Looking for support and guidance in dealing with my mother.

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I have been reading stories and comments on the forum for several days and I think you guys are amazing. I am hoping that maybe some of you can help me. I'll try to not be too long-winded, but I need to give you some background regarding my situation. I am dealing with my mother who is 77 years old. She has COPD and is on oxygen. We have a strained relationship to say the least. My father to whom I was very close, died by suicide in 2002. He had been in the hospital and was quite ill. The night he came home from the hospital, he ended his life. That is when this whole drama with my mother started. I thought that I was doing the right thing by moving her into my home with me and my husband. At the time we lived in a small modest home that was plenty for my husband and me, but with her living with us, we needed a bigger place. I suggested that if she could help out with a down payment on a bigger place she could have her own living space. She then told one of my brothers that I was trying to steal her money. After my dad died, she made me POA, so I had access to her finances, but I would never do something like that. I was very hurt by the accusation. Since my dad was no longer alive to buffer her behavior, I began to see who she really was. She is downright mean and nasty. She was always manipulative and tried to pit me and my siblings against each other, but now it became increasingly worse. I now know that she has a personality disorder. Since we couldn't get along, I moved her back to her home. She stayed there for another 2 years before I moved her into an independent seniors apartment community. It is a real nice safe place and there are lots of opportunites to socialize with people her own age. Even though she has access to everything she needs (meals, housekeeping, hair salon, etc) She still expected me to do everything for her. I never did anything right. She called me at home up to 7 times a day to tell me how she needed this or that done and how depressed and lonely she was. If I happened to not answer or not be at home, she would leave nasty angry messages on my voicemail. I was a nurse for 17 years before I became a homemaker. I do not have children, therefore she thinks that I should be at her beck and call. Trying to be everything for someone you can barely stand is exhausting. The guilt, anger and resentment is sometimes too much to bear. She knows exactly what buttons to push to get a certain response. "If you were a mother you would understand" and "You should take care of me because I am your mother and think about all I sacrificed for you." I wanted to have a child very much, but I couldn't. "So and So's daughter takes her to lunch every week and has her hair done ." She has alienated everyone where she lives because she is so mean and hateful. She puts on the charm at first always complementing them etc. She always puts me down and acts like her children never do anything. It doesn't take long for the real person to come out and then no one wants anything to do with her, but she is always the victim. I really like a lot of the older folks that live there. They are always pleasant and cheerful and remember me when I visit. They realized a while ago who the problem is. In 2009 my brother died by suicide. If things were bad before, you can imagine how much worse she got. Last summer I ended up in a psych hospital with a complete breakdown. After years of banging my head against the brick wall that is my mother finally took its toll. It was the hardest time of my life, but I learned so much about myself. I had been trying so hard to make my mother into the kind of mother that I needed my whole life. I wanted a relationship that she was unable or unwilling to give. I finally set boundaries and decided to make my own happiness. I cannot make her happy and I most certainly cannot change her. It seems so simple, but I am just figuring that out. By doing everything for her, I was enabling her to be the way she is. At this point she needs assistance with grooming, but she refuses to allow me to hire home health. She will not allow the housekeeper to clean her apartment. She refuses to have meals in the dining room because no one likes her. I buy one month's worth of groceries at a time for her because she will not eat in the dining room. She refuses to go to the hair salon that is downstairs because she says she cannot go by herself. I recently had to go through another round of "I know you're stealing from me that is why you won't talk to me or help me." I am so tired of dealing with her. I just want to sever ties, tear up the POA and move on with my life. My remaining living brother is so done with her too. He lives about 2 hours away and has not been to see her in over a year. I don't begrudge him his space. I wish I had that as an excuse to not deal with her either. Am I being selfish? I cannot force her to do anything she doesn't want to. I have tried so hard, but I am tired.

7 Comments

Are you being selfish? OMG, No, no, no! You are not being self-protective enough! You have made some awesome progress but it seems you need to go a little further with your mother.

I know you have been reading posts for a few days. I encourage you to read the whole long, long series of posts under "Two years this July my mother has been living with me. She is a mean and hateful woman and I just can't do it anymore." It will probably take you a few days, but I think you will find it worthwhile.

Then come back and ask the KAG (kick-ass girls) to give you some support.

Does mother's financial situation allow for hiring a care manger, so you could see that her needs are being met, but be a step removed?

You are not required to continue as her POA, nor is your brother. If that is a path you want to explore, I'm sure there are people here with that experience.

