I've been caring for my aunt's 88-year-old mother (we'll call her "A") since April. She's almost completely wheelchair bound (she's able to stand long enough to transfer to and from a bedside commode, her bed, and her recliner with some assistance) due to arthritis in her knees. Other than that and high blood pressure, she's physically healthy. Her cognitive faculties are fully intact (no dementia), but her behavior is starting to make me feel crazy, and I'm worried I'm going to snap.

She's extremely dramatic. She bursts into tears at the slightest thing: an ant on the kitchen counter, forgetting to put something on the grocery list, a slight power flicker during a thunderstorm. And she's constantly making the most annoying noises: she'll make random whimpering sounds throughout the day (at first I'd ask her if she was okay and she always said yes; now I don't respond), but the big show she puts on is when she's being transferred. She starts panting, whining, gasping, grunting, and just having the biggest fuss. It's like nails on a chalkboard to me. Initially I tried to comfort her because I figured it was bad anxiety. Now I've realized it's all an act for attention.

"A" is able to transfer herself to and from her bed and the portable commode during the night and her afternoon naps without assistance, and when she's alone, she does this without a fuss. I know this because I've been outside her door, heard complete silence, then entered her room to see her lowering herself onto the toilet. And the second I step into the room, the theatrics start. Also, she doesn't make these sounds in front of certain friends of hers, or in front of random strangers who come in to fix the A/C or pest control or whatever.

I figured that if I ignored these undesirable behaviors, she'd stop. But she's still going strong. I can't voice my concerns or frustrations with her because she'll throw a tantrum and lash out. She honestly acts like a three-year-old and it drives me nuts because she's fully aware of what she's doing. She will scream and yell at people when she doesn't get her way. Yelling is a huge trigger for me, as I have PTSD from abuse, so I tiptoe around "A" to avoid setting her off.

Then there's the incessant complaining and negativity. Nothing's ever good enough for her. Everything is AWFUL and she's just waiting to die. Despite the fact that all of her needs are being met, she thinks her life is oh-so-terrible. I bend over backwards to please her and it's just never good enough (food's too cold; I gave her the wrong color washcloth, I gave her a teaspoon instead of a tablespoon, etc).

I've tried discussing these issues with my aunt ("A"'s daughter), but not a whole lot is being done (my aunt lives hundreds of miles away and can only visit occasionally). I literally care for "A" around the clock… the only time I have off is Fridays, from 9:00am to 6:00pm, when a substitute caregiver comes in. That's it. I live in "A"'s house rent-free and get paid $200 a week in exchange. The main problem is my family's lack of money for other caregivers. I moved in with "A" not only to ease that financial burden on my family, but also because I was fleeing a toxic relationship and had nowhere else to go. I'm currently searching for a job that will allow me to get away during the day and hopefully save up enough to get my own place and move out. But I feel so guilty because my family is in such a financial bind. I hate that I feel so intensely angry at "A", because I know she's genuinely unhappy. But she's very stubborn and resists all suggestions to help (such as increasing her pain medications, seeing a therapist, etc). If this were dementia, I'd be less irritated. But honestly she's in control of her actions and knows exactly what she's doing. I am sympathetic to her situation and do care about her, but I'm honestly close to my breaking point. Any advice is much appreciated.


You are being paid peanuts to be on call 24/7 and to take abuse too. Your family is abusing you by making you feel you are 'necessary' for aunty to abuse.

OF COURSE aunt's daughter doesn't have time to discuss this--if she does, she'd maybe actually have to step up and DO something, and sending a little check is so much easier.

It is good that you escaped a toxic relationship--into another one. Not as bad, I warrant, but you, my dear, are certainly being abused here.

The fact aunty can move herself and function when not being observed speaks volumes.

Keep looking for the job and saving every cent you can to get out of there.

PTSD is nothing silly or unusual to deal with. I do. It's awful. Triggers that get me going will start a panic attack and I am just too darn old for it anymore. Can you afford some therapy? Are you on meds to help deal with flashbacks? As long as you live with this toxic woman, you're not going to heal.

Oh, and your FAMILY'S financial woes are NOT your problem. The main problem ISN'T the family's lack of money, it's that they don't see a problem. You're there, problem solved.

