My Dad Doesn’t Take Care Of Himself & It Makes Me Angry

He won’t listen to his doctors, and I’m so tired.

He drinks too much, has had a stroke and won’t follow the exercise/ eating plans his doctor gave him...
Ariela Basson/Scary Mommy; Getty Images, Shutterstock
The Sandwich Generation Issue

Twenty years ago, I got an emergency call about my dad. He needed surgery immediately, so I rushed to the hospital with my toddler and newborn baby. He ended up making it through surgery, but his doctor said his liver was in really bad shape. He needed to quit drinking and start eating better.

His habits were terrible. Every evening he’d sit in his chair and have a large bag of chips or some other packaged snack while drinking. His doctor told him, in front of all of us, that he really needed to lose some weight and he had to either quit drinking hard alcohol or cut way back.

My siblings and I thought for sure that it would be the wake-up call he needed and that he’d finally change his ways. Nope: Things have only gotten worse in the past two decades. And I’m so, so tired.

He never quit drinking, but he did try to change his diet. But he often falls back into his old patterns of overindulgence. His wife left, and now my sisters and I are responsible for him. He’s been in the hospital several times and had a stroke. He’s on several different types of medication. We’re always the phone call. He depends on us to do a lot for him.

He has been through so many health emergencies but it still hasn’t forced him to make any changes. Now that he’s in his mid-70s, my siblings and I are pretty pissed off. How could he be so irresponsible with his health? And why do we have to be the ones to deal with the consequences?

We’re angry and stretched thin, yet we still feel an obligation to take care of him. We’re frustrated because it seems like we care about his life more than he does. He doesn’t seem to care that we’re also trying to raise our kids and keep our homes from falling apart while he could be doing so much more for his health, but he chooses not to.

There’s nothing more stressful than trying to take care of your children and your parents at the same time. I feel guilty taking time away from my kids to care for him. They will be moving out before I know it and these last years with them under my roof are precious. And I can’t stop thinking about how, if my dad took better care of himself, that I wouldn’t have to deal with this.

I’m not saying that I don’t want to do anything for my father or take care of him in any way. Of course I knew it would happen someday. But it’s really hard to watch your parents be self-destructive and feel like you’re the one who’s going to have to come to their rescue.

One of my siblings lives close to him so she’s the one who’s there first. I can tell she’s getting resentful. I’m a single mother so I feel like my time is limited. There’s no one at my house to pick up the pieces if I have to go tend to my father.

Circumstances can change, and people who are really healthy and take care of themselves can also get really sick. This situation with my father has made me think a lot about getting older and what would happen to me if something happened to my health.

I would never be okay with ignoring doctor’s orders or taking my health for granted and having the mindset that my kids will just take care of me so I don’t really need to take care of myself.

Being a part of this sandwich generation — caught both between fleeting years with our kids and our parents — is hard enough without having parents who aren't doing their part when it comes to their health.

Diana Park is a writer who finds solitude in a good book, the ocean, and eating fast food with her kids.