My parents just moved into the nicest retirement community (which I found with advice from colleagues) after having lived on our street in a house that just became too much for them (even with a lot of help). They are now 20 minutes from us now in a very nice apartment in a senior community that makes just about everything more convenient for daily living, and enjoyable for seniors. They seem to be happy there and it seems like a good/smart/safer place for them.
My only sibling lives about an hour away. Since my husband and I are the closest geographically, we get all the calls/requests/etc. (especially when they lived on our same street; they were the ones who moved to be closer to us). Putting true emergencies aside (e.g., middle of the night calls due to illness/injury, trips to ER), we also get all the not-so-urgent phone calls for help. Since their mobility has declined, when they lived on our street, we regularly helped with garbage/recycling/mail/shoveling since they had a very long driveway. I am the one to find them doctors, print out directions or take them, run errands, bring down food they like, pick up things at the store, and get last minute requests to pick up Chinese take out (even though they have menus of places that deliver).
At times my parents could be very demanding but I wouldn't say that my parents are like some of the nightmare ones you read about here. Some requests are fine - "Can you please pick up my prescription and bring it when you visit?" But some requests are very insensitive as to my own schedule and they don't like it when I explain what my availability will or will not permit (I work beyond full time and have a young child). Some requests are rather impatient.
What really irks me is when I go over there (at least weekly) to visit/help with stuff, and immediately they have a long list of things for me to do (after all - I am "free help" and the retirement community would charge a fee for these services).
My husband and child have been good sports and help out all sorts of ways. Since my parents are still in that "moving in" stage, I am more than willing to help with a lot of clean up and rearranging so things are more comfortable for them so they can fully settle in. But then my mother says, after about an hour and half of work, "Now I want you to re-fold all the towels and linens in the closet so they are perfect like I like them." She is a little OCD and wasn't happy with what the movers did - they weren't perfect but they were fine and certainly a HECK of a LOT better than my linen closets!! So I pushed back and said - "I don't think I'm the best person for this job because this really looks fine to me and you know that I don't fold perfectly." She wasn't happy but she later found a cleaning person in the retirement community to re-do it to meet her VERY high perfectionistic standard (for a very reasonable fee that I'm sure they didn't want to pay but had no choice).
I do realize that a lot of the demands are to feel in control, to feel more comfortable in the new environment, but I do feel like they are "testing" my love and taking me for granted. I have gotten great advice from this forum about needy parents - about setting parameters and establishing reasonable schedules, to protect my own sanity/well being, and how it is better to feel guilty than resentful. But still I struggle with this uneasy feeling, like I'm a bad daughter when I won't drop everything and do everything exactly as they ask.
To be totally honest, I get the feeling they really don't want to interact with me so much as they seem to just want me as "free" help, though I do know I'm loved and enjoy my visits. It's not their fault to be less independent as they once were, but they have more than enough money to use the services of the retirement community and I just can't meet all their needs. Anyone else facing this?
GardenArtist - Thank you so much for the great suggestions. I agree 100% about the need for us to be protective over our own health/well being (physical AND mental) first! The truth is that now that my parents are in this wonderful retirement/assisted living community I am not called upon as much as before (when they were on my street) because they get groceries delivered/food serviced, and I see them about once or twice a week. So they aren't as demanding as before, but there is still something that gets under my skin, and I start to feel resentful, which is what I want to avoid. It is so helpful to know that someone out there sees the complete lack of logic of obsessive towel folding when there are other more important things I could be doing for them instead, or maybe just interacting with them in a nice social visit. At the time, I felt like I reverted back to the lazy/defiant daughter who just didn't want to fold towels but it's not that...
Shakingdustoff - I'm totally in admiration of you to take care of your mother full time like that! I could never do that and you must be a very strong person. You are so right about money being an addiction/obsession. In my father's case it's an anxiety and he says things like "I am just trying to save money so there is something left for your inheritance." I truly don't care about that and I know you understand.
Vstefans - Wow, what a story, thanks! Your insight on how you started to see yourself is spot on. I've seen that anger too on occasion, not lately though as her depression is pretty much under control and she can laugh more now, but boy does that anger take a toll...we put up a wall not knowing when it will rear its ugly head again... I'm working on getting past the "parent/child" role/relationship from years ago, especially now that I am an adult and have a family and very busy job too. It's funny how they still see me as their little kid they don't totally trust to do things right, and yet I'm the one they one they almost always call upon...
I began to feel resentful, as my own personal life declined. So I cut back on the errands except those that were absolutely necessary, took time off for myself and decided that changes had to be made before I took out my resentment on my father.
I explained to him that to provide good care to and for him, I needed to have somewhat of a normal, rewarding life. Therefore, I needed time to myself. I explained what I thought I could do realistically, and what I couldn't do without jeopardizing myself to the point that I was too tired to do anything.
This change is still in process, but it looks as though it might be successful. I think what really hit home was when I had a knee injury and couldn't drive for awhile, and when we both got sick and I was unavailable for a week or so. He realized then that my health was important to his own.
You might try something like that with your parents. Sit down with them and explain that you want to take care of them, but in order to do so you need time for yourself, which you can't do if you're doing things that (a) aren't absolutely necessary (like meticulous towel folding) or (b) can be done by others (c) or don't need to be done at all.
If your father was in business, he'll understand the "time is money" principle. Your time needs to be used appropriately and judicially because there's less of it now that you're caring for them.
They'll probably feel surprised if not shocked, but follow up gently by establishing time periods in which you're available (other than emergencies), and what you do have time or don't have time to do.
End the session with a big hug, then leave and let them digest everything privately so they don't have to feel defensive in front of you.
Stick to the plan and decline activities (such as the towel folding) that aren't necessary to their health and well being (which should be the gold standard to adhere to). They'll be surprised, perhaps resentful, and perhaps manipulative while they test their boundaries and try to get you to back down.
You could say something to the effect that given that you only have x amount of hours, you feel it's more important to (a) get their meds (b) do the grocery shopping (c) other similar activities that affect their daily activities than it is to meticulously fold their towels.
The more you stand up for yourself, the more they'll gradually realize you mean it and they can't manipulate you.