Warm hugs to you. And you are NOT being selfish!
You can not change your Mother so stop trying. Stop wearing yourself out for her. Don't buy her groceries and I bet she will get hungry and go eat with the other people. Let her do her own cleaning or stay dirty. When she no longer has you to kick around she may realize she has to act halfway right to get along in this world. I know old people and I bet one of her neighbors will know how to bring her down to earth. Go visit her if you feel you must but make it short visits at least until she starts to appreciate you, if she ever does.
Old people get very unfunny about their money. Accusing you of stealing it is not unusual. I've been thru that. I told Mom if I wanted her money I would get on the computer and put it all in my account and there wasn't a thing she could do about it. Now she just accusses my siblings---they live thousands of miles away.
Don't worry about what anyone else thinks about you. The people who really know you will not think you are a bad daughter.
My dear Belle - Indeed your mother has a personality disorder, and nothing you do will ever be enough. My mother who is now 100 and in fairly good health was finally diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder a few years ago, and she is quite narcissistic. I have had to draw some very firm boundaries to protect myself - and the name of the game here is self preservation, and protection - not her game, but yours. No you cannot force her to do anything she doesn't want to, but you do not have to agree to do all that she demands of you. My mother lives in an ALF, will not eat in the dining room, has home care 4 times a day for help with dressing and preparng meals etc and complains about everything all the time. I live 5 hrs driver away yet she would like me to change batteries for her, shop for her and so on. I am 75 with my own health issues, and simply cannot, not should I. I would never have her live in my home as she would destroy my home life. People with personality disorders often use FOG -fear, obligation, and guilt to manipulate people to doing what they want. I always examine my motives and if it is one of FOG, I don't do it. You cannot make her happy, she doesn't want to be happy -she wants attention and you to wait on her like a servant. People like this will suck the very life out of you, and you have to draw some boundaries to maintain a life of your own and some sanity in the middle of this crazymaking behaviour. Mother would demand the same of me as your mum does, only I won't go along with it.
What you have to do is basically this
1) Draw some boundaries as to what you will and will not do -sounds like you are doing that. For example - tell her you will not do what is available to her in her facility - eg hairdressing, housekeeping. When she starts accusing you of stealing state firmly that you do not steal, and if you hear more accusations again you will give up the POA and she can appoint someone else ( I am assuming here she is considered competent and able to appoint someone else.) I am waiting for that one from my mother myself as I havce POA but she is still competent. If it happens be sure to follow through - she will test you. If she has sufficient funds a geriatric manager could be hired to be a buffer between you and her. Also you don't have to answer all the phone calls and certainly you don't have to respoind to nasty voice messages.
2) Inform yourself about personality disorders, and narcissisism - there is a web siter called daughtersofnarcissisticmothers - google that phrase and you will find it. It has much useful information. There are other websites and also books - "Stop Walking on Eggshells" by Randi Kreger and Paul Mason comes to mind. They all help.
3) Emotionally detach and distance. This really requires some healing from past pain, letting go of that mother you needed and never had, grieving your losses accepting the mother you have, who is very dysfunctional. Most of us growing up with a personality disorder parent had little childhood in the normal sense -we need to grieve the loss of that, and othe things. I have found that grieving is an essential part of letting go of the past, and also of letting go of any guilt. in order to mov4e forward to a healthier place in your life. There are several threas here about narcissistic mums, and also one called "The Caregiver & Dysfunctional Families: How are you doing?" https://www.agingcare.com/Discussions/The-Caregiver-Dysfunctional-Families-149068.htm?cpage=0&cm=189772#189772 which is pretty active and where you will receive support and ideas from others doing through similar situations
I am so sorry about your dad and brother committing suicide. That is very hard, and I am sure complicates things for you. I totally understand your brother. There is at least one psychologist Pauline Boss - who feels that when you have been mistrested by a parent that you should not do "hands on" caregiving, but simply oversee that others do what is needed. This is pretty well my position. The stress of doing the caregiving yourself can be too hard. So far my mother handles her own finances. Should the day come when I have to activate the POA, I am not sure what I will do. I truly think it is better of a non family member does it. The question is who. My sister is my back up, but she is not helpful, I am concerned that she would take advantage of the situation, or I would hand it over to her in a minute.

