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How to Handle an Elder's Controlling Behavior

156 Comments

Dear Heart2Heart,


I am so sorry for your troubles. The hardest thing is to break out of the cycle of being victimized and trying to get approval from our difficult relatives even when you know you shouldn't be seeking it! You have given up enough of your life--it hurt me so much to read that your life could end first! I hope you have a counselor or someone who can help you--I never would have escaped the treachery of my mother had it not been for that! You are entitled to be free and have your own life--maybe identify three small steps you could take toward personal freedom. Just three and stick to it. YOU ARE HERE ON EARTH TO CELEBRATE YOUR LIFE. You have gone above and beyond--now it is time for recalibrating. I am not suggesting you desert your mother but I am suggesting that you need to emotionally close the door and move forward for you a little at a time. Believe me, if I could do it, then you can too! Please write more and let me know how you are doing. I truly care and I honestly feel your pain.

Having a very hard time, like many of you... Carimg for my mother had been the most excruciating, traumatic and nightmarish experience I have ever endured. The control and demands from her is overwhelming. I am broken-hearted that either hers or my life has to end like this.

Thanks for sharing your insights. We had to distance ourselves to meeting up with my mother in law now only at a cafe outside her apartment, as she has paranoia and accuses us and make up stories what aren't real. Her other kids realised this now that she makes things up.

She has been asking for ambulance every 9-14 days the last 2 months, a big factor is she doesn't (want to) take her medicines, and only takes one instead of 4 different meds she needs. She usually gets home less than 24hrs at hospital. My husband is the one who gets a call from her to call the ambulance. And he makes sure the paramedics can get into her apartment (by going there too). Despite this, I still have what I call " daughter guilt", because I know society expects us as kids to do more for our parents. Her manipulative and unhealthy behaviour has been long-standing, and classed as a personality disorder as a minimum. Distancing is our only way to keep sane and not pass all the stress to our daughter.

Your article has been so helpful. I gave up my life, house, and business to take care of my 97 year old mother. I had to get rid of nearly all my belongings to move into one bedroom in my mother's tiny two bedroom unit. I find that some days are better than others, but aside for having to deal with daily hygiene and cleaning issues, I find my mother is often angry at me for no reason and sometimes belittles me in front of other family members. I find "shopping online" for a change of address and studying part-time has helped to keep me sane, and friends have been fabulous, giving me their shoulder to lean on when things drive me to a point where I think I can't go on. I always had a great relationship with my mother, but now, she often seems like a stranger to me. I suppose I'm dealing with a sense of loss as well. No one else in my family will come to my help or take over my carer role. I feel guilty about feeling so upset about this situation but I have made a commitment to be there for however long it may be. I felt your article gave me some invaluable guidance and information. Thank you.

Oh & he doesn't like gravel - never has done ???!!! & he watched me putting it down ARRRRGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!

Thanks CarlaCB. My parents have never been terribly easy to get on with, I think they have always had the traditional relationship of parent/child/grandchild. They lead (or rather my father) we follow (including Mum) demurely. They have totally alienated daughter in law & her children mostly, eldest still visits reluctantly/out of duty but their snide/nasty comments upset her greatly and the weeks between visits are getting further apart. She is very religious but that in no way helps her sweep the upset under the carpet. My brother is almost at the stage where he will no longer visit. Some background, when I came out of hospital after a 2 week stay having our twins - I came out on the Friday & Dad fell out with me on the Monday, reason - their friends sent us a gift, I was toooo tired to open it when he just turned up with it, I was sleeping so were the babies, said I'd open it later he went out in a huff, Mum tried to get me to open it but I said she can open it if it's so important & I can't be bothered at that moment, they really upset me & I was in tears when the midwife arrived an hour later. Anyway my father had no contact with us for 9 months until I said sorry for my behaviour, I am not a person to hold a grudge or deprive my children of family. So at the moment - Me my husban & kids cleared their overgrown garden last year, Back breaking stuff but it looked so much better. This year we're maintaining it and it looks great apart from the weeds that keep growing. I find weeding very hard work as I've got back problems & very disheartening when they keep coming back. I don't want to spend for ever in their garden. So I suggested a gravel mulch like in my garden & I basically don't garden anymore in mine, just mow. He gave me the go ahead to do that. I did one border to let him see what it's like he said - "it looks good, do the other border" - so I did it got his approval. Then I started on the other patch & that's when he went ballistic & shouted me out the house saying I'd ruined his garden, he'll do it himself or get someone else in to do it. So I calmly said "Well there's appreciation for you, let me know if you get a gardener or want me back" that was 2 weeks ago. I've rang Mum & apparently he says I've destroyed his Phlox which he's had in the garden for 40 years. They haven't been destroyed they are still growing but not as full as previous years cos he told my son to weed in the area they are growing & he removed some & trampled some, not deliberately by accident cos he's not a gardener & the space is very tight. Anyway Mum said he was in "tears" over the Phlox - I was in tears over the gift saga 15+ years ago. & yet he still sends me on guilt trips Why ??????????? Thank you x

JulieM54 - Looking forward to reading your story and offering you whatever help/support I can.

I've been searching for support sites for a couple of weeks and this one really stands out. When I've gathered my thoughts I'll post my story and hopefully you'll be able to support me/say I'm doing okay by my miserable, angry, controlling, ill, 85 year old father and downtrodden ill 80 year old mother. I'm 54 with a husband and teenage twins.

That's right Lori and Carla... And, holidays seems to bring out the worst in siblings... I'm actually, literally getting sick inside because of this situation... My mother even makes things worse because she sides with them and says "They have a life"... "They are married"... Yesterday, my. Other insinuated that my niece's don't come to (my house where I care for my mother.... and, cater to my mother) because of ME!... I am so deeply hurt and I am extremely angry by her comments (she is... maybe was... up until now... treated like a queen by me... but after being treated like this by everyone, I'm stepping back....). It's truly been a nightmare for me that has eaten up my life.

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Lori - Sibling relationships are a source of anguish for many caregivers. If you do a search you'll find lots of threads right here about people who are angry/hurt/frustrated by siblings who refuse to help even though they could. Many of us can relate to your feelings. I believe a lot of people engage in rationalization and self-justification when it comes to parent care - they agree that someone needs to do it, but they have a list of reasons to excuse themselves from participating. We all have our own lives, our own problems, needs, plans, goals, physical and practical limitations. It's easy to believe that one's own situation is unique and that the responsibility should be borne by someone else, someone believed to be in a better position to carry it out. The idea of helping out just out of fairness and consideration is sometimes very far from people's minds, even if the siblings have been close and mutually supportive in the past. It's baffling, and it does make that work of caregiving much lonelier and more burdensome. I'm sorry you're in that same situation as many of the rest of us.