My mother is wearing me out, and she is not even sick or disabled. She has a dependent personality and I feel like I am being used.

Started by

She is 76 years old and in relatively good health. However, she is always complaining and is always "sick" and "needy". She recently went for a series of medical tests and got a clean bill of health. I see other women her age who are healthy getting out and enjoying life, but my mother chooses to be a hermit, and stays home and watches a lot of TV. She hardly ever gets out unless it is to go grocery shopping, and even then she complains that it is too much for her to handle. She depends on me to drive her most places, unless she is going somewhere in her immediate community. I have been attending to her "needs" for the past 6 years since my dad passed away, and I am getting tired. I am very willing to help her if she really does need my help, but I have come to realize that she has been taking advantage of me for the past few year. In her conversations we have when I am taking her to the places she needs to go, she tells me that she is sorry that she needs me to do things for her so much, but she reminds me of how she took care of my grandmother (who had cancer and was a diabetic-very sick), and how she took care of me when I was little, etc. I have slowly come to realize from things that she has said to me - that she has a sense of entitlement to be taken care of - just because she is becoming elderly. Well, I have been caring for her since she was 70, and she has not had any major illness or injury in this entire time, just the everyday complaining about the same old things. She still lives independently, but needs my brother & his wife, and my husband & me constantly. She is not willing to move into a retirement facility, and will not get an at-home emergency monitoring system. She has "cried wolf" with her "illnesses" so many times, I never know when she is really sick, and usually do not believe her anyway (because it always turns out to be nothing).I have backed off from helping her so much, because she is burning me out, but she comes on even stronger with her needs and tries to make me feel guilty for not coming over to her house as much or calling her every day (she keeps me on the phone 30 minutes to an hour each time, talking about he same old things like her TV shows, complaining about her neighbors, and going down her list of ailments. I do understand not feeling well... I, myself, have my own problems, but I try not to dwell on them. I am just very tired and could really use some time away from my mother. Any time I take some time away, she tries to make me feel guilty. In her eyes, it doesn't matter what all I have done for her already, it is never enough. If I haven't called everyday or come over to her house in a week, then I she will act like she has been sick and she didn't have anybody to help her (When I ask her why she didn't call to tell me, she says she didn't feel like it). I have read other posts about narcissistic mothers, and she definitely fits in this category. She has always been narcissistic and everything has to be "her way". She's not going to change, so does anyone have any advice on how to cope with caregiver burnout when the person you are caring for doesn't really need your help so much, but mainly just needs attention?


My mom used to count on me for alot of things and I too was feeling burnout. She had always told me that she did not want to treat me like her mother had treated her, so one day I had just had it, so I ask her. "Mom remember you stated you did not want to treat me the same as grandma treated you, She stated yes! I then told her ""You're doing it"". You know she stopped for a while, But as she really got much older I didn't seem to mine to much. Now she's gone and I wish I could just
hear her voice one more time. I know you get burned out but please please count your blessings that she is still healthly. God Bless and Good Luck to you.
Sounds like you're feeling at the end of your rope there? And, caring for elderly parents can definitely be wearying at times-especially if we feel like we're being taken advantage of. So, I hope you're getting lots of support from your other family members? Sharing the responsibility for your mother can go a long way in keeping your sanity. So, don't hesitate to ask for a break when you need it! Also, I think it's fair to lovingly set up some boundaries with your mom. Hopefully, with the help of her doctor, you can determine what sort of care she actually needs. And, if you're interested, I've heard of a book during my time at Focus on the Family called Setting Boundaries with Your Aging Parents: Finding Balance Between Burnout and Respect by Allison Bottke that might also help you with this situation. You can find it online at or maybe even at a library. Lastly, maybe you could encourage your mom to find some outside interests or hobbies. I know that's easier said than done, but perhaps some of the organizations out there like Children of Aging Parents (CAPS) or the National Family Caregivers Association (NCFA) will have some suggestions on how to accomplish this. Just a thought. Well, you'll be in my prayers!
So here are the easy (and hard) things to know. You can't change her. AND she isn't making you feel guilty. She may have trained you to react that way, but you can re-train yourself. It will never matter what you have done for her. There will never be enough. There will just be less and less of you.
SO practice saying no. Practice tuning her out. Practice telling her you leave when she complains. Then do it. Practice living with yourself feeling guilty, knowing that doesn't need to be -- and one day (sooner than you think) -- it won't be.
Find ways large and small to claim yourself back. Catch yourself doing things preemptively ("Oh, can't do THAT -- she'll get mad") and decide if you want to do them or not do them. Practice figuring out what YOU want, and how much you want it. With a parent like this, it can be hard for us even to KNOW.
Spot what you believe about your role in the world ("it's my job to make other people happy whenever I can, especially if they AREN'T happy."). Practice, as an article of faith, believing that that isn't so. Try on new lenses for seeing the world, and notice what you notice through the new lens.
You could end up making your brother unhappy, because she will try to work him against you. Let that be okay, or work it would with her. Letting her find her attention elsewhere should be the goal. She could LOVE assisted living, where they have staff paid to revolve around the worlds of the residents. She'll never get there until her current plan stops working.
Easy and hard and simple and complex -- all of the above. But it all starts with knowing you will never get her to stop her behavior. You can only shift your reaction. GOOD LUCK! It is possible, little step by medium step. I promise.
Thanks for your responses. It helps a lot to know that others have been there and understand. I love her and want to help her when she really needs it. I know since she is the age that she is, that I am blessed to still have her in my life. Of course, she depends on me to take her shopping at the local mall, and I really try to enjoy my time with her, and let it be mother/daughter "girl time", but she usually spoils it by her incessant criticizing of others, by her complaning, and by her negativity. It is a very rare occasion that she is in a good mood and is actually pleasant to be around. Her negative, criticizing, (an manipulative) nature started well before my dad passed away. She is very emotionally draining and loves to create drama. So I definitely have to set up some boundaries and not feel guilty about it. I will always be there when she REALLY needs me... in a medical emergency, for doctor visits, household emergencies, etc....., but I am not going to let her continue to use me as her personal servant. My brother understands, and he knows how she is. He helps her with her yard, and she criticizes him for not doing it completely right. He is just as outdone as I am about her unappreciative, criticizing spirit.

