My Elderly Mom Doesn't Want to do any Activity that Doesn't Include ME!

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My mother is 85, in fair health (she is in dialysis three days a week) and very sharp-minded. Unless I take her somewhere (Target, grocery store, to see grandkids, dinner, etc), she only watches TV. She complains that she "doesn't go anywhere or do anything", yet she refuses to move to assisted living facility (we have visited a few). I have checked out the senior centers and events in our city and they seem to be geared toward seniors who need services such as transportation, meals, etc. Most of her friends have died or she has lost contact over many years. I feel suffocated knowing I am her only companion. I don't want to hire someone to make her life more "social". She is resistant to anything new, including the possibility of a computer. Any ideas?


I can see why you feel smothered!

My mother also only watches tv and reads her celebrity magazines unless one of her kids does something with her. More and more she doesn't want to leave her apartment. She has a lot of arthritic pain and moving around is difficult. Instead of going to a restaurant she likes it when we bring a meal in. She doesn't go grocery shopping any more. If she is having a good day and if she has an event coming up she MIGHT let one of us take she shopping for an outfit. She used to like to stay a few days with a daughter and go to garage sales, etc. but now it is hard to talk her into go visiting at all. She likes playing cards and that's usually what her kids do with her once or twice a week.

The difference between my mom, who is also dependent on her children for social life, and your mom, is 1) there are more kids to share the task and 2) she never complains that she is lonely or bored. We never feel smothered. I guess another difference is that your mom's health would permit her to do more on her own if she really wanted to, although it is hard to know what fears and insecurities might be preventing her from doing more.

I don't think you can do anything about the first difference. There is only one of you. Maybe your visits and phone calls have to be a little more frequent than if you had sisters and brothers also visiting Mom.

I'm not sure you can change the second factor, either. If your mom is the complaining type, she has a lot legitimately to complain about. If good friends have died, she feels lonely. If she has no hobbies, she is probably bored. You can be very sympathetic. But you do not need to feel guilty. You didn't cause her problems.

I think you set some realistic boundaries, you do as much as you realistically can to provide breaks from her boredom, and then you just sympathize with her complaints, without feeling that they obligate you to do more than you want to. I think you'll know when you've hit the right level of socializing with your mom when you no longer feel smothered and you look forward to seeing her.

Good luck!
My mother is 81 and I totally understand where you're coming from. I am one of three children, but the only one who has chosen to stay within distance of my parents. My mother still has my dad but they've grown apart and hardly do anything together. I am my mother's only social outlet. She comes over every Friday night and expects me to make something to eat after I've come home from work, pour her drinks, get snacks and entertain her. If she falls asleep on the lounge watching and movie, and I go into the other room, she gets offended. If I don't want to shop all day Saturday I feel like I'm letting her down. I got into the routine of taking a short holiday with her for our respective birthdays, it started as two nights and then three and when she suggested four I put it back to two. I get so frustrated that I'm her only friend and while I encourage her to ring people she knows, she'll say things like "she never rings me, why should I ring her". My brother and sister are no help what-so-ever, they ring birthdays and Christmas - I think my brother didn't even bother this year, he sent a text message. I just want to scream and am considering making up dinner invitations on Friday evenings occasionally just to save my sanity. I know I haven't been much help really.
I would suggest bingo, or pensioner clubs, but then if your mother doesn't drive (as mine doesn't), then it just becomes another job for you to take her to these activities.
I love my mother dearly, and would hate to lose her, I just don't want to feel so responsible for her.
You love your mother dearly, girlnextdoor, and that is very positive. Find ways to accentuate the postive if possible. Maybe spending Friday nights with Mum wouldn't feel so burdensome if you organized it a little differently. Instead of waiting on Mum, cooking, and enteraining every week, what if you switched it up? You host every other week, and the other times you stop at a deli after you pick her up and she buys snacks and treats for dinner. (Could she afford this?) Or you order in a pizza. Or you spend time together in the kichen, getting something simple ready, and both of you cleaning up. What parts of these Friday evenings are irritating to you? Find ways to change those parts!

