Aging parent in not great health wishes to move 3000 miles to live near me. Need advice.

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A little back story: My mom (now 72) was a very distant mother, would call me stupid, lazy, a brat, told me my father didn't love me and would move back to his home country if he could (he was actually extremely loving to me, we were close until he passed away when I was a teenager.) When I was sick in my late teens with a then undiagnosed autoimmune disorder she told me she didn't want to help me because she had already gone through my dad being sick. She was cold, mean, would tell me how she had a hard life and gave up her happiness to be married and have kids. She was and is a functioning alcoholic, starting to drink in the evening and staying up all hours just smoking and drinking alone after everyone else was in bed.


Very shortly after my dad died, (they were still married at the time) she met a man who moved in with her. This was fine as he was nice and she had a companion. After 25 years of living together he passed away this week. She has never had friends or any community life outside of her husband and then her boyfriend.


She now wants to move near me. My brother and sister and I suggested she look into a ccrc, but she says no way. She wants a condo near me. She said she'll give up her car and I can do her errands and help care for her, that she can't be alone and needs help. I have 2 young children and work full time, my husband works about 60+ hours a week, we are already really strapped for time.


I think if we had had a loving relationship I would be more eager to step up to the plate, but all of this is bringing up all the cruel interactions I had with her as a kid. My brother and sister have flat out said they don't want her near them because she is so toxic. Because I am the "nice" one it makes sense I should care for her.


Should I try to persuade her into a CCRC? Should I get counseling and move past our past and help? I feel very overwhelmed. In addition to drinking, she hasn't been to the Dr. is 42 years (when I was born) smokes 2 packs a day, and my sister (who is in the health field) thinks she has suffered a stroke due to slurred/ lispy speech. She also clearly has broken a wrist and it rehealed incorrectly. We have begged her to go the doctor, tried to set up appointments and bring when we visit, but she refuses. I am worried her health will go further south and she won't accept professional help, and I will need to stop working to care for her.

Answers 1 to 10 of 10
Top Answer
The nice one or the weak one?

Who has had what conversations with whom about what exactly? You, your brother and your sister need to huddle, fast.

Your quasi-stepfather is not cold in his grave. This *shouldn't* be an immediate problem for you - presumably there are various admin. points to be sorted out yet, yes?

It actually makes most sense of all for the healthcare-qualified person to assume leadership of family policy towards your mother's care plan. It makes no sense at all for a person with compromised health, a job she likes, a hard-pressed husband and two young children of her own to take it on.

Do not be the wide-eyed innocent dozy little baby antelope David Attenborough urges us all to root for. Run for your life!
"No, mom, that won't work for me".

That's the ONLY answer you have to give to her. If she moves (on her own dime, doing the heavy lifting herself) you visit if you feel like you want to.

Adults have a responsibility to plan for their own old age. It it NOT the responsibility of their adult children.
What Barb said.
It seems pretty obvious she isn't considering a ccrc because she has the idea that you will become her caretaker when she moves closer to you. The sooner you quash that concept the better.
Lila, this is your mother and you love her. I am keeping that uppermost in my mind so as to be very careful what I say.

So I'll just quote back what you yourself said:

"as her boyfriend was moved into hospice, my Mom had me go with her to buy lots of new furniture so she could sell her house and have it look good."

Suppose that sentence were your first impression of a person you hadn't met before. Her boyfriend of 25 years is dying. She's picking out new furniture. What would you think she was like?

Then there's this:

"the one in health care, also is the only one without children but she is the most adamant about not helping out with this."

Do you think the experienced professional might know something you don't know about the realities of caregiving? Isn't this a bit of a heads-up for you?

I am sorry that your mother is alone. I am sorry that she needs a new life-support system and doesn't know where to find one. But how long do you think it would take her to bleed you dry emotionally? You do not have to be her next host.

She is fortunate to have money. I imagine her as a very elegant, interesting person. She would thrive in a facility with staff to wait on her and other people from her own social stratum for company. FIND HER ONE. Fast as you can. As far away from you as possible.
In your original post you outlined what it would be like if she moved closer to you and you became her caregiver/gofur. Yet in your post you also seemed to give in. Why? You are an adult with a job, husband, children - you can say No. You should say NO right now. I've had to do this with my INLAWS and my mom who assumed they would move in with us or close to us and we would take care of them.

"Mom, it seems you have some assumptions about what moving near me would entail. I am not able to XXXXX. The most i can do is have dinner with you once a month".

