Employee, not daughter.

Started by

Approaching my husband's retirement in less than a year, and I don't want us to be locked into living in the same town as my mother and sister after retirement. My 82 yr old mom has a "teched up" house (alarm, wifi, security cameras, 3 computers, etc) and relies on me as her 24/7 information technology administrator (along with my spouse). I understand that my sister is not competent with complex tech troubleshooting, but I never wanted to have this responsibility which is now in its 6th year. She relies on my spouse and me to complete or supervise her household maintenance, take her to appointments, pay her bills/taxes, be her personal shopper, provide entertainment...I just dread the calls and emails knowing she'll be wanting something else done. No amount of attention for her is enough, and she quickly forgets when I've just spent 5 out of 8 days helping her with things. My only sister lives 3 houses down from her, but she has many genuine health problems, is retired due to bad health, and is rearing (since infancy) her young granddaughter. So, I try to cut my sister some slack, but she finds it easy to go for days without contacting my mom or answering calls, knowing that Mother is going to rely on me anyway. I gave up my career over three years ago due to my mom's and sister's serious health problems, but I don't want to be tied down to having to give up our retirement dreams to remain Cinderella for my mother. Being responsible and competent feels like a curse. I have no other siblings to help out, my mom has no siblings, there are no cousins to help, my sister's daughters are useless (one is in and out of jail), we've had a terrible track record trying to hire good agency/private duty help in this tiny community, my mom doesn't want to move away from here to wherever we go after my spouse retires...I don't see a solution that will appease all of us and welcome suggestions.


I was humming an old Ricky Nelson song as I read your post, I bet you've heard it:

Garden Party
But it's all right now, I learned my lesson well.
You see, ya can't please everyone, so ya got to please yourself
Dear cbrb2017,

You are a very dutiful and loving daughter for doing as much as you have for your mom. And for very thoughtful too because you know your sister has her own issues. I can relate because I too was the responsible and competent one. I had three siblings but they left everything up to me. After my dad's stroke things escalated and I felt a lot of anger and resentment.

For myself, I regret not being more upfront about my own needs and feelings. I should have called for that family meeting or found a counselor for myself. There are resources in the community or through church I could have accessed. But I was determined to be superwoman but the anger was poison.

Talk to your mom about how you feel. And how you would like to cut back on some of those responsibilities. And that you are going to retire and move to another state. Its time to be upfront and compassionate about what the future will look like. Its hard to set new expectations but it must be done. Its hard. Since my father passed away, I still have my mother. I can't turn back 30 years of being her default helper but I try.
The next time someone tells a caregiver that she should take care of her parents as they did their own parents, they need look at what that entails today. Look at the list of things that cbrb is being asked to do - in our grandparents time, helping meant a weekly trip to the grocery store, a monthly trip to the hairdressers, a trip to the bank here and there, an occasional doctor's appointment, an occasional home repair.

I think this is one of the chief reasons many of us are struggling with caring for our parents - they expect us to care for them as they did their parents, but the scope of what they expect from us is vastly different and unsustainable.
Linda, perfect choice of words: "unsustainable."

CBRB, it's time to make a list of everything you do, determine what you can and want to continue to do, and specifically whether you want to be a tech admin or a caregiver. I'm a bit puzzled why a person living alone has 3 computers. Does your mother use all of these, and how much time would you estimate you spend being a tech admin?

You'll have to decide what you want to do and what you don't want to do. But that's the easy part. The difficulty, as you've found, is hiring competent people to hire for the work that you won't be doing.

