My mom doesn't see anything wrong with my husband and I taking care of her for 15+ years, with no help from my siblings.

Started by

My Mom is 76 and lives with my husband and I. She moved in with us when my father died unexpectedly and she was left with only a Social Security check each month. I was forced to quit work to stay home with her, as she has many health issues. My husband has a good job, but there are still no extras. We built a house because she was not "comfortable" in the apartment we had. We gave her the master suite, largest closet, by far, and the roomiest bathroom. I taxi her to doctor's appointments and other medical facilities constantly. We buy her things all the time, feed her, entertain her, take her out to shows and dinners, etc. The whole nine yards. She does not appreciate any of it and, in fact, she grumbles when things are not exactly the way she expects them. She acts as though the house is hers and we are simply her servants. My husband is too kind and respectful to ever say anything.
Anyway, I have two siblings, both of which are married, but no kids. They haven't offered a penny or anything else the whole time she's been with us. And when I mention it, which has only been a few times because I do not enjoy asking, they act as though I am running a scam and just trying to make money off of them. But, what's worse, is my mom's reaction. It is something akin to, "You know they both have either medical problems or financial problems, they cannot help." And she actually gets mad st me for even considering it. Meanwhile my sister and her husband have $400,000 house with a pool, and just bought a &100,000 RV to vacation in every weekend. My brother has always been the black sheep and he is constantly getting himself into trouble and whining to everyone who will listen. Mother, of course, is one of his biggest sympathizers. He's actually one of the reasons she's in this boat. He took out a mortgage on her, paid for the house for a "money venture" and it went sour and she lost her house. She will never admit that it was his fault, however, and makes up stories to her friends and family. She's been coddling him his whole life.
I am just beside myself with frustration, anger, and I am ready to throw in the towel. Any suggestions would be much appreciated. I love her very much but I just think my husband and I are getting a raw deal.


Well, to be brutally honest, you and your husband are giving yourselves a raw deal. You didn't have to buy a house because your mother was uncomfortable in your apartment. You didn't have to give her the biggest suite. You don't have to pamper her and entertain her with money you don't have. You didn't have to embark on this years-long journey with no agreement from your siblings as to how and how much they would contribute to the venture.

She's 76 and you've been doing this for 15 years? Why? If Mom became widowed at 61, why didn't she get a job and try to support herself? Because you offered your home and board and she didn't have to?

If you want changes, you have to make them. Tell your Mom and your siblings that hubby and you are selling the house and moving back to a more manageable apartment. And, you will only consider an arrangement where Mom can live with you if you are provided x amount of monetary contribution from your siblings and y amount of time off/respite/physical assistance with Mom. Otherwise, Mom can find a senior subsidized apartment and have to rely on herself and public services for meals, transportation, etc.

In other words, nobody is going to make a move to change this situation as long as it is working so well for them and Mom is being cared for so admirably, to boot. This situation won't change unless you and your husband change it. And the time is now, before your mother gets so old and infirm that any notion of independence for her is completely out of reach.
CarlaCB has made some excellent points.

I'm always sympathetic to posters who resent that their sibs don't do anything for the parents. But sometimes I wonder why posters allow themselves to get into the positions in which they find themselves (and complain about). This is one of those situations.
I understand and appreciate the points the two commentators are making but there are circumstances which lead to our decision to bring my Mom into our home. First, She had suffered for many years, taking care of a daughter who was stricken with a lifelong disease. requiring her to spend most of my sister's growing up years, in hospitals for months at a time. My sister, incidentally, still suffers from those maladies, and has been declared medically deceased three different times..(She did come back very quickly every time, and her doctors felt she had a higher purpose in life..That's another story) .. Mother experienced that while still working as a high school teacher, serving as a Pastor's wife( if you know anything about that, you know, it entails a whole lot!) and she took care of my brother and I ... My father's death was due to deep depression, which culminated in him taking his own life. My Mother had to carry on with very little and their Church's parishioners turned on her.. ( Still cannot fathom their horrible behavior).... Anyway, I have always felt my Mother deserved the best after ALL that she has dealt with and that brought us to this point. Basically, her whole adult life, she has sacrificed for everyone around her...
I feel these circumstances are very different from the average ones, for People in this situation, and therefore I have had to weigh things differently.
Ah, the unmistakeable screech of the handbrake turn...

So your mother has suffered terribly, and in comparison it is a small sacrifice that you and your husband have undertaken, no more than is due to her, is that correct?

