How to handle my mother becoming a nasty, bitter old lady?

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My parents went into retirement with good health and ample savings, but a bad attitude toward aging. Isolation and depression settled in. My mom basically threw in the towel at 70 and declared she was "too old" to do anything. On her 75th birthday this year she stated that reaching the age of 75 was not something to strive for, it would be better to be dead (keep in mind this is a person with no health problems). She has become very toxic and I have had to build a firewall to protect my life from her negativity. I am an only child, she lives within walking distance, and will likely live for another 10-20 years. I feel like I am neglecting her but she is on the verge of ruining my life. I am 50 now. What if she lives until I'm 70? The thought of her trying to suck the life out of me for two more decades is horrible.

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Upstream,

I don’t really have much advice to give, but wanted to share that I’m pretty much on your same boat, just maybe worse because I moved in with my mom, so I cannot limit visits of phone calls. I understand how you feel and I know that the frustration this generates is not only annoyance and tiredness on your part (very well justified), I think it’s also concern because one does not know how to help, since the LO does not allow help. Feels like trying to get close to a porcupine, truly!

But I will say, being an only child and no other person to help me, I’ve seen how my mother opens up and talks to strangers like a doctor that came to see her, and that makes her feel better because she feels she’s been taken care off and understood. It doesn’t matter if I move earth and heaven to try to make her comfortable or attend to her needs, an stranger comes and says or does exactly the same I did, and it makes a lot of difference for her!

With that, I am suggesting that you introduce a third party into the picture, whichever way you can.

Relationships between a mother and an only child, specially when the mother is not emotionally or mentally healthy are way too complicated to keep it all between the two of them. The way the mother sees it, her entire world is that child, for good or for bad. She expects ALL from the child..even if she doesn’t say it.. even if she doesn’t realize it. She lives through that child..and if she isn’t healthy mentally it’s simply an almost unsurvivable situation for the only child... coming from an only child.. dealing exactly with this scenario.

So, i think it is imperative that you get other people involved, how? I don’t know what that answer is for you, because I know for me it is terribly difficult, but you have to try.

Can you hire help for her? Someone that goes to her house once or twice a week to clean and cook? She might start talking to the person, and all you need is that third party interaction. Or take her to get her hair or nails done where aside from feeling pampered she might talk to people her age or just other people and break the routine;  she has to have places and people she is familiar with since you’ve been living there since 1975.

I agree you’ve to preserve your sanity, but I also believe if you neglect her, neither you or her will be at peace. You might pretend to close your eyes to the situation, but inside I don’t think you’ll feel ok with yourself.

If you try taking her out once in a while to do something that you know might entertain her mind..not necessarily an activity she “likes” ( I know “like” is pushing it!) but at least something that will take her mind off of herself and her misery. That might be the beginning to get brief periods of time where her negativity decreases a little. At the end of the day, any improvement in your relationship with her, and in her mood is worth investing time and effort.
If you are looking into the future scared of what that might look like, you need to start reshaping that future into something bearable.

I’ll tell you, God is the greatest ‘third party’ I’ve gotten involved, He knows what my mom and I are living through. Because my mom’s situation is very far from easy, and I know that. So when I pray, I pray for both of us, and He helps us, no matter how difficult life feels now, I know He is helping..simply because if He wasn’t I couldn’t keep going, plain and simple!
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Reply to Rosses003
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Thank you Linda! I love this forum.
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Reply to Naomila
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Naomila, I think Mother's Day is a real drama magnet with narc moms. Their high expectations of what should occur that day are rarely met, resulting in verbal shots being fired. Keep your call short, call during the day so you can get your balance back - don't call in the evening because you don't want this stuff right before bed.
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Reply to Linda22
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I bought the book Coping with Your Difficult Older Parent several months ago to help deal with my very difficult 97 year old mother. It is helpful. I still find it hard not to react to her constant negativity and accusations, particularly when she has been a difficult person all her life. She also has NPD so she only sees things in terms of herself. There was a big blow up on Mother's Day and the thought of calling her makes me feel sick. I'm rereading the part about narcissistic parents for guidance. It's all so depressing...
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Reply to Naomila
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Try reading some of the book: Coping with Your Difficult Older Parent: A Guide For Stressed Out Children
There are stories in there from people go through exactly the same thing. Essentially the book goes through different scenarios and teaches you how to change your habits and responses. Your mother will not change. The only thing you can do is change your reaction to her.
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Reply to staaarrr
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Upstream, I see your Dad has Alzheimer's/Dementia and that must have been very tough on your Mom.... this isn't how she and he had planned their retirement. It can make a person very bitter. So what does Mom do, she blames the world for this situation. She blames her husband, and she blames you.

Mom needs to find something that will make her feel positive, tiny steps. Does she have a family tree? Oh my gosh, I have spent months doing my family tree and it has been fascinating to say the least, especially the old photographs. You never know, this might spark an interest for Mom :)
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Reply to freqflyer
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Wow, BarbBrooklyn, it's nice that you remember my prior postings! Yes it's been a long slog with these two! Thanks a lot for your comments. My dad is in a wonderful ALF with great staff! I visit and see the good in the staff and other residents. My mother visits and sees it as a bad place. I had to move him when I found her passed out in the back seat of the (locked) car with a wine bottle in her hand. My dad deserves better care!
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Reply to Upstream
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Oh, Upstream, I'm so sorry; I didn't look at your name; I remember the sad story of your dad and mom.

I'm so glad that your dad is safe in AL!

Maintain boundaries, by all means. My late MIL was a lot like your mom; no interest in taking care of her mental health, wouldn't take antidepressants (I think they made her feel normal!).

Be good to yourself.
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Reply to BarbBrooklyn
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A wise person once told me that "you can't control another person, you can only control your reaction to that person". Your mother has evidently been this way for quite some time, so unless she decides to help herself, there is not much you can do. I agree with Eyerish that you need to set some boundaries. When you visit your mom, start a pleasant conversation. If she reverts to negative comments, get up and leave. You can tell her that those comments are hurtful and it is time for you to go. On the way out, mention that there are meds that can help her become happier and more positive and to let you know if she would like to try them. If you do this with every visit, she may eventually see that you are not going to take this anymore and if she wants to spend time with you she needs to change. In the meantime, spend more time with your long-suffering dad at the AL. Without your mom.
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Reply to akdaughter
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Eyerishlass, thank you for your response. She doesn't require assistance and is capable of living alone. Once we made the decision to move my dad, I began suggesting we find somewhere else for her to live. We live near Orlando FL so are in the retirement capital of the world. There are oodles of suitable places for her to move and live independently and maybe make some friends. I'm just starting to think she is too nasty to engage in society. She and I went to the ALF to see my dad yesterday and she still couldn't control her mouth, even there, was snippy with him and she's been rude to the staff that I tried so hard to befriend.

I do keep my exposure to her brief, but it is daily. If I go 48 hours I hear "I haven't talked to you in a while". I've become her only outlet and it's too much for me. Oh, BTW, we have been living in the same city since 1975, so it's not like she relocated to a new community where she has not had the opportunity to make friends or get involved in anything.

I have a good marriage and my husband and I run a small business, which is a more than 40-hour a week job. My husband is a very positive person and we live a good (but busy) life. I've had to sugarcoat my mom's comments & behavior recently so my husband doesn't end up too disgusted with her (and maybe me, too).

Yeah, I know I shouldn't worry about 20 years from now. It's just difficult to think of carrying the weight from age 50 to 70. After running a small business for 25 years I was hoping to have some vacation time and fun in my middle age. The business consumed most of my young-adult life.
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Reply to Upstream
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