Couples time while caregiving.

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My boyfriend and I were looking for a house together when his elderly aunt was told she could no longer live alone and begged him to let her live with us. We discussed it and since she is his only living blood relative and I knew and like her, we tossed out our ideas of a dream home and purchased one more suited to her mobility issues. It's a beautiful house and we are happy here. We scrapped vacation plans and adjusted our work schedules to be sure she would not be left alone too much. She is capable of being left for short periods at a time. There are caregivers, nurses and therapists thst come during the week while we work. My own parents have come in on week ends when we have had errands to run that would have us away too long. However, he and I try to get a dare in every couple of weeks. A movie or a late dinner after feeding her or even just a walk. Well, we try to give her notice. "Friday we are taking in a show. We can have someone come in you'd like or set you up with everything you need and we are only a call away. We'll keep the phone on vibrate." I can't tell you how many times we've scrapped plans because she was "not feeling well." If I hear the words, "I'm not long for this world. You have plenty of time for that nonsense" I might scream! We started going out anyway. She pouted and refused to eat dinner! Feels a lot like raising a 3 year old again. This last time, we had a movie planned on a Friday night. She was advised on Wednesday. She suddenly started feeling "funny". On Thursday, we wanted to take her to the doctor. She refused. Friday afternoon, she told her nurse she had shortness vof breath and was promptly was rushed to the ER. After numerous tests, the doctor told her and my BF there was nothing wrong. He brought her home. She was all chipper and happy. No signs of shortness of breath. When he told her we would be taking in a matinee the following day, she became a feeble old woman again. She also said, "Well, I can't go." to which he replied, "My dates don't require a chaperone." She refused to eat nearly all day the following day (She's diabetic!). Before and after our outing! Sunday morning she was starving and not the least bit under the weather. How does one deal with this drastic manipulation? We are with her 98% of our time away from work. He had a talk with her about crying wolf too many times and how catastrophic that could be for her but she became defensive and refused to acknowledge her game playing. We both equally care for her, though I still feel she views me as the outsider. When there are no plans for us to go out - or when we take HER out - we all get along beautifully and there are no issues.

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One thing I learned about dealing with my 96-year-old mom (I don't live with her) is that I don't tell her ahead of time what's going to happen. Because she'll say she doesn't want to go out or she's too tired. So at the time we're going, I just show up and say, "We're going" and it works out fine. If you give some elders too much notice, bad things happen, as you've discovered.

So with your aunt, I'd set up the plans and at the time you'll be leaving, have the caregiver arrive (if you're setting one up), and tell her you're leaving and walk out the door. Leave instructions for the caregiver that she's to call 911 if something happens. Go and enjoy your evening. Turn off your phone. Quit letting her manipulate you into not spending time alone. She's behaving like a child, so treat her like a parent would treat a young child who is having a tantrum. It sounds like you need to set up more date nights so that she knows they're going to happen very regularly (every week) at least and there's no shutting them down with her antics.
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To the aunt, you are the outsider.

Don't give her any notice, like blannie suggested. See if that works. Although I wouldn't be surprised if she gave the caregiver who will be staying with her a hard time or tries to call you over and over with petty complaints while you're out.

You're in a game of wills now and she will win because she has the "sick old lady" card. Shortness of breath? Well, we'd better take her to the ER just in case. Chest pain? Better get it checked out just in case. Dizzy spells? We'd better not leave her alone tonight.

When she starts trying to manipulate tell her that you have to call 911. It's much simpler than going to the ER and the paramedics will let you know what they think. And your aunt can't manipulate paramedics because the paramedics are able to test her oxygen level or see if she's having a heart attack. The aunt can't outsmart the equipment they use.
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You don't mention any dementia in the picture. That would change things somewhat.

You continue to have your date nights. Don't give advance notice. If she calls you while you are out, instruct her to call 911 or call 911 yourself. Maybe her symptoms won't seem so drastic to her.

She doesn't eat, to punish you? I understand the diabetic factor, but she'll get through a day. Don't comment on her refusal to eat. Don't remind her of her blood sugar. Ignore that ploy. Keep an eye on her for symptoms of low blood sugar and if you notice some offer her a glass of juice or milk, and say "would you like this for your blood sugar?" without panic. If she is feeling bad she'll drink it.

If her behavior continues in spite of your attempts to not be manipulated, then it is time for a serious heart-to-heart, between Boyfriend and Aunt. "We are very glad to have you here, and we both enjoy your company and our times out together. But our relationship with each other is primary right now. We absolutely must have the freedom to have time alone together. If that can't happen easily and without stress, then we have to have other living arrangements. That would make me sad, but it will be necessary if you living here interferes with my primary relationship."

