Mom wants all of me...all.

Started by

My older sister (she is 76, I am 72, Mom is 108) and I share taking care of Mom in her home. Sister lives in the same town, I am 900 miles away, but come every 3 or so weeks, stay for 8-10 days so Sis gets a break. Been doing this for 5 years. But Mom wants me and my husband, plus married daughter with 2 kids (who needs me to help with child care), to pull up stakes and move to her neighbor hood so she can see us every day, and I can help care for her so my sister does not get worn out. I am unwilling to do that. Her reason: that's what a family does...stick close. For most of her life her family lived relatively near each other and now she expects the same.

Who's right? Am I truly that selfish to want to maintain my life, home and family (which I have built for 45 years)? Or is my obligation to live up to her expectations? We tried getting in a part-time caregiver to help Sister, but that was a "stranger", not family, and thus unacceptable.

My guilt and anger is reaching a breaking point. Because I won't do what Mom wants, she tells me I should not come back because it's too hard on her when I leave each time. But I can't leave the care burden entirely to my sister, who completely understands and supports my position.

Now Mom is (once again) angry that I am leaving, crying, "What will I do if your sister gets sick or hurt?" Well, we have tried to get additional help, but she rejected that option. For her there is only one solution: I should come and live with her.

What do I do? Give in and leave my family? Let my sister deal with it? I feel catatonic, unable to please everyone.


Please don’t let yourself be guilted into uprooting your whole life and moving to be close to your mom. Moving in itself is a massive undertaking at any age. If you give Mom what she wants, you will become her slave at her beck and call 24/7/365. Then, when she passes, will you move back “home”? What does your sister say? Is she content with the current situation.

At some point you will need to speak with your sister and decide when it’s time to put your foot down with Mom. It’s not easy, but it sounds like Mom needs to be told what’s possible and what’s not.
Sister45, first how amazing your Mom is 108, and seeing all the changes in the world.

What your Mom is doing is that she wants to continue with her lifestyle but wants you, your husband, and your daughter and her 2 children to change their lifestyle, plus your sister who is the primary caregiver. This is the time that you quietly say to your Mom "sorry, I cannot possibly do that" and don't say anything more.

My gosh, both you and your sisters are seniors yourselves, with your own age decline issues. What is also happening is that your Mom still sees you and your sister as being in your 20's and 30's with boundless energy. Oops, that ship had sailed a few years ago.

Another thing that is happening, when ever an elders lives with a grown child or a grown child moves in with an elder, the child/adult dynamics return back to how it was back when the grown child was a teenager. The elder now is back into being the "parent" and you and your sister are just "kids" so what do you know :P

I worry greatly about your sister being in her 70's and doing all this work. Stats have shown that around 40% of caregivers die leaving behind their love ones. That is so very unfair, a parent shouldn't bury a grown child.

Time for your sister to try to set boundaries. Since your Mom refuses caregivers coming in, have your sister make up a list of all the things she does for Mom on a weekly basics.... now have her cross off half of those items... now cross off a couple more. And stick to the list. And have your sister also learn to say "sorry, Mom, I can't possibly do that" "I need someone to help ME with your care" "You need to hire an experienced professional caregiver".

Yes there will be major guilt and some very uncomfortable moments, but at least everyone is gets back a little part of their life each time. I wished I had known about that before venturing upon the journey of helping my very elderly parents.

Have you tried the "we'll see" response? Indefinite delaying tactics rather than getting into tangled explanations or direct confrontation with her? I should try fobbing her off rather than refusing.

But snakes alive! No, it is not reasonable for your mother to expect you literally to move your entire life and family back to her street. Of course not. You can be sympathetic to her feeling the need to have her loved ones clutched to her at this time of life, but that still doesn't mean you have to construct reality around it!
Good grief, I hate to say it but this lady seems to be perfectly willing to suck the life out of you and your sister! She's 108... Does it seem at all likely that you or your sister will be able to enjoy such a long life span? Nope, didn't think so!

