Mom washes her hands of Dad. Can't be bothered.

Started by

My mother is physically and mentally able to care for my father, who has no other issues than dementia and a bad attitude, but she, also with a lifelong bad attitude, can't be bothered. I am made out to be the 'ungrateful' daughter because I won't 'step up' every time she wants to do her own thing, which is quite often.

13 Comments

My apologies, I did not realize that would actually be my post, I thought it would serve as a preview.

My mother is on the go all the time. She has hobbies that take her out of town. She leaves my father home alone all the time, and she knows that he is driving, when he should not be, but she could care less, as long as he is 'out of her hair'. Sometimes I honestly think she is simply waiting for an 'accident' to happen, that will free her to do as she pleases. She is already looking at taking cruises and trips with her friends, and my father is physically, other than slow to walk, in great health for his age. She manipulates situations to her advantage that on the surface sound like concern "Oh, don't you want to drop by to see your grandchildren?" when this is really a disguise for "Well, as long as we're here, we may as well go shopping where I want to go." Another example "Are you going to the sale on Friday?" is a trick. If I say no, she will say "Oh, well, then, you can go check on your father, because I'm going to another state to a quilt show." ALLLLLL the time.

While I can't say I was an abused child, my parents never stood a chance of winning parents of the year. As an adult, I moved away. They moved here, several states away from their perfectly fine home with a nice senior center right up the road.

Friends who grew up in loving relationships with their parents simply don't understand. They tell me things like "Oh, you're so lucky to have both of your parents still living." No, the lucky ones are those who had loving parents, and a natural desire to care for those parents.

I am ready to give up on my dreams, sell everything and just go back to a nine to five job, because obviously, my mother is going to expect me (other siblings live far, far away in other states) to take care of him, then she is going to have fun and dance away until it is her time to be old, then guess what? Me, again. So I should simply resign my life until they pass, and stop being the ungrateful daughter. She rudely reminded me that she 'carried me for nine months'. What every child wants to hear, "I gave birth, now you are obligated."
You are probably right about what she expects. That certainly does not obligate you to fulfill her expectations!

Start immediately erecting and defending boundaries. Establish a time you will visit with Dad, and stick to it. If you give her Wednesday afternoons, then when she calls on Monday, "Sorry, that won't work for me."

Practice saying NO with no explanation or apology. "No, I can't do that."

Do everything you can to stop your father from driving. That puts other people at risk and is not acceptable. Report him to the DMV.
Don't resign your life - do tell them that you can't, and won't, be caring for them.
I have to emphasize though that you can't downplay your father's "no other issues than dementia and a bad attitude." That's h*ll on wheels.
Hi LooLoo, thank you. Definitely not downplaying my father's condition, I just meant that as a way to establish that she is not having to feed him, bathe and clothe him, or tend to medical issues. Many thanks. :-)
Jeanne, many thanks. I was just thinking about something earlier. The past two days, I've driven my father (the first day, my mother was with us, complaining every step of the way) to a denturist. This morning, he called me to say the teeth were horrible, simply wouldn't do, refused to tell me exactly why they were 'horrible', and then said "I'm sorry I bothered you!" in a sarcastic tone. I told him to put the new teeth into water, put his old ones back in, and tell mother to make another appointment. I know darned well she is going to pull the "But I don't know
how to get there" bit, when they have two GPS units. She can figure out how to download music on the internet, is computer savvy, has a cell phone, lap top AND a tablet, so there is no excuse other than she cannot be bothered with him. She can darn sure figure out how to get to the craft store, the antique store, craft shows, and such, even in other states.

Here is what is going to happen. (At this point, I'm just crying on your shoulder, and not really looking for answers, just an outlet.) She wants to go to a quilt show on Friday. I want to go to an estate sale the complete other direction. He will throw a fit about his teeth needing to be fixed right this instant, so she will likely take him, though she previously acted as though she couldn't possibly figure out how to drive 40 miles to the denturist, and then tell my brothers that I couldn't be bothered to help because I was going to a sale, and that she had to cancel all of her plans to tend to him. She can do it, but has ammunition ready to fire with how I'm not willing to help, so she HAD to take him herself.

It is irritating in advance because I know how she works. I've already told her to take the keys away from him, but I don't think she will do that. All too recently, she said that he had been getting up and driving to town at three in the morning. Did she go look for him? No. Did she call the police? No. Did she go to the convenience store to tell the clerk to call her or the police if he showed up? No. Did she take the keys away? No.

My husband is significantly older than I am, and I not only feel the love for him to care for him, but can't imagine leaving him home alone to go to pottery class, go shopping, whatever I pleased. I would never allow him to drive if I knew he couldn't figure out how to put gas in the car! (Example of my father)

Being with these two is no picnic. They have always been negative people, and I'm more the flower-child, let's all plant trees together, middle child, only daughter, so my response is to keep it all bottled up, and then one day after I've been with them all day long, pull over to the side of the road when I am alone, and cry my guts out, head home, wash my face, and try not to pour it all over my husband when he gets home from work.

