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My elderly parents have always been very bitter, angry, negative people. Growing up in that kind of environment was very difficult and it did its damage, but I learned how to set boundaries, etc. and live my life, while still loving and respecting my parents. My Mom has been diagnosed with a deteriorating spine and no amount of medication/surgery/treatment brings her any pain relief. Physically, she has declined very rapidly and is almost immobile. My Father is her primary caretaker. My Father is even more bitter and negative than my Mother. Between the two of them, the negativity and complaining is constant. How do I handle entire phone calls/visits/daily emails reporting every ache and pain and reliving all that has ever gone wrong in their lives? I am heartbroken that my Mom is living with so much pain and I am at a loss as to what to say and do anymore. I find myself distancing myself slightly, because conversations and visits are so draining on me. And, I feel incredibly guilty because I know that one day they will not be here.

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I don't see how you can avoid distancing yourself at least somewhat and still keep your sanity. And what good would you be to them if you are insane?

The emails should be fairly easy. Skim them very quickly and reply "I am sorry you had so many problems today."

Cut phone calls short. Try redirecting the conversations. I doubt that will be totally successful, but it might work a little. Do what you have to do to protect yourself from all that negativity.

I wonder what would happen if you asked for their advice? "Mom, when you boil potatoes do you put them in the cold water, or start the water boiling first?" Might you be able to get into a little discussion about cooking? (Or any subject she might know/have an opinion about.) "Dad, my leg muscle is sore. Do you think I should put a heating pad or ice pack on it?" It doesn't have to be a real concern and you don't have to follow their advice. But might it get them on a different topic for a while?

Yes, one day they will not be here. That is the natural order of things. If all goes well our parents die before we do. It will not be your fault. There is not need to feel guilty. Do the best you can now, but accept that you are not perfect and have your own limits. It sounds like you are a very loving and patient daughter, and it is OK to meet your own needs while caring for your parents.
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You are dealing with a massive dilemma. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be.

My comment will likely sound blunt. I suggest you consider not taking calls except once in the morning for 15 minutes, and once in the evening for another 1 minutes. Likewise you may also not answer emails except once a day..

Learn to ignore their negative mannerisms...One does not have to respond to every complaint.

The word that comes to mind is "detachment" and I learned about it from folks whose loved ones were alcoholics or drug addicts. The basis of it is that no one can change the behavior of another person, but we can distance ourselves from it.

I sense that my response is disjointed, but the gist of it is: be civil, be helpful and yet maintain a balance by not fretting about their situation everey waking moment...Set up and maintain boundaries...

Grace + Peace,
Bob
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So you are telling us your parents have always been negative, treated you badly as a child and now that they are elderly they are continuing this? Why would you feel guilty for not wanting this treatment? Stop punishing yourself. It sounds like they did plenty to you and now that you are an adult, you can put a stop to it. There is a procedure to deaden the pain in the spine called "ablation" with a nerve block affecting the painful area. Medicare pays for these treatments (I know because I've had two done spread 9 months apart). Another treatment is acupuncture, and if done by an osteopathic doctor, again Medicare will pay for treatments. I am having treatments for my wrist nerve damage and she helps with migraines too. This dr. was a Marine who went to Afghanistan to train other doctors how to give acupuncture to our soldiers. I also found in my nursing practice, patients always complain loudest when a family member is within hearing distance. Get some professional help for your parents, talk very little to them, and keep your own sanity by not being around them. No one needs to have people in their life with these kinds of attitudes. Get other friends and contacts to help you cope without them because one day you will be free from this negativity. Merry Christmas!
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myrealtygal, does your mother somehow know that 30-40% of caregivers die before the recipients of the caregiving?

If my mother lived with us, I could easily see that being the case.

Actually, I have had it easier than I expected since my mother stopped driving. She hurt her leg, and doesn't go out much at all (so my fears of her demanding to go here and there haven't been realized). Some weeks she doesn't go out at all. And her friend volunteered to take her to Mass every Sunday morning (as long as she's in town) -- hurray!

