How do you deal with the guilt of leaving them alone, even when they say they want to stay in their home?

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I am a only child and my mother passed away almost 2 years ago. I had left her house and moved into my own house at age 23, 2 blocks from her house and remained in that house for 3 marriages and 2 children-27 years in my own house but still calling her 5-6 times a day and seeing her once a day. The neighborhood was changing and I thought it best to move 150 miles away for them and myself. I had and have agoraphobia and panic disorder(due to her vicious and controlling personality and blaming) since I was 16. I finally had the nerve to want to move away from her and all the drama. I and my children had to move into my mothers house(with her) as I sold my house and was waiting for my last divorce to be over before I made this giant move to the family house(hers and mine now) 150 miles away. I had spent every summer of my life in that house and area and knew it well and loved it. She, my mother was 83 at the time and was still super controlling of me and my children. She had no dementia and still drove. She had had 2 mastectomys and it appeared she was cancer free which she was. She did not want me to "leave her" "how could I leave her, she did not leave her mother" etc., etc.. I told her I was moving on with my life and was 51 and it was time to fly on my own for the first time in my life with my then aged 9 and 16 year old children. She told me that I was sick mentally and could not do it and that I would be back, that this was a giant mistake and I would be sorry. Well, this mentally-ill 51 year old child did move away from her with my kids 18 months after moving in with her. I had fixed up her house and she was able to be on her own to go to chruch, her Eastern Star meetings, go out basically 6 nights out of 7. I then fixed up the summer house and she screamed at me when she came up and saw it She started caneing me with her cane and telling me she would call the police and lay on the floor and say I hit her. She did this in front of my children not only in the summer house but when I moved in with her downstate. I walked around the corner and bought the first house I saw, a old Victorian house with a carraige house with apts to rent and a commercial garage(so my son, who was doing drugs and not going to school but once a week would be able to have a car mechanic business after he cleaned his act up whenever). I opened the house as a bed and breakfast, started a chamber of commerce and was very happy being on my own for the first time in my life. My son got worse and I had to do ToughLove on him and throw him out of the house. After he went through all his friends houses I figured he would be back and I would put him in rehab for his drug problem. My mother who was about 85 at that time, gave him 18 grand and told him to live in the family house which he did. He got in more trouble and finally she took him into her downstate house for him to become her lacky. He spent almost 10 years with her doing everything she said and they almost appeared like a weird husband-wife act. She robbed him of any chance of becoming a success in life as he has no education or skills. When she passed, he did not tell me about this for 3 days and wanted me to sign the funeral papers. I refused as he refused to come and get me to arrange this funeral. I had my mother stuck in the ground and had a memorial service at the new church she had become a member of only 5 years before her death. She refused to speak with me for the last 3 years of her life telling me how bad I was for leaving her, what a terrible person/daughter I was, an ingrate who she gave two masters degrees to(I guess she sat next to me in class) and never to speak with her again. All this severely impacted my daughter also who started cutting herself and having sex at 13 years of age. My mother also took me to court for child support when my son was 17(she lost the case-hated me even more for that), had me arrested for no reason claiming I called her and had wished harm on her from me etc. To make a long story short, my son was given her entire estate in a new will made up 2 years before she passed. I lost everything due to my LEAVING her, let alone the guilt trip she gave me. My daughter, seeing and hearing all of this, went bad here also and totally disrespected me. I had to give her to her dad when she was 15. I have not seen her in 8 years except for a few short phone calls and some emails. She took my mothers side of the story, not mine and told me how BAD I was not only to my mother but to her also as I never wanted her. I was 42 when I had her and wanted her very badly and this has me on a guilt trip also. All this from LEAVING my mother all alone when I was 51. Can anyone top this story? My son is reaching 30 and I have not heard from him in 18 months. He has the family house here up for sale but in todays economy, that will not happen for a long time. She left him about 2 million dollars in houses, money, jewelry, stocks and bonds plus antiques. I have now lived alone for 8 years, had to close my inn and now have to take a reverse mortgage out due to high property taxes and my mortgage. What a price to pay for LEAVING this terrible woman who was my mother. And I have guilt yet from it all. I cannot believe this story as I read back the words I have just typed but now see clearly what a sick woman my mother was. I just hope no one has to go thru what I did with her and my children.
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Thank you, Mia....I appreciate the advice and the spirit in which it was given. This is something I am looking into. I will be contacting Mom's church on Monday as my first resource, then plan on getting with a local Home Helper organization. Meals on Wheels is another group I plan on contacting...I used to work for them and know the programs well. My daughter is also planning on being more involved (her own idea, and I'm very proud of her for that), and there are some very kind neighbors in our little condo community. Mom will continue to be well looked after, by myself and others, even though she thinks I'm abandoning her.
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Please accept this comment with the kindest regards:

Find someone else to 'live-in' with Mom. Sounds like you are moving on, and although you may not think that your mother needs help 24/7 since she is able to do some 'fundamental chores' trust me, she needs the help.

Look at local resources for DAILY visits if a 'live-in' is not feasible.
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Thank you, Lilli. Your post was very wise and very comforting. I will sleep better tonight after hearing your words.
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If you are checking in on your Mom everyday, attending to her needs, and making sure she is safe and healthy, you are not leaving her "alone." You are allowing her to live independently for as long as possible. I know because that is what I am doing. I know my Mom is happier living in her own dwelling. But if the day comes when she is no longer safe, I will have to help her make alternative plans...what that will be, I don't know. Until then, she is happier in her home and I will do what it takes to help her retain her independence.
I agree with you and many others, it isn't always possible for a senior and their child to live under the same roof. Good that you realized that sooner than later. A good daughter are you...don't worry about tomorrow...
Lilli
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I am chuckling about your mom not wanting to be with all those old people. It reminded me of my grandma. I went to visit her and of course, all the wheel chairs were lined up in the hall outside their doorway. Gma was way up the hall and I had to pass many of the "old people". I always spoke to all, some wanted a hug or just to touch my hand. Gma told me when I got to her "don't pay attention to all those "old"people,she was 91, you came to visit me, and some of them are as crazy as loons". It might've been rude to say that but that was gma, never thought she fit in that category.
I think many elders remember nursing homes of old. Some of them haven't seen or visited the new ones or the beautiful asstd living facilities. I'm sure, though, their fear of being put away overrules all that.
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I went through this personally with my husband's mother. Her husband died, and she absolutely refused to move out of that little dingy house that she'd lived in for the last 50 years. So, she sat alone and watched TV, and walked her driveway. She also got to expect us to visit and rescue her from pure boredom, and would get mad when we didn't. At one point I got in her face and told her that it was HER choice to live alone and look at 4 walls, and it wasn't fair that she get mad when we didn't come see her everyday. And I stopped coming by for a week. But I did feel guilty. I felt terrible that she sat there day after day alone, it would have driven me crazy for sure. We brought in meals on wheels, life alert necklace, did her yard work etc. Because of macular degeneration she couldn't see well, because of dementia she had no short term memory, plus she started tripping over her own feet and falling. She'd have a goose egg on her head when I'd come by, and couldn't remember falling and hitting her head. I know it seems weird, but I am SO thankful she finally fell and broke her hip! With all her doctors agreeing, we moved her into asst living after rehab for the hip.
Now, if she sits there in her room all day it's HER choice. She can leave her room and walk the halls and visit if she wants to, no more excuses. I still pick her up and take her lots of places, but not out of guilt. It's out of love.
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Thanks, Lynn. I've thought about assisted living, but she says she'd rather I shoot her than "put" her anywhere. I know.....we all hear that. Home for her is actually a 2 bedroom, 1 floor condo in a 55+ community. Most of the residents are over 70, and most are women living alone. I'm the youngest person here (and I feel like a teenager, lol!). Mom still knows her limitations...she knows she can't use the stove/oven; in fact, she doesn't even know how to turn it on. She doesn't drive. She only takes 3 pills a day, and I put them in her daily pill receptacle every Saturday night. She takes them faithfully every morning. She has her little routines and only gets confused when they are somehow disrupted. She reads, she watches tv. She has her good days, she has her bad days. Most times I don't start conversations with her, simply because I never know who I'll be talking to...is it my real Mom? Or is it "little girl Mom" who's being annoyingly silly and cute? Is it "Don't treat me like a child Mom?" Maybe it's depressed Mom, or martyr Mom, or maybe it's delusional Mom. It's like living with someone who has multiple personality disorder, and it can change daily, hourly, or even in the course of one conversation. But even with all that, at this point she can pull off her personal hygiene and basic daily living routines. So, for now, I feel ok about her staying at home. She will be looked after. If I see any changes, and I'm thinking that distance will provide me a better perspective, assisted living will be the way to go. Even if she doesn't want to be with all those "old people."