I will use the advice that all of you have given me. I have read a book "Coping with Your Difficult Older Parent - A Guide for Stressed Out Children" by Grace Lebow and Barbara Kane. It has been helpful to help me to understand why she might act the way that she does, and to help me to cope... but I find that I have to keep picking the book up and re-reading sections because sometimes I forget how to handle a situation, especially with the way my mother likes to give me a guilt trip and tries to manipulate me.

gardensparrow - I will also get the book that you recommended, and I appreciate your prayers. Thanks to all of you for your help.
I'm a 37 year old single mom. My Mother had to move in with me because she has never been good with money. She moved in with me when I was only 30 years old. MY daughter and I lived in a tiny 2 bedroom apt when she had to move in. I live in Fl and she was living in Va at the time. I did not want her to move in with me. I made it clear that I did not want her living with me but I couldn't tell my mom no. My mom only gets $900.00 to live on so the only place she would be able to afford would be goverment housing. Well we had to move into a 3 bedroom apt. She is on disability because of a stroke but she can take care of herself. She was driving in Va. before moving in with me but for the last 7 years I have had to take her everywhere because she is scared and dosen't know her way around! I find myself cringing when she walks into the room where I am. I have so much anger built up because I feel like I will never find a husband living in the situation I'm in. Everyone thinks I live with her. I don't want to live with her anymore. I don't want to be angry at her. I feel guilty the way I speak to her at times. I love my mom so much and we are very close and I will not be able to live with myself treating her the way I do when she passes. I want to live on my own so bad. I just don't know what to do about this situation. Any suggestions about living arrangements for her?
It sounds like she would do well in Gov. housing for your own sake look into it-call your social service department and tell them what you have told us-there is no reason to give up your whole life for someone who does not even appreciate until then detach as much as you can -learn to say no to every request-you set the rules in your home-if that does not agree with what she wants she can look for some other place-set boundaries -you decide when to take her shopping or maybe she can use a bus-she will not want to change-it is working for her but not you-keep in touch with us -you will get good information here-you can be strong-it will get easier when the sky does not fall the first time you say no to her-it will be easier the next time.
What 195Austin says. Help her find sme place else to live. Your daughter will be home with you only so long. Focus on the two of you, while you have time. She deserves the best of you, as do YOU. Mom will not like it. That's okay. Say yes to your daughter and yes to you. Time to stop putting Mom ahead of you both.
Thanks so much for the support. I think she would be happy in her own place too. She just dosen't reliaze it. I'm worried that she will move back to Va. My sister lives there and she is not good for my mom at all. She smokes and is a drug addict. She would take complete advantage of my mom and stress my mom out beyond belief. I don't think my mom would do that but she threatens it when i mention her getting her own place. I'm still going to check into goverment housing even though I can't bare the thoughts of my mom living in those conditions. She was a single mom of 3 girls and she always fought to keep us out of the projects. Now that I think about it I know I would not be able to make my mom move into goverment housing though. I'm going to check and see if there are any other options. It helps to have support and to know I have people on my side. Thank YOU
Check out the gov. housing -you may be surprised how nice they are-we have senior housing here in New York and most are very nice and they are all the same but charge rent based on income and are not projects at all but nice apartments one peraon will be paying one rent and the person next door will be paying much more for the same accomdations-so it is worth checking them out for yourself.
Senior housing is not the same as "the projects" your mom worked so hard to keep you out of as children. Before you make firm decisions about what you could not allow for your mother do check out what might be available to her.

My mother and her her sister both live in separate "government housing." They are perfectly adequate apartments in clean buildings in safe neighborhoods. Mother's building is older but they do a good job of keeping it up. They recently painted/papered and re-floored all the halls and common areas. Aunt's building is newer and looks like any fine moderate-cost apartment building. Each has furnished her own apartment to her own tastes. Each cherishes her independence. Both buildings have regular transporation to a local grocery store. Now that my mother's health has declined she gets meals on wheels delivered once a day. The community room in each building can be reserved by tennants for private use and we hold family parties in my mother's building, making it much easier for her to attend. Plenty of room and tables for cards and other games, a kitchen where potluck food can be heated or kept cold.

My mother gets by on $800/month with this subsidized housing.

Before you say "I know I would not be able to make my mom move into government housing," please check out exactly what that is. You might be surprised.

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