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Hi all. Here is my situation that I could use a bit of advice with. I am 37 and am an only child. My husband and I live less than 10 minutes from my parents. My mother is almost 73 and my dad is 80. They struggle quite a bit financially as they live solely on monthly social security benefits. My husband and I have always helped them as much as we can, but it has been more and more frequent over the last 4-5 years.


In 2013 or 2014, their only vehicle died and they could not afford to buy a new one. My husband and I had 2 SUVs, but since I work from home full-time, we really only used one of them. One of them we had just finished paying off and the other one we were still making payments on. When their car died, my parents asked if they could borrow one of ours, to which we said yes. We gave them the one that was paid off. A few weeks later, my dad called me and asked if they could borrow it "indefinitely," meaning that it would stay at their house for them to use, but it would still be ours and we could use it anytime we wanted. My husband and I agreed to do this. Well, about 6 months later, while my dad was at a stop sign (it was snowing), when a truck came flying around the corner, hitting the front end of our vehicle, causing significant damage. Thankfully, my dad was not hurt, but the vehicle was a 100% loss. The other driver's insurance paid us what they deemed it was worth, but it was not enough to buy a new vehicle outright. My parents constantly hounded me about getting them a new vehicle, which would mean that we would have to take on a new payment. At one point, my father even said to me, "If your mother and I don't have a vehicle, we may as well just roll over and die."


That spring, my husband and I went out and bought ourselves a new vehicle (we financed it) and gave my parents our other vehicle, which we have been making payments on the entire time. Thankfully, we only have about 6-8 months worth of payments left on it. On top of that, we also pay for my parents' phone service and have them on our family plan. We help them with food also.


The issue now is with my mother and her incessant guilt trips. Last week, she was telling me about how their cable services were going to be shut off because they can't pay the bill until they get their SS checks on the 3rd. Later that day, my mother texted me and asked if we could lend them $50. She said if we could do that, then they could just overdraft their bank account to pay the cable bill. We gave them the $50. Well, a few days later, my mom texted me and said that the check they used to pay cable will actually NOT clear, so they will still be shut off. I said I would see if we could help pay some of it, to which she replied, "Oh, no! Don't you worry about it. We will be fine." A few days later, she texted me in the morning saying, "Hi. How are you? We are just sitting here waiting for our cable to be shut off. We went to the food pantry and all they gave us were noodles and black beans, but don't you worry. We are fine." I responded by saying, "Do you have any idea what it does to me when I wake up and see texts like this from you?" She then apologized all over the place. Then, this morning, I woke up to a text from her saying, "You won't believe what I did. I broke the new coffee maker you got us. I feel horrible. I lifted the top and it got stuck under the cabinet and snapped off. I'm so sorry. I know it was expensive. If you don't want to talk to me ever again, I understand." She then told me how she had been crying about it all morning and said they now have no way to make coffee. I said we couldn't replace it right now, but she said, "No! Don't worry about it." However, I KNOW she wants us to replace it.


She always does this pity party/guilt trip with me.


I can't take much more. She is getting worse and I feel guilty for being at my breaking point, but I am starting to feel resentment. I worry about them enough. Any advice?

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KDCM, the Victim Vortex.........LOVE LOVE LOVE IT!! I always say these types of people are Energy Vampires, and now I'll have something else to add to it! Oh, and don't forget to add "Gee that's unfortunate" to your repertoire. Statements that don't require ANOTHER response are the best.