I wouldn't bring those big guns out without trying less drastic measures first. But Boyfriend has to stand up to Aunt, for the sake of your relationship.
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In addition to all the responses that said do not give her advance notice of when you are going out or what your plans are I STRONGLY advise you to start looking for an Assisted Living facility. You do not mention if dementia is a dx but I can only say things will get worse and more time consuming. You both will age 10 years in the next year. I know your boyfriend loves his aunt but at some point this will become too much for both of you and one of you will end up quitting a job to become a full time care giver. If it is you (and I would bet money on that) you will resent both of them. An AL facility will better care for her, she will have more to do, she will meet new people and when she does have a medical emergency they will be better equipped to deal with it. It does not mean you don't love her this is allowing you to visit and enjoy her company and not have to deal with the "drama" on a day to day basis.
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Assisted living is the answer. She will destroy your relationship if you let her. My mother was working a terrible stress on my marriage that was going to end in divorce if I didn't do something. You are not unique, many of us have been through this. It will NOT get any better. Lay down the law and make it stick. And do it now before it is too late. She is going to push you out of the house sooner or later if you don't act. The pressure on your boyfriend will become unbearable.
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I so agree with the advise given by prior answers. We experience exactly the same thing with my 96 yr old mom. Last time she called "wolf" and we intervened, she got an ambulance ride to the hospital at 2 am and the paramedics said she entertained them with stories about world war two the whole way! No guilt here...just arrange for the resources needed to keep her safe and her needs met, do not tell her your plans in advance, then get the h... out! When it comes to old age, i have found that it is indeed a lot like dealing with a three year old!
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This is time for "TOUGH LOVE". She is pulling the sympathy card, and you simply have to put your foot down and tell her you are going out no matter how she might resist. Trust me, once you do it, again and again, these behaviors will calm down. Let her know you mean what you say, and you are going to have some time alone. Now enjoy the show, and just say "NO!" to her...
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I'm in that position with my 95 yr old mother - she is and always has been very manipulative her whole life. I didn't buy it when I was a kid - scared of her, yes, but I'm intelligent also. As soon as I was able to support myself I went looking to save enough money to purchase my own home. I tried very hard to never get in debt to her because she would then use it like a club. However, sometimes it was the only way to get ahead. She and my Dad would usually forgive the debt. To make sure I had no regrets I purchased a home nearby so I could keep an eye on my folks as they aged. My 2 siblings flew the coop very early and moved far away so as not to have anything to do with her. Being the oldest and having lived with her behavior the longest I just felt sorry for her to actually tell you the truth. I moved in with the folks about 4 or so years ago when my father got so bad mom couldn't fully care for him by herself. He eventually passed and I stayed on because Mom was not coping well at all without him. A friend of mine who had no place to live is "house sitting" and taking care of my critters until whenever I need my house back - that has been 3 yrs or so now. Anyway - I have hospice and a visiting Dr. service as well as an agency person and a paid out of pocket daily who helps out. I'm still becoming very burned out and need to make some changes soon or I'm going to end up in the loony bin. After much discussion with the hospice nurse their social worker is researching care facilities in our area who accept medicare coverage and will take her. She gets around well, has dementia and says the most outlandish things - always been quite the drama queen. The best thing for me is to get her into a good memory care facility that I'm comfortable with so I can finally sleep. I'm also a senior with my set of physical challenges that she refuses to acknowledge when I explain why I can't just jump and run at her behest. I have no social life at all. Definitely get some help - hospice and agencies can advise - ask, ask, ask and eventually something will click that will work for you and for her, so that you and your boyfriend will have your life back. I wish you the best.
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I have experienced the exact same behavior from my 96-year old Aunt. So, as has been stated, when I am going out I just do not tell her. I told her the very first time she pulled that stunt that I had no intention on sitting here 24/7 and if that was what she expected then we needed to make different arrangements right now. You know, it didn't stop her from feeling weak, or dizzy when I told her I was going out so I just stopped telling her in advance. But it did stop her from complaining and expecting me to be here all the time. I love her and we are the end of the line in our family. As for the Mom's diabetes, do as I have done. I have made it very clear to my Aunt that if she does anything that causes me to be unable to take care of her, I will place her in a facility. I can't afford a caregiver to stay when I'm not here so I'm not gone long at a time. If she refuses to eat when I am not here, that means I can't take care of her and she will have to go. If she pitches a fit, which she has done but picking her walker up and slamming it down when she is angry, and in so doing it makes her fall and hurt herself, then I can't take care of her and she will have to go. I know this sounds heartless but being that way was the only way I could get her to hear me. Though I don't tell her this, I only go out at night about once a month and am home between 8-9p because she is especially frightened to be alone at night. And I only leave a couple of days a week for four hours or less because I don't want to leave her longer than that. I am working with a service now through the Council for the Aging to qualify for some help. That will make it easier. As others have said, NOW is the time to set that boundary. Tell her her options, as was stated. I had to come right out and tell my Aunt she didn't get to make decisions anymore. If she wanted that, she need to be in a facility. Good luck. Trust me, set that boundary right now.
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I agree with Blannie's answer except the part for the caregiver to "call 911 if something happens." I would instruct the caregiver about your boyfriend's aunt's manipulation antics. These attention-seeking antics cause our health care system's costs to rise dramatically. Needlessly "rushing" her to the ER and wasting physicians' precious time and having very expensive tests to determine "nothing was wrong" (which was quite obvious to you) is just his aunt crying wolf. You both are with her 98% of the time so you truly know when something is medically wrong. You know in your heart she is manipulating you both and you need to nip it in the bud or this WILL be your life until she dies. You don't mention how old she is. Blannie has a great suggestion -- line up a caregiver and when she arrives, tell Auntie that you are going out for the afternoon/evening and you will be back in a few hours. Give the caregiver your cell phone number and tell her to call you ONLY in a REAL emergency. Do NOT under any circumstances give Auntie the heads up that you are going out. Feed her her dinner or lunch as usual which will give you piece of mind -- then go out. Stop feeling guilty. You have done a wonderful thing taking in his Aunt, but unless you take control, Auntie will manipulate you until the cows come home. You are already feeling guilty and trapped. It will only get worse if you let it.
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