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Please help. I didn't mean for this to be so long and bless your big heart for being kind enough to spare me the time to read this. I am torn up inside and could really use some assistance. Thanks:

I am a 45 year old woman with two young adult daughters. My mother is 77 years old. My wonderful father died in 2005.I am trying to start a home based business. There are only four of us in our family. There is NOBODY else, no one. Here's the issue. I love my mom, I really do, but she wants to see me every single day. She doesn't want to go anywhere without me, except to the hairdresser, grocery shopping and that's it.

She has only one friend who she sees about once a week. I have encouraged her to talk to her neighbors and invite them over. She won't. I even said I would make her food and drop it off at her house so she wouldn't have to cook. Nope, won't do it.

I would love to see my mother once or twice a week, but she wants to see me every day. I feel guilty as hell. I see her 4 to 5 times a week for about 4 to 8 hours a day and I am ready to burst with misery about her being here so much and guilt about my seflish attitude for not wanting her here as much as she is. And I hate it. I cannot stand seeing her so much. She doesn't talk, just sits on the sofa waiting for someone to talk to her. She is very very lonely. I get that, but she doesn't want to do anything without me.

I have encouraged her to: go to the senior centre, volunteer, join a book club, invite someone over from church. Her response? "No, because my hips hurt/back hurts etc" or my ultimate favorite of "Karen, these people have families. I am not going to ask them to do something with me when they have families of their own." I encourage my daughters to spend time with their grandmother but they really don't want to because she either a) complains, b) doesn't talk, or c) all of the above.

In the ideal situation, my mother would come over every single day and sit on my sofa until I come downstairs, oh so joyful to see her and then I would tell her all the wonderful things that have happened in my wonderful life since I last saw her (yesterday). But I don't have exciting stories to tell. I just don't. The conversations are always one sided. I have to think of something to say and she responds with yes or no, or talks very little and then stops until I have to think of something else to say. It's exhausting.

My mother attends church weekly and once in a while goes to a function there. I've encouraged her to do more as have people at church but she has only one pet project: spending time with me. That is her ultimate goal every single day of her life. And truthfully, it's draining.

There are many things she could do but doesn't want to. Everyone loves my mother. She truly is a good, kind, decent person. But I just can't stand seeing her day after day after day and racking my brains to come up with some conversation. She routinely says, "Karen, talk to me, just say anything" and do try. I swear I do.

The stress is killing me. I spoke to her doctor and she is on an antidepressant, but that does not cure her loneliness. It does not stop her from calling everyday to find out "when can I come over?" It does not stop me from cringing at the thought of spending so much time with her. If I say that I am busy, she whispers "Oh, okay" in a very soft unhappy voice, and sure that means I don't have to see her that day, but I do the next.

I never get to spend anytime alone with my own children. A few days ago I said, "Mom, I think that me and the kids will go to see a movie, just the three of us. I haven't spent any time alone with them for months and months now." Her wistful response, "Oh, I wish I could go." I felt like screaming, "God damn it mother. I spend more time with you than anyone. You are choking me and sucking all my happiness out of me. Go find someone to talk to. How selfish a person are you that you demand to spend so much time with me but you can't let me spend two hours with my children once, just once. I more or less told her this but she said, "I just wanted to tell you how I felt, that's all."

What do I do? I have tried reasoning with her many times. If I am gentle or if I am strong or if I am nice or if I am mean, it results in the same thing: her saying "Fine. I won't bother you anymore then. You live your life. Goodbye." And then her calling me the next day. So truthfully, what is the point having hurt feelings and anger if nothing every changes?

I am at the point right now where I truthfully feel I could hurt her or me because I cannnot take it anymore.

What do I do? She is sitting downstairs on my sofa now. It is about 5pm and she has been here since 1pm. On Wednesdays I need to take her to her doctor, which will of course mean that she will say after the appointment, "Is it okay if I just sit on your sofa? I'm not coming in your house to run all over it. I won't bother you?" On Friday she has a morning appt too which will result in the same thing.

Today I said to her, "Do you want to come out to lunch with me today (to a place she likes) or to dinner (a place she doesn't like)" She chose lunch, and idiot that I am, I figured when we got back 2 hours ago that she would leave. She didn't. Instead she said she will "find something to eat" at the place we are going to for dinner, so now that means she will be here until 8pm.

Am I a selfish horrible person? My mother is so wonderful and kind and gives me money all the time and will do anything for me. I feel like I should be doing all of this with a smile on my face instead of with anger and resentment in my heart. I am crying buckets right now and feel like a complete moron. Am I?

