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My mother has lived with my family for a year. Prior to that she lived directly next to us. Gradually she needed more attention and we had the right size house to make some modifications and move her in with us. She uses a walker and oxygen at all times. She is hard of hearing. She has arthritis.


My mom is an only child and has always needed a lot of care and attention. My dad did this until he died, and loved taking care of her. Gradually she has become more dependent and just lets us do everything. Her list of illnesses is long, and mostly self inflicted: years of inactivity, smoking and chocolate.


My sister has also made modifications to her home and my mother spends about a week a month with her. My sister is married, but they have no children. When she is there, my sister makes a schedule for her, including everything: even showering. She follows up, make charts, has a notebook and a calendar.


I am not willing to do that. I have a husband and our child (11) that I take care of. I cook for my mom, take her to all appointments, include her in family events, love her. But she is capable of taking care of herself more than she does. She is capable of showering without we reminding her. She is capable of walking out to the kitchen to heat of leftovers. She is capable of so much more than she will do.


My sister, while she doesn't say it, thinks I should also make a schedule, and such, for her. I'm not doing it. I resent that my mother is putting me in the position to be her mother, when it isn't necessary.


How do I motivate her, without becoming her mother?

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Maybe your sister just does it to be organized. I write everything down, because otherwise I forget what I intended to do.

It seems you're wasting a lot of brain power on this. Do what works for you, and let Sis do what works for her.
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LittleOrchid Jun 6, 2021
So true. My sister and I have entirely different modes of dealing with things. She also makes charts and assignments. (Retired teacher.) My other sisters and I often opt out of the schedules, but we appreciated her efforts at keeping things organized and clear. Sometimes those charts can be a lifesaver. If they work for the mother, the Sis may want to have a copy of the chart and put it up in her house, too. Throw it away if it is too much trouble.
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It seems to me like your real aggravation is towards your sister.

Listen, I get it. I used to get so very irritated with my mom, when she had me do the things that I was pretty sure she was still capable of. Unlike how you describe your mom, however, my mom was very independent - until she wasn't. And I really resented it, when she became so much more dependent on me.

However, as time has gone by, I find myself wondering if I jumped to do things too quickly for my mom- mostly, because **I** didn't have the patience to wait for her to do the things that she could do for herself, albeit veeerrryyyy slowly. Maybe it would have been better for my mom to gently "force" her to do the things she could still do, but like you, I have kids, and a husband, and a job, and a home to look after, and I didn't want to "waste" time. To stand around and let my mom struggle to make a sandwich - for instance - something that would take me like, 2 minutes took her 20. And at the time, it seemed almost cruel, to let her struggle along, especially since I didn't have the patience to wait, and she didn't seem to mind letting me do it. And I knew that the chances of my mother having an epiphany towards the end of her life, saying "gee, maybe if I can do this for myself, I should" were slim to none. So I did what worked best for me, although it was aggravating as all get out!

Could it be that your sister has everything on a schedule so she can run her home more efficiently, while still forcing your mom's hands to do for herself? With no kids in the mix, she probably has more time on her side than you do, and less "wild card" factors that always seem to crop up with children, regardless of their ages.

Has your sister expressed displeasure in the way you take care of mom? I'm not talking about what you perceive - I'm talking about her actually coming out and telling you how you "should" do for mom? I know I was overly sensitive to everything while I was mom's caregiver, even to the point where I jumped to unfair conclusions about what I perceived to be people's expectations of what I "should" be doing.

If you're comfortable in the way you've been handling caregiving, then leave it be. Much like raising children, people have different ideologies with caregiving strategies, and it doesn't make one "right" and the other "wrong". Take care of mom in the way that is easiest for all of you mom included, and let your sister handle things her way.
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I think that your sister should take mom full time and you get her for a week every month or so.

Maybe, tell sister to send her list with mom so she has it to remind herself for her week with you.

Your husband and child come before your mom, whether anyone likes it or not, they are your 1st priority.
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If your sister wants to baby your mother & micromanage her entire life, why not have sister take mother permanently, or for 3 weeks a month & you get her for 1 week? Enabling a person is disabling them, really. Why would your mother want to take the initiative to do anything independently if she can be led around by the hand & told what to do, morning noon & night? Your sister is setting up a system whereby your mother will fail if she DOESN'T have those charts, notebooks & calendars to go by! So leave her to it, that's my suggestion.

If your sister is unwilling to take mother for the majority of the time, then you'll probably also have to have some kind of schedule for her to follow if you want to keep your household more manageable. My mother is very similar to yours; my father babied her something fierce for their entire 68 year marriage, so when he died, she was lost. Fortunately, I had both of them set up in Assisted Living by the time he passed away, so there is a staff to wait on her hand & foot now (in Memory Care) and she expects it, too. If she's not attended to immediately when she needs something, she has a total meltdown! Dad created a monster, really, and the staff at the MC is paying the price.

I seriously doubt you'll be able to 'train' your mother differently at this stage of the game. Your best bet, I believe, is to put the care & management of her onto your sister, if possible.

Good luck!
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Twithdogs Jun 6, 2021
An excellent answer!
Such a common sense solution!
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Talk with your sister. About why she does that.

