Deliberately uncooperative narcissistic mother.

Started by

haven't had a decent relationship with my 82 year old mother since I left home at 19. She has always been self-centered and self-destructive, and I'm sure she is baffled as to how she has managed to live so long. NONE of the behaviors I am about to describe are new or because of age-related health issues.

She has shown no interest in my children or me and has only contacted me over the years to ask for money or complain about how her boyfriend was treating her. She was living with an abusive younger man from 1993 to last year, when he died. I had called Adult Protection Services twice after hearing some of her stories about his behavior but when the authorities showed up, she always denied that there was a problem and told them that I was a liar.

After his death she started contacting me more often and demanding attention and help. She expected me to drop everything I was doing (including homeschooling a special needs child) and take her to the bank, grocery, doctor visits, and pharmacy. I have taken her to appointments and grocery trips a couple of times this year but since I live about 45 minutes away, I thought it would be easier to send her transportation vouchers for discounted cab rides. I had encouraged her to sell her car because she couldn't afford to maintain it, it wasn't functional most of the time, and her eyesight and reflexes have gotten so bad that she shouldn't be driving anyway. The only reason her license was renewed the last time was because she bullied the BMV employee who gave her the eye test. She was furious that I sent her the vouchers and wasn't driving her myself.

When she told me she wanted to move out of the mobile home where she currently lives (belongs to boyfriend's son), I sent her applications for assisted living apartments and section 8 housing. She claims the applications are too difficult to figure out. I told her that volunteers from the senior citizens center would be happy to help her, but she refuses to discuss financial matters with strangers!

Literally every time I try to help her in any way, she sabotages my efforts or refuses to follow through with anything, then tells people that I never help her. She has decided that since she is now old and has had a rough life that she should not have to pay for things. She didn't bother depositing a pension check at the bank and ran up over $300 in overdraft fees. I convinced the bank manager to waive the fees just this once. She then did it again a few months later. I spent half an hour making payment arrangements for her at the local clinic ($20 per month to pay off a $120 bill) but now she is refusing to pay even that! She now says that if she is going to be charged, she won't seek out medical care at all anymore, despite her complaints of nausea (of course, half a fifth of gin a day would make anyone's stomach hurt).

She threw her dentures away because they were getting uncomfortable and now can barely eat with the few teeth she has left. She refuses to make an appointment at the local university's dental school's free dental program because she doesn't want to go all the way across town and doesn't believe the students are qualified enough to fit her with new dentures.

Most recently I found someone who would come to her home and do her hair, so that she would not need to take a cab to the hair salon, but since the woman was black, my mother ( who is very racist) threw a fit and refused to let her in. When I sent a (white) handyman out to fix her shower, she refused to let him in either. She screamed at me for treating her so badly and sending "n*****s" to her home and told me she wanted nothing to do with me anymore.

I am done trying to help and being thwarted constantly. I realize that I'm the only family she has left, but I can't do this. If she ends up in the hospital, I'm guessing that the social workers there will figure out what to do with her.

18 Comments

I hear what you are saying - gets old when you feel like you're just beating your head against the wall. What more can you do? You're trying diligently to help her. Sometimes just backing off and keeping a distance is the only thing you can do. My mother is similar to yours in many ways. She did end up in the hospital, then rehab., then needed 24 hr. care - she is in a NH now.

Do you think she has some form of mental illness? My mother does and is on medication that really helps. During one of her numerous stays in rehab., a psychiatrist was sent in to talk with her. He recommended certain medications, but she refused to take them. Now that she is in NH, she takes the meds.

I'm the only family my mother has left as she turned away everyone else and my sister lives 3,000 mil. away and calls her occasionally. My heart goes out to you as I understand the frustration they cause us because of things they bring on themselves. Blessings and hugs to you and take care.
It sounds like you have figured out what you need to do, and I congratulate you.

You have come up with sensible ways to offer help without getting sucked into her negativity. You have tried enough times over a long enough period to conclude that she will not accept help on your terms. The only reasonable thing to do is to stop offering help. It is very sad, of course, and though we can talk about what is "sensible" I'm sure that emotionally this whole situation is painful.