I think it would be fairly easy to find a tech support company and have them handle that aspect. But the other caregiving tasks are ones which typically would be done by a private duty company, and on that I don't have any suggestions b/c I'm not finding a lot of good options in my own search.
CB.. You haven't mentioned your Mom's limitations or illnesses. Are there any? How about logging for a week or two all of the things you do for Mom and the amount of time it takes. Then categorize the tasks. Apparently there are financial resources as your Mom owns her home and the extras. It is time to 'outsource' some of those tasks. Senior transportation services from the county, Uber or cabs for the errands.
Can sis do the check writing? That sounds like a monthly task in addition to taking paperwork to the tax preparer. She might also be a candidate for 'entertainment'. I'm sure she would like to go to an event with Mom - even if it meant you babysitting for her granddaughter.
Do you want to move in retirement or are you trying to escape? (Just checking so you don't fly the coop just to get away from Mom.) I believe it is time to have a sit down with Mom. "Mom hubby and I are planning on moving once he retires. Certainly, I don't want to leave you without a plan for who will do some of the things we've been helping with. I know you want to stay here and of course sis is here but limited in how she can help. Here are some solutions that I came up with but let's brainstorm this together.
- Sell the house and buy a condo, or move to the independent side of a continuing care community.
- Expedite projects on the house so she is in good shape (for a while at least)
- Begin to use other resources -- transportation, tech, etc.
- Hire an accountant to do the financial stuff if Sis isn't a good solution.
- If she has 3 computers, can she order items online? Groceries as well.
Mom, hubby and I won't be here and it's important that we think about you moving to a more maintenance free situation or that you have competent reliable people to call.

Do you want to think about this and we'll talk about next week?"
She will tell you she doesn't need anything and it is at this point that you are able to summarize the variety of tasks you have been involved with. Let us know how it goes.
GeeWiz, very good suggestions and summary, especially about outsourcing transportation and nonmedical tasks.

(I've tried that and it hasn't been successful!)
The fact that your mom doesn't want to move to be near where you all are going to be in retirement does not mean that YOU are not entitled to move.

Her preferences and wishes don't outweigh yours.

You and your husband have decided to move; let her know when you're going and that you'd be happy to find her an accommodation nearby.

It's her choice where she wants to live. It's YOUR choice how much you want to help.

cbrb - One thing you didn't mention is your mother's financial situation. If your mother were to sell her house, could she afford assisted living? Can she afford paid help to do the things you're doing now?

I'm in a very similar situation to you, except that my mother has a very limited income, enough to pay her monthly bills in her own home and no more. The cheapest assisted living would be approx. $1,000 per month more than the income she has. I've been stuck living in a place I detest for going on 7 years now. I also have that one sister who lives nearby, but I can't stick her with everything. My mother prefers to have me as her helper (even over my sister, she says) for everything she needs, but from my point of view, if she could afford to be in assisted living, I would not be living where I am.

My mother refused to move in with me in a very nice house I had up in the Poconos before I moved to Florida, but I'm actually grateful now, because if she were living with me I'd be responsible for doing everything for her, until the day she dies, and that would be worse. Just having my sister around to split the doctors appointments and the errands is worth a lot to me.

The bottom line though, is that if my mother could afford assisted living, I would insist on that, or at least I would refuse to give up all my options to allow her to stay in her home. If assisted living were an option in your mother's case, I would not feel guilty at all about moving away.
Thank you for the feedback and suggestions, I will follow-up on them. As for some of the questions: she is financially quite well off and therefore believes she should be able to stay at home, though efforts to find companions, caregivers, etc in this TINY community for her and previously for other relations have failed miserably. I think she is approaching the time when she cannot live alone. My husband and I desire to retire to a lakefront community, we are not just plotting to escape the responsibilities here. My mother has high blood pressure, afib (heart), history of falls, is moderately ambulatory by choice (couch potato despite safe indoor and outdoor options at home for working on mobility). She can complete the usual ADL's though she quit cooking for the most part years ago and relies on simple meals and dining out. She does still drive, don't know for how much longer. There is no assisted living center here.
I feel like I just read my own story. If I have to hear one more "I don't understand it so I'll just have you do it," when it comes to anything technology wise, I will explode. That in itself turns into anything that's NOT technology related. "Here read this," when it's too much to read or no glasses are nearby. The unending errands nearly every day. And I help her out financially too. I'm starting to hear things like, "Oh good, money!" when I do help her out. I'm a mess these days too. But it helps in a lot of ways to know that I'm not alone out there.

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