My elderly mom has no social network and she's hurting my own social life.

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My Mom is 89 and in pretty good health. She lives about 5 minutes from me. I drive her everywhere she needs to go and help out with chores. Aside from becoming overwhelmed with another person's house and life, I notice that Mom leans on me not only for the above-mentioned duties but for her social life as well. As a result, my own social life has suffered. She constantly bemoans her life and her loneliness without my Dad. I almost feel like I'm called upon to be a surrogate spouse, which feels very weird and tiring. And, of course, there is the constant guilt--tripping. I'm so "lucky to have a car and have no job to go to." Therefore, naturally, I am free -- and obligated -- to be at Mom's beck and call. Limits are hard to set when the demands are ever-present and never-ending. I feel like I'm trying to rescue someone at sea and my arms are getting tired! Any and all suggestions would be much appreciated!


Could you let us know a little more about your mother? She sounds like an ideal candidate for a senior community to me. Where is she living now? Senior communities, either independent living or assisted living, are nice because there is bus transportation to the stores. There is also a lot of opportunity for social interaction that your mother seems to need. This would take so much of the responsibility from your shoulders while getting your mother's needs met. I would look around and find what is available, then see if your mother is open to visiting one or more of the places. She may be resistant at first, but find that she loves living in a new home where she can make friends.
Does your mother have any hobbies that she enjoys to do such as crocheting, bridge or anything in that area. I'm sure she is lonely with her life partner gone, and when you are used to a certain way of living and always having someone there it can get a little overwhelming. She may very well enjoy a senior community centre, she could meet people her own age bracket, pick up a hobbie and always have someone around. This would give you a much needed break so that you can go do some of the things you like on your own. Some of the community centres welcome outsiders to join in and who knows she may meet someone of interest. Look into it, it definitly can't hurt to try it. Best of luck to you.
Well I sure can relate to your analogy of trying to rescue someone at sea and your arms are getting tired. Two great suggestions from JB and Angelwhyspers. The great thing is you have a car, a great getaway, sure miss mine. You are so close, good to be separate and yet so close, it gives you some room to breathe, I have none. Maybe you can try and set some boundaries with her, you got to try and do this for yourself. Don't be at her beck and call, make sure others can check in on her if you worry about her. She is in good health, my uncle plays golf everyday at 86 in Australia. So, sounds like mom wants to remain in her own home, the assisted living would open a lot to her, but it is costly too. I would encourage her to join and Adult Senior Center, my mother was totally against this, but now looks forward to going. She did not want to do anything after dad died, said she did not want anything to do with the center. She likes it now, they have activities, she has some friends her own age, and it gives me time to myself, I am in a different situation from you, but time alone is essential to me, you have the space of your own house, make the most of it, believe me I sure would. It is funny, she could get to the point of looking forward to going on senior outings and activities and turn around and tell you she is too busy to keep you occupied and entertained, funny, not, this is my mother of the past, now it is velcro togetherness. How come she won't leave me be for a bit now, LOL.
Due to mobility issues - I moved my parents into a Senior Independent Living facility. Mom was socially isolated in the home even though it was in the same neighborhood I grew up in. The neighborhood is changing and getting Mom into an environment with other seniors totally changed outlook. She is back to her old feisty self!
For mobility issues, I recommend Senior Center Without Walls for telephonic activities - education, games, social, news, etc. It's available in my state - and I'm aware of a couple other states - so I reckon in other states too. I heard of an SCWW in Portugal - so global. My state's SCWW has a website. There is no dues. Actually, the SCWW activities schedule is MUCH BETTER than at least one of our local brick & mortar senior centers. Most of the participants of SCWW are low vision & shut-in, BUT mentally sharp!
We are in the same boat! My folks were living with me, when my Dad passed away. Then Mom said she wanted to move back to her own house, where she had so many good memories. I agreed and sold my home, and moved. Big mistake! Like you, I no longer have a social life. If I'm gone for more than an hour, she gets upset. I also now live miles from my friends, and they no longer come to visit, because of Mom! I have come to accept that this is simply what happens, as we get older and care for our parents. I would simply suggest that like me, you find time for yourself to do something at home, that gives you some pleasure. The days of friends and fun is over, unfortunately.
Why not help your Mom to build a social network? Do any of your friends have parents in a similar situation? Maybe you could put together a gathering that would include your friends and their parents? It sounds like your Mom feels like the new kid in school.
I can totally relate. My mom is just like yours, 83 but can't do anything for herself anymore, but bathe and dress herself with a great deal of difficulty. We live just around the corner from me and wants me there constantly. I am retired, have a husband, a house of my ow to take care of and my own social life, but mom doesn't care. I'm expected to be there all the time, mostly for companionship. I do have a woman who comes in twice a week to do chores but she can only give her 4 hours a week. Nevertheless it does help and I recommend you look into this. I also have Meals on Wheels but she complains about the food constantly. If your mother is like mine, she won't have a thing to do with senior centers. She has visited one and says they ate for 'old' people. She has no interest in hobbies at all and never did. She wrapped her life around me and my father. I'm an only child and my father has been gone for 26 years but you'd think it was yesterday. She moans all the time about wanting him back forgetting that he'd be 91 and of no use to her. Mom has recently been diagnosed with age related memory loss but it is severe. She can't remember what I told her 2 minutes ago and repeats and repeats. It drives me crazy. You HAVE to set some boundaries and fast. Just don't be available every time she wants you. Yes, you will feel guilty but you NEED time for yourself. Don't let her suck the life out of you like my mother does.

