a walk in the wet sand to get my head straight. There's still hope for this break.

nurse2be in ny

332 Posts


I just want to offer my sincere sympathy as you're dealing with this situation. It's never easy with family, especially when roles and expectations are being redefined. As others have already said, make sure you take care of yourself and get others to help you as much as possible. And post here as much as you need to; you've got a lot of people here who will support and care about you.


587 Posts

Specializes in ICU.


I am glad to know that you have stepped up to the plate with this and I'm sure you would have tried your best even if you weren't in nursing school. Please stay strong and remember to put God first as He will see you through all things. I'll pray that your mother gets better and I'll also pray for you and the stress that you're enduring. I think that you have done the right thing by finding a rehabilition center and i hope that all goes well for your and your family:kiss

wonderbee, BSN, RN

1 Article; 2,212 Posts

Specializes in critical care; community health; psych.

Thanks for all the well wishes. Yesterday mom slipped into a coma. We have no idea what precipated it and I've been testing what little nursing knowledge I have to try to help come up with some answers. We know that she had chest pain and the nurses at the rehab administered 2 nitros and left her alone without taking a follow up BP. She was left alone for two hours till my dad found her in her comatose state. Then we also found her TSH was 40. Normal values are 0.5 to 5.0. That could have been the culprit. We don't know how that happened either.

By this afternoon she was coming around. She was responsive to our voices and was oriented x3. All of her vital signs were somewhat depressed. We have decided she will not be returning to the rehab facility and we are going to return her to her home if she makes it past this hospitalization. We are going to arrange for home health care and private duty. It's sad what I witnessed at the rehab/nursing home. Downright dangerous. They're playing with fire being so short staffed.

Even at the hospital I had to be assertive. I watched nurses come in and not wash their hands or glove. I called the CNA on it when she inserted the thermometer. She had the nerve to tell me that she doesn't have to glove and she washed her hands in the last patient room. I asked her to please use standard precautions around my mom. The last thing she needs is a nosocomial infection thank you.

I know I'm ranting on and on. Please forgive me. This is not like me but I really need to talk this out with people who have a clue.

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