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Karen,
It seems like your Mom can use some help, of the professional variety. Is sounds as though your Mom has some deep issues and would benefit from counseling. Has her doctor ever suggested this? It may require that the doctor go so far as to "insist" that she needs to "be evaluated" and that would at least get her in the door of a mental health professional. Based on your description, I'd enlist the support of her pastor as well. While counseling might help your Mom deal with her fear of being alone, at the same time, her pastor can help her to become involved at the church.

Your Mom is very lukcy to have you as her daughter. What you are handling isn't easy. You need to make sure that you provide yourself with some distance from the situation too, like many of the other comments suggest. In some communities, there is a "friendly visitor" program. Call your local Area Agency on Aging or Eldercare hotline and see if this exists near you.

Finally, the transition to senior housing is often difficult. My blog has a number of articles about this which you might find helpful. I frequently find myself working with families like yours, and while the process may take some time, once your Mom can "own" the idea of transitioning to a different living situation, she might be willing to give it a try. Since it sounds like she is able to make decisions for herself, it is important that you allow her the dignity to be a part of the solution and don't fall into the trap of taking over and saying "this is how it's going to be."

Hang in there.

-- Sheri
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Karen, I'm glad you mom is getting treated for depression. It's possible that she isn't on the right antidepressant - not all of them work for everyone.

Your statement, "I am at the point right now where I truthfully feel I could hurt her or me because I cannnot take it anymore" concerns me.

I urge you to see a doctor for yourself and ask if you may have depression. You also may want to see a counselor about how to work through the guilt you feel with your mother. She knows how to make you feel guilty. If she has dementia, a doctor can help with that, and you can find ways to get help for her. However, if sounds like she gets along fine with others and doesn't have memory problems. One thing to ask yourself is how new this behavior is. Knowing that will help a doctor with a diagnosis.

It's easy to tell someone they don't need to feel guilty, but it's hard for the person with the feeling to drop it. Please seek some help for yourself, as well as your mother.
Carol
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Dear karenp, I think the comment above is not at all helpful to you. You need help, not someone to tell you that you should feel lucky that you have a mom and should love her more and give her a big hug.

It's a tough situation for you and there's no easy or perfect solution. I would suggest that you focus on acceptance of your mother's behavior and find ways that you can go on with your life even if she's sitting on your couch. If she makes comments when you want to go to a movie with your daughters, she is being unreasonable. You can respond to that by giving in, being angry, and trying to change her, or by doing what you want and knowing in your heart that it's unreasonable for her to need you so much. By the way, does your mother live by herself? If so, you really need to try to get her into a home. Many seniors fiercely resist going into a home, but once they get there find that they have a big circle of new friends and activities.

Ultimately, you hold the power, not her. She needs your help and companionship, but there is a limit to what you can give. If you can get past your guilt and do for yourself what you need, at least one of you will be happy. Your mother will not be happy even if you see her every day. She is looking for something deeper that you can't give.

Best of luck to you.
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Karen, your pain and stress come through so clearly in your plea for help. That alone should alert you that something needs to be done about your situation...and soon. Your mother needs you and depends on you, but so do other people. She is putting so many demands on you that there seems to be little left over for anyone else, much less for yourself. All of her good attributes that you mention do not discount her exerting such psycological control over you. It sounds like she is living on her own and able to take care of herself for the most part. She is making the choices to isolate herself from other people. She is the one who refuses to try to make friends, even though there are countless women in her age group who would love a friend to do things with. She won't even give the senior citizen center a chance. In other words, she has made you her world by wielding power over you through manipulation and guilt. From what you say, she even takes no joy in her grand children. At least, there seems to be little interaction between them. Perhaps, since she seems to be such a nice woman from your description, she has a touch of dementia and has no idea how her demands are affecting you and your family. Regardless, you'll be no good to her or to your loved ones if you continue to let her rule your life via guilt and manipulation.