You will have to set boundaries as she WON'T.
Well, obviously the answer to moving your family to please your mum is, "No!" I think, given you and your sister's ages, it would be a good idea for the two of you to meet and make up a care plan for your mum for the future. Your sis is in danger of burning out and developing health issues due to the burden of care, and you are suffering from stress. It is time for change.

Your mum is showing signs of stress or something more by being so agitated when you leave. Has she been evaluated recently?

If you could involve a third party like her doctor or a social worker, mum may take the news that she needs help outside of the family better. There is no way you and your sister should continue to carry this burden alone.

Some people have brought in an extra person to "help" them e.g. with housework and that has morphed into more help in time. It might be worth trying that.

Do let us know how you work this out.
Personally, I think it is extremely generous and loving of you to go so often and stay so long to give your sister a break, considering you live 900 miles away. I have siblings that live that far away and I'm lucky if they cruise through once a year or so to be fed and entertained while they happen to be vacationing nearby.

Your mother is being totally selfish and unrealistic. Her preferences can not be allowed to dominate your and your family's lives. You and your sister need to join forces to set some boundaries with her. She needs to accept that she can either agree to outside help, or make do with less help than she would like.
Your 108 y/o mother has used up any caregiving credits she might have had. Shame on her for expecting her 72 and 76 y/o daughters to take care of her!

I agree that you and your sister need to join forces and set boundaries with your mother. She's had way too long to call all of the shots here!
Your mother is 108?! Well bless her heart! She can want any thing she wants to want, and can expect anything she can imagine. She can fantasize that Lawrence Welk is coming to dance with her next week.

But none of her wants and expectations and fantasies require you to do anything. She is entitled to them, but they don't obligate anyone else.

Would she enjoy skyping with you and your family every week? Could your local sister help her with this?

If Mom needs in-home help (and I can't imagine that she doesn't) she needs to arrange for it and pay for it.

"What family does" depends on the family, their relationships, and circumstances. What family shouldn't do is have unreasonable expectations of each other or practice emotional black mail.
Awe, bless her heart for reaching 108 years old, that is a feat in itself, I'm sure you LOVE your Mom and sister a lot, with the help you bring every few weeks!

No, of course you should not pack up your life and move your entire family there to be near her, that is an unreasonable request, just your going there is an incredible gift to your sister, and one that we don't often see here on the AC, as normally the burden is placed all on one child of the parent to manage, and we all know how difficult it is! You are a gem for helping as much as you do!

Now is the time to get together with your sister, to come up with a new strategy, on how Mom's life can be better managed, and then have a sit down with the 3 of you, to discuss some workable solutions. Plus, MOM needs to get on board, before one or both of you burn out completely. It is very difficult for parents to understand that we too are getting on in years, and that our own health (or that of other family members) might be compromised with illness, arthritis or other concerns, jobs, kids, finances, as our parents still see us as perpetually young, which is silly in itself.

For now, continue doing what you are doing, and work towards new solutions. This stuff takes time, but I know you will because you are such a caring person!

Happy holidays, try to enjoy them!
Thank you all for your great support and affirmation of what I believed was my role, i.e., to do as much as I can as often as I can. My sis DOES support my position, and I love her dearly for that. We have tried several times to explain to Mom that her expectations are unrealistic, but to no avail. Freqflyer, you are right that Mom sees us as still kids that she should be able to control (is she VERY controlling).  We are grateful that she does not have dementia, but that means she can still think for herself and therefore (to her way of thinking) can run her life her way.  And thus she absolutely rejects any suggestion of compromise.  The only limits she will accept are those she imposes.  

Unfortunately, because of her anger and disappointment over my refusal to bend to her wishes, she makes my visits very ... toxic for me.  Not that she doesn't make Sister's life difficult, but saves the real vitriol for me.  (I am already out of the will.)  I don't think I can bear to be there for Christmas this year, particularly with my grandkids being 5 and 2.5.  I WILL NOT miss these precious years with them.  Unfortunately, it is not feasible for all 6 of my family to go visit her at this time.

I read so many posts here demonstrating that my situation is minor compared to many others, so I take strength in our shared challenges.  Thank you all.

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