What should I do if my mom wants me to quit my job to take care of her?

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I posted this in another thread and members there kindly suggested that I start a thread... Thank you to those members! I appreciate your recommendations... so here goes... I'm not sure if this is the right place for this conversation but I need to vent and perhaps solicit some suggestions for my mother - 87 years old and she's very angry and frustrated with me that I don't quit my job of 37 years - which I dearly love - and need for my own sanity (financially and otherwise). I've tried many times to hire caregivers for her and she fires them or refuses to allow them to come into her apartment (she refused to stay in Assisted Living facility - so we gave in and moved her into her own small apartment with the condition that she would get 'home help' when the time came). The time has come and gone...helpers are 1)Lucky to get in at all 2)Get fired soon thereafter. Yesterday was the last straw; I took her to the grocery store - before she could even get out of the car she wanted to tell me that she'd been thinking the night before and had come up with a solution - she'd figured something out - the something she'd figured out was that the new caregiver, T. who my husband had met exactly one time - and passed her info on to me (she works for a local elder care organization and was looking for new clients - yeah!) was and I quote 'having the hots for my husband!) She's always suspicious and says that this one 'has eyes for me' or that one is asking questions about me or my husband, etc. etc. That there is always a 'sexual' intent to sneak around and have a relationship (nothing could be further from the truth as my husband and I have a very happy/solid marriage, besides we're 71 and 64 years old - so shopping around for a 'good time' are just not on our agendas!!) It is a ridiculous conversation to have and I refused to engage in that discussion with her. She accused me of 'not wanting to hear the truth'!! Really? Well, I got her into the store and I stopped in next door for an appointment that lasted only 1/2 hour - back to the grocery store I found her and she exclaimed that's she'd barely gotten started - I said I've really got to be getting back to work - I thought she was picking up only a few things - well obviously a misunderstanding here as she'd come to buy up lots of stuff to 'stock up' - however the caregiver was supposed to come over and clean out the (stuffed, filthy refrigerator) and packed freezer - and she's buying pork roasts, sausages, 5 quarts of creamer, milk, etc. I asked her to wait until after caregiver gets the fridge cleaned out - that was the second time on this trip that she started yelling at me - making snide remarks about 'why don't you just do what I'm asking you to do for me!!!'. Refused to let me help her to the car; refused to let me help her put her credit card in the machine at the check-out. Made a real scene. I finally got the car loaded in the pouring rain (at her insistence that we not wait any longer for the rain to pass - since I'd rushed her to wrap up the shopping - because I had to get back to work). It was a lunchtime mid-day outing - but she forgets that only the day before I'd taken 4 hours off work to help her order some flooring/window treatments for her apartment - two days in a row of being unavailable at work is pushing it. My boss is very understanding, but will only tolerate so much of my absence. At any rate she was so angry on the way home (10 minutes) she spewed so much hatred at me - incredible, disappointing and saddening. She brought up everything she could think of in those ten minutes to tell me how awful I was, how I should get in to see a psychiatrist because I must have schizophrenia (my sister does) and other insults hurled at me until she was out of the car and headed back inside her apartment...basically told me not to come back and she'd never go shopping with me again...ugh...she fired the caregiver who was scheduled to come in today to clean out the fridge; called and cancelled all the improvements we'd ordered. I have no idea what to do about her now. She lives 3 miles away....I have a full time job, a home, pets, husband, etc to take care of, so life goes on - but not sure what to do about her and her anger issues... I think her mental state is declining and I've called her doctor and left messages but he will never call me back. Instead he asks her about me - and then she tells me ' I think my doctor is 'sweet on you'. He's never met me! I'm at a total loss today as to what to do, if anything. I'm burned out and exhausted after the last two days of dealing with mom...I guess I'll go bury myself in work, etc and wait to see what her next move will be - maybe she'll get someone to come in and help her. I could have someone contact her (from local caregiver organizations, but I'm completely out of ideas)...