Thanks for the chuckle!
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kdcm1011 Jan 2019
ohhh, I like that -- "gee, that's unfortunate" -- will be using that as well. thanks! Glad I could provide a chuckle. VV for short. :)
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In situations like this there are so many things that can come up for consideration that you’ll begin to forget the real, important reasons influencing what you do. First and foremost, you love your parents and recognize what they did for you while you were growing up. When you were part of their household their approach to providing for you was “One big happy family”. I’m sure it would have been a different approach when you grew up and moved out of their house (If they provided for you at all at that time.).
You could take the big step (One big happy family.) and merge yours and your parents’ finances and perhaps write them off as dependents on your taxes, and essentially in a sense return, one for one, what they provided for you while you were growing up. Here you would manage both budgets as one and be the final judge on what required funding. You may have to do this sometime in the future, as you parents’ abilities to manage their own affairs dwindles.
For other approaches there is a whole spectrum for supporting your parents, from just under the One big happy family approach to not doing anything at all. A bad approach is to just sit there and be subject to any request from your parents that happens to come up. It is interesting to imagine what approach your parents would have taken in supporting you (if at all) after you grew up and left the house.
To determine what your approach should be, you need to:
1.      Identify what your parent’s spendable income is.
2.      Determine, with them – in negotiations, what is their basic set of needs are. If a vehicle is one of them, and I’d be surprised if it weren’t, establish the basic requirements and their financial ability for obtaining one; including insurance, of course.
3.      Make your offer of how and how much you are willing to contribute and close the deal.
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Think the OP has left the building. Hopefully these helpful tips are being put to use. The bottom line is she can’t change her mother..only her methods and words of response. No one can change another who is entrenched in manipulative behavior.
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73 is not old. I’m 71 and my husband is 72. We were having trouble making ends meet so we both got part time jobs. Getting out of the house and working has actually improved our self worth.
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Upstream Jan 2019
Bravo!! My parents were anxious to retire young so they did. They ended up "skipping" their 70s because they aged straight from their 60s to 80s. They ended up doing nothing but sitting around the house and bickering with each other.
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By the way, you said they can’t give up their landline because of a medical alert device. There are medical alert devices that don’t require a landline so you might want to research that. Our landline was $35 a mo th and we never used it and held o to it because of our security system. We had the security system switched to be wireless and we do not miss our landline. So with a,little research on your part you can change their alert system and save mo eye on the cable "bundle".
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Another thing that occurs to me, mudrunner, is something my older sister told me years ago: there are no victims, only volunteers. What she meant by that is, nobody can make you feel guilty without your permission. You can choose to "buy" into your mom's manipulative machinations ... or not. She wanted you to come set up the tv so she could enjoy it for the short time before the cable got shut off? What you "heard" her say was - "rescue me, pay for another month's worth of cable please." You could just as well have said, "oh, your cable is getting shut off? Then I may as well not bother. Call me when you get the cable turned on and I'll come help you."
Let Mom own and solve her own problems. Just like raising kids, she may stumble a time or two, but she won't die. And YOU will be set free!
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Totally agree. We have to think of them as kids and become parents of senior-agers.
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Start by drawing the line in the sand - buy them a whistle kettle for $15 & 1 jar of instant coffee & tell her you can't afford more

Let them know the bank [of you]is not endless - sometimes ask them to pick which thing they get because you can't afford both - like picking between hamburger & chicken but not both

Let them have the car 3 days a week only & you the rest as you are 'sharing' .... also your insurance may not pay if an 80 year old is primary driver & is not on the policy CHECK THIS NOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF

This is only if neither smokes or drinks - if they do then stop buying them food so they can afford smokes and/or liquor - because it seems they haven't made the wisest choices if all they have is social assistance at their age so why should you support those unhealthy habits
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I have never gone through this but my bff has and let me tell you, by not setting boundaries and expectstions and trying to fix everything for her parents, her marriage took an extremely bad hit and they almost divorced. It wasn’t fair for her husband to be tied into it financially but he was and she didn’t see it and just kept trying to pacify her parents until he moved out in frustration and resentment. It wasn’t only then she saw what he was being put through the same way she wished her parents saw what it did for her. Not only did it put him in a financial bind but she was always stressed and irritated.

