Hi all,

I've posted a couple of times here about my parents - I'm an only child trying to take care of a mother who is likely suffering from the onset of dementia, who is taking care of my father who was diagnosed 4 months ago with terminal lung cancer. I've come back to the US from Asia to start a life here close to my family in order to be a support.

The history with my mother is not a good one - she was the princess of my father's eye and our family revolved around her happiness. Sometimes that included me, as long as I wasn't too much of a bother. I'm over all of that (it has been pretty painful at times), but it's difficult to cope when her aggression towards me continues: Gas-lighting, passive aggressiveness and often just overt aggressiveness. I've been living with them, driving them to doctors appointments, cleaning the house, making repairs, organising important paperwork, etc. etc. On top of this I've been looking for a job, a house and completing a PhD.

Yesterday my mother stormed into the room where I'm staying in the house. I had spilt coffee the morning before in the kitchen, and apparently made a mess all over the place and absolutely did not notice it I was so nervous to get out of the kitchen, and she cleaned it up later. I'll add here that she is a hoarder, and the house is an absolute disaster most of the time but I've tried to respect this while I'm there, whilst cleaning up behind her per my father's secret request (he doesn't want her to know how much the chaos bothers him).

Anyway, when she stormed into the room yesterday, she was insinuating that I made such a mess on purpose. She actually leaned forward at me and I remember asking her if she was about to hit me (which she did a lot of when I was younger - I'm 53 now). I told her I couldn't believe the hatred in her eyes and voice. She yelled an expletive and just said she'd never understood me, that I had to have known that I made such a mess.

It's not about the coffee - I know that. And for some reason I was shocked and hurt by her behaviour even though this is how I grew up. But I left the house and started to drive to another relative's. In the car, I started to have a panic attack - I got hysterical. I then began to lose the feeling in my arms and legs, I could barely hold up my head and I was drooling. I barely speak. I was a complete blubbering mess. So I waited at a gas station until my relatives could pick me up. After a couple of hours I was okay again, but the whole experience really scared me. I was just so frightened by everything.

My father will stand by my mother - he was always her rock and will back up her accusations of me. My mother refuses to get extra help in the house, and only wants to deal with this on her own - she has made this quite clear, although she exclaims on a regular basis what a lifesaver I've been. I have decided to move out of the house this week. I never want to see my mother again. I would like to be there for my father, but I don't think this will be possible.

I just needed to share this. My relatives seem quite worried about me and sometimes I'm just not sure about what to do.

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Dechen, my heart goes out to you. Some people just cannot understand what it's like to come from a truly abusive family dynamic. "Dysfunctional" seems almost laughable at times, when the term is used to describe families which pale in comparison to your own.

I get it. When you had that "out of body feeling", I knew exactly what you meant. Yes, get a Dr.'s opinion...but when I went through it, I was told it was a full blown panic attack, an inner cry for help, triggered by being put in the position of feeling like a child again.

It's d*mn scary to revert, especially when its been years since we felt that way. And when we truly believed we'd moved past it. It's like all the hard work was for nothing. That hurts. We feel like we're back to square one. aren't. You grew up. You have stood on your own two adult feet. You rose above. And you are in the process of rising above once more. The fact that you recognized the situation was too stressful and fled from it is not a sign of weakness!

Best wishes.

It is generally not a good idea for someone who has been or is being abused to be a caregiver for the abuser. At most you can provide help indirectly, through a social worker or geriatric manager. Anything hands-on is unhealthy.

I think that your moving out is appropriate (and sad). Your mother is way out of line, not merely pushing buttons. And, yes, she has dementia, but this abuse has a long history.

If you feel that your father is not getting proper care because your mother refuses to accept outside help, you might ask Adult Protective Services to check on the situation.

Good luck on completing your PhD, and then on finding meaningful work in your field.

I don't think this is a question of not being able to handle hands-on care taking, but a question of having boundaries, which I've developed and try to abide by. I also think that abuse is much more than just 'pushing someone's buttons' and being 'upset' by it.

Dechen, you are doing the right thing, and I wish you happiness with your future endeavors.

May I ask how does your Mother treat your father? Even though she has been acting this way since decades ago, now she is probably quite scared of her future since your Dad is ill. There will be a time when the family will need to start thinking of the future regarding your Mom as she will need some help at home.

Learn to set boundaries and limit what you can do for your Mom, as it sounds like she can really push some buttons to upset you. And don't feel guilty, as not everyone can be a hands-on caregiver, I couldn't. And help Dad when you can.

Thanks very much for the return comment. I have decided to move out completely this week, and will return to the house with a truck and a friend. I had a job lined up at a school across the way from my parents, but I have decided to move closer to friends and family, work part time at something mundane until I finish my PhD and settle in to simple living for a while. I haven't had a place of my own where I feel comfortable (this has in part been my choice because I was doing fieldwork in India and Nepal), so I really need to do this. Tomorrow I'm getting myself to a doctor for a consultation. This sort of situation can be so confusing and it nice to get some support here.

Dechen, your body is telling you something.

Get yourself to a doctor, tomorrow at the latest.

If your mother won't accept outside help, and abuses the help she has, then she's going to have to go to a care facility. That's her choice, isnt it?

Offer to help your dad find a nice place for her. Do NOT return to hands on caregiving.

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