When my dad was in his late 's70 my sister and I traveled from Alaska to Portland frequently to help keep our Dad's life organized. My brother felt like you do. That we were being indulgent -- that our Dad was capable of doing a lot more. But what we saw when we were with him any amount of time is that he needed help. For whatever reason, our brother couldn't or wouldn't see the impact of aging on our Dad.

On another note, the roles reverse as aging occurs. Don't forget that you are modeling for your 11-year-old how she should respond to you when you have aged to the point of needing help.

You are not your mother's mother -- but you may need to be your mother's caretaker.
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Dear Taylorb1,
I started caring for MIL 17 years ago. Like you, I was sure she could do more for herself than she did. I resented being asked to give more than what I perceived she needed.
Frustration levels rose, until I realized, MIL really couldn't do as much as I thought she could. She wasn't being difficult on purpose. Even though she seemed mostly capable, she really couldn't work the tv remote, the microwave, bathe, brush teeth, etc. What I thought was lazy, manipulative, spoiled behavior, was really beginning dementia.
To keep yourself sane, decide now how much you care you can give. You cannot give what you do not have.
Have a heart to heart with sister, and work out a plan.
If your Mom really can do for herself, have a heart to heart with her also. Put in place the boundaries of what you can do for her, and what she must do for herself. When she can no longer do these things, she will need to move someplace that can provide them.
Just an FYI, as time goes on, I find myself doing more for MIL than I ever thought I would. You kinda grow into this caregiver role, through the weariness, past the frustration, and into a peace that you are sacrificing for a weaker soul.
God bless.
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CaringTexan Jun 6, 2021
Having walked in these same shoes I can confirm that in the early stages of dementia, family members, including myself, often translate our loved one's inabilities as laziness or obstinate behavior. It is a shame that we often aren’t able to distinguish one from the other. My thoughts and sometimes thoughtless responses would have been entirely different had I known then what I know now. We do “grow into this”.

Thankfully I finally did recognize mom's behavior was due to dementia. Often people think of dementia as being an inability to remember and it is. Yet it is an inability to remember “how to” as much as “who, what and where”. Caring for one with dementia takes a long term commitment as you watch your loved one regress from a vivacious, loving person to one who can no longer even communicate. Always remember the person you love is still inside the person who has become a stranger to you as you have become to them. Love them as long as she or he is alive. You will have no regrets.

Knowing this is a long term commitment that drains your energy and time, you need to be certain you are able to provide the care that they require. It can turn your family's world upside down or make it stronger thru working together to provide the care that is required. Some can maintain this care in their own home. Others must rely upon other care facilities. You have to do what is best for all members of your family. It takes many prayers and much reflection to come to peace with sharing your home and heart with someone who cannot assist in her basest needs. We have grown with Mom's needs but it has been one of the biggest challenges of our lives. I say “our” because my husband is as much a part of this caregiving as I am. God will and does bless you in this endeavor. Love and prayers.
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If your Mom is capable of doing by her own, I think you should talk to her, knowing that all her life she's being care of, and explain to her you also have responsibilities. Ask her in a very respectful manner, to be of your help. Being nasty, or rebellious to her, it's not going to help. Also I suggest, start looking for help if she's getting to complicated. Find out with her Dr. If she/he knows of an agency and can refer her. Also find out if that can be covered by her health insurance. Or if she have a house, sell it and use that $ for her care. Another detail everyone missed is this one. You wrote: "She uses a walker and oxygen at all times. She is hard of hearing. She has arthritis". I work with this clients. They hardly can walk due to 2 things: 1- lack of full oxygen and 2- arthritis. Which is very painful and can slow down everyone, including yourself. Start looking for help. Don't ignore these symptoms, get all the help you can and start enjoying your life and eventually hers.
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Reply to GerontologyCert
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Would you feel differently if, as your sister seems to think, a structure and schedule probably are necessary?

Why is “reminding her” especially burdensome, if she ultimately does what you want her to do?

The scheduling and reminding is a means to an end. You remind, she does what you want, everybody wins.

You don’t remind, she doesn’t do what you want, you get mad, she has hurt feelings….

Do what’s easiest for you AND for her. Just be sure you are doing what’s really easiest for you.
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againx100 Jun 6, 2021
I agree with OP that reminding someone who is capable of doing more is annoying. Who wants to have to be a nag? I like to be around people that try to be independent.
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Be nice to your unsuspecting sister by asking her for a copy of Mom's schedule
that she uses when Mom is there.

Then, copy the schedule and hand it to your Mom, once a week.

Ask your sister to call Mom once a day to remind her when to shower.

All sorts of things you can, or choose not to do. I would start with rebellion.
After all, you are still the daughter.

Have fun with this.
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Taylorb1 Jun 6, 2021
You are saying she is still the daughter is a bit harsh people are at breaking point with some elderly people and have their own lives too.
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Believe it or not, having a schedule and reminding her this is the day for shower, change sheets on the bed, etc will make it so much easier on you. When I switched to the schedule for my Mother it made it so much better. It really opened up free time for me. Schedule things for her so not to interfere with your plans. I know it is easy to think our parents should know enough or be able to do these things on their own without being told by the younger generation, but as a person ages they just might need that extra help. Try not to be upset with the idea of this, just think back to the days when you were young, that you knew it was time to brush your teeth, take a bath, etc. Now you will not be taking on the Mother roll, but doing this together and believe me it will give you wonderful memories down the road. Sounds like she has a wonderful family.
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