No response needed, it just feels great to get that all out. Sigh.
Hugs, Mariee!! Yikes, what a handful. Now's the time to draw the line, and let them figure things out for themselves. Let your siblings participate, or not. There are lots of us here who have dysfunctional, personality-disordered parents and family. Learning to set and maintain boundaries is the only thing that will keep you sane and happy. If you aren't available, they'll sink or swim -- and I'm guessing your mother's resourceful enough to figure things out.
Mariee, I have news for you. You are under no obligation to care for your parents. They promised each other to love and care for, etc., etc. Not you.

Your mom sounds like a pretty narcissistic type, of the sort represented by Maisie bird in Horton Hatches an Egg, by Dr. Seuss. Suggest that she hire a driver to take your father places. Adult day care as a place for him to go. Mention to her that their car insurance rates are gonna be sky high after the crash, and that they may lose their house in the bargain.

It sounds as though you might benefit from finding a therapist who could work with you on setting realistic boundaries. Good luck to you.
mariee, reading your post and comments transported me to 1990 and my own parents. Dad had just been diagnosed with Alz, he was still driving (because Mom wasn't going to give up the social whirl). We forced the non-driving by contacting his neurologist and requesting that he once again, in the presence of my sister and my mom, tell Dad he was no longer able to drive. We then told Mom that if he were to continue and get into an accident, they could be sued and lose everything. From then on, her attitude has been "you have to fill in for whatever we want and need since you made this happen". That meant running over at the drop of the hat for “emergencies”, doing house work because she wouldn’t have strangers there, etc. Everything got dumped on us girls by default, because either Mom wouldn’t or didn’t. We had to force her to an elder care attorney to get things in order. When Dad started panicking being home alone while Mom went out, my sister set him up with adult daycare – he was safe and calm and Mom could go do her thing.
It was a rough 3 years before he was moved to NH (wish they'd had memory care places back then).
We're now 25 years later, Dad has passed. We both have known about caregiving our own husbands and now have adult kids. So we have a reference to how adult kids should be treated and how to care for an ill spouse. The greatest cause of our physical ailments and mental angst is still our mom, who still expects us to do whatever it takes to make her happy every moment of every day.
My suggestion to you is put on your armadillo skin because you're going to take some hits. The more you say no, the bigger the ammo they'll use and the longer the barrage. Ignore relatives and friends - mine are quick to talk but never even took my folks a casserole. Sibs are free to help or not, but they are not allowed to force you to do that which they themselves aren't doing.
The parents will not change, they will not become warm and fuzzy and please start really accepting that they may not be real concerned about you and your wellbeing.
Your mom is his wife, it's her job to care for him, take him to the doctors. Yes, it’s lousy hand they’ve been dealt in their golden years. But it’s their hand to manage. Don't get sucked into the vortex because you're in town or because you're the daughter and the assumed caregiver.
Wow. I really wish I had found this forum sooner. Earlier today, I was in absolute tears, fed up with everything. I realize I've given the impression that I am a wuss, and perhaps to some extent, I am, which is how I ended up in this position. My parents have inserted themselves into our daily lives and on our weekends to the point that we find ourselves making up excuses to not be home. They have actually just showed up at our house, then called us on the cell phone, upset because we weren't home. Last week, they just walked in the door, no knock, nothing. The big issue? They needed their lawn mowed, and since he doesn't have a clue anymore, it was up to her. What did she do? Try? No. She came to get me to do it, since SHE doesn't mow yards. SHE doesn't pump gas. SHE doesn't do any of that 'man' stuff. I suggested a lawn care service, to which she scoffed. How dare I suggest she spend any of her craft money on something like that. I drove to their house, fixed their tires, set them up, and showed her how to do it. Period.

I've been sending my brothers email messages that highlight all of their recent antics. Neither has replied. I told them that I didn't expect them to do anything, but to at least hear me out and be aware of what is going on. They are both snowed by my mother, who has them under the impression that my father is nothing but a class A you-know-what. Marriage is a two-way street. I would probably not be a good husband if my wife constantly muttered under her breath, calling names like jerk, idiot, stupid, and a few choice words. I know he hears her.

Anyways. I could write a book, couldn't we all, but I really appreciate having a place to let this all out. The best part is that many of you have had, or are having similar issues, and can relate. Thank you for being here!

:-) I'm sure I'll have more exciting stories to share. Soon. Ha!

You're not a wuss - they pull you in in baby steps, then when you look at it in total, you go "how did we allow this to happen". It's because you're always in reactive mode, putting out fires, doing it "just this one time" - it's incremental.

Get a list together of reliable resources - AAA, auto mechanic, handyman, appliance repair, plumber, yard guy, electrician, a good adult daycare for Dad. When my sister stopped doing yard work, my mom hired someone for summer and a snow removal person for the winter.

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