Answers 1 to 10 of 10
Top Answer
DON'T QUIT YOUR JOB. This will only get worse and you would not be able to care for her 24/7 in her home or yours. If she is not willing to have other caregivers, you may be in the position of waiting for an accident and placement. My MIL is now living in a facility due to her Parkinson's advancing and not wanting home health care to come in and help her and FIL. Sad that after 50 years of marriage they are living apart, but a result of THEIR own choices. Yes, I'm typing loudly.
You have a job. You have a husband. You have a life. You can't fix the fact that your mother is older, infirm, and needs help. Did your mother take care of her own parent 24/7? Can she afford help but she only wants YOU? When our parents begin functioning like 3 year olds, we need to establish boundaries and manage them like 3 year olds.
Order groceries online that can be delivered. Order meds that can be delivered in blister packs of dosages (3 pills at 8, 4 at noon, 2 at 6-facilities do it all the time with assisted living). Tell her that Meals on Wheels will deliver in many areas at a small charge so she has less stuffed in fridge. If she cancels caregivers and home improvements but demands that you provide the services, that's both narcissism and probably cognitive decline. If she's always been this way, it's not going to get better.
Meds can help for depression and anxiety. Being accused of being mentally ill for not doing what someone else wants? Not a sign of a healthy mental person either. There are many posts on the site here about dysfunctional parents/families that will eat up caregivers and then keep going on. If mom doesn't want outside help now, she will get it at the hospital, rehab, skilled nursing facility, or nursing home that HER CHOICES put her in. You can't fix her without destroying your own life. Please be mindful.
SueGeo, ah I've been in your shoes. I remember when my Dad asked me to retire from my career to which I asked him if he had quit work to take care of his own parents or my Mom's parents.... he never asked me again. My Mom was also from the old school, that I should be a housewife and not have a career. I had worked too hard to get where I am career wise, I refuse to give it up.

So what to do with your Mom. Make a list of all of the things you do for her, write down everything. Now cross off half the items on the list, now cross off a couple more. And stick to that list. Next time Mom calls for you to help her with something, and it's not on the list, say "I am sorry, I cannot possibly do that". Yes, Mom will grumble, snarl, and throw a tantrum, but she would have anyway.

When our elders need a high level of care [hiring caregivers or moving to senior living] we need to stop enabling them to remain in their homes, if they can afford to move [some can't]. Why should they move, they have us at their beckon call.

I know this is now easy, many of us grown children had to wait for an emergency or two or three before our elderly parents realize they more help then we can give. That is what I had to do with my parents.... [sigh].
Sue, this is a common dilema for caregivers of elderly parents. No disrespect, but your mom sounds like a piece of work. Do we have some dementia going on here?

Don't even consider quitting you job or her living with you or vice versa. It would be a disaster and I think you know that.

My folks are very similar, late 80's, dementia, tons of health issues but refuse any outside help. My mom can still reason pretty well but absolutely refuses to let anyone in her house much less the kitchen.

I can't force them to do anything but eventually a crisis will force the issue for them. It's tough to accept this but it's the reality for many kids of stubborn elders.

Don't take the abuse. Take a step back, detach a little. None of this is your fault and at your age and still working it's totally wrong for parents to expect kids to sacrifice their lives to full time caregiving. Especially when they treat you like crap.
Let me explain something. Unless mom has signed a HIPAA release, the doctor can't talk to you.

You, however, can share your observations. Write him a bulleted list of mom's decline. Mail it, return receipt, so you know he's gotten it.

Stay away from mom for now. She's not dealing well with getting older, is she? Accepting help seems to be harder for some folks than others.

There will be a crisis, and you'll be in the position of arranging facility care with the discharge planners at the hospital.
SueGeo, if there were an easy answer to all this you'd already have found it. So when I give you my initial thoughts, I do understand that it's not likely to be this simple.

But. Taking those two examples, the shopping trip and the interior décor session. What would have happened if you'd said "sorry, mother, can't do it. Love you! Talk to you later!" and put the phone down? I.e., just not joined in.

I expect she would have been astonished. And possibly quite shouty, after a stunned silence. But would anything awful have happened, to her or you?

I'd suggest a pre-emptive approach. Given you have a marriage to tend and a job you like, your time must be very limited. Look at your typical weekly schedule and decide what parts of it you are comfortable allotting to your mother. Then get your retaliation in first (!) and tell her you're taking her shopping on (say) Thursday late afternoon, picking her up at her home first and blitzing the fridge while she writes her list. That kind of thing.