Crowe.....Wow! I'm speechless. Thank God you're working through it.
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Everything you have written has made perfect sense and I think it was therapeutic to write it all down.

My therapist has pointed out to me that it is one thing when we are not aware of the dynamics to see how we were trapped by it and we need to go easy on ourselves there because we were powerless. However, once we have insights and then chose to allow ourselves to be enslaved again or fall into old patterns but then try to place the blame on what our parents did is actually a cop out.

I'm thankful that as an only child you did not experience what I did. Being enslaved is one thing, but believe me being emotionally absorbed as the only son of a single parent mom as if you were her substitute spouse is a hell that I'd wish on no one.

I hope with your own children that you have been able to break the chain of your family tree. Your mother sounds like she has some very strong abandonment issues which do tie into the dynamics in her relationship with her dad and with you. Her worshipfulness sounds very much like my MIL who is the most enslaving witch of a queen mommy dearest Victorian narcissistic borderline woman I"ve ever met! Her deceased husband was beyond being hen pecked or dominated. The poor man was an emotionally emasculated man which I could understand once I learned about his family of origin. The only reason he is missed is because he is not there to do ___ for her. She is one of the greatest contradictions of someone who claims she believes in equal rights, treated her husband like dirt, hates her son in laws, wishes she had her daughters all to herself, only wants her grandsons around if they can help her with something, hates men in general, blames me for inspiring her husband to rebel some toward the end of his life, reads her Bible and devotionals along with attending church religiously while holding to quite an extreme fundamentalist Christian faith with ultra Victorian morals while her business morals should have her in jail and her interpersonal relationships are such that she manipulates people and says if she needs friends that she has enough money to buy them which is true.


The only reason my marriage has worked is that we both got therapy for our family of origin issues. We each have some issues that remain which we have talked with each other about these very openly and have decided on ways to keep ourselves from being controlled by those issues.

Please be careful of getting too far into the role relationship of him as your therapist or even a substitute dad for you need to have a fully adult/adult relationship. Most likely some of this will change once you get married just because of the dynamics of marriage. Even therapists are told not to use what they know at home on their own family as if they can be their family's therapist.

I wish you well in dealing with your mother and with your marriage.
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J - I've been exactly where you are and I must tell you that
1. she will ALWAYS say she wants to be home, at some point "home" becomes the time in her life when she was fit and able to do anything she pleased
2.the guilt won't ever completely go away
3. you can - with practice - detach some what and
4. at some point you'll feel a sense of relief that you're NOT caring for her so don't feel guilty over that too.

Your mom's safety must come first and living alone is probably no longer safe for her. As her dementia progresses, "home" will only become less safe and the risk to her even greater. Given your moms abilities she sounds like a great candidate for assisted living. I'd say there is too great a risk she'll do something like start the stove and forget it, forget medications, etc.... You've been living there, you've done your best it's okay to think about what will make you happy. Financially you also cannot sacrifice your ability to support yourself in old age to see that she is cared for. Giving it up to someone else will enable you to remain a loving and patient daughter for visits with her.
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