How do you make peace with being a caregiver to dysfunctional parents?

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I'm 38 years old and an RN. My mother is in end stage renal failure, getting ready for dialysis. I have one older sibling, who is mentally ill (schizoeffective disorder, but high functioning). I am mentally ill also (treatment resistant depression and OCD). I have been on disability for 5 years, but now I am stable and going back to work. My mother has borderline personality disorder, and she was a terrible parent. To an extent, she still is. She's very narcissistic. Now that she has ESRD, she expects my brother to go on FMLA and me to stay on SSD so that we can cater to her every whim, and take her to every appointment. I signed her up for a disabled-only transportation program, and I gave her information about a house cleaning business, a senior companion service and a food shopping business. She rejected everything but the transportation program, insisting that my brother and I can food shop, clean, cook and help her as she needs. She feels that she took care of us (she never really wanted children), and now we owe her. I have no interest in caring for my mother. I probably would feel honored to care for my mother with her end of life issues if there wasn't so much bad history, and if she wasn't so difficult now. She argues constantly with me, her homecare nurse and her physicians. She always must be right. I am trying very hard to make positive changes in my life, and pick myself up from the bottom. I don't know what to do about my mother. I've been dealing with her medical needs for 6 years now. There is no family willing to help us, because she has ostracized our extended family with her hate and jealousy. I would like some advice from other caregivers who have parents who were dysfunctional. How did you make peace with being their caregiver?

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Top Answer
(((((((hugs))))))You have described my mother to a T. She has Borderline Personality Disorder too and is narcissistic, and alienates people. A psychiatrist once told me he was more worried about my sister than my mother, but never gave me a diagnosis for my sis. I am the caregiver (have POA) because my sister will not do anything though she is the "golden child" who can do no wrong. I am the scapegoat. Mother has wanted me to do everything for her, too. Fortunately we live in different cities (her choice), but I have had up to 20 emails a day about things that upset her and that she wants me to fix. A lot of it is repetition. I have moved her twice - once from her apartment into an ALF and once into a second ALF as she had problems in the first one. After the second move I told her the next move would be into a nursing home if she could not manage where she is. She is 99 but physically extremely healthy, other than a touchy gut which runs in the family. She has a hip repair a few months ago and the docs pronounced her A1 and gave her full anaesthetic for the op. I am 74 and have fibromyalgia and some other things and stress makes it all worse. I have had to distance and detach emotionally for my own survival, as at my age the stress hits me harder than even 10 years ago. She hires an ex nurse to shop for her, take her to appointments and do a few other things. The ALF does the cleaning, laundry etc. Because of her touchy gut and her eliteism she will not eat in the dining room, so the ex nurse does the food shopping. I have stopped answering emails for a while because she would engage me in hours of emailing if I allowed it and gets mad when I won't answer her immediately, I started getting flashbacks (PTSD) to childhood, so had to impose some heavy limits. That is what anyone with a narcissistic personality disorder parent has to do or they will suck the life out of you. They use FOG (fear, obligation and guilt - thanks cmag) to manipulate you. There is a website for "daughters of narcissistic mothers" and I have found it useful. Just google that phrase. The main thing is to set limits or boundaries that work for you and stick to them. My mother must be right all the time and sucks in other people to support her -everything is a battle and she must win. The only way I survive this is to detach emotionally, grieve the mother I never had, and see that she has what she needs in basic care, but not give in to her every whim. You are not responsible for her happiness - or unhappiness. Mother feels people owe her too - especially me, but I don't agree. I have children and do not have that sense of entitlement. It is part of the disease.
#1 Look after yourself. You have a lot of issues and need time and energy and space to deal with them
#2 Detach emotionally - counselling may be helpful for that -also a book and workbook about Walking on Eggshells" is good and other resources for those with narcissistic parents like the website
#3 Set up the boundaries according to what you think is right, and what you want can do and let her know clearly - maybe putting it in writing would be helpful - you do NOT have to do it all for her.
#4 Know that when you set boundaries she will test them, and her behaviours may escalate. Be prepared and stand firm and by all means go back to work though she will do what she can to prevent that and make herself the center of your existence. Resist those efforts.
#5 Pat yourself on the back for having survived the trauma of having a narcissistic mother

They need attention (narcissistic supply) - and it is more about that than anything else I think - to be the center of your universe. If you do not give it to her she will find it somewhere else eventually. Have your brother read this too - he needs to for his own protection.

I have peace as mother has what she needs (even if not what she wants) and I have protection for myself by detaching and distancing emotionally. I don't think you will get peace without the protection. You also have to let go of any fear, guilt and obligation. and know you have done what you, in your own eyes, think is right for her and for yourself. You are as entitled to your best efforts as she is - at least!
God luck and come back and let us know how it is going. ♥ Joan
SN:

I've said it before and I'll say it again: people shouldn't bring children to the world and then expect them to pay for it. To my mother, I'm an investment that never quite paid up. She tried the guilt trips and all kinds of emotional blackmail. Those didn't pan out either. The only option left was playing the victim; the ever-suffering martyr with ingrates for children. I told her to get of the Cross. ... Someone else needs the wood.
My Mom to a T also. But, my narcissistic Mom has been living with me for the last 2 years. I have detached emotionally. I take care of all her needs, take her to all appointments (which is a lot as she has cancer), and I am trying to run my business mostly from home. I did talk to my physician and asked him if I needed to see a counselor to deal with the guilt she throws on me about "I owe her", too. I have been on a guilt trip all my life because of her. He told me to wait until she passed away and then see if the guilt will go away. But, I expect she can guilt me even in death. Since detaching emotionally, she tells me I am such a rude person and that I owe her, etc. Someone else posted last week and said these type people just play you like a fiddle and know how to push your buttons. That we children are still trying to be that "perfect" child and if it hasn't happened by now, it's not going to happen. Just know that this too shall pass, take deep breaths and just shake your head in amazement of this treatment. Use it as a learning experience of how to NOT treat your caretakers. We are strong people and will make it through this. Just no real good answers....just faith.
My half sister had a mom much like yours. She put her in a nursing home and visited as she could. She had no guilt about it then - and none now 10 yrs after hers mom's death. What she does regret is that her Mom was such an extremely difficult, manipulative, overbearing person - my sister deserved better.

One thing I have truly learned as a caregiver is that we can only do so much without ending up in worst shape than the ones we are caring for. Being a primary caregiver to a loving, selfless person is nonetheless a difficult and often all-consuming task. But to care for someone who is intentionally difficult or mean - thats a job for a saint - and I'm no saint.
Surfingnurse, bless you for all you are trying to do for your dysfunctional mother. The rewards for doing the right thing for her will show up years from now, after your mother is gone. I always wondered if there was a serious hole in the training given to nurses, and if there is, I think I've found it and you've stepped in it. Nurses are taught that there is no meaningful diffence between absolutely perfect and marginally adequate. Nurses are expected to do everything they do perfectly, lest the patient suffer "needlessly." My one piece of advice to you is to do the best you can with your mother and then accept that the best you can do is not only the best you can do, but it's good enough. If you knew I was mentally ill and I told you that you were worthless, you'd discount my input to the point of ignoring it. You know your mother is mentally ill; discount her input accordingly, to the point of ignoring it in the name of self preservation. Give yourself the heartfelt thanks that your mother cannot give you. You have earned it. Be as good to yourself as you would be to a person doing their best to improve your quality of life. Forgive your Mom. Forgive yourself. Give compassion to her, and to yourself.
Jonathan
I think in situations like these, and with impossible parents like these, you may have to consider a nursing home. For your own survival, for your own sanity and for their own good. We tried for years with my father-in-law who rejected all help, aides, meals on wheels, offers to live next to us, not interested. He'd do it his way which is basically not bathe or feed himself, drink all day long and start grease fires and fall asleep. You cannot win in these situations. Finally he went into hospital and with the help of doctors and neighbours, went into rehab and then into a nursing home. Medicaid will pay if your mother does not have any money. Consult an Elder Lawyer for advice and please look after yourself FIRST otherwise you will be no good to anyone.
Surfing, I think it's what we can live with at the end of the life of a terrible parent that counts. If you have a clear conscious when you mother does die, then that's how you should live your life without any guilt. If you believe you'll need to do more for your ungrateful mother now in order to waylay any guilt later, then do it. If you think you've done enough and you're 'good to go' so to speak, then there's your answer. I think anyone that had a rotten childhood with a rotten parent, ought to make it their life goal to NOT be like the parent they got stuck with. Keep the faith, you're doing what you need to do to stay healthy.
I have basically the same mother. She has never been dx'd for it, but I know enough about borderline personality disorder to know that this is her; her other problem is hypochondria. I don't know that I have made peace with it really, but what I have done is to draw my boundaries with her by telling her what I will and will not do, and how often. I have Phone ID and I do not anwer more than 2 out of 10 phone calls. I told her that going to the doctor is not Disneyland, and she needs to stop making appointments because she cannot afford to gas up my truck, (I live 40 miles away). I told her that from now on she needs to fill her prescriptions by mail because I will no longer be driving down several times a month to pick them up and drive them over. My sister and I placed her in a B & C home, even if either of us did have physical space for her, we would not be able to take her in. It would soon drive us insane and we refuse to go there.

Do what you know is right, take care of yourself. I'm in therapy two or three days a week, and I know I wouldn't be able to draw these boundaries with my mother if I wasn't taking care of myself first. However, because I am taking care of my mother in a way that I can handle; I feel good about myself.
I did it by deciding the kind of person I wanted to be was not like my mother, who is also Borderline and probably the meanest person I will ever know in my life. BUT I did not have to deal with day to day like you do........I live far away. She is now in a nursing home with Alzheimer's Disease. My sister thinks that it is her karma here on earth for what she put us through in our lives. Most of my large family does not care if she lives or dies and I don't judge them. We all had to survive however we could. Because (I think) I was in therapy for years, I have no bad feelings toward her any longer. I pity her, but I do not hate her.
I think that you should do what you can without getting that very bad feeling inside and if that means nothing, then do nothing. She will figure it out. She has been manipulating people all her life and if it stops working with you and your brother, she will move on.
I wish you luck with a difficult situation.
get of the Cross. ... Someone else needs the wood.

OMGosh! Thank you Eddie! ROFLMAO! i am going to remember this one forever!!!!

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