May I ask how old you are? And what kind of job you are looking for? Do you have friends to lean on during the transitional period of leaving the aunt's care?

Get your ducks in a row and give notice that as of XXX day you will NOT be available to work for them. And follow through.

Believe me, you're tougher than you think.

Helpful Answer (18)
Reply to Midkid58
DollyMe Aug 1, 2019
I third what MidKid said!
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This is a bad job and a job for which you are not being well paid. I am not saying that it is not money, as I would be loathe to part with 800.00 a month at present; it would seriously impair my own living funds. But it is not enough to be on call 24/7. You do have a place to live, but it is more a jail cell that you cannot leave. The Government would give you a bed and three squares, as well, and keep you just as jailed. Time to give notice. Two months is reasonable. Then work on getting a job and your own place to live. I couldn't do this. And to be frank I cannot even imagine who could. That is not to say the woman isn't right. Her life is a nightmare. One of the circles of Hades in my book and I would much rather be dead. There isn't any upside coming for her. She won't "grow out of this". The end of life is often a cruel slow slide, and nothing to be "happy about". I wouldn't ask "happiness" of anyone in her circumstances. The best to be hoped for is acceptance and an attempt at grace. So sorry, but you need to take care of your own needs now for a job and housing. This isn't working.
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Reply to AlvaDeer
Sunshinestate Aug 1, 2019
Thank you for your reply.

Yeah, the money issue is definitely less than ideal. It's just that the cost of living is so high where I live with this woman, and her insurance (Medicare, I believe) won't pay enough for a professional caregiver. My aunt is trying to get more benefits, but the process has been so slow.

I do feel trapped, but not nearly as trapped as I was before (living with a jealous, manipulative, controlling partner). I'm not expecting "A" to be a happy ball of joy; the aging process seems like a slow torture! But to constantly moan and cry about things and then not be willing to make an effort to improve them - that gets me (for example, she'll cry about her knee pain, but refuses to take more than Tylenol even though her doctor has offered something a little stronger). I feel bad that she's obviously hurting and unhappy, but I myself used to suffer from terrible depression, and I made it a point not to talk about my misery 24/7.
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I always think that a full grown adult human being that wants to act like a spoiled 3 year old should be treated like one.

1st off if she can transfer with no help, stop helping her transfer. Leave the area when she needs to transfer. No audience, no performance.

2nd if she starts the whining, you can whine back. It stops young children almost 100% of the time. It is the wrong response and they just don't know what to make of it.

Your family can not pay you based on how expensive rent is where you moved to be her caregiver. They need to pay you at least minimum wage for 40 hours weekly through a payroll service so that you are contributing to your retirement by paying into social security.

I used to work with a woman that was a whining, negative difficult human to be around, one day I had had enough and I asked her if she wanted some bread and cheese with that? She was clueless so I asked her if she wanted some bread and cheese with her whine. She didn't whine around me much after that, but I asked her every time she did. I shocked her enough to change her attention seeking, nail scratching behavior.

Best of luck. I so understand how it makes life difficult and the days so very looooooooonnnnnnngggg.
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Reply to Isthisrealyreal
TaylorUK Aug 2, 2019
You were generous offering the cheese, I always thought bread went with wine. If person A is not suffering from a mental disease which I would be very surprised if turned out to be the case then the matching return behaviour as one does with a tantrumming 2-3 year old sounds one way of letting off steam. My reverse tantrum might well be a scream at the top of my voice however.
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You said you have abuse in your past and was in an abusive relationship. I'm sorry those things are part of your life. It's hard to cope with.

But it sounds like you're being abused still... by this woman and by other family members who figure you're the best person to put up with this woman's craziness. They're using you as their dumping ground for all the crap they don't want to do, and just because they (barely) pay you doesn't negate their dumping on you.

I think by now you know you deserve better and can do better. Make your goal to get yourself out of this situation. You have a lot of life ahead and it can be so much better!
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Reply to LoopyLoo
Sunshinestate Aug 1, 2019
Thank you for your kind words. I feel like I attract toxic people, and I think it's due to the fact that I have never had the nerve to stand up for myself.

It's hard to think of this situation as being abusive because it's not like "A" hits me. She's not physically violent. And as long as she gets her way and isn't challenged, she's relatively kind (just very, very whiny and negative).

