How do you handle taking care of a mother that has always been mean and is getting meaner the older she gets?

Asked by

I am one of eight children. My mother is 86, wheel chair bound and needs care minute by minute. None of my siblings will help take care of her because they have all had enough of her abuse over their lifetimes. I promised my father, over 20 years ago, on his death bed, that I would care for her.

I built a house directly behind her house with a breezeway that connects the two so that I can live with her and still be near my wife and family. I have been living with her and taking care of all her medical, financial and physical needs for over a year now. However, my family is not allowed in her house and she gets infuriated when I visit them even though I rarely stay for more than 15 minutes at a time and make sure she has everything she needs before I go.

She has always been just plain mean, but recently it is more like evil. She contradicts everything I say. She accuses me of stealing meaningless things that she has either hid or forgotten that she had packed it away and had it put in the attic. She hides her purse somewhere different everyday and then when she can't remember where she hid it, even accuses me of stealing it. She is constantly calling me a liar.

I cant wash the dishes right, do laundry right, make her bed right, fix her hair right and I have been doing these things for over a year. I am not allowed to watch her TV, answer her phone, etc.

She has appointed me power of attourney over finance and medical. She has had her will done and has named me executor. She has changed all life insurance policy beneficiary recipients to me to distribute. Now that she has done all that she says she is relieved because she know I am the only one that has or will take care her outstanding bills.

Now her view has changed and she is saying I got what I wanted and now I am acting like she doesn't matter. She even said "To hell with me now, you dont take care of me anymore now that I put you in charge."

Nothing about my routine has changed. She is getting excellent care. I have a nurse that checks on her every week. I have a physical therapist that comes twice a week to work with her. I have a woman that comes every other day to bathe her. I get up with her 3 and 4 times a night to get her to the bathroom or clean up where she has messed the bed, rearrange her pillows to make her more comfortable or massage her feet because they hurt and are keeping her awake.

I feed her 3 times a day and keep snacks available nearby. I give her her medicine in the morning and as needed throughout the day.

She swears I am trying to kill her by laying her pills out and not putting them in front of the bottle they came out of so now I do that. She is constantly carrying medicine bottles around the house in her wheelchair and then losing them throughout the house which causes yet another hunt of the whole house.

She is in chronic pain. She has ticdeloria, arthritis, is diabetic and steadily loosing weight. The further away I am in the house, the louder she wails and cries. If I leave the room to go to the bathroom, even if she has been fine all day, she will begin wailing and crying until I come back. She pulls at her hair and throws fits like a child if she even suspects I might go see my wife for a minute.

Thing is, she is sharp as a tack. She does not have dementia and is playing these games as if she gets satisfaction from the turmoil it causes me. She is mad that I am the only child that will have anything to do with her. I have 5 sisters and there were 3 of us boys and I am the only one. They dont call for birthdays or holidays, may show up once or twice a year out of the blue and cant get out of there fast enough once they get here.

She treats me and talks to me like a dog. She talks to other people about me like a dog. She tells them I am not taking care of her, that I am never there, that I dont feed her or give her the proper medicine and I am right in the next room when she is telling it and can hear it all.

I am at my whits end. She throws things at me and screams at me and when I try to calm her down she just gets madder. Please help with some advice that will help me keep my sanity. I am just barely hanging on. Thx.

Answers 1 to 10 of 10
Top Answer
And you put up with this garbage because ....? Oh yeah, you promised your dad.

Your wife and family put up with seeing you in 15-minute increments because ...? That's one I can't figure out.

Is there a large estate to inherit? I'm sorry, but I'm reaching for reasons and having a tough time with it.

When you promised Dad that you would take care of Mom, did that really mean you would physically live with her, spend every night with her, and basically forsake your wife? You need to see that she is cared for. You need to ensure that she has food and shelter and nursing help, physical therapy, whatever services she requires. It sounds like you are doing that just fine. If she needs 24/7 supervision, either more in-home services are needed or it is time to consider a long term care facility where they have sufficient staff trained to handle difficult elders, nobody works 24 hours, everybody gets reasonable breaks, and workers have a life outside of the care center.