The idea is that if you set the pace, a) you can see that the important things get done and b) it'll be harder for her to make random demands of you.

And if, on sober reflection, you can see that work, husband and mother into your time just don't go... well then it becomes about choices and boundaries. That's a bit more advanced.
Dear Sue; Thanks for the background information on your mother's history.

You do realize that this is mental illness, don't you?

Arranging care for elders is NEVER easy (I have a sweetheart of a mom, and the last 5 years or so have been H*LL; there's always a crisis brewing somewhere).

But the situation with your mom is different. She has a lifetime of mental dysfunction. And perhaps some dementia atop that. Neither of these things is your fault or hers, but it does make the whole scenario more fraught.

You're right, there will be a crisis; mom will end up in the hospital and then possibly in an inpatient psych facility to get her stable on meds. And then to either a NH or AL, depending upon her level of need.
Sue, reading about dysfunctional families like yours makes me very sad. I want to repeat what others have said: This is Not Your Fault. The guilt that you feel today is unearned.

Your mother is mentally ill, and probably has been all of her adult life. Your mother's treatment of you (and your sister) was/is abusive. I have a lot of sympathy for people with mental illness, but I also firmly believe that no adult should put up with abuse. Enabling abuse by accepting it is harmful to both the abuser and the abused.

Therapist Pauline Boss, a very insightful author, has this to say about the subject:

"If there was incest, abuse, or abandonment, you may want to give up on the relationship altogether.

Taking care of someone who years before was abusive or neglectful of you is beyond what is expected of you. Caring for a family member who was or is physically or psychologically abusive in dangerous. Feeling as if you want to retaliate is also dangerous. These are justifiable reasons for NOT being a caregiver."

Dr. Boss goes on to say that it might make you feel better if instead of totally abandoning the family member you arrange for his care by other people, such as in a care center. You have tried very hard to arrange care for your abusive parent, Sue. I think you've done all you can do.

Perhaps someday it will make sense for you to have limited involvement in your mother's life -- visiting her at a care center, for example. But for right now I think it best that you do as she claims she wants -- leave her alone.
Thank you both so much for your responses...needless to say I'm wallowing in guilt today because of yesterday's events. It's hard to just decide suddenly that I'm not going to call her...but we've been down this road before. She did this same thing several years back - screaming and yelling - and telling me never to come back (that's been about 35 years ago...now that I think about it)...she always forgets how rude and nasty she was to me over the years - (she moved to another state and I went down there and moved her back to within 3 miles of my home, so I could look after her) and now I'm supposed to be the devoted daughter and run over there and clean and care for her at least 8-10 hours a day -every day - handling her every need.

I think my mistake was six years ago she lived in another state - was taken to the hospital for congestive heart failure and they called me - the only child (my sister, as mentioned is schiziophrenic and lives in a group home - after many years of living with my mother (personally I think my sister was abused - as you could hear the screaming and dictates from outside their home)...you didn't get this food off the dishes!! You are an idiot! You're stupid! Why can't you do as you're told! (this is my mother's m.o. for years - running anyone who's trying to do anything down - abusive and insulting - always superior herself but wouldn't lift a finger to help clean anything - she would cook - but resentfully and reluctantly...but her home was always a mess (I remember from my childhood - when every dish was dirty - the table was filled with dirty dishes, food, the place was always a mess...and nothing has changed in 60 years - she's still a mess - doesn't wash dishes until there are no dishes to use...leaves food all over her apartment - banana peels that are black - eggshells - coffeecups half full of milky coffee - just a mess! And then she says she's so ashamed of the way the place looks - but fires everyone I've sent her way to help. She even had a lady from church last year coming in FOR FREE who cleaned and took her shopping - and my mother picked her apart - criticized her for everything that she did - finally got mad at her because she was 'rushing' her in the grocery store - and told her not to come back!