The fact that you say you feel that you could eventually hurt her or yourself shows how stressful the situation with your mom has become. You need to take a stand, even though it will be hard and it will be unpleasant initially. Get caller ID if you don't already have it. Don't answer her calls unless you want to talk to her. If you have things that need to be done...do them without feeling guilty. Set aside two or three days a week that are for her...Tuesday & Thursday for example. Let her know that these are the days that are hers and she can choose how to spend them. If she demands your attention on other days, gently remind her that 'I have other things I need to do today, but I'll see you on Thursday.' She will immediately go into her guilt producing mode, but you don't have to continue to let her victimize you. Know in your heart that you are doing what is best for you, your family, and ultimately for her. If she chooses to refuse to interact with anyone else, or shuns any effort at making friends, that is her choice to make and should have no reflection on the choices you make for yourself and your family. You should enjoy the time you spend with your mother, but that will not be possible as long as you are filled with resentment because she demands so much of your time. Make an assessment at a time when you are calm and decide how much time you can reasonably devote to your mother without sacrificing your sanity and your peace of mind. Make a plan and stick to it. She will be unhappy at first and will try to push your buttons as she has done so effectively for so long. Resolve not to cave in and let her win. If you are persistent and stick to your well thought out plans, she will probably come around in time. If she isn't getting the reaction she wants out of you there will be no point in her continuing to attempt to control you.

I would add one more thing. If she hasn't had a medical evaluation recently, you should consider taking her to her doctor. Go with her while she is being examined so you can hear first hand what the doctor's opinion is. If she is suffering from dementia or any thing else that might explain some of her behavior, this needs to be addressed. Her needs should be taken care of, but not all of her expectations can be met. She needs to understand this. And speaking of needs, make sure to take care of yours too. Both you and your mother will enjoy your time together more if you are relaxed and happy. Don't feel guilty about limiting the amount of time you can give to your mother. Planned visits that you can look forward to are far more rewarding for both of you than several long visits each week that you dread.
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Hi all,
Mostly great advice here. All situations being different there are still many commonalities.

As hard as it is not to allow yourself to be manipulated, that really has to be step one. No one can MAKE you feel guilty. That is a personal choice. You have done nothing to be guilty of...so don't put it on your self.

Another thing that interested me in your situation, you said you live in your mother's old house? Could that be adding to her feelings of just wanting to be there? I know when my daughters come home to visit and stay over, I just love knowing they're there...in their rooms. We don't have to be doing anything, they're just there and it feels right. And I am only 53 years old.

It sounds kind of like when our kids were little and they would be playing in the room at our feet. We weren't necessarily DOING anything, we were just close to each other. Could that be what she is feeling?

Start on changing what you can. The doctor's visits are great but your response is not necessarily going to be determined by what a doctor finds is going on with your mother. You need some limits...some GUILTLESS limits. If you ever dropped your children off at daycare and listened to them crying as you went out the door...then peeked back in five minutes later to see them happily playing...you know what I mean. Your Mom will adapt and be happier when you adapt and are happier too.
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I know that when you get really old, they say it's like a second childhood. But when you're raising children, they DO grow up, they DO become independent and most of them DO move on with their lives. My husband and I were looking forward to the 'empty nest' so we could have privacy again. Remember privacy? But for you that are living with parents that will NEVER become independent again, NEVER grow up, I feel for you. It's not fair to make the correlation between raising healthy, active children to an Alzheimers/dementia affected person. I understand what Lilly was trying to say, but it's different. The commitment may still be there to take care of the parent/husband but the circumstances are greatly different, with nothing to look forward to (like with children) than for it to just stop.
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karen,

I believe you are doing the best you can. I hope everyone who is reading this is realizing that lhardebeck is taking care of her dad and not her mother. I feel the emotions can differ greatly from mom to dad. Dad's may not be as demanding as a mother-as her story states he says please and thank you. This tells you he is appreciative of any attention at all. It may just be behavior of the individual but something tells me it is the mother guilt that is so tiring and stressful.
Karen, I hope for yourself you will take the time away from your mother. She has been blessed with you who will take her in-
she sounds like it takes alot to make her happy. You will never please. Who is going to make you happy?? It has to come from you--enjoy your family!! This is your time. You don't have to wait to enjoy yourself....who knows what the future holds for you!! You are obviously of good health, and should take time to enjoy your life, your mother did for herself. Set some non-guilt time for yourself. Start small doses and increase frequency. Parents don't ever seem happy no matter how much you give...So, make yourself happy--nobody else will!!!
I am so supportive of your efforts, I admire you!!

lcg
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icg and karenp,

I think it's so good you both can talk about these things. It helps me, too. Being on these boards helped me NOT have my mother live with me. It also helps to know that what I've been through is NOT normal, and that I'm not alone, and it wasn't ME that had the problem but my mother. And I'm realizing my dad covered up a lot for her, and he wasn't real nice to do that, as he helped her abuse my sister and me. Actually, he wasn't real nice to me at times, either. They did what they had to for appearance sake, only to look good in the eyes of others. Little did/do others know what was/is going on behind closed doors!!!!

