Do we have to forgive and quietly endure everything they dish out simply because they're old? Who made that rule?

Started by

My mother was a mean spirited, controlling, spiteful woman all her life. When she hit 70 (she's 82 now), she got it in her head that now that she was old, she could take off the gloves & behave anyway she liked. If someone didn't like it....she would just say she was an old woman. That is supposed to make everyone over look anything she does or says. It's her "get out of jail free" card. She should automatically be forgiven because she's old. God knows I've tried to forgive & overlook her behavior because I'm the only person on this earth who will care for her. She has perfected the art of putting on that "sweet innocent old woman" mask for her doctor, the nurses, her brother & sister...but once she gets in private...the mask comes off & she is once again nasty. No one believes me when I tell them what she's really like. She's getting careless lately about letting that mask slip. Still no one wants to help me. Most people now simply avoid her. Yet, they still want to criticize me, give me advice...but no help. She has no idea how close she is to be thrown into a nursing home. Why must I endure this? She sits all day & complains about her life. She names off the people that she feels has disappointed her or abused her (my name is always in the former category) & she wails about why God has punished her by allowing her to live this long & to be stuck in a family full of losers. No matter what I do for her, she tells her brother & sister on their daily phone calls how I never do anything for her. She will be eating her lunch when she calls them & I will hear her tell them how I haven't fed her in 2 days. She went to the doctor 3 weeks ago, yet I heard her tell her sister that she hasn't been to the doctor in over 2 years because I am too lazy & mean to take her. I have shipped her off to another state to spend the winter with my son & nephew. They called me last night from their car. She had them to the point of nervous breakdowns with her constant criticisms, negative comments, telling them they were losers & would never amount to anything & saying how their parents were too. They stayed in their car in subzero temperatures for nearly 5 hours until they saw her bedroom light go off because they were afraid of what they might say or do if they stayed in there with her. These two boys were the only people she ever appeared to like & now she's burned that bridge too. Looks like that experiment failed & I will have her back next week. This is pure hell. And before anyone says, "she might be sick", I have had her checked from head to toe. I have spoken privately with her doctor. His response? There is no magic pill on the market that can turn a mean person into a loving person. She is what she is....and I am stuck with her. Am I the only person with this problem?? I honestly feel as if I am. I see people my age with their parents in stores, at the doctor, out & about. They smile & share laughter. There appears to be such a loving relationship....then I come home to's more than I can bear.


Yeah, where do you get those sweet little grannies you see on tv? I want one. I don't have an answer for you but if you looked around this forum you have seen the multitude of other caregivers with the MOMMIES FROM HELL. Maybe she has a personality disorder or something, who knows. But people put up with this crap till it ruins their lives. All I can say is take some action. There is no law that says you have to take care of her and let her live with you.
You do not have to be quiet and endure a narcissistics behavior, whether yoing or old. Sometimes you have to tell these type of people off. Tell your mother if she doesn't stop bullying you, she will be living in a place more suitable for her caregiving needs.
Deltaborn - I feel your pain, I really do. No, you are not by any means the only person who is going through this, although your mother's nastiness seems to fall at the extreme end. She seems to have no filters at all and feels free to say whatever she wants.

You can't make her into a loving person, but you might be able to force her to contain herself somewhat. You can stop her in her tracks and tell her you're not lifting another finger for her until she apologizes or retracts what she just said. You can remind her that you're taking care of her out of the goodness of your heart and she's be totally sunk if she succeeded in destroying the goodness of your heart. You can actually consider putting her in a nursing home if she's eligible for one, or forcing her to spend her money for paid care if she has any.

Bottom line is, she holds all the cards right now because you're not using the power that you have. You don't absolutely have to take care of her. You should know that and she should know that. It's up to you to make that count for something. If she wants your help, she needs to control her abusive comments and attitude. You're not a slave. You're not obligated to care for her no matter how badly you're treated.

As for the happy pairs you see in public, remember you're only seeing them in public. My mother and I appear to get along well in public also, Behind closed doors it's quite another matter. It may be so for many of the others that you see.
My mother has vascular dementia and step father has alzheimers and they both live us. My stepfather is very docile but my mother on the other hand is not. She has always lied about certain things but now it's constant. My husband and I went out town for a couple of weeks and I had a friend check in with them daily to see if they needed anything snf she always said no. We had ice and snow and when I came home there was ice all over the front steps. I asked my mom if she asked my friend to put ice melt down and she said she did but my friend didn't know where it was. It was a lie, my friend actually asked her if she wanted ice melt on the stairs and mom said no. Had someone fallen on the stairs it would be us getting sued not her. A service man came to our house and needed to go in the crawl space to check on things and my mother told him to come back and turned him away. Had she let him do his job he would've noticed we had a burst hot water tank and 8" of water under our home. She said she didn't turn him away but I have proof she said it. It would've saved us from s big headache. One of our cats had to be put down while we were away and my mother knew for days that he was sick and suffering but didn't call my friend and tell her. So when my friend got to my home she heard him screaming in pain and then took him to the vet. My mother is losing her reasoning skills and common sense and then lies on top of it. She's alienating me from my friends because she says hurtful things to them. She lied about antifreeze being spilled in my garage and my dog got into it. Luckily I caught it in time and my dog is fine. She lies about dropping pills on the floor where my granddaughter could get them and possibly kill her. The rule now is no more pills out of their Space. I don't know what to do. Do I just let her keep lying and not believe anything she says and ignore her? We're going out of the country in 2 months and I don't think it's safe to leave them here by themselves. I do have alarms on all the doors and cameras everywhere. I get notices when a door is left open but not if it's unlocked, which happened while we were gone. For 2 1/2 weeks our back door was unlocked and someone could've cleaned us out, say nothing they could've been hurt
You are NOT stuck with her. You do have a choice and that's to find a place for her where she's cared for by professionals and not family she can constantly berate (although she might try to criticize the staff as well).

