Dysfunctional family and caregiving obligation nightmare.

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Hello. I am new here and need guidance and help. I am the only child of my mother and her brother my uncle never had children or married. Both are elderly and my mother is showing early dementia and my uncle has mental issues but is still high functioning. I have tried all my life to separate from my dysfunctional family and spent thousands of dollars in therapy attempting to recovery from my upbringing. Yet now I am being dragged back in because literally I am the only person who can take on the obligation of ensuring their care in old age. I have decided I will never live with them, but as you all know there's still plenty to do in supporting the failing elderly if they still want to live independently. Or in managing their affairs and ensuring they get proper care in assisted living or nursing home. I feel like I am being forced back into close relationship with the family I have worked to escape my entire life. If I abandon them though it will be completely dishonorable. I don't know how to deal with this without destroying myself or becoming someone that I can't face in the mirror. If I had a sibling who was willing to do this, I would gladly let them inherit every dime if they would take this from me - oh and there is no inheritance to speak of. Help!


I invite you to also share your question with the thread Caregiver & Dysfunctional Families: How Are You Doing? https://www.agingcare.com/Discussions/The-Caregiver-Dysfunctional-Families-149068.htm?cpage=0&cm=207132#207132

Do you have Durable and/or Medical POA for your mother and your uncle?
It is possible to oversee someone's care without getting drawn back into a close relationship. I understand that you fear a close relationship as it could be harmful to you once again.

My husband's parents were abusive, self centered alcoholics his entire life. He managed to separate himself from them - and like you, ended up being responsible for their care.

My advice is to oversee their care and not invest yourself into the relationship. Isn't this where children make the same mistake over and over again, hoping for a different response (that will never happen) from the parents?

Like you, he did feel it was his responsibility to make sure they were safe and being properly cared for during their decline. But he has not made the error of reinvesting in the relationships. He learned long ago that they had no real interest in anything that was outside a liquor bottle. Even with alcohol being out of the picture in a SNF, their only interest was themselves, they certainly weren't going to become concerned loving parents just because they were old.

Though I resented the years of ugliness we all had to deal with from them before we removed ourselves from their lives, I still see his surviving parent as a living being that is helpless to care for herself due to dementia. The feeling for me is similar to the compassion you would feel for any helpless living creature. I certainly could never walk away from an abandoned puppy and that is pretty much where his parents' lives landed them. Abandoned by their families from the alcoholism, and helpless due to the severity of their dementias.
At some point, doesn't a person coming from a family like this, just have to TELL the family member 'if you want me to help you, this is how it' going to be'. Then make the appropriate arrangements that will work for them, which very well maybe selling the house and moving that person into asst living or whatever? Why does it always seem to HAVE to be the way that parent WANTS things to go? When does the person who has agreed to take this on get to decide what will fulfill their obligation, but at the same time not get sucked back in? I say take back control.

You are so right. Taking control has to be the mindset. My husband made it clear to his siblings and to the siblings of his parents, that he would be making all decisions. He did not have any such "control" discussions with his parents. He just kept them informed of his decisions in a respectful manner without looking for any input or approval on their part.

Their only decisions since he took over have been about choosing their food and clothing at the SNF.

He has kept his siblings and their siblings informed so they have no reason to complain that anything is being hidden. After their car and home were sold (FIL passed away) he let them know there were enough funds to maintain their mom in a SNF for approx. 3 years before it would be necessary to apply for Medicaid.

Prior to him taking over the fighting between his siblings, his parents and the parents' siblings had been huge - as you can expect in a family where dysfunction reigns. He stayed out of it and when asked to he involved said it would only happen on his terms and he has stuck with that mentality.
Lookingforanswers..... first, give yourself credit for all the hard work you have done to distance yourself from the family. those tools are still there, of course old feelings are going to come up again.... but that's all they are, old feelings... Apparently you have gone on to create a new life for yourself... nothing about that has changed....possibly get back into counseling, just to have some back up and of course come here to talk.... many many people here have your same situation, in one form or another....so always know you are not alone.... this site is full of loving caring people who will let you know that you are doing a great job and will encourage you to do what is neccessary to not fall into the family drama..... and welcome to the site.... it's a life saver.... hugs
Thank you for posting this, I am in the same position and thought I was alone. I'm 29, just started my career and am burdened down heavily with student debt from getting any support from my family. My father is who knows where, but my mother continues to be emotionally abusive. Basically, she made very poor decisions and has no ability to handle money (and no interest in learning). As a result she is about 67 with no savings. Since she doesn't want to work, she left her job and is on medicare and SS. I live at the opposite end of the state and teach at a college, and she tries to find ever possible excuse to go to the hospital and tell her friends what a horrible person I am for not running to her. I recently found out I had to get a lump removed via major surgery and called her, just seeking some reassurance since it was a genetic problem. Her response was disappointment since it meant she couldn't get money out of me.

Some people will bleed you dry. You have to remember that in their mind they were never abusive, and this is especially true if you never spoke up for charges to be filed. Therefore, things will never change. Self preservation is not selfish. After 18 years of neglect and abuse I deserve a chance at life and to have a family of my own. Anyone else in a similar situation does too. you especially do not want this person around your kids. Luckily, elder care is not a requirement in my state. My family situation is very toxic.
also some food for thought, you say abandonment is dishonorable, but where was the honor in what they did to you? If the table was turned, would they take you in and give you the same love and care? Tell them the same thing that they would or have told you.

Just don't forget the people who actually opened their hearts to you, those are the ones you should be taking care of. If blood meant so much, parents wouldn't hurt their kids they way they do. This is why I bend over backwards for my aunt, who is also aging. She had so little, yet she always made sure all us kids had warm clothes, school supplies and a place to go when things got bad without any questions asked.

We have the relationship that I wish I had with my mom.
OncehatedDIL, your husband is 'the man!!'. :)
Honoring our parents does not mean we have to devote our lives to them. Living a responsible, loving, caring life and raising your children to do the same is honoring our parents and a loving, caring parent who is not dysfunctional will see that.
You can care for aging parents who have/are abusive by not living with them. Set boundaries and stick to them. By detaching with love, you will be able to make decisions logically instead of emotionally. This doesn't mean you will still not get angry or hurt by the things they say to you or about you, it just means you learn to not let their words or actions have power over you. As long as you continue to look for love and acceptance from these parents, you will be on a roller coaster ride of emotions.
My mother lives alone, has a personality disorder and now Alzheimer's. My sister and I look after her but we live in our own homes and work. As mom progresses, she will eventually have home health care come in to help basic living needs and we will continue to be involved looking after her care making sure she has good quality care and quality of life. Eventually she will have to be placed in a nursing home. This is the best we can do for her. Are we honoring her? Yes, we are seeing to her care in a loving, caring manner. Hugs to all of you as you journey through a difficult situation!!
Doing something you don't want to do because of obligation and guilt is like a knife twisting inside you. You eventually hate and despise the person you are helping. I am in that situation right now with my mother and hate the way I feel. I got myself into this situation when my stepfather died and my mother needed my help and emotional support. I came to realize how emotionally needy and codependent my mother is and latched onto me like I was her mother. For a year she drained me emotionally until I realized what she was doing to me. I was forced to put up barriers against her neediness and now I dread visits with her. I actually feel contempt and loathe toward her. It also doesn't help that I was raised in a dysfuntional environment. Now my relationship with my mother is nothing but obligation with very negative feelings. Do not allow yourself to get sucked in by feelings of obligation. Take the advice of the comments and keep yourself emotionally safe.

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