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So basically my mother is mentally competent, become physically less able, and emotionally overwhelmed. I think depressed and anxious, Ive offerred a counseller but she declines. She has unmanaged diabetes because she just wants to chain smoke, eat bad foods etc. Which has very negatively effected her health. Her GP believes she has cancer and in denial about all her health issues. The Specialist believes ger downturn in health is due to unmanaged diabetes. Tests were organised. I also organised a social group service for her to boost her morale, a medical transport service for her as many if her appointments are during school pick up and drop offs times, or it's clashed with my children's appointments. All of these appointments, she either told me she had booked and was going but actually didn't make, or I made them for her and she cancelled and told the medical staff not to discuss it with me (when she had previously put me down as a point if contact).


Thankfully the hospital rebooked everything super quick, and I have been able to take her to various appointments and stay with her during these because its school holidays.


During this time, she is struggling to walk sometimes, I have to lift her in and out my car. But she is also chain smoking, not sleeping during the night, not on any insulin etc (I've sent the form away for her but yet to hear anything) and eating so much junk food and fruits!!!! Physically her ability has declined. So I either order groceries to be delivered or go pick things up for her.


This is my problem. She requests I buy her cakes, sweet stuff and cigarettes. If suggest no and try to discourage it, she gets angry, yells and cries.


I have been doing this because I don't think it's right to take control of her life. Her choices must still be hers even tho I don't agree with them. Yet, its me who has to physically buy these things for her as she cannot do or afford it herself. So I also feel like I'm enabling unhealthy behaviour and hurting her. It's doing my head in. How much control do you take from a older parent, who is struggling emotionally, who's physical health is rapidly declining because of the unhealthy decisions they are making which is hugely fuelled by their emotional state?????


If mum had her own physical devices, she would get them anyway.


I feel like I'm wrong if I do and also wrong if I don't. What are people experiences and perceptions please?

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Would you go out and score drugs if she was an addict? Feed her a shrimp po'boy if she had a deathly allergy to seafood? Bring a bottle of scotch if she were an alcoholic?
I don't think there is anything wrong with refusing to enable her self destructive behaviour, she's free to find another source.
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NeedHelpWithMom Apr 8, 2019
I love this answer!
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Now I’ll give you the other answer, just so that you can stay confused. Your mother’s choices are likely to put her into an early grave. Perhaps she thinks (like her GP) that she probably has cancer, and is quite happy to keep all the habits she has. The unfortunate truth is that an early grave may be the best option for you, as well as the option she is choosing by default. Caring for her as she declines may be beyond what you can do, as well as potentially killing her. Perhaps you could put it to her fairly straight – this is going to kill you, is that what you want? Or not quite so bluntly, this is going to lead you into a nursing home much sooner, is that what you want? Weaning her off her habits is likely to be as effective as trying an amateur ‘cure’ for an alcoholic or a drug addict, and make both your situations very unpleasant. (People with a seafood allergy are easy, they don’t go chasing shrimps.) Talking to her GP about what you can do might be helpful for you, even if she won’t go. You need to feel that you are doing the best you can, whichever way it goes. Sympathy and best wishes, Margaret
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NeedHelpWithMom Apr 8, 2019
Good suggestions, Margaret!
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I agree with cwillie. You say you don’t want to take over Mom’s life, but that’s exactly what you’ve done. Then, when you feel guilty for doing so, you buy her junk food and cigarettes.

Mom is like a petulant and rebellious teenager. The more you organize, scrutinize and push, the more she pushes back.

Step back. Say nothing when she is stuffing junk in her mouth or smoking. If she is mentally competent, she knows exactly what she’s doing. For heaven’s sake, do not enable her. It will be difficult. She can fuss and cry all she wants. When she starts, walk away. Leave. Hang up. When she thinks you no longer care about her well-being, things may change.
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NeedHelpWithMom Apr 8, 2019
Yep, she may have a lifetime of bad habits or she may be doing it more to get a reaction from you. I see what the other posters are saying. Do not feed this behavior. Let her see how it is disruptive to her life and hope it stops.
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Compare and contrast:

- I want to support her autonomy.
- I'm sick of arguing and pleading and being yelled at and cursed when I don't do as she asks.

Both of these are perfectly understandable reasons for complying with a person's request, but only the first has a defensible ethical basis. The second is merely pragmatic, and who could blame anyone for feeling it?