I truly feel sorry for your mom. She is in constant pain, she has chronic conditions that she knows will not get better. She has been abandoned by 7 of her children (or rather she has alienated them, but that won't be how she sees it.) Hers is a sad life. My heart goes out to her. So should yours, and it sounds like it does. But from what you have written it is absolutely clear that sacrificing your family, your freedom, and your sanity is not helping her be a happier person at all.

What you are doing is not working. Continuing to do it and expecting different results is not realistic. Quit barely hanging on. Make changes and get yourself out of this intolerable situation. Honor the promise to your father and your duty to your mother, but figure out how to do it without throwing yourself away. You are way too valuable for that.
Oh, Belladora...it sounds like you have had a blessed life and been a blessing to your children! People with elders like you don't need this site as much as the ones who would LIKE to be loving, caring children but find themselves demeaned and belittled daily, and as Loretta said, when it is your own parent especially, to be told daily or even more often how stupid, ugly, and worthless you are when you are struggling to do your best just saps your spirit. You are blessed because you find that sort of behavior so unimaginable, but every day people write in about elders who expect to be taken care of - by their children, or worse still by ONE of their children and no one else, ever - no matter what because they feel it is owed to them; there are those who think nothing of uprooting and destroying their children's lives, jobs, marriages and self-worth. Yes, some do that because they have lost their judgement and their empathy to the ravages of dementia, but some have been narcissists all their life and never really acknowledged that their children were separate human beings with different needs of their own. YOU are obviously not like that.

And, yes, these children are ravaged by unmerited guilt, heaped upon them by the elder, sometimes by siblings, sometimes just by society in general and sometimes by people who simply state that assisted living facilities and nursing homes are for people whose families don't love them.
Lord have mercy, any one living under the conditions you describe would be hanging on by a thread.... sorry, but I would either get her 24 hour care if she can afford it, or place her in a NH.... what is she going to do, get angry and tell lies about you??? She does that now.... so what will change... nothing... except you will get your life back and your family... your wife must be a saint to put up with this arrangement.....
I have nothing but praise for your attempt to keep your word to your dad, but as jeanne said, there are many ways for you to be true to your word without killling yourself.... search out resources and get out of there.... please let us know that you are following thru with this and that you are ok.... I commend you for your sacrfices, but it is time for a serious change.... prayers for you....
Such great advice and compassion here. I am feeling much less alone in this world and feeling empowered to make change.

I went to social services for advice. Her social worker believes it is mental illness that she has probably dealt with all of her life and has set her up for a psychiatric evaluation that will happen in about a month or so. She said there is quite a demand for this so they are back logged.

She said if the psych sees fit, it will be out of my hands and he will put her in a mental facility. If he doesn't see her as a danger to herself (losing pills all over the house and never knowing what she has really taken), she said I can make that decision as her symptoms progress.

I have also arranged for 5 hours a day, six days a week of in home care. My sister, who lives two doors down, is now willing to help, knowing that she will be paid to do so...ironic.

Over the holidays I had a niece visit her. While I was in my bedroom and they obviously didn't know I was even in the house, they had a lengthy discussion about me. Mommy was all too eager to cut me to the bone for nearly an hour and a half. When my niece said, "Well, Mawmaw, I better say bye to Uncle Carl, I stepped from around the corner and said "You don't have to go far, I am right here." You should have seen their faces!

I hadn't talked to my mother for days. Only curt one word answers to her questions and requests. Shes cried every day. "Carl, I am so sick today/weak today." All in an attempt to break my silence. She finally figured out that game wouldn't work and just came clean. However, I have seen it before. She will behave for a couple of days and then somehow forget it ever happened and we are back to square one.