What we dont address makes everything else on the fringe get affected too. Will it be uncomfortable? Yes. Will it feel bad to change things? Yes. However you already feel bad and it’s alreasy uncomfortable! Why not do things that will move things forward in an healthy way rather than staying stuck in a bad one?
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Hi, mudrunner. My counsel to you is to get into counseling ASAP and discuss this with with a competent professional. This sounds like a classic case of codependency. Your parents have trained you to provide their every need and want over and above what is reasonable, and they emotionally blackmail you into giving them whst they want. You gave them a car that was paid for, they wrecked it and now they want another one? You buy them big screen tvs and provide them with cable? This is financial and emotional abuse, Sweetie. Your discomfort is nature's way of telling you something is wrong. A counselor can help you learn how to stop the cycle of abuse, because you may not be able to stop on your own after a lifetime of this learned beghavior even though you want to and can see what's hapening. An attorney may also be helpful as well before these people -who are trading on your love - suck you dry, financially and emotionally. Good luck, dear, I wish you well.
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Time to pull the plug on being an enabler.
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You mention that your mothers behavior has escalated over the past four to five years. She sounds like she has anxiety which won’t get better on it’s on. Maybe a therapist could help her. Medicare will cover therapy.
Your parents were a bit older when you were born.
You are no where near retirement age while your mom appears to be aging early. It could be that if you were able to help your father manage their finances it might give your mom some reassurance that they will be taken care of.
It could also reassure your husband that things are under control.
I have a good friend who helps support her sister, a recent widow.
The sister owns a condo with a mortgage. She can’t pay her mortgage so my friend pays it for her and owns an interest in the condo that she doesn’t expect to recoup unless her sister goes into long term care through Medicaid. At that point they would sell the condo, friend would take her portion of the profit and the rest would be spent on sisters care until she spent it down enough to qualify for Medicaid. They have a legal document outlining this so that it doesn’t appear that sister is gifting to my friend when she pays her back at the time she sells the Condo. This allows her sister to live frugally on her social security and my friend not have to worry about her sister being homeless. In my friends case, the condo has a lower mortgage, taxes and insurance payment than alternate housing would cost. They looked and this was the best they could come up with.
Her sister is younger than your mom but was not able to take care of herself financially after her husband died. My friend requires her sister to see a therapist in exchange for helping her. Neither sister has children. This plan might not work for you and your family but do realize that your parents are already vulnerable. You are already augmenting their income. This is a way to control what you spend and be able to get it back when they have to sell their home and it not affect their ability to file for Medicaid if needed.
Of course you and your husband would need to evaluate their total financial situation like any other lender which would help you see if a monthly infusion of cash is what is needed or if there is an unknown problem. In my friends case, she discovered that her sister was playing the lotto thinking that she would win enough to pay the mortgage.
i hope you can come up with a plan that works for all of you.
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Mudrunner - I feel your pain. My mom tried to guilt trip me as well. When I'd had enough one day, I walked out of her house. I came back a day later. I apologized & proceeded to tell her why I'd done it. I also explained things that had happened in the past & how they affected me.
Ifelt awful about it & so called my therapist for an appt. When i finished my story, he told me I'd done a great job so that was my problem. I told him I felt awful about it. He then explained to me that that was normal. I'd done nothing wrong. I'd handled it well.
I encourage you to choose your moment and nicely tell your mom how her actions make you feel. It's very hard to do.
Also, if you attend church, you might seek out your pastor so he can help you to get through this.
And I think your husband would appreciate this positive step and would be supportive as well.
Good luck.
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First of all, check with a professional who is experienced in these situations. Second, get (you) full control over all of the income they have coming in by being fully responsible for all bills and expenses as a government payee or a Power of Attorney. YOU control the funds, the bills, etc. - and remain strong. Give them a base allowance for personal need only but you handle ALL the finances and bills. Oh, they will kick and scream but do it anyway or threaten to walk away from them permanently and leave them on their own. This should scare them enough to give in. Keep detailed records for everything. And as to the "guilt" trips and trying to make you feel sorry, etc., you must NOT give in or it will begin to destroy you and any relationship you ever had. Be tough and learn to say NO. They have lived their lives and now it is your turn. It is enough you are willing to help them but don't let them destroy you in the process.
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You are an enabler.

Sorry to be blunt, but if your parents are insisting (either directly or passive aggressively) that you support them, you should have a say over their financial decision making. I would insist that they hand over control of their finances to you ENTIRELY. Make that a condition of any help you give them. You take over. You pay their reasonable bills and give them a cash allowance that they can afford. And that's it. No handouts.

