During my snowbird visits I take over chores (in an effort to be helpful) that my Mom does when I’m not here. However, this trip I’ve noticed moments of absence, boredom and lethargy. Are these behaviors an indication that I’m overstepping? Am I imposing rather than helping? Am I not recognizing or ignoring her boundaries? All of the above?

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We're bombarded with images of retired people travelling the world, taking classes, volunteering and socializing with friends but the truth for many is endless days where the monotony is only broken by the little daily tasks we set for ourselves. Now that I am no longer working I look back on my mother's life with new eyes; her isolation and inability to get up and do something - anything - must have been excruciating, not to mention lonely. I'm not going to tell you not to help out, but do try to tag team where possible, take her with you when you run errands. And be alert to whether her surrounding community still serves her social needs, because when you return home she won't have either your help or company.
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My SIL is a "take over" person. Doesn't ask just does it. My MIL did not like her for that. When MIL found out she may not be able to go home and her rehab was going to be near her son and pushy DIL, she literally willed herself to die at 92. I asked why did u ever tel, her any of that. Let her get thru therapy and then tell her.

What we did was ask MIL what she'd like us to do. Since she was not stable on her feet, it usually was get something off a shelf she couldn't get to. Wipe the top of the above the stove microwave that she could no longer reach. We would always strip our bed and put fresh sheets on and remake it. If I had time I would wash and dry the dirty ones. If not, she had no problem with doing laundry. MIL enjoyed waiting on us, so we let her unless she was already sitting down.

So, say "Hey Mom, what do you need done while I am here. I just can't sit around all day".
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Or nothing to do with the above at all, but an indication that your mother is slowing down and allowing her thoughts to wander occasionally?

If you're worried, have a chat with your mother (or better still several chats) and see if you can gauge how she's feeling in general. By and large, it is true that it's better (as in more enabling) to help somebody do things for herself than to take over and do them for her; but I have before now suspected that this rule was laid down by somebody who never had to clean the bathtub.
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I was told I was doing too much for my mom, enabling her. I was shocked because it was soooo TRUE! If she CAN do it, she SHOULD do it! You can help with extra things or do them together, but don't just take over and leave her with nothing to do. They need to stay active and useful.

A therapist at my gym heard me telling my above story and said, no, you are DISabling her, not ENabling her. Wow. Again, right. The less I allowed my mom to get away with doing, the worse it was for her.

So help mom and then with the extra time leftover from having a helper, try to get her out to do something fun. Shopping, walk, beach, lunch, whatever.
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helenb63 Feb 2020
When my mother moved to AL near us we spent a lot of time with her helping her to settle in and going to social events with her to meet other residents. Although she had always made and got taxis to her own appointments before, she suddenly stopped and began expecting us to do all that. After three years she now won't do anything for herself, and we feel we should not have done so much for her at the start, though we thought it was the right thing at the time. She hasn't bothered to make friends and hardly ever goes to any social things unless we go with her - people even think we live in the retirement complex as we are there so much more than other adult children! But she expects it now and gets angry if we try to do less for her, so we feel trapped. She isn't exactly lonely, as she doesn't like people much, but complains of being bored even though there is plenty going on there. We really don't know how to deal with this.
How would you feel if someone came into your house and took over?
You get into a routine and you have "your way" of doing things even if it is the particular way you fold a towel because you know exactly how to fold it so it will fit into the closet space "just right".
There is a fine line between helping out and taking over.
Also reading many posts here having someone come in to help is like giving up part of the independence that one has.
Just as any guest in someones home....
Always ask if there is anything that can be done.
Always strip the bed and if possible put fresh sheets on when you leave.
Make sure you clean the bathroom.
Empty the garbage can in the bathroom and bedroom you used.
Ask if there are any errands that need to be done.

And I have to ask long are the "snowbird" visits? If they are long it might be nice to break them up it can get exhausting having someone in your house for an extended period of time. Either visit someplace else or spend some time at a hotel to break up the time spent at mom's...maybe an "all inclusive" and treat yourself.
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It’s possible that too much “helping” can have this effect, but not in all cases. There are so many variables here. How able is she ? What are the family dynamics ? Your post does’t say enough to determine this, in your case. If it feels like something is not right, the best thing is to talk to her to figure out what is going on. Like “Mom would it be helpful to you if I did x,y,z ?”

Its not easy sometimes. My mom has in past said “I can do it”, when later on I discovered things were not getting done. In this case, she didn’t want to admit that she was needing more help. I think this is common.

Maybe, just maybe, she is resentful that you come around when it’s convenient for you, but not during the rest of the year ? If so, that’s a tough one. This may be not-at-all what she is thinking, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the possibility. It helps if someone who is not in the family can assess her needs. Just the practical facts, without emotions involved. By this I mean;
Is she able to bathe herself, get dressed, do meal prep, do housecleaning, do financial business, transportation, etc.