If I had thought of tape-recording or video taping back then, we could produce unbelievable TV sitcoms, and make tons of money. My husband said he thought that they were like what he thought was so fake on TV. He said he didn't know people really lived such false lives as he had seen my folks do. And he didn't just come out bashing them, but kept it to himself quietly. He only talks like this sparingly to me, to reassure me that I wasn't the problem they said I was; instead the real problem was with them. (Not that I was perfect.) Whatever it took to take a negative focus off them, even at my expense. They'd lie and cover up to save face and ease their guilt. I alone know the truth, and my sister, who is now trying to steal all the inheritance. So she saddles up to mom (while secretly despising her) just to be on her "good side," (against me) and keep the machine spinning. Sick demented games. It makes my stomach hurt. How can people be so wicked to their family?

It is hard for my mind to wrap around the stories I read on these posts, and the ones played out in my own family. My heart goes out to anyone who suffers at the hand of the kind of abuse so many have encountered here. I feel because I know. I hurt because that's the proper response to such abuse. And I grieve because it happened, and is happening to me. While I can't really help another, I do understand. And it is awful!

To survive, we had to deny things, and often told ourselves, "It's not that bad." But to read it here in print breaks through that denial. It's kind of freeing to just get it out in the open and admit that things were not rosy, but more like a thorny briar patch. With parents so good at "spinning the truth," and intimidating us into submission and compliance, who would have believed us anyway? Even today, they have their ways of fooling others, manipulating us (well some more than others), until we finally learn that enough is enough, and start to set some boundaries. Sometimes the learning curve is great, and often much delayed.

What's hard is when those who don't understand say things like, "Just do this...get boundaries, or take care of yourself." First we have to learn what that means and how to do it. People who haven't been through what we're talking about haven't got a clue how hard that is, and don't always have the patience or grace to understand. And sometimes people heap unrealistic expectations on Caregivers, and produce crippling guilt and condemnation which doesn't fit the circumstances. Sometimes that makes it harder to maintain hard-won boundaries, putting some into a defensive position. NOT caring for a parent at home is sometimes necessary for the offspring of an abusive parent. Those who had nurturing, loving moms and dads may not always understand that. It can't always be all about the ailing parent, but must also take into consideration the ones whom they affect and how. Each of us has to decide for ourselves what we can handle, and what we cannot. That's sometimes not a clear cut boundary or process. When dealing with cognitive issues, life just isn't black and white. Each situation and the people involved are different. I think it's important to remember that what works for one person might not work the same for you or me. What a journey!
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A couple of days ago I was with a dear friend who has a grandmother-in-law that is 91 and is self-centered, uncooperative, and mean. She refuses to give up her independence and needs 24 hour care. This friend's MIL (the aforementioned grandmother-in-law's daughter) has dementia as a result of a brain tumor and is in assisted living. My mother has dementia, and health issues, and my father has narcissistic personality disorder and some health issues (they are 81 and 80 years old respectively). I said to my friend, "I really think it is time for my parents to move along" (as in go over the rainbow bridge). My friend looked at me and said, "You don't know how many times I think the same thing about ***'s grandmother! I know it sounds mean, but it is just too much already." Yes, this is probably not too PC, but it is the truth. I think many of us believe that we are being awful and hateful when we wish that our loved ones would just close their eyes one day and not awaken. What is the quality of life that our loved ones have with horrible illness and the demands made on the family? It gets to the point where it is not tolerable. It sucks your soul dry. You are dealing many times with a person who is no longer the same person you loved and wanted to be with. I just think people are living too damn long!!!! I have learned from my experiences and my friends' experiences that I never want to do this to my child or to my spouse. I will leave written instructions that if I am not sound in mind, then my child and husband are to ignore my attempts at manipulation and guilt-tripping. Don't abandon me, but don't be taken in by my craziness either.
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She's lonely. She's drugged. She's depressed. She's older, wiser, and afraid. She also likely spent alot of time when you were little wishing to God she had some time to herself. But- she had a child to raise--a 24 hour job. Her dreams and wishes set aside to be a Mother. Now, she is reduced to being a nuisence in your living room that loans you money, and needs your Love, and you resent that. Man, it sucks to be you. (Hope your children are prepared when it's their turn to "deal" with you.)
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