I have found that much of the mental disciplines / character-building disciplines that work with raising children and handling interpersonal relationships of all types work remarkably well with my senior mother.
I never knew my father, so I had to sort of learn the hard way how life works: treat people poorly, you find yourself alone a lot. Don't pay your bills, you lose things. Don't take care of your mental, physical, educational, professional maintenance, you can't marry the type of person you want or hang out with the types of people you admire. that kind of stuff.
So I apply that kind of reasoning to dealing with my mother. It's basically the book of Proverbs. (Don't panic; though I'm a disciple of Jesus Christ, I'm not a jerk nor a hypocrite. At least i don't think I am....:) What I have found, however, is that you have to be ready for a LOOOOOOOONG haul with this one. Children haven't already lived a whole lifetime, so they're more receptive to learning healthy practices, and they also didn't raise you for 17-18 years. Having said that, though I basically panicked through the first few years of dealing with my mother's increased dependency, (it was never some clearly delineated moment: "Ok, so TODAY, I start doing everything for you, right?" No, it just sort of came to me one day that everyone in my family was always asking me "What do we do about mom?" Including Mom...) and it came to a make-it-or-break-it place.
My mother is exceptionally manipulative. I'm totally not saying that as a criticism. My mother's parents died when she was four, so she was passed from one family member to another and had the most unstable childhood imaginable. She got married when she was sixteen to someone she barely knew. (Yep. Dear old Dad.) So under such conditions, my mother became an expert at survival. She had five children, two of which died; one at birth, one suicide, and had to feed us, which she did, successfully. But she became extremely sophisticated at manipulation to get things she hadn't the resources for; home, security, stability for her children. Not the preferred means for finding your mate, but there it is.
These attributes caused my mother to become very difficult to negotiate with. She's used to being in charge. So when I, the meekest personality out of all of us kids, woke up on day with the reins in my hands on day, the struggles for HEALTHY management of her affairs AND our relationship became daily events. There were MANY tears, as many on my end as hers. Dudes, there is no one who can get in your head like your mother. Can I get an amen?
But I stayed on point. My mother needed me to be tough. Me too, it turns out. I can't tell you the times I've walked out of her apartment thinking "Oh man, I am SO going to Hell." after standing toe-to-toe with my tiny little hard-headed mother after telling her in just-under-drill-sergeant-tones "Mother, you are going to stop being negative and critical and you are going to start thinking healthy, constructive things and using appropriate language when I come here, or I simply won't come except at regular intervals to check on things. No social visits.
Ok, I know what you're thinking. "Dude, you ARE going to Hell."
No, I'm not. Stay with me...
So, it just seemed like the right thing to do. So I did it. Whenever she got mean and critical, I just up and walked out. Sent her checks when she needed them, checked in with neighbors, called about specific things, kept it short. After a while, she would calm down, I'd come back. Things would be nice. but mom has been a fighter her whole life, so she'd get mean again, so I'd stock her up and walk out again, promising that when she got kind and appreciative of all the nice people surrounding her, I would come back. And listen, my mom's no idiot, alright? The "I'm just a little-old lady" thing came up a LOT. But the thing is, when you're doing something hard, you check your motives often. And when you make mistakes, you fix them. You adjust. but you must stay on what's right even if it's unpopular, because we don't just effect our moms and dads, we have children and wives and husbands and God intends for us to live the lives He planned out for US, as well. It's not a show about any one person. keep it healthy for everyone, and everyone gets healthy.
It took a while. A helluva while. But my mother is remarkably positive now. She actually depends less and less on me for her primary relationship and interacts with people her own age, and out-of-nowhere actually exercises now!! She goes out in her little area socially and has, hang on to your hats, actually THANKED me for being such a hard-ass. In her words, "I needed to make some changes but I was kind of scared. But when you didn't leave me any choice, I finally had to just go and do it!"
I still go see my mom. Are you kidding? She's my mom. But right is right and we have to stand on those types of things no matter who we're dealing with, and the power of true things, right things, stable things, is very, very powerful and perfectly effective without exception. That's what I've found.
Now, it's time to start working on my "big" brother.
Nice to have found this place.
PS, this may have been just as well placed in Mental Health, but it struck me as maybe being even more important for us to maintain these things for our own sanity primarily because we, the ones with the responsibility, have to be healthy to keep them healthy. And everyone else in our families.