Anyway - your life can become less crazy -take it from one who knows. If you can take several BIG steos back, and remove yourself from her abuse it will help a lot. When mothr has been abusive in the past year, I simply don't contact her for months.. I figure if there isd an emergency the ALF will let me know. Mother emails more than she calls, and I feel no compunction to amswer them all - onloy when it is not destructive to me. I know the "tired". I am bone weary from a lifetime of it. and have to put me and my life first now. Good luck - let us know how it goes((((((((((((((((((hugs))))))))))))) and prayers Joan
Thank you all so much for the support and understanding. I think sometimes it helps to have others that have experienced similar situations validate your feelings. I appreciate the advice regarding hiring a care manager and I may look into that. As of last July, I stopped cleaning her apartment, bathing her, doing laundry and being her doormat. The only thing I do for her now is do the shopping with my husband once a month. That is the only time I have face to face contact with her. I told her that if she wanted/needed assistance I would hire home health to visit, but that I will not be doing it anymore. She not so politely refused home care. I think she thought I would back down like I always did before. So at this point, she either does it herself (which most of the time she doesn't) or she lives with the way things are. It bugs me so much to see her unwashed or her apartment dusty and dirty. It's all I can do to not just "fix" it. I have to keep telling myself that I cannot allow these boundaries to come down under no circumstances. I have to maintain them for my sanity. I certainly do not want to end up back in the bad place I was in a year ago. My therapist suggested that I not talk on the phone with her unless my husband is present to monitor the conversation. We put her on speakerphone and she knows he is there. He never realized how different she acts to me alone. At least now I am able to avoid all of the hurtful and sarcastic dialogue. When she starts complaining, I tell her that I will be happy to contact home health when she is ready. I stopped telling her anything regarding my personal life because I realized she was using it as ammunition. I have indeed made some progress, but as you all know, it takes a long time to change behaviors that you learned so long ago. Momskeeper- you hit the nail right on the head when you said to not worry about what other people think. That has been a huge problem for me and one that I fight daily. I'm trying to get over the perception that people think that I am a bad person because I allow my mother to live the way she does. I have tried so hard in the past to help her and make her happy, but nothing ever works. Nothing is ever good enough. I think many of the folks where she lives know that she is the problem. I think of it like a homeless person that doesn't have to be homeless. They have family and a support system that care about and for them, but they choose to live on the streets. I have to keep telling myself that I can't make her act right. She obviously wants to live the way she does because she doesn't change. I have had to grieve the loss of the mother that I wish I had. It is not as painful as it once was. Joan- I admire your strength. Thanks so much for the great advice. I will definitely read up on what you suggested. My doctor told me that if I am doing things for my mother out of obligation and not love then I shouldn't be doing it at all. I have made sure that she is safe and has access to everything she needs, so that should be enough. I told my husband (who is a wonderful man that I have no idea what I ever did to deserve him) that if she accuses me of stealing one more time, I'm through. Jeanne- I will start wading through the "Two Years This July" thread. I am so glad that you girls responded with such kind words and advice. It made my day. We took my mother to the doctor today and she was her usual fabulous self. I really needed a pick me up after that ordeal. You have given me a lot to think about. Thanks for the hugs, Andrea
Stay strong!
I must say I agree with the advice from Jeanne and emjo. I also have a mother with a personality disorder. There is absolutely nothing you can do to change her. I would also consider not getting groceries for her so she can either have her meal privately in her room or in the dining room. I encourage that because it allows you to choose when YOU want to spend time with her that is not out of obligation. She will protest very strongly and if the facility she is in doesn't want her there any longer. turn it over to a social worker who will appoint a guardian. It may sound harsh but you must not let her control you emotionally.My mother also has Alzheimer's so I must discern if it is her personality disorder talking to me or the Alzheimer's. She called me a few nights ago and I was shocked because she was almost normal expect she didn't remember talking to me the day before. She asked how my husband was doing and how my children were doing...something she has not done in a long long time. My guard is up because I know she can twist things so quickly on me. Part of the reason for her being so nice during that call, could have been because of Labor Day weekend and my mother uses these holidays as a means to drop guilt even though as a family, we never got together on Labor Day. She mentioned that she has not heard from me or anyone else and we have not got together as a family. You need to do what is best for you and your husband... that comes first. Keep us updated on how it is going for you because you will get lots of support here ♥♥♥!!
Andrea, i am a daughter of a woman with borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality, and narcissistic personality. can't really say she was ever a mother and definitely not a mommy. these women know what they are talking about, create DISTANCE! my mother got so horrid that i finally cut her out of my life entirely last month with my sister's and my daughter's complete blessing. she was not even invited to my granddaughter's baptism as no one wanted her there.

distance is your friend. take care of yourself and your husband. let your mother and the system take care of her. keep your boundaries strong, and if anyone tries to guilt you, push them out of your life and out of your mind because they do not have a clue.

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