I have a different question. For fifteen years you and your husband have gladly and willingly done your duty by your mother. So what changed? Why the frustration, anger and readiness to throw in the towel that you reported in your original post?
In response to the question from the last commentator... It's not ONE thing causing this feeling but rather a snowball of many.. First and foremost, it's her attitude of entitlement instead of appreciation. These things we do for her are just expected now instead of cherished. Also, my sister and her husband are doing sooo well financially now, and my Mom has no sense (for a lack of a better word) that they should be helping us help her. Like I said in my earlier post, they just bought a $100,000 RV and she was bragging about it to me, of all people, and showing me a dozen pictures! I may be wrong in my thinking, but I think that is just cruel and unsympathetic to our needs. Especially, when I think of what we might could've done or had, if we had not had to deal with this.... Oh, and incidentally we have a son, who stands to inherit little or nothing because I had to quit work and we have had to pay most of my Mom's expenses. I do not mean to sound petty but I think I have more than earned the right to feel this way.
Mkamazonas - I think you certainly have the right to feel this way. I think almost everyone in your situation feels that way. When a parent is unappreciative, when the caregiving becomes a major sacrifice, and when the other family members are going merrily about their lives just ignoring your plight and being happy that they're not the ones who have to do it, it really bites.

Many of us are quite familiar with the kind of hurt and resentment you describe.  When you see the facebook posts of their pool parties and their vacations, their new RV and all the other fun they're having. I've been there. But I learned the hard way that I was not able to change my siblings' feelings or behavior, and challenging them only led to ill will and conflict. I had to let go of it. I also had to pull back a lot in my caregiving for my mother, in order to keep my resentment and anger from flaring up. I had to stop cooking for her, for example, because I resented the hell out of the way she sat there expecting to be waited on, and then complained about whatever I cooked. I was always seething inside, thinking "She has 7 children, why am I the only one doing this?" So I stopped doing it. She's not happy, but I'm less crazed about it than before.

I've let go of a lot of my other responsibilities too. I got a neighbor woman to move in with her and she handles a lot of the day to day in exchange for free rent. I see my mother maybe once or twice a week. I still help her, but not to the extent that I feel burdened, because my next step after feeling burdened is feeling resentful that I'm the only one bearing this burden all the time.

For me to solve the problem for myself, I learned to do only what I could do without feeling resentful. I will never forgive my siblings for their lack of support and their unwillingness to share the burden when I was so unhappy for so long, but they don't occupy space in my brain now. I'm living my own life and not thinking about them, just as they always lived their lives and didn't think about me. That's what worked for me, and that's why I'm sharing it with you. Take it for what it's worth to you, if anything.
Entitlement instead of appreciation. H'm.

But as you yourself said, she deserves the best. Doesn't that make her, quite so, entitled?

I don't think you're petty. I do think you have - you don't have to earn it, you just get this as part of being a human being - every right to feel as you feel.

But what I do think is that you have been sitting on top of a huge, molten mass of emotions and it is beginning to boil over. And, so, what you really need to do is figure out what you feel, and even more importantly how you want to act to change what needs changing.

There is your mother's history, her current needs and how they should be met and by whom.

There is the tragedy of your father's depression and his taking his own life. I am very sorry that you and your family have had to live with this, and that you felt so betrayed by your community. But I also note that you frame this terrible thing in terms of what happened to your mother. What about what happened to you?

There is the involvement or otherwise of your siblings, their contributions or lack of them.

There is the history of your marriage, and how your mother's needs have impacted on it.

There is what you want to happen next. What do you want to happen next?

If you don't already talk to a counsellor or therapist, it might be a really good idea to find one you are comfortable with. Because you have been holding this in for far too long, and if you now just try to release some of that mixed anger, resentment, hurt and loss without somebody very skilled to guide you, it could become a highly destructive process instead of a healing, growing one.

You sketch an outline of this history and then mention that you don't want to sound petty when you express a little of how you feel about everything. Petty isn't the word that springs to mind. I have an impression that you are about to explode.
I don;t mean to sound cruel, but I sence a creeping sence of resentment overcoming your feelings of Mom deserves everything we can do for her. That as in YOU.. you took this on, and left the others off the hook. Of course they are not going to want to step up after you have been doing this for 15 years. They just expect this to go on as it has. And you are worried about leaving an inheritance for your son? Most of us who have taken on caregiving are not going to have an inheritance.. that is why we have hopefully taught our children to make sure they can make thier own way in life, and try to plan our futures so we don;t suck up thiers.
I have to agree with Carla, you took this on. Your mother was young enough to go to work and rebuild her life but instead you took her in and catered to her and now she continues to expect to be catered to and it has gotten old for you.

I am saying this as an only child,please do not blame your siblings for not getting involved in this hot mess. You took this on and now realize it is much more than anticipated and now you want them to bail you out. They were smart enough not to get into this. Your mom is responsible for taking care of herself, no one else owes her a life. You made the choice to help her out and that was very nice but you can't demand others do the same.

If you want things to change you need to change, not make others change.
It sounds like you took this on feeling your mom deserved the best and now it is getting to be too much (15 years is a long time!!!!!) - and resent your siblings.

Honestly - whether the siblings have time or money or not - you do NOT get to tell them what they should contribute. This is your mom's life - she is responsible for it. Likewise - you have your own life. It sounds like it is time to separate your mom's life so much from yours. I'd recommend her moving to a good assisted living. Get some of your life back. but fuming about your siblings won't change anything and it is misdirecting the anger. You need to make changes to make yourself happy. From your responses above - it does not sound like this is a message you are ready to accept yet. Perhaps start with counseling to get perspective and help making decisions. Good luck!!!

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