If it helps any to know that you have approval for your decision, know that you have mine!
Thank you 3pinkroses and jeanne! I suspect that mental illness has been part of her issues since I was a small child, but she would never go to a psychiatrist willingly. It's hard to say home much is mental illness and how much is the effects of long-term alcohol abuse. If she ends up in the hospital or in a hospice program for COPD, then I assume a psych eval is part of the care plan. God help any hospital staff who have to deal with her.

kjgb~It sounds like you have been able to emotionally distance yourself from your mother's chaos and have set solid boundaries as well. This is good and necessary when dealing with someone with what I suspect is a personality disorder. My mother also has a personality disorder along with Alzheimer's. She also complains we never help her, accuses us of trying to steal her money. etc. It is always about her and how she is a victim (this mentality is who she has always been). My sibs and I have had to set boundaries just like you have done, even to the point of lying to her about another sibling because she easily becomes obsessed with us if we are going through a situation. It's just another way for her to make it all about herself. In your situation it sounds like not helping for awhile is a good thing to do which may force her to be more independent from you. Maybe if she has a friend or neighbor you can be in touch with who will let you know how she is getting along.The stress caused from a high maintenance, demanding person can be unbearable and even more so when you have so many of your own responsibilities to take of as well. Possibly you can get her to have a DPOA naming you as the person who can help her with her finances and health decisions or if you believe she is unable to take care of herself, APS can force her to have an evaluation. You have done so much already to help her and her refusal to accept throws the responsibility back in her court. Stay strong, we are here for you!
hi
I can sure relate to that. My mom was behaving mean to me also. It got to the point where I would cry a lot. Whatever I suggested was answered in a negative way. So I met a friend and since she adored elderly people. She asked me what she can do to help. she was actually a blessing a god send.i paid her, but she went above and beyond her expectations
Sometimes, another person can be one that she will get along with for your mom.
I always kept a journal when I went to visit. And my friend would write down specifics about her schedule. If there was anything she noticed she would call me immediately.Hope things work out better for you. be strong. Take care of yourself
Equinox
I have the exact kind of mother living with me, but minus the alcohol. My mother is 88. I treat her like she is a teenager although she isn't aware of this. People want to be in control of their destiny which is certainly their right so in my mother's case I give her choices so that she doesn't rebel as much. I have certain days when she must bathe and I let her decide when on that day. I let her know the day before so that she isn't surprised. I think that anyone would want to feel in control of their own life so it's tough when a person gets old....especially when they're like your mom and mine. Stubborn, pushy, gruff, mean-spirited, and sad. That's how I would describe it. There's only so much other people can do though. I like equinox's suggestions. Will take a very patient person though because if she's anything like my mom she'll go out of her way to drive the person away. As long as they know that up front they'll be great!
Wish I had a good answer - there are no easy ones- I had to take myself out of the situation- get my mother an apartment and hire an agency that runs the errands etc. Its been two years now and my fondest wish is that she would want to see me and say that she loves me - just once and mean it - it isn't going to happen . all i can do is make sure the financial part is covered and that she is taken care of. I thought many times about giving the POA to someone else - but I made a promise to my dad that I would take care of her - however much she hates me or however hard it is at least I know she is ok. I get a weekly report from home health . My mother was physically and verbally abusive ALL my life- she couldn't physically abuse me anymore but the verbal abuse never stopped. What really bothers me is that people actually think she is a sweet charming christian woman.
Before I found this website I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown. It is not my mom but my 90 year old mother-in-law, who has always hated me for taking her first born son. I have experienced all of the things mentioned above. Counseling helped me to have a realistic perspective. It WASN'T me~~ It was her! Great revelation! The intentional battle is real and now, if she says no, I let her feel the weight of her decision. I don't baby her at all. The family felt sorry for her for a long time until they got a dose of what she does. Now they are supportive of my attempts to take care of her instead of treating me like the enemy. Thank goodness for this website and all of you who share! Knowing you are not alone in this helps tremendously. I may have another 10 years of her craziness and I would like to survive it and be healthy! God bless you~~continue to take care of yourself!
Your Mom shows she is unable to be responsible for handling her money or affairs rationally. She has lucked out so far, having shelter and basic needs met.
Many people become street people related to those issues.
Worse, there is something inside their minds that twists them into fearing banks, authority figures, or organizations that could help them, even into fearing family—though with famly, that is usually a control manuever to guilt you into doing her bidding, regardless of her abuses.
It's worked in the past.
Often mental ills or conditions that cause that, exist from some point in childhood . Often, there was abuse as children, and this is how they learned how to get by as they have—dysfunctional coping mechanisms. Poor coping skills were the best they could do, lacking better programming.
Untold numbers of people have managed, somehow, to get through life avoiding getting proper help—especially elders, who grew up in times when mental ills or instabilities meant terrible treatments or lock up, or both—and frightful social stigma.
This contributed to repeat generations of people programmed with less-than-optimal coping skills, changing modestly with each new generation. And the beat goes on...