Maybe too her behavior has nothing at all to do with you. Communication is needed to find out more. Best of luck.
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I agree with helping Mom but include her in the tasks. I might try telling her that if "we do this together we will have more time to something fun or go out for lunch or something more fun, like shopping, etc.
Luz like to wash the walls in the shower or tub. cost me extra for the water but she was happy. she only used her hands to do this.
She liked to do the dishes too. But I would have to do them again later. Still she loved this and I loved her for it.
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Weeroo Feb 2020
I have Mom help me put away dishes and learned to live with searching for spoons in the fork drawer and odd things always somewhere new.

She can still load the dishwasher, but can't find anything in the frig or pantry so I keep all of her favorites and quick lunches up front.

In other areas I just took over (I live with her full time) because it was easier for me and I regret it now. My formerly driven mother is now lazy and critical.

Also should mention she hates having me in her house. We lied and told her I was homeless and sick. She could no longer live alone safely but was in denial. She likes me okay, just not sharing her home.
Suggestions to talk with her about what she would like to do with you or to have done for her, including her in chores that she can still do, etc are good. She may or may not have issues with you "taking over", she may or may not be slowing down. She may or may not be able to express anything about what is going on. Perhaps she is just reminiscing while you are "busy."

Ensure she has a good physical exam done to rule out any issue is another good suggestion. Also ensure she has some social interaction, activities to do that she enjoys, etc, esp for when you are not there. Spend more of your time during your winter visits just being with mom, taking her out to favorite places, hanging together chatting about life, past, present, future. All can be helpful and might provide some insight into what might be going on.

As to helenb63's comment:

What you are observing may be a result of moving, but it might not be. When our mother was still living in her condo, she began withdrawing from various activities. She lived in a 55+ condo area and would go with several friends to Senior Center activities, esp the free or reduced meals and special events (also free meals!) Although it may have coincided with taking her car away, the car was NOT used for these trips as the SC was local to the condo area at the time. At the point we took the car away (for her safety and others!) her "circle of comfort" for driving was severely limited (by herself.) Mainly it was out of the condo complex to the road and the grocery store was at the other end. So, we weren't really taking away a whole lot!

She began making excuses or just ignoring the others invites to the activities. Several friends and even those who worked at the SC tried to get her to come, but she was withdrawing socially. She would often attempt to cancel appointments (sometimes CANCEL would be written on her calendar, but she actually didn't follow through!) On the flip side, she would complain about not having anything to do and was bored sitting around! Offers to go somewhere were usually declined. In her case, more than likely this was part of the early dementia social withdrawal. The very early signs were missed until it became obvious that she was having issues. Repetition of statements, requests, questions (not just simple forgetfulness, these would happen multiple times in a matter of minutes or less) started me on dementia research.

Once the car was gone, I had to facilitate grocery shopping and that's when I realized she was buying meat and freezing it, but not using it, buying veggies which would be shriveled up in the fridge, etc, plus having multiples of some items because she would forget she had some/where she put them. The removal of the car didn't cause this, but it was the way I learned she wasn't cooking, just eating frozen dinners and boxed crap. When we don't live with them, it is hard to miss all the subtle signs!

Although it is hard to keep up with all the visits you make now, it may be about all you can do. If she won't socialize, she may become more withdrawn. When you do visit, try to go when there is an activity going on and encourage her to go with you. It might help if you reduce visits, but that's something you'll need to work out - I would see if there is anyone who could entice her out, whether it is another resident or a member of the staff.

I do see in your profile that she has hearing loss. THAT could pose a problem too. Our mother was down to one hearing aid and often it wouldn't have a good battery (she would forget to replace it, both at home and in MC) or be misplaced somewhere, so it made it harder for her to socialize! In addition to her physical, perhaps have her hearing retested and/or consider new hearing aids. They do wear down and become less helpful. If she can't hear well, socializing, calling taxis, etc become very difficult.
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You have tremendous insight. I have seen that with my father. I know he appreciates the help but he also has periods of feeling depressed for not being able to do very much for himself anymore. Everyday, I have to balance my usefulness with his need to feel useful. To be honest, it’s a work in progress. Another consideration is that there could be other causes for your mom’s behavior. I would encourage you to reach out to her physician. It may be time for some bloodwork to be sure there isn’t something else going on: cognitively, mentally or physically. Wishing you good days with your mom, and for everything to go well.
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Let her do her usual activities and step in when you see her struggling, not before. The more you do for someone the less they move. Kind of like buying a lift chair too soon - the chair begins doing the work of the legs and the muscles no longer get the lift exercise.

Give her clothes to fold while you do a heavy cleaning in kitchen....or things she may not accomplish on her own.
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