I know this sounds impossible, but I've been in your shoes with a VERY stubborn parent. Persistence works.
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Not sure who your cable provider is but if they are having financial difficulties, get them signed up for food stamps, check with your local senior center for other savings ie property tax freeze, help with utilities (they have programs for low income). If they qualify for food stamps, cable companies tend to offer discounted rates for home phone and internet. If home phone is only for fall protection monitoring, switch to local calling with no additional services, this should lower phone portion of bill to about 20 a month plus taxes. Make sure to tell them to use cell phones for all outgoing calls. There is also the possibility of meals on wheels if offered in your area. I agree with good will for small appliances, saves a lot and $$$ goes to a good cause. Habitat for humanity restore great place for gently used and some new furnishings. There are many programs available for seniors on a fixed income but you need to search them out, big companies are not going to voluntarily give you the information, cuts into their bottom line. Check credit card situation too, sometimes they will reverse fees and reduce interest charges. Good luck.
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Run!
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Lots of good advice so I'll try to not repeat, and forgive me if someone else suggested this. Have you thought about becoming their SS rep payee? That way, you would be in charge of receiving and spending (on them) their SS checks every month. You will have to submit an annual report but that is easy. Financial/numeric ability is often the first to go, and if they didn't have much to begin with, well... it's only going to get worse.

You will also need to start receiving their bills, or at least reviewing them every month. Cut down on the number of credit cards they have access to. Freeze their ability to get new ones. Make sure they get on every program they qualify for. Look at every alternative / opportunity to save money.

(Some senior centers sell books of taxi vouchers. Keeping a car on the road is
expensive! Work out the per trip cost of their using YOUR car, it will shock you. Taxis are cheap.)

At least that would give you some sense of money in / money out. It's clear they are not making ends meet, and you have been very generous with supporting their lifestyle. No reason you can't continue to do that, that's your choice, but as others have said, you need to place some limits for your own financial security and the sake of your marriage and your own sanity. Those are your conditions.
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Stop responding to her guilt inducing statements.

When she makes a comment designed to make you pity her and feel guilty, if you do not subsidize her, simply ignore the statement and change the topic to something more pleasant.

Even better would be to ignore her complaints and then start talking about yourself. Most self absorbed people hate it when others talk about themselves and will want to end the conversation.

Also do not help her more than you can afford to because, remember, you have your own elder care to plan for.

As another person mentioned, it might be a good idea to find out exactly how they spend their income.

A lot of people who claim to need money, often have plenty in the bank, they simply do not want to spend their own money.

Lastly, if they are really poor, there is financial assistance available.
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Lordy, this sounds like my mother. Her coffee pot quit so I ordered her a new one. Amazon can’t get it there fast enough - she can’t think for herself to buy some instant coffee to tide her over. Of course she’s bugging me cause I took the initiative to help her out and order a new one. Moral is No Good Deed Goes Unpunished. Sounds like you need to set boundaries or they are going to wear you out.
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Harpcat Jan 2019
This is my motto too...not good deed goes unpunished!! I resonate with you.
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I would have difficulty with this too. I hope someone out there can give you better advice.

Maybe your husband and you have to sit down and figure out a monthly budget of what you can afford to spend on your parents and then tell them come this is the only amount of money that you can give and they’ll have to manage without your assistance beyond that or wait to the next month. Be loving, firm and let it go. Deflect the guilt trips like arrows to your heart, they can’t hurt you if you don’t let them pierced you. You know it’s a tactic so just keep telling yourself that until you can get your boundary firm and you’re OK with yourself about that. be strong. love yourself, love your family, set your limits. And get better advice than mine. hugs.
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First of all, age 73 is not that old! I would find out exactly what they are doing with their SS checks. Someone did this to me before, they weren't family, and I called it USING ME. It's sad that your parents are at this point in their lives. Seems they didn't prepare for life over 65. That's not your fault! I would tell them how they are making you feel. It's not right of them to put their burden on you.
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If it is the way in which your mother is asking for the help and not the help itself, I would suggest the next time your mother asks in a way you do not like, tell her when she asks in an appropriate way you will think about helping out.
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Gaea18 Jan 2019
or just say nope.
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I would not get boxed into ongoing financial help. You need to plan for your own future. Parents maybe need to explore any financial assistance available such as subsidized housing (rent) and utilities, etc. If they own their own home they either need to obtain a reverse mortgage or sell it and downsize. Guilt tripping is horrible, especially from a parent because they make you feel that you "owe" it to them. They decided to have you and were able to tell you what to do and how to live during the years they were responsible for you. Now they expect you to solve their financial shortcomings - problems you could not have planned for and are not your fault. Not fair.
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I don't believe you can change your mother's behavior much at her age - but you can change your reaction to her behaviors. It's not easy to change our responses but it can be done. You have already begun with step 1 (recognizing the behavior as it occurs) and step 2 (understanding why your mother may act this way).