It took courage to stay in a home with her kinds of behaviors, as long as you did. However, by that time, I am guessing you also were at least programmed to be easily "hooked" back into her cries for help?
She sabotages attempts to help independence: thwarts efforts, because those requests & solutions are NOT what she really wants. Her requests for things, help, whatever, are more like unacknowledged cries for reassurance; relief from inner fears.
It's like a child using whatever tactics they can think of, even "bad", to get attention—if they are only paid attention to when they behave badly, that reinforces that way to get needs met.
Reinforce good behaviors, and kids will behave optimally, and it teaches them how to better/help themselves.
Elders, though, especially over 80, are unlikely to respond to that.
She is as she is; it's up to responsible adults to steer her into proper facilities for her own safety.
Abused children seek some way to feel safe, at all ages, burying fear under more "socially acceptable" excuses: anger, manipulation, illness, alcohol, etc.—whatever they can to get attention from who they feel might provide for their "needs".
It's no difference if that is realistic—only, her attempt to get her "inner needs" met—but nothing to do with her basic needs for shelter, food, etc.,
Hence, anger and rejection of your solutions for those.
As you have seen, nothing you do is the way she wants it, or enough.
You cannot relieve her surface problems, because her fearful thoughts skitter around her mind, refusing to be altered. Add booze, with it's special package of behaviors, and things are really messed up—the older the person, the worse.

But somewhere inside, she realizes how badly she is behaving, and she feels, in her own way, badly for hurting you. Just know, she did the only way she knew how; that was all she could do, as she didn't know how else to manage things. Sometimes that is pretty grim.

You have done plenty, for years.
You have the right to set boundaries on other's use of your time, energy and resources. Your immediate family [children, spouse] come first, and deserve better than exposure to her behaviors, as do you.
PLEASE do not allow yourself to get hooked back in!
You say she's been like this all her life, not age-induced--you are too close to the picture. She HAS gotten worse over time!
Social workers, psychiatrist or counselor, or others, could evaluate the situation.
You called police on her behaviors in the past—it's probably time to call 911 again, perhaps to do welfare checks; perhaps repeatedly.
You said she suddenly wanted to move out of the place she has been living in—do you know if the owner told her to move out ?
Has she been given eviction notice for failing to pay space rent?
Are her utilities being shut off?
[she will not tell you the whole story!]
Those are part of welfare checks, especially for elders who may not be handling things very well. By going through 911 system, all those visits are documented. You can also contact the owner of her place, and ask if he knows what is going on there.
Report a "vulnerable elder, the circumstances you describe above about inability to handle money or pay basic needs, thrown away her teeth—she might not be getting adequate nurition; worried she may become homeless, immenently, and cannot take her in yourself."
OR, she might, deep inside, know it is time to find Assisted Living, and her escalated behaviors are simptoms of that--providing firm guidance to get her into a Care Home or facility, could help provide relief she needs to feel that is gotten by having someone else struggle with the basics of life she can not manage herself.
She would have to be directively moved—perhaps under the guidance of Elder Protective Services, to a facility or Elder Care Home.
But do NOT let her into your home..it will rapidly get far worse than you ever saw!
ALSO, unless you can really afford it, you are not obligated to pay her bills.
That becomes part of her Welfare Checks, and once found to be living in degenerated circumstances, she can be placed in a facililty or elder home, so she is safe—even from herself.
You and your family also need to be kept safe.

Chimonger -- thank you so much for your insight. I will have the police do a welfare check on her. Every time the police have done so in the past, she pulled herself together long enough to appear quite competent and capable (crystalmpn, you probably know exactly what I mean!). Same with Adult Protection Services when they checked on her after she told me her boyfriend was stealing her money and beating her. Any psychiatric evaluation will have to be forced on her by a court order. She would never submit to one otherwise.

As far as I know, she has not been evicted or asked to move. Her name is not on the lease; it was her boyfriend's mobile home and after bf's death his son agreed to let her stay there as long as she pays the lot rent. I am not in contact with this man. She wants to move because none of her neighbors will give her a ride to the grocery anymore and she doesn't want to pay for a cab, pay for grocery delivery, or sign up for Meals on Wheels.

sharynmarie -- I do not have power of attorney -- she refuses to give it to me because she thinks the only reason I want it is because I'm after her money (and there is NO MONEY).

Equinox -- I wish I knew someone who would check in on her (who would be allowed inside). I simply can't afford to pay a companion. You are very fortunate to have someone else be your eyes and ears. I signed her up with two elder 'friendly visit' programs -- Catholic Charities and a nearby church -- but I have no idea if she rejected their offers to help. To be honest, she probably went on a racist tirade and told them to leave her alone.

Keep the conversation going (or start a new one)

Please enter your Comment

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support