Sound familiar? So back to expecting me to do it all...and we've ended up the same way - she's very critical of me - You've gained weight! Why don't you wear your hair the same way you used to THEN (a photo of me 30 years ago with 'big hair' ) and more and more insulting - yelling at me to SHUT UP! In front of the lady from the drapery store - again in front of the cashier at Kroger - you don't call me when you go on vacation (my husband is retired and we go to Florida in the winter) spewing and ranting - she resents my life in general - the fact that I have a good marriage (she never did) the fact that I have a successful career, a beautiful clean home and have worked all my life for those things - and saved for them. She quit working at 39 because she just couldn't cut it...never saved any money and basically isolated herself from everyone - even accusing my stepfather of trying to kill her (not likely)...it's just been a lifetime of crazy...

At any rate, you're right...I can't fix a lifetime of this kind of behavior...tried to talk to her doctor...but no return phone calls...I guess I'll just wait until the next time they call me from the hospital or wherever she gets taken to - to tell them to get her into a facility where she can get some help - because as she told me 'she needn't have bothered having a daughter if I was going to be so useless' ... rarely does she ever say the simple words - 'thank you' ... for anything. And it doesn't matter who or what you've done - my son, who is also very busy with his own life (works 3 jobs) was helping out with her groceries - says the same - she never thanks him for his efforts...nothing. She's told me she DOES NOT WANT him to shop for her, because he makes mistakes...she can't understand why I will not do all of her shopping, etc. I tried to explain to her that he's trying to help me out..but she can't won't listen.

I guess it's a moot point now...we're not going back over there (she's told us both not to come back)...I for one am going to follow her direction - and just stay away...I can't take much more of her caustic comments, belittling and accusing...I, like so many others, need a few positive comments (which I get from work, friends, etc)...and less of this dysfunctional parent.
It never ceases to amaze me how shockingly ungrateful, even abusive, elderly parents can be even after they become dependent upon us for help. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you! I'm angry and offended on your behalf!

As others have said above, don't quit your job. Quit your mother if you need to, but not your job, not anything that is a source of enjoyment and sustenance for you. Needless to say, you mother does not have your best interests at heart. Maybe she's too disturbed to even think about anyone's interests but her own. Nonetheless, you have the right and obligation to take care of your own needs first and hers second, if at all. If you can continue to assist her without it being toxic for you, then by all means do so. But don't let her bully and manipulate you into acting against your own interests. It's your life, first and foremost. You don't owe this to her.
SueGeo, you are very articulate and a good writer. I'm sure you can do a bullet list for a busy doctor.

Sit with your 8 pages and a colored pencil (if this is printed out, or do it online). On the first pass through, take out all the details that frustrate you but which are not necessarily signs of mental illness. For example, she blames your father's genes for you getting cancer. While I agree that is crazy, it is not certifiable, if you see what I mean.

Then go through again, and take out all the mentions of problems in the past. What she did in her previous home could be a supporting detail, but not a main point.

Are you ready for a third round? After having read and re-read this, what are the main points a doctor should know? Maybe something like this: (Just an example ... you'll do better)

I am concerned about my mother's mental health, for the following reasons:

1) Mother needs help with activities of daily living and she refuses to accept any paid help.
2) Escalating anger, making scenes in public
3) She frequently imagines sexual scandals on no basis
4) She is living in unsanitary conditions

After you've settled on the main points, add BRIEF details, picking not necessarily the details that are most annoying, but the ones that seem most related to mental decline.

Keep in under a page if at all possible, and in bullet points, not paragraphs.

I think this is worth doing, and an evaluation by her PCP would be worthwhile. Perhaps some aspects of her problems (such as depression) could be helped with medical intervention.

On the other hand, this has been a life-long problem. Your mother is and has been mentally ill. Unfortunately, there is no cure or treatment program for npd.

The fixable problem, in my mind, is totally under your control. You need to detach from this sick person -- emotionally and not just physically. And after a lifetime of this dysfunctional relationship I suspect you are going to need guidance and support to do this. See a therapist who has specific experience with children of narcissists.

She wants you to quite your job. Don't quit your job. Don't discuss it. Hang up or leave if she persists talking about it. She wants a ride to the grocery store. Say, "No. Wait until your fridge is clean." Just because she has crazy ideas doesn't mean you have to go along with them.

I think a period of physical detachment is a good idea, too. Perhaps after some counseling you'll be in a better position to visit her without being emotionally exhausted by it.

And keep reminding yourself -- this is Not Your Fault.

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