One Saturday a month you shop with Mum until she drops. One Saturday you go to a museum or a movie or a flower show or a circus -- whatever entertainment is in town and in season. The other Saturdays of the month are yours alone.

Why would driving duty fall to you? Wouldn't your dad be willing to drive her places?

When do you spend time with your father?

Because you love her dearly and you don't want to spoil that sentiment, I suggest finding ways to minimize the parts of your interaction with her that are most troubling to you.

Try to set some boundaries now. It isn't going to get any easier as she ages.

Thanks Jeanne - you've given me some ideas and I really appreciate it. My only niggling problem is that Mum sees coming to my place as a kind of holiday every week and she really looks forward to it. She doesn't have friends and she and my father don't really talk much so I'm her social life. For some reason Mum and Dad have a communication breakdown and on top of everything else I'd rather not play marriage counsellor as well :).
My dad is nearly 85 and is tending only to drive to the places he knows these days as he sometimes gets lost, even when walking. I was going to buy him a GPS but I thought the stress of learning how to use it might make matters worse. :) So that really cuts out him driving mum anywhere new.
About four times a year I have a long lunch on Fridays in school holidays and that gives me a break as I've asked her not to come those Fridays as I'm not sure what time I'll be home. Problem is I feel guilty about having that break and end up spending extra time with her the week before. I'll have to stop doing that I think.
I do on occasions order pizza but it's not her favourite food so we only have it once a month or so. Perhaps I'll start getting Chinese on the way home or something, that might work?
I've recently made small changes to Fridays in that I don't usually give mum the choice of what program to watch on TV as 8 out of 10 nights she falls asleep. That gives me a modicum of control and I don't get so resentful watching something I don't enjoy while she sleeps.
I think I will definitely take your advice about doing something other than shopping on Saturdays. Thank you so much for your incites - I've got to say it feels good to put them out in the open and I don't generally like to share my negative feelings about this too much with my friends.
You need to find the Owners Manual you got when you were assigned a mother. If you've lost it, maybe you can find one on the internet -- lord knows that every other kind of manual is on there.

Please look and see if there is a clause that says you are responsible for your mother's social life. Can't find it? Well then, did you sign some kind of an addendum to the original mother/daughter deal that gives you that responsibility?

What I'm getting at is the niggling problem you're having. Your mother would love you to provide her a holiday every week. Hey, I'd love for my kids to do that, too. But they don't OWE me a weekly (or annual) holiday and you don't owe your mother one. The fact that you are willing and able to provide this pleasure to her sometimes is a bonus. Instead of feeling guilty for the times you don't do it, feel proud for the times you do. Really. It is a subtle difference, but it can be huge.

You are not responsible for the state of your parents' marriage. You are not responsible for either of their social lives. That your mother is lonely or bored is not your fault.

You are, however, responsible for your own social life. If you are spending every Friday night and Saturday with Mum, what is happening in your own social life? Isn't this the time you should be building the foundation for the rest of your life? Do you want to get to your mother's age and have no social life of your own? Who would step into the void and provide you with a social life then?

Continue to do nice things for/with your mother. Do them out of love and with pleasure. Drop the sense of obligation. Definitely drop the guilt. If giving up all your Friday nights is cramping your own social life, switch some of mom's time to Sundays or Tuesdays. Be creative and find ways to give Mum some pleasure and also to live your own life. I don't think this is an either/or -- I think that you can do both. You just have to start looking at it differently.

