My mother is going to be 85 in January. She's currently living in the family home alone, because my father, who is almost 89 and requires 24/7 care, is in a nursing home nearby.

I won't go into the saga that was finally getting my father out of the house and into a place where he could get the care he requires, but suffice it to say, my mother was stubborn about her ability to care for him, and she's even more stubborn about her ability to care for herself. The fact of the matter is: she wasn't capable then, and she's even less so now.

If you look at the check list of "Signs an elder may need assistance", my mother can tick off most of them. She hasn't done laundry since my father left. She'll just sink wash some underwear and pjs and call it a day. The mail piles up in the box until I come over and sort through it all. She sponge bathes. Never washes her hair. Won't cook. Refuses to learn how a microwave works. She subsists on cereal and canned soup. She's supposed to take blood pressure medication, but she either forgets to take it at all or takes too much because she forgets she took it.

As a result of all this she's malnourished and the toll it's taking on her cognizant and physical abilities is obvious, even to her, but still she refuses to see a doctor or accept care. I need an intervention.

She won't even discuss going into a home, even when I say I could find her and my dad a nice place to stay together (there are some lovely places nearby with well decorated rooms that allow personal items and have beautiful grounds, etc).

I'm only 40. I'm an only child and trying to manage a career and family. I work long hours and also live an hour away. I come up every weekend to visit them both and take her to lunch, I pay her bills through internet banking (I have DPOA for both parents, but not guardianship - another battle getting that was), and manage her household as best I can, but it's draining me.

I'm terrified to relax. When I try to take a weekend off from things I get the guilt trip and the reminder that 'we won't be around much longer to bother you.'

I have tried contacting the town's council on aging and the senior services at the local hospital. My mother won't even meet with them. I tried setting up meals on wheels and she refused to even open the door for them. Then, later the same day, she calls to tell me she has no food in the house, could I do a delivery order. I may have had a meltdown over that...

I can't move in with her and I cannot move her in with me. Bless those of you who are able to provide that for your relatives, but that's just not going to work for me. If for no other reason than I have 2 large dogs who would knock her right over and likely break something.

There is little extended family, and those that are nearby are not reliable, nor would my mother allow THEM to visit, either... because she 'doesn't want anyone to see [her] like this'. Her neighbours are helpful, but stay at arm's length and I don't blame them. It's not their problem. I appreciate what they DO do for her.

I'm at the point where I'm waiting to either walk in to find her dead on the floor, or for her neighbour to call me and tell me they're taking her away in an ambulance for whatever reason. In some (terrible) ways, I'm almost hoping something will happen to make it out of her hands whether she's placed in a facility or not, because I can't force her to go, and she's like trying to reason with a toddler.

Calgon, take me away!

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I am in the same boat, except my mom orders brandy from the local liquor store. I have video in the house, and she goes on a bender, sobers up, and does it all over again. Can't order take out, but gets the brandy. She can barely get around straight, but it is terrifying when she drinks. Her COPD does not bother her at all when she drinks. Had her in the hospital after she fell and got a huge bruise and wasn't eating, but they just sent her home. She has her mind still (when not drinking!) and I just don't know what to do anymore myself. I appreciate all the feedback. Good luck to us all.

Maybe she is stubborn, doesn't eat right, is malnourished, and therefore has poor cognition. OR maybe she is in early stage dementia, has cognitive issues, and therefore she can't learn to use the microwave or feed herself properly and is malnourished.

It may not make a whole lot of difference which came first. But if she has beginning dementia, realize that it may not be possible for her to learn something completely new, and explaining or using logic with her is not useful. For example, with the Meals on Wheels thing, when she called to see if you could have something delivered you might go into another room, scream into a pillow and get back on the phone to say sweetly, "Yes, mother, I think the local grocery store delivers for a fee. I'll have them bring some food from their deli, and then I will also order some food delivered tomorrow. I'll call and remind you to let the Meals on Wheels guy in." The only difference is in your attitude. Poor Mom isn't quite in her right mind, so you'll make some allowances for her.

Don't give up after only one try with the Meals on Wheels. But at some point you need to be very careful that you are not enabling her to make her own situation worse.

You have lots to vent about, for sure. I hope it helps a little.

My father should be roommates with your mother! He is a carbon copy of what you have described. The only difference is he still has mom to ride herd on him.
But for those like you and I its going to be crisis driven. I've resigned myself to this. I can't force them to do anything, not even meals on wheels. Ok, have it your way then. There will be another trip to ER at some point, and it will be clear that living at home is not going to continue. So I do as much as I can, as much as they will accept, and that's all that I, and you, can do.

Babalou and Blannie both offer good suggestions. I'll try to offer a third alternative to consider.

Sometimes the caring approach doesn't work; Mom knows she can push your buttons and invoke the concerned and worried daughter approach. So you turn that around and take that power away from her. It does sound as though she's being somewhat childish as well as manipulative.

Examples: Make sure she has enough to eat, even if it's frozen dinners. And raise the issue of Meals on Wheels again. Then next time she calls for take-out, apologize and tell her you've made arrangements with good options for her and that's all you have time to do. Be sweet, then end the phone call because you have work that you brought home to do.

The next time she says she won't be around much longer to bother you, say something to the effect that you're really sorry because you love her, enjoy her company, etc., but if she doesn't start taking care of herself what she predicts may come true. And redirect or end the conversation.

What you're doing is ending the discussion then redirecting the conversation while also making it clear you're not going to be manipulated, and not giving her a chance to use pity as a tool.

I've seen this done in doctors offices, something like:

Doctor to patient: You'll need to do this, be careful of not doing that, take this medicine, etc.

Patient to doctor: What if I don't want to do it? (patient thinks he/she can play games with doctor as he/she does with family).

Doctor to patient: You'll die. Doctor then just stares at patient who is realizing he/she can't manipulate and play games with the doctor.

This isn't easy; in fact it's very difficult because you'll feel cruel, probably cry a bit, and be tempted to call her back to apologize. If you do, she wins.

It may also be that she'll provoke an incident by which you need to take her to the ER. When in front of the doctor, sweetly console her and say something to the effect that you wish she'd take her BP medicine, wouldn't do this or that, and then the incident might not have happened. The doctor will pick up on what's happening and generally give her some instructions on what she needs to do.

If none of these work, then you probably will have to wait until something drastic happens.

Good luck.

What worked for me was a reverse guilt trip. I told my parents the stress of worrying about them was killing me and they finally agreed to move nearer to me. Since you're an only child, I'm assuming you were the apple of their eye. Can you have a reverse meltdown/tantrum and let your mom know how worrisome it is for you with her current choices? That's what worked for me.

Are you in the US? Some of your spelling leads me to believe you're in the UK. If so, things might be a bit different there about how things work with our elders and what fibs you might be able to use with your mom.

You may just have to wait until she's hospitalized for something and then tell them she can't come home and you can't care for her. Here in the US, they'll then put her in a facility if she's unable to care for herself (and it's clear from what you're saying she's not). Good luck and keep us posted. We've got some very creative caregivers on this site!

If your mother won't cooperate by going to the doctor or getting in-house help, then usually you have to wait for "the event".

Have you tried telling her that her insurance requires a visit for a baseline?

It sounds as though she has dementia. It's not that she won't learn to use the microwave, she likely can't learn to use the microwave.

However, if there is still reasoning ability left, you might try pointing out to her that if she goes to Assisted Living now, she gets to chose where to go. When (not if) she falls and breaks her hip, where she goes to rehab will be determined by where there is an empty bed and it may be far, far away. And that may be where she stays, because she won't be able to come home after a broken hip....

Give that a try and let us know how it goes.

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