A member of my family married someone who could not just ask for a favor or help with some small task - she had to precede any request with some language that indicated she was "owed" assistance. This was learned behavior from her divorced parents interactions. My family member was extremely irritated by the "setup" which often made him feel he had failed in some regard or that his wife was unhappy being the stay at home mother she said she wanted to be. Instead of asking her husband, "Could you give our son his bath while I finish supper?" she would tell him how she had been stuck with the baby all day and he needed to take over his care for the night. I asked my family member if he had a problem giving the baby a bath or taking care of his son and he said not at all. I advised him to ignore and not respond to the "setup", reply as cheerfully as he could "sure thing" and do what she asked. Later, when the baby was asleep and things were calm, tell his wife how the "setup" made him feel and express that it wasn't needed with him - all she needed to do was ask. That conflict was what she saw and remembers from her divorced parents but they weren't divorced and could work together. I asked my family member to view that "setup" behavior as a big hurt from her childhood that she would probably never be able to completely walk away from, but could probably diminish as she became more confident and secure in her new roles as wife and mother.

Similarly your mother was apparently taught in childhood that she needed to be "needy" to gain what she wants, so she is giving you the "setup" before any request. She may or may not be deliberate with the guilt trip but she probably cannot change this learned behavior at this point. Because there's no "punishment" when you decline leads me to believe it's possible your mother may not be aware of the guilt trip effect. If you can learn to recognize the record when it starts playing and see it as her affliction that has no personal direction at you, then you can learn to mostly ignore it too. Just wait until the record runs down and then respond to the request itself with a logical decision.