Look. Your mother is free to make her own choices, yes; but she is not free to direct your actions. If she had a gun and wanted to shoot herself in the head - perfectly legal choice for her to make - you wouldn't obediently trot off and fetch the bullets for her, would you? Of course not: you would be assisting a suicide, which IS illegal.

But she would still be free to get some bullets mail order, hypothetically; and in reality she is equally free to avail herself of any delivery services or shopping services available in your neck of the woods. But she's not free to send you on errands you refuse to run.

And she most certainly is NOT free to help herself to your money. If her money doesn't cover her genuine needs, then help her to access additional resources such as benefits or other kinds of assistance. But paying for extras is no part of your responsibility when it comes to supporting her choices - whether the extras are cigarettes or a cruise or a Hermès scarf, doesn't matter.

Being clear about where your responsibility begins and ends is only half the battle, though, isn't it. If you don't comply, you come under fire and it's miserable. But here is the reason it is worth the battle.

You are enabling, yes, though I hope it's really clear that I don't blame you. And the real problem is that what you are enabling is your mother's rejection of really crucial treatment. As long as you supply her cravings for quick rewards like junk food and ciggies, she has zero incentive to co-operate. Things can get a heck of a lot worse, be absolutely dire, but she can comfort herself with the fixes and continue to ignore the realities of her situation. You know the complications of uncontrolled diabetes, I'm not going to get ghoulish about it. But if you need a reason to stand up to her, and stand up for yourself, there are plenty of pictures online.

Don't frighten her - that would be bullying, and that is unethical. Just inform yourself so that when you have to say no you have the reasons clearly in mind.

And pick your battles. Don't try to transform her overnight. Start with her grocery budget and the medical appointments, maybe; but also get other people involved. Do you have good working relationships with any of the professionals involved in her care? - not just doctors, but community teams, social workers, anyone like that? It isn't all down to you.
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oldmamabear77 Apr 11, 2019
Excellent advice for RainySunrise; it's time for some tough love.
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I have been in your shoes to a degree.

My dad is obese and diabetic, denies being diabetic yet takes a medication for it. He was adamant that he would eat what he wanted. Okay, I'll go buy you 10lbs of donuts, want chocolate milk with that? Because I, nor you, can be more concerned for their wellbeing than they are.

When I told him, it's your funeral, do what ever you want, he stopped eating sweets and candy like mad. I think just letting him know the cold hard facts shook his world. He will still cheat on occasion but not like before, he wouldn't eat anything but junk.

Maybe just telling her that it is hard on you to contribute to her early death or worse, amputation, blindness, kidney failure, stroke...and you would like to help her find a way to get these items without you feeling like your are loading the gun. Be very clear that she can do whatever she wants but you need to live with your choices as well and you don't want to have her demise on your conscience.

Brutal honesty can jar someone to make changes, if not, you know you have done your very best to help her.

Hugs, it is so hard when a parent doesn't take care of themselves and then wants to hang themselves and their poor health on our hearts.

Whatever you end up doing, you are not responsible for her condition. If she has cancer she may very well want her quality of life and not someone else's idea of quality while giving her quantity. It does get to a point that nothing will change the outcome and we just have to love them for who they are, stinky buts (cigarette) and all.
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herdingcats Apr 11, 2019
"it is so hard when a parent doesn't take care of themselves and then wants to hang themselves and their poor health on our hearts." So true. Sometimes self-destructive behavior is actually emotional manipulation. I agree that RainySunrise needs to step back at this point. If you feel like an enabler, perhaps you are. The important thing at this point is to set boundaries for yourself that YOU can live with.
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I had a neighbour who was diabetic and choose to eat himself to death. I would go visit Al and he would be sitting at this desk eating donuts, drinking regular pop and having candy on the side. He had horrible ulcers on his legs for years, was morbidly obese and knew exactly what he was doing.

I only asked him about it once. He said that since his wife had left him, and he had retired, he had nothing left to live for. He knew that the junk he was eating would kill him and it did. He was only 67.

My former step father in law, told us if he ever got a cancer diagnosis he was going to start smoking again. He had quit years ago and missed it every day. He did not get cancer and died without starting smoking again.

Rainy I do not have an good answer for you, but I know if I were in your shoes I too would be struggling.
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NeedHelpWithMom Apr 9, 2019
My dad’s brother did that. He was single, never married. So he answered to no one. Very independent man.

Was quite a character. I don’t know why he told so many crazy stories. I’ve heard that before television it was common for people to ‘tell tales’ just to escape boredom. Who knows? Anyway, he used to say that he had cancer when he didn’t.