I try to view this situation as a means to an end. I know I need to leave eventually for graduate school (starting next fall). The issue is that I don't have the means to move out just yet. Hence why I'm looking desperately for a new job!
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I am assuming your Aunt is an Aunt by marriage since her Mom is not your Grandmom.

It sounds like to me Aunts Mom is on the boarder of Dementia or she has a problem family isn't aware of. A person in their right mind does not get upset over the things you listed.

You do what you need to do for you.
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Reply to JoAnn29
Sunshinestate Aug 1, 2019
That's correct; she's my aunt by marriage.

I don't think it's dementia; her memory seems fine. My aunt said that she's always been a negative, whiny person. Based on my background in psychology, I'm thinking it's an untreated, undiagnosed personality disorder (likely histrionic or borderline).

Thank you for your response!
So you've jumped from the frying pan into the fire......going from one toxic relationship right into another. It sounded like a good plan with A but it's not working out and you, my dear, deserve so much more than what you've been getting. Ditch the guilt too, because It is certainly NOT your job to take care of this woman, nor is the financial situation your problem! It is YOUR TURN now to carve out a healthy and happy life for yourself so make it so. The drama this woman is heaping on you is absurd. My 92 year old mother thrives on drama to the point my husband coined an acronym for it: ADATT....All Drama All The Time. If there is a dull moment, God forbid, mother will cook up a hot mess of drama just for chits and giggles. It's exhausting for everyone trying to deal with it, I know. I call these people Energy Vampires because they suck the life out of you after 10 minutes of exposure, right? They want to lure us into their pity party with all those histrionics day in and day out. It's sickening really.

Make plans to get out of there asap and don't look back. Good luck!
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Reply to lealonnie1

Have you tried shouting back? Or mimicking the "panting, whining, gasping, grunting" etc? It might shock her into stopping. Or help you feel better anyway. You don't have to be the bunny that never shouts back - not when this lady is clearly doing it quite deliberately.
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Reply to MargaretMcKen

I second what MidKid says!
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Reply to NeedHelpWithMom

Start saving up....
Plan a move out date......
Give 2 week notice and move out on that day.
In the interm get yourself a pair of noise canceling headphones and wear them or use earbuds and listen to an audio book or music.
Helpful Answer (4)
Reply to Grandma1954
Harpcat Aug 3, 2019
I love the noise cancelling headphones idea! Yes, make a show of putting them on right before you transfer her or whatever else she does to try and get your goat. When she asks what they're for, tell her so I can't hear your complaining and whining.
No sense on walking on eggshells if she doesn't care how she comes across to you. By the way, there are excellent books out there on how to create boundaries. I'm thinking you've had some issues with this as you stated. So if you can't afford a therapist, get a book or two and practice this essential part of self love and self care.
And you are obviously not cut out for caring for someone like this and that is OK. Not everyone is. So don't feel badly that you aren't. If some family member asks why you're leaving or tries to guilt you into staying, just tell them bluntly "I found this isn't by calling." End of story and leave it hanging there. Repeat the phrase as necessary. No need to go into ANY further details.
First of all, I don't care WHY she is behaving this way - it cannot continue and the effect on you is horrific. You cannot be soft and nice to people like this. I would really tell her in the most firm way possible that her behavior is going to stop at once or you will have her removed and placed into a facility whether she likes it or not. There is help out there for people who don't have money - you just need time and effort to find it. Never tip toe around her because of what has happened to you in the past - it won't work. Tell her to stop or else and be prepared to back it up. Let her scream and rant and rave. When she does, just walk out, don't go back for a while and do not speak to her, just ignore her, do nothing for her. Act as if she does not exist. When you can't take it much more, again let her have it - stop or else. She will soon get the picture that she must behave. In the meantime, keep doing all you can to find your own place, even if it is just a room. You have to get away from her. In the meantime, speak to aging offices and the medical people that you are being harmed by her and it is affecting you and you can no longer handle it. I do not think legally you have any obligation to her whatsoever. You must start thinking of you first. She does not deserve compassion or kindness.
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Reply to Riley2166
DizzyBritches Aug 8, 2019
I agree. Run, Sunshine, run! Make a plan and make it happen. Your resources aren’t unlimited, and you’ve done what you can. Time to quit.
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