Good luck!
Yes, you're absolutely right about so many things. Unless I start feeling good about the things I do with Mum rather than guilty when I don't do things, my resentment will just eat away at me. It's going to be difficult to get out of the rut but I'm definitely going to give it a try. Thanks so much.
My mother has now reached new heights of manipulation (I wrote the original post). One sister lives out of town and (conveniently) seldom flies in to visit. My other sister lives in the suburbs (we are in the city) and works full time and has other responsibilities. She, too, conveniently manages to stay away. My mother is a drain. She has nothing to do, says all her friends are dead (not true) and gets furious at me when I make plans with friends. She says I should go, but there is almost always a payback. Today we really had a brouhaha when my sister in the suburbs asked me if I wanted to meet her and do some shopping and have lunch. I seldom see her unless it is with my mother (we do go there a couple Sundays a month for dinner). My mother flipped her lid and said we have some nerve making plans and not including her since my sister never takes her anywhere. From there it went downhill. My sister backed out of the day saying she doesn't want to be manipulated by my mother so she is making other plans. Now I am stuck alone with my mother today and tomorrow (I had promised her a movie this weekend). It doesn't look as if it will ever end. I feel so guilty as I am actually envious of my friends whose mothers have died!!!! How sick and sad is that????
Boy, Janets, do I know just what you mean. I can't stand being my mother's only social outlet. That bothers me more than anything else. I'm not sure whether you live with her. If you do, I'll tell you what I've been doing lately. I dislike cooking for my mother because she really doesn't like what I make. And I'm too tired for it a lot of the time. So I've been taking her to lunch at the senior center, saying that I like it because then I don't have to cook. She enjoys it too, in spite of herself, and since I'm framing it as a break for me, she doesn't want to say no. That works for me because she lives with me. I'm still there with her but she can talk to other people. That's a small break for me, less pressure. If your mom lives alone, is she perfectly okay doing what needs to be done, cleaning and cooking? If it's a burden for her, you might not hire someone to be social, but maybe you could hire someone on the pretext of helping her. It would be a bonus if she could develop a relationship with that person by having other contact, like, how does she get to her dialysis? Maybe there's something that person could help her to do--especially if you have a ready excuse about why you can't do it. Probably none of these ideas are really helping you in your situation, but I hope they give you other ideas. Good luck!
It is pretty sad allright janets. And I'm having a really hard time understanding why you allow this manipulation when you can clearly see it for what it is. You had plans for the day. Mother threw a fit. So? "Sorry it upsets you, Mother, but I'll be back in time to help you into bed. I've left your dinner plate in the fridge." Open door. Walk out. You don't even have to tell her where you are going or with whom. You don't have to tell Sister about the fit, at least not until you're relaxing in the food court. Of course your mother is a drain and you are flowing right down it. She gets furious that you have a life of your own? So what? Let her get furious. Your mother thinks you have some nerve making plans without her. I think the real problem is you don't have enough nerve to carry your plans out.

You are right. This will never end. Unless you end it. Mother isn't going to volunteer to stop doing what she knows will get her way. If you keep caving in the results will keep being the same. If you want to stop envying your friends whose mothers have died, you need to change your behavior and get a life. If this is too hard to do on your own, sign up for some counseling to get you started.

Continue to be loving to your mother. Take her to movies occasionally. Take her to family dinners at your sister's. Shop with her now and then. But don't sacrifice your own life. You are a very dutiful daughter and you deserve respect from your mother, not manipulation. I don't approve of adult children abandoning their sick parents and that is not what I am suggesting. But there is a huge range between abandonment and enslavement. Please position yourself in the healthier middle!
Thank you girlnextdoor and Jeannegibbs. Can we all 3 of us go out for a cocktail, please??? All good points - and I definitely need a slap in the face to stop allowing this manipulation. I don't live with her; rather we are in the same building. I moved into an apartment in her building (a great building so no sacrifice in terms of living here) because it is actually easier to be closer than to feel I need to sleep over when she isn't feeling well. I do spend a fair amount of time in my own place. I think another part of my situation is that I am resentful of my sisters who take it for granted that I will entertain our mom - while telling me that I need to stop doing so. They take vacations when I want - and I am talking major vacations to Europe and beyond because they know I am here. I don't have the means to do that, with or without my mom - but it's the principle, of course. I really liked two suggestions above. Eating at the senior center under the pretense of liking it is ingenious. But mostly, I am going to try to do what Jeannegibbs has said in her last paragraph. I recently did a show (I am a performer) and it was a tremendous release for me. My mom was actually fairly supportive, in that she didn't give me a hard time for going to rehearsals! And she sure enjoyed the show. That made me very happy. I agree about the range between abandonment and enslavement. Very well said. Thank you, ladies.

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