My mom and dad would tell him to stop fabricating stories because it was crazy, also they would say, you may actually get cancer one day which is a dreadful disease. It bothered everyone that he did this to get attention. Plus people would ask us how he was doing with his cancer and so forth. Mom and dad felt put on the spot.

You know what was weird to me as a kid? I had a hard time understanding him using that device to speak but if he got mad and started cursing we could understand every word!

Anyway, he did get cancer and had his voice box removed and he still smoked cigarettes without a filter! He thought, what’s the difference? He did donate his body to science because he suffered so much and wanted his body to be used in medical research.

He truly suffered. Even tried to commit suicide in hospital by slitting his wrist and was furious that they saved his life.
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I also think cwillie has the best answer. OP question was, am I supporting Mom's unhealthy behaviors or enabling? Actually, it's the same thing, so yes. You are "enabling" her self-destructive behavior. In either case, you are not *helping* her. By purchasing for her those items that are killing her, you are doing her no favors. You are her "supplier," just as if you were getting her deadly drugs.

Yes, it is incredibly difficult to say no to her. You are enmeshed with her and she manipulates and controls you with guilt. So you may need to limit your exposure to her. Don't get into arguments with her. If you can't stay away from her, tell her, "Mom, I love you too much to get you these things that are destroying you. I hate watching you destroy yourself and I know I can't stop you, but I will no longer be party to it. Please don't ask." Then leave if you can.

Understand that the begging, the crying, the guilting, the manipulating will get worse before it gets better. Steel yourself, knowing you are doing the right thing, even if it's difficult. Even if she continues doing what she's doing, and dies from it, you will have delivered yourself from a lifetime of regrets and true guilt.

God grant you courage, peace and strength going forward!
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RainySunrise Apr 10, 2019
Thankyou
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While I understand what the majority are saying, I have a different opinion. Your Mother is an adult and these are the things she wants to do. I don't believe you are enabling her, you are fulfilling her requests. If you force her to say quit smoking by not buying her cigarettes she is going to go through a very negative withdrawal, be miserable and blame her misery on you.

My husband was in hospice care due his a failing liver from drinking. As soon as we left the hospital he wanted me to stop at the liquor store and I refused. He even try walking to the store one day when he was very very weak and I caught him and stopped him. He begged me every day to go out and buy him some and I told him no, I did not want to be the cause of his death.

He died 10 days later miserable because he didn't have his wine and beer. I blame myself even worse for denying him pleasure during his last days.

If if your mom wanted to quit smoking and start eating healthier she would have done so by now. She's not interested in changing at this point of her life and forcing could actually lead to more physical pain. If she dies sooner, that is on her and not you. Being a caregiver is hard enough as it is. Having to deal with daily fights will be even harder.
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NeedHelpWithMom Apr 11, 2019
smilingtulip,

I see your point. You feel it would have been an act of mercy.

Hugs! So sorry that you lost your husband.
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We cannot save other people. They have to want to do it for themselves. I am surprised her doctors see her anymore. She is not doing what they tell her why go. They are just making money off her. If she can cancel appointments she can make her own.

The one thing I commend you on is picking up daughter trumps Moms appointments. Seems funny her appts are always made at same time daughter gets out of school, though.

Its going to be hard, but you are going to have to tell her you no longer will buying her junk. Her appts are her responsibility. If she wants you to make them OK, but if she cancels, she remakes her own.

Mom will eventually be hospitalized. Her organs are going to be effected. Heart and Kidneys. Kidneys are going to mean dialysis.

If you have young kids Mom must not be that old.
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My friend's FIL was like this. Overweight and badly diabetic... once crashed his truck while driving because his sugar bottomed out. Police thought he was drunk at first.

He ate whatever he wanted and as much as he wanted. Had an attitude of "I'm a grown man and no one's going to tell me what I can and can't eat"... which is a terribly immature attitude for a grown man. He died at 64. Pretty much ate himself to death. His wife, children, and grandchildren weren't enough reason for him to get his act together.

As for "Mom screams and cries if I don't get her what she wants"... well, too bad. She'll have to scream and cry, and see that it doesn't affect you. It's role reversal.
You are now the parent and she is the child. No loving parent would let their kid eat junk food all the time or repeatedly give in to a tantrum. You love them by giving boundaries. I suppose there's room for negotiation. "I'm happy to bring you a treat once a week, but I can't bring you a box of donuts today."
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