I took my mother to the neurologist last week, because she's experiencing increasing numbness in her feet. It was a rather long appointment, as my mother had a lot to say. She was not happy when the neurologist told her not to use the term "toxicity" in regards to Vitamin B6 (this has been her obsession for the past 10 or so months, as her Vitamin B6 level was high in one test). He said he'd write an rx for home PT to help her with her balance. But she doesn't want to do it. Now she says she will do it when her knee is all better (her knee may never be all better again). She did balance therapy previously (at the PT center), and doesn't want to do it again.

So be it. She's going to write a letter to the neurologist, telling him she isn't going to consider it until her knee is better. She is also not going to make the suggested 5 - 8 week follow-up appointment with him. She's in charge of her own health, and I'm not going to waste my time or breath trying to convince her of anything.

The neurologist also said she would benefit from something to take the edge off all of her anxieties. Of course my mother wouldn't hear of it. (OF COURSE!)
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Dear Ann, I'm so sorry, I know its a lot for a daughter to cope with in the face of so much negativity. We all do the best we can. Are there any community resources that could help your elderly parents? Home Care? Evaluation from a doctor about their moods? I know there are no easy answers. I too started distancing myself from my dad when he was so negative. But in hindsight it was a mistake. I feel now I should have tried harder to understand him or help him. Even if they don't want your help, I would least try and access some community resources. Pleas take care and I hope things get better for your mom.
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Hi Ann, I'm in the same boat as everyone in this thread. My mom is 86, is in poor health, lives 1 hour from me and her negativity is incredibly toxic. She has no friends and no other family members. She never goes out except to pick up groceries. She is obsessed with her health but refuses to go to the doctor. Still driving and should not be. Will not agree to outside help or even have her groceries delivered. She has signs of dementia and it is getting worse daily. I so understand the tremendous toll it takes on us. I dread seeing her or even talking to her on the phone. Today (Christmas) was a disaster. Told me she never wanted to talk to me or see me ever again. I need to place her in an assisted living but don't know how I will muster the energy. My heart aches for her but I see the toll it is taking on me. On my drive home today I commited to my self that I have to be #1 and take care of myself. One day at a time.
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Not that I'd wish this on anyone, but knowing that there are others experiencing the same frustration and h*ll, does in a slight way, make one feel a bit better. Remember, you're not alone...there are other people that get you, albeit only a few.
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My husband and I live with my mother as she is very negative. Yesterday we opened gifts and she actually did smile once. My brother came over and she immediately starts to get mean with me. I told her "if you start getting mean, they will go home and I will stay with you and let my family go have some fun and down time from you. Do you understand. She just looked at me and shook her head. Immediately her attitude change because she wanted my brother to be there yesterday. The way I look at it my mother will never be happy and she will never remember what I've told her but if it changes her attitude at the moment it's worth setting that boundary. My brother just looked at me and smiled. Her bitterness and being angry is her way she thinks of staying in control but it's not. We just keep smiling. She just came downstairs while I was typing and said where's my breakfast I said in the kitchen where it always is if you want it immediately you can go to a nursing home and have it served to you. I am not your personal nurse if you want that we can visit a nursing home. She immediately stopped her demands and took a few minutes and came into the room. Just set boundaries it makes life easier for my mental health.
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Anne3447 Anne good guestion. I look forward to the insight that the caregivers will give. I find myself just staying mute because I just don't know what to say. I don't want to hear the details of mom's bowel movements. I can't say how gross it was for my husband to step in her "droppings" so I say nothing. We just pretend the chicken came in to visit. My husband is marvelous. Take care and thank you
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I know exactly what you are going through, in my case i live at home with both of them. Dad is the one with Alzheimer's and mum is a caregiver. I am the primary caregiver to both of them. It was hard enough growing up with unhappy, bitter people who hated each other and now it is amplified to the max. It feels like my childhood h*ll just got worse. Nobody understands unless you are in this situation yourself. But it's not like you can extract yourself either. I feel bad too, knowing that time is limited but at times I feel like I'm going to implode. I'm doing this alone, no help from friends or family at all... It's h*ll! But just when I think that I'm going to lose it, I always find a little more strength. Keep the faith... I know, it's hard. Sorry I can't offer any solution.
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