I moved in with my friend and his mother to care for her, but she won't accept my help. She is just mean and screams at me. Should I just walk away when she does this?

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I am in an unusual situation. I am a sales professional who lost my home in foreclosure and as I continue my job search was offered what seemed to be a "win win" situation for me and a good friend - move in with them and then his 82 year old mother who is effectively blind and has osteoporosis - would have some companionship and there would be another person at home if she needed something. My friend travels extensively for his job so I am often a lone with his mother, Lorraine. Lorraine is very independent and does an amazing amount of tasks throughout the day. My friend has put raised stickers on all the appliances so that she can use them. She is insistent on washing clothes and cooking and cleaning and refuses help from anyone - especially me.

Lorraine can't see ice on the pavement and if she falls she'd break into ten pieces so she is not supposed to go out of the garage area during the winter - but of course the first week (and while her son - my friend was at work) she was out there bringing the recycling bins back to the house in a snow storm as well as collecting the mail. My friend - her son - and I have both told her that I can do that and she shouldn't as she could really hurt herself - but it enrages her if she is prohibited from anything. A door lock to the garage got stuck and she blamed me for breaking it - I did not - it simply malfunctioned and she started screaming at me about 'taking advantage of my situation' and all sorts of terrible things that are absolutely not true - it was so upsetting and even made me cry. She yelled at me that I'd better be ready to pay the locksmith out of my pocket - and I was and called the locksmith. The lock was repaired- he said an internal piece simply wore out - no one's fault - and I paid him and as he was leaving she shoved me into the wall and screamed at the locksmith that "She's not the home owner! This is my house (it's not - it's her son's house actually) and that she wanted to pay the bill!." I tried to defend myself but that only seemed to incite her more. Some times she is as sweet as pie to me, and then she will lash out and say horrible things. She is making it a bit of hell to live here - but she honestly can't be here a lone. While she is quite independent and able to take care of her daily needs, she is also capable of leaving the flame on the stove going because she can't see it and of falling and not being able to get back to the house - although she wears an alarm around her neck to notify someone if she has fallen.

I would do anything to help her - I thought that would be my role - but almost immediately realized that she would not welcome any help so I stay out of her way - paying attention to whether or not she's left the flame on the stove or how long she has been outside with her dog etc. But when she lashes out - it's so abusive and it hurts my feelings even though I know I need to get tougher skin. Should I stand up for myself? Should I ignore it? Today I told her that she was being unfair in her criticism and that I wished she wouldn't be so mean to me but she never even came up for air in the tirade - she just kept screaming at me. Any advice? How do you deal with this kind of behavior? Walk away? It makes me feel terrible when it happens. Thanks so much!

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The once independent woman knows she is fragile now. She is probably frightened, which makes her defensive and 'mean'--that's the only real power she has. I'll bet she gets a kick out of scaring you! How about looking at the situation like that for a change? How would you handle a small child that was frightened? Invite her for a cup of tea (in her house), bake some cookies, and talk to her about her life. Remember that "old people" still feel the same on the inside, as when they were "younger". A good opportunity for turning a negative situation into a positive and making a new friend!
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Susan,
I am sorry I did not see all of the information you had posted when I asked the above questions. WHEW, what a situation. First, deep breathe, can you think of her as a possible "nasty" client you used to deal with? I say that as one top sales executive to another? LOL I left my job after 20 pulse years with AT&T in wireless sales to care for my mother, so at times I had to put her "anger" and "meanness" as a mean client. Some could be that she see's you has "replacing" her in her sons life. She may want her son all to herself, is she mean to her son, does she lash out at him at all? Maybe she feels threatened by you? Sometimes we have to put ourselves in the era in which the elder was raised and that can put things into perspective a little. Some of the anger is she just does not want to give up her independence, try to put yourself in her shoes, would you want to after all of these years? We all know she needs to slow down and be more careful, but she wants to keep going as long as she possibly can. It would probably anger her to know you were looking at things "behind" her like the stove and the locks. You should be doing those things, and she will give in someday, but she is not ready to give up on life and to be honest that is a good thing. Sadly, you are her punching bag, she probably would be taking it out on any "outside" help if it was provided, you just happen to be the lucky one.

You have to sit back and take in the whole situation and decide what you can take and what you will not take. A mutual respect must be reached; does your boyfriend realize how mean and abusive she is to you? Does he ever say anything to her? You do not have to take the abuse and should not take the abuse, you are there to help and provide a safe environment for her to live in her own home or son’s home, unfortunately you have to tread lightly and hopefully you have support from her son and can come to some sort of peaceful agreement.
Blessings, Bridget
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I'm blamed for everything that goes wrong too, even things I have never come close to having any dealings with. I chalk it up to age and her feeling of helplessness then I smile and try to get something else into the conversation. Sometimes we'll go a day without much talking because of the so called meanness, but when people age they often feel helpless and highly resent that the people closest to them are still able to do the things they no longer able to do for themselves.
I sometimes feel resentful of people in grocery stores who seem to bull their way around me when I'm creeping along at a snails pace then waltz right out to their cars parked in the only available handicapped spots, but then I just give them dirty looks and go on about my business.
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Hi Bridget,

I am brand new to this site and posted the topic twice - I wrote my 'story' under the same title 'Dealing with Meanness' also up there if you can click on that. What brings it on is any time she perceives that someone has interrupted her routine or is some how interfering with her role in the house hold - even though I am not. She blamed me for breaking a door lock I didn't break and then I had it repaired this morning and she went ballistic about that as well. When she decides to "let loose" she says so many mean things to me and I just don't know how to handle it. Thanks,
Susan
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Can we have more details? What kind of meanness? What brings it on, anything special, age, medicine? More information would help us be able to give you additional information. Thanks
Bridget
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