My mothers life consists of looking out her window. That's it. She does nothing else, no puzzles, no reading, little TV and she hates the radio. She sits there in total silence hearing the clock tick. No wonder she goes nuts. She looks to me to rescue her from her pointless life, and I do do things with her, and take her out to eat, but no matter what I do it's never enough. Well you know what? She CHOOSES to do nothing and live there alone, it's not my problem. She refuses to go to Assisted Living even though she visited there also. You have to tune her out, all the complaining and crying and just leave. It sound cruel, but hey, you can't help someone who refuses to help herself. She WANTS pity. Don't fall for it. Learn to walk away and live your own life. Hope this helps. Good luck to you and all the caregivers on this site. It's not an easy life.
My mother, who is 86 goes to a senior center to eat her lunch and goes to exercise activities afterwards. She also enjoys going to church every Sunday and thinks of the church members as her church family. There is a transportation service that is especially for seniors and handicapped that picks her up and takes her to the senior center that is either free or has a very low fee. Also, a church member comes and picks her up and brings her back home from church.
Also, having a pet, that requires minimal care, can help some with loneliness. Also, a lot of towns have quilters groups (if that's something you'd think she would enjoy).
Also, there are recreation centers that have classes specifically for seniors such as swimming for arthritis or tai chi (which helps with balance).
Lots of places are looking for volunteers. Some libraries like to have an adult read to the children and there are schools looking for foster grandparents. Pretty much any social service agency is looking for volunteers and volunteering is one of the best things for the soul and it helps one to forget about their own problems.
My mother had difficulty socializing. As a toddler, her sisters, who close to each other, were 6 and 7 years her senior and played unkind pranks on her. I believe those experiences scarred her into late adulthood.
My husband and I went on a cruise with my parents when my mom was 78 and 80. Both times we were participating in group tours with kind, spiritually minded people. The first time she clung to my husband and me like glue. She did make a few attempts to converse with others during workshops and mealtime. If someone else came along and distracted the person she was talking to, she felt hurt. I had to tell her that even I suffer from that flaw (being distracted). It's a normal human trait, not an intentional effort to be rude. She also complained about arriving at mealtime and having most of the seats (including those next to me) gone. I told her it's all right to arrive 15 minutes early. In short, I had to give her some lessons on socializing. During the second cruise, I saw my mother blossom. She talked to people, and they talked to her. She was enjoying herself and did not need to cling to my husband and me. Sadly, she passed away 3 months later.
The point I am trying to make, is that maybe your mother needs to learn some basic socialization skills. She might still be able to learn. Just because a person is up in years, that does not mean they are not a frightened child inside.
Blessings to you.

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