Get it out there and shut it down. NO ONE has the right to take away your life - do not allow them to. See a therapist if you need help navigating setting boundaries with your mom - but set them in concrete.
Excellent advice above. Please, please protect your marriage and your children - they absolutely do not deserve any sort of contact with alcoholism or smoking for that matter. Spouse and kids always come first. That's what you promised, remember?
Do not assume that you will "have to" give in. You DO NOT! Make it entirely clear from the get go that you will not be her caretaker. Not, not, not. Do not ask for time to think about it or imply in any way that she might be able to change your mind. You are a stonewall here. Your decision is final. Perhaps once she begins to see you mean "no" she will undertake to help herself. If she has money she has options. So no need to feel you have to rescue her.
"Because I am the 'nice' one it makes sense I should care for her."

No! Absolutely not! This does not make sense to me at all. You think you should be punished for being nice? What?

"No, mom, that won't work for me".

Nip this in the bud NOW.
Keep your distance. If she moves near you, how.....interesting. she is NOT your responsibility. Do not accept becoming her POA for anything. Do not assist her in moving.

Your mother is mentally ill. Caring for a " normal" aging parent who loved and cared for you when you were young is hard, heartbreaking work. Caring for a mentally ill, resistant and alcoholic parent who mistreated you as a child is a job for professionals. Not.your.job.
I agree with Golden - send a "for the avoidance of doubt" email to your brother and sister spelling out your absolute opposition to your mother's moving right across the country (bad idea #1) to an area where she knows nobody (BI #2), twice, yet (BI#3), on the flimsy basis that you have time (you don't) and are willing (you aren't) to become her protector, entertainer and advocate (Terrible Idea). And who even thinks she'd take to Los Angeles anyway? Even I'd guess it's culturally a foreign country for someone with your mother's background and I'm not even American.

Don't make any accusations, let us charitably assume that Sister misunderstood. The object of the email is to make sure she can't "misunderstand" a second time.
"She was a total babe when she was young, really smart, educated upper middle class New York girl. How can she end up like this?"

Alcoholism can happen to anyone.

I hope you don't let her do this to you!   My mother was an alcoholic when I was younger - her dementia personality is a lot like her alcoholic one.  I moved her closer to me not knowing this, and I've wound up giving up SO much to care for her.  I regret it. 

And I don't even have kids.

My mom is also stubborn about not seeing doctors or going to the ER, or accepting things like home support or community nurse visits.  Your mom is going to NEED medical care, especially as she declines - she won't have a choice.  It's going to be h**l on you if you have to fight her every step of the way!

I hate almost every second of what I'm doing now. I've lost so much. I'm now staying with her because she refuses so much outside help - no one but me will do. And I really wish I'd left things alone. If she was still where she was, she would have HAD to go in a care home by now. She cannot manage her own life or home.

I would take a strong guess - this is just my thoughts, based on experience - that your mom might want you to take care of her because you are the nice one - because (she thinks) you will not push her to give up her addictions. Her addictions are the master of her, and if you let them, her addictions will be the master of you, too.  They say alcoholism is a family disease - not because everyone drinks, but because everyone is impacted by it.

And you have kids. You know what you went through as a kid. Is that something you want them to experience too?

She isn't going to be able to drink in a care home, and she isn't going to be able to smoke whenever she wants either. Sounds like the siblings aren't going to put up with it. I would bet her addictions play a huge role in her refusal to seek medical help - someone might tell her to stop.  Maybe someone did tell her to stop and that's why she won't seek medical help!  It makes sense that she wants to come to you, because she probably thinks you will put up with it.   She knows how much power she had over you as a kid, and she may still think she has it now. 

*deep breath*

I think letting her come to you, so you can be her caregiver, might just be enabling her rather than helping her. I, personally, think enabling an addict is one of the worst things you can do if you really want to help them. I've been there, with both of my parents. Neither one of them got real help for their drinking until I walked away from them.  (Neither one of them ever quit smoking, either - my mom thinks she should be able to smoke in the apartment or my car any time she wants, and she does.  All hours of the day and night.)

Dealing with my mom now, I can almost guarantee you are setting yourself up for the same kind of abuse and dysfunction you experienced as a kid. 

I've been to Al-Anon (the 12-step group for friends and families of alcoholics) on and off over the years.  I've been contemplating going back.  I really recommend giving it a try. You don't have to join anything or pay any money. It's just a support group. You can find a meeting by phoning the number for Alcoholics Anonymous in your local white pages.

I know without the skills and knowledge I learned through Al-Anon and counseling, I wouldn't be able to deal with my mother as well as I am managing now.  Which isn't even all that well.  But at least I can stand up for myself, which I couldn't do when I was a kid. 

If you're not ready to tell her no flat out, you could try telling her that you're not ready/able to make a decision about looking after her yet, and that she needs to cool her heels while you think about it. Then you've bought some time to get some counseling or some support, so that you can find whatever words you need to say.

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