I like Carla's suggestion of having a frank talk with her, although I suspect she'll pout and get angry. At least try to let her know her attitude is not acceptable and if it doesn't change she'll be living someplace else.

In the meantime, start researching local facilities, interviewing, even bringing home brochures for her to look at to let her know you're serious. It seems cruel, but it isn't as cruel as the way she's treating you and your family.

You don't mention assets; does she have sufficient funds to pay for AL or IL?
Deltaborn your mother and mine must have been twins. I could bore you for hours/days with horror stories. As far as the "old" thing is concerned, for the 12 years before she went into a nursing home she lived in a huge condo house ... 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, 3 living rooms, double garage, but it wasn't big enough or grand enough for her and a small dog.

Though they'd never spoken, she hated the lady next door and always referred to her as "old fancy pants". One day I rounded on her for an explanation and got "Well, she should have offered to help me". I replied she sees you dressed to the nines, walking the dog, going shopping in your car - you don't look like you need help. Her answer was "because I'm old".

The lady was a school teacher and, while I cared for Mommie Dearest ("MD"), she retired and in walking my own dog, she and I waved. I heard from a neighbour that she'd developed breast cancer and popped a note in her mail box saying if I could help at all let me know. Along with friends and relatives, I drove her to chemo occasionally. First time I took MD's car as my van was a bit dog hairy. I got "She's got a damned nerve using MY car". After that we took the van and I got "She's got a damned nerve calling you to run her around" ... I had my own phone line in the cold gloomy basement where I lived so MD had no idea who called me or for what, but you see it was all about her, had been all about her life long and screw everyone else. When the lady passed away I went to the remembrance service, taking an elderly neighbour with me. MD refused to go "Just tell them I'm not feeling well". She wouldn't lift a finger to help her own parents when they were very old "too much trouble, can't be bothered" and wouldn't associate with anyone unless there was something in it for her.

She continued her ways for the three years she was in a nursing home, hated everyone, though she did try to cozy up to the male residents which got her nowhere much to her horror, then she despised them as well. One funny story - I was visiting one day and a male aide came into the room. Alan was a lovely young man and he was telling us what he and his BOYFRIEND were doing for Christmas, while MD lay in her bed and batted her eyelashes at him. I don't know how I kept a straight face.

Having abused me life long and eventually driving me close to a nervous breakdown, MD passed in September. There is no other family and she'd burned so many bridges she had no friends so she died alone. Even people who she had known, when advised of her passing, never asked if there would be a service or something ... no-one cared and I personally was very grateful she was gone.

Get her into a nursing home and let the staff care for her and tolerate her. After all, after 8 hours they get to go home to peace and sanity ... caregivers 24/7 never do.
Ash, did you live in the basement in your mother's house? With all that space that's all she offered you?
delta, I know completely where you're coming from. My mother seems very sweet, but she is like dealing with shadows and mirrors. It can be hard to put a finger on exactly what is wrong, so it always feels like I am doing something wrong. Even when I know I am not to blame for things, I feel like I'm really to blame. She is a master of a technique called gaslighting. A good example of it was that we grew up with an autistic-spectrum father who wanted nothing to do with his children. If I mentioned it, she said nothing was wrong, that my father was a wonderful husband and father. It made me wish I'd said nothing at all and made me realize everything that was wrong was me. She was perfect. My father was perfect. Their marriage was perfect. I was the one who was bad.

Age and dementia play well into her gaslighting. Now she invents the facts and gets very angry when I don't go with her facts. We had an event last night where she told me I was lucky she took me in when I had nowhere else to go. I reminded her she had asked me for years to help them. She denied she ever did. And I honestly think she may not remember, because it would hurt her pride if she did. So she rewrote the story or me as the needy urchin child. So my reality again was denied and again things became my fault.

Sometimes I think it would be easier to deal with someone who came after me with rocks or knives than someone who uses passive-aggressive techniques such as gaslighting. Gaslighting works on your self esteem and sanity. If I didn't know what she was doing I would be a mess.

My mother has fairly advanced VaD, but doesn't need a nursing home yet. It is tempting to walk away, but it would create a huge mess if I did. I do have to admit that it is hard to stay and that I won't mind it when the end comes. I just hope I have a few good years left.

I do have to admit that I had a thought of what a title of the book of my life would be. Don't Do What I Did came to mind right away.
JessieBelle you said it beautifully. Perfectly. When a person grows up with a mother like this, they are always and forever convinced that everything is somehow all their fault. They either did something wrong or didn't do something they should have. You live your entire life second guessing every decision, thought and feelings that you have. You automatically think that if you thought it, said it, felt it or did it....then it must be wrong. I had a husband once who said, "your problem is you feel personally responsible for everything. You have spent your life apologizing and feeling guilty about things that are out of your control or have nothing to do with you. If you hear of starving children in Africa...somehow you feel that's your fault too." He said that to me shortly before we divorced. It does a huge number on our heads....and our mothers never ever even care about that. To them it's all about getting their own way and telling it their way. Thank you so much for your comment.
You sound like you have been through it a lot. Gaslighting is, IMO, one of the cruelest things parents can do to their kids.

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