There's always a fine line between aiding and enabling. I chose to do some things for my own parents that were definitely enabling my father with vascular dementia to be more financially irresponsible; however, I did them anyway to make things more stable for my very responsible mother while she was taking care of Dad. Help with your parent's needs but please be very selective in how you help with their wants. It's OK for you and your family to have luxuries when your parents do not. They don't really need the latest and greatest coffee maker - they do need a safe coffee maker.
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Harpcat Jan 2019
Plus the behavior is being reinforced because she gets what she wants. As Dr. Phil always says "you teach people how to treat you". This is what her mom is doing and it works. No surprise there.
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If your dad has had TIAs, he probably shouldn't be driving. It might be time to take the keys away. I sincerely doubt he will "roll over and die." That said, I totally understand where you're coming from. My mother is one of those game players. She is an only child who had everything she wanted and then had to face adulthood among people who didn't give in to her. That made it necessary for her to manipulate others and she has been doing a pretty good job of it for the last 70 years. She wants to shop and watch soaps and play bingo - can't be bothered with mundane stuff like legal matters, bills, maintaining a home, etc. But, rather than directly ask for help, she hints - or threatens. She lives in a memory care facility due to her dementia. She is not allowed to have a vehicle or to leave the facility on her own but constantly threatens to walk or hitchhike to places she wants to go to. She is a picky eater who "can't" eat a wide variety of foods and doesn't like the choices at her facility so, of course, she will starve if she isn't taken out for lunches and dinners. She needs new clothes weekly because everyone at the facility "steals" hers. I used to give in, being guilted into it every step of the way. I don't anymore. The truth is, she won't die without a vehicle, she won't hitchhike, won't starve, and she won't run around naked. Her NEEDS are met; it's her WANTS that aren't and I'm not a good fairy or a genie. Neither are you. If your parents are safe, warm and fed and have access to medical care as needed, that's more than a lot of people have and maybe they need to be reminded of that. Try turning the tables on mom. When she says her cable is being shut off, tell her yours is too - you couldn't pay the bill any longer because of other expenses and you need to tighten the belt. When she says she doesn't have a coffee maker anymore, tell her you can't afford coffee to put in yours, so you gave it away. When my mom was shown her $35 bill from a month of services from the hairdresser who cuts hair at the facility where she lives, she moaned "how am I going to pay that" (she has plenty of money). I asked her if she'd like to swap bills as I had a $500 heating oil bill in my purse. I've noticed that the elderly seem to become very self absorbed as they age, especially with dementia. Sometimes they need to know others have lives and issues too.
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MrsParker5 Jan 2019
Lablover, the turn-the-tables strategy, as you've dubbed it, works well. I used it for the first time on Christmas Day with my never-satisfied mother, age 92. She was caught up short, looked surprised, and changed the subject mid-complaint. I will deploy this strategy more often.
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Your parents must think you are rich. But even if you were, they don't have the right to ask you for money all the time. It isn't right. Why can't they pay their own bills?
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You could tell them yes under one condition, that you would control their finances, pay their bills, give them an allowance, etc. Seems like a fair deal to both sides to me.
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Your parents seem a bit old to be driving. I guess it is pretty amazing that your dad still drives. When people get older it is hard for them and your doing a good job dealing with your parents. Parents become dependent on their child(children) when they get older. I only have one son, who is 15 years old now and I hope I do not do this to him. He already complains when I ask him to help me a lot. Everything falls on you and your husband and it is hard to manage this. I know.

My mom is 81 and she has 6 children. I am the youngest of the girls. She use to call me from 3-10 time per day until I put a stop to it. We got into a disagreement and that was enough for her to stop calling which is good for me. She was driving me crazy with her boredom talk. She gets bored a lot because she has nothing to do and likes to take up all my time to entertain her.
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Your folks are using you and manipulating you. Which you already know. Next time use your boundaries and say I’m so sorry...end of sentence. As long as you enable them, they will suck you dry. It isn’t your fault they didn’t save money for retirement. They can shop for a new coffee pot at a thrift store. Or get a $10 4-cup pot...they do exist. She can buy instant coffee and boil water. Your post had me making gasps as I read it and made me upset they’re so bold at using you. I would let them use ride share services. What would they do if you were not alive? Good grief! At 73 she is pitiful to be doing this.
As far as cable goes they don’t need it. We cut cable over a year ago and use an indoor antenna for local channels and stream Netflix etc. people live without cable all the time.
Im sorry you’re dealing with this but the sooner you stop and set firm boundaries the easier it will be to live with them as your parents.
Give them a monthly allowance if it makes you live with yourself and level with them and say that you and your husband live within a budget and they must too. Sit down and list their "must have" (not nice to have) categories and total them up and see where they are. Throw in an extra $20 fun money and tell them that’s it. Because unlike them, you are saving for your old age. It’s so sad that you’re having to be the parent. Set boundaries now. They won’t like it but their lot in life is their own making. Good luck!
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Hi,

I feel your pain, it seems like when our parents get older any type of etiquette or Manor just seems to be thrown out the window. I remember when the phone calls started and it just went into a rant never good morning how are you how are the kids etc etc. I am just wondering how involved you are in your parents medical part of their lives this sounds like when my mother started with this first stages of dementia.we were not aware of it at that time but it definitely increased in the phone calls never see you I don't have any money no one feeds me ... mind you I had a different circumstance my mother can't drive she's in a wheelchair but she would find other things to obsess over . it sounds like you are doing a lot for your parents right now and I know it's hard to get over the guilt but you will for your own sanity. just a suggestion to maybe start going to a couple of their doctor's visits and it might be a point where you take over their finances for them. Best of luck use this forum as a tool it has been a lifesaver!
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