Thank you so very much for all of the advice. I feel much less trapped now. Keep it coming and I will keep you informed of how things are going.
Thanks again!
This is a case of the tail wagging the dog. Put her in a home and move on with your life. She is just not nice and is happy punishing you for whatever reasons she manifests in her mind. Don't do this anymore. And remember you have a wife to think about, don't let her destroy that too.
My folks are both in care together (at my Dad's insistence) but I make a 700 mile round trip to see them for 5 or 6 days every month and talk to my Dad every day on the phone (I listen and my Dad complains) - that is all I can do as I live alone and have no property or inheritance to fall back on and have to work full time to support myself so I use up most of my days off to make the visits. This is not enough for my Dad and he thinks I should give up my life, change my job (not easy as I am 55 now) and move back to rent something where they are so that I can be 'on call' full time for him and spend every night and weekend visiting. I wouldn't mind doing this if I thought it would make him happy, but it’s just so that he can have me there to complain to (my mum is deaf now and can't/won't listen to him anymore) and to run back and forward doing things for him rather than ask the staff at the care home. Part of me wants to go back so that I can be there for my mum as he is now talking about leaving that home and getting in somewhere else so that he doesn't have to see her anymore as she is 'off her head' according to him - she has mild dementia and loss of short term memory but she still knows who people are and can hold a conversation if people are patient with her hearing problems - he doesn't care about her now, just himself. Part of me also knows that if I do it, there will be no difference at all. He will continue to be demanding and unreasonable and as miserable as he always has been and I will have thrown away my good job, my friends and a life of my own for nothing and I will be too old by the time he is gone to make a new start for myself.
I think I know what decision I will make as one thing is for sure – my Dad was always mean and selfish and manipulative – my mother used to say so all the time, so the fact that he is old had only made him meaner and more selfish and manipulative and he is not going to change just because I am on the doorstep. I have made sure they are both in a care home which is nice and the staff are lovely and they get great care, I will do as much as I can to support them emotionally and visit as much as I can, but not to the extent that I throw away my own health and life.
If we knew for a fact we would be fit and hale and hearty after years of sacrifice I am sure it wouldn’t be such a hard choice, but we most of us know we can’t keep giving so much and receiving nothing but stress without some long term damage. What you are doing is far too much given the lack of understanding you are getting from your mum. She has taken over your life and sees you as her personal servant and because you are blood she is unkind and unreasonable and knows you will forgive her – she would not treat a stranger like that. Did your mother give that sort of care to her parents? I think not! Get in touch with social services and get some help for yourself – you need a) a counsellor to get you through the guilt and the fact that you are sacrificing your own life for hers, and b) someone to take control of the situation and help you find a care home for your mother so that you can get your life back. You are lucky that your wife has not left you under these circumstances so you need to sort it out before things go badly wrong – and if that happened believe me, your mother would only think “good, now you can be with me all the time” so don’t let it happen!
I wish you all the luck in the world in dealing with this, but get as much help from other people as you can – you need it to empower yourself.
Belladora, your attitude that "the elderly do not really expect you to take care of them..." is your attitude, and that's a generous, gracious attitude to have. Unfortunately, it doesn't apply to lots of other elderly people. Just as there are surely plenty of entitled children, there are also many entitled parents out there.
Belladora,

It sounds like you have some personal pain around aging and care, and I'm very sorry for what you're going through. But, being judgmental is simply not kosher on this site, even if you completely disagree with someone.

For many people, this site is literally the ONLY place to be candid, honest, and work through the very difficult crosses there are to bear. We don't lash out here.

You are certainly welcome to discuss what is really bothering you and how you feel about it, without criticizing other site members.

My mother was abusive and I respect her by putting her in a care facility where there are people who can physically deal with her violence, her combativeness, her psychosis, her physical needs, her medical needs, and her social needs. She is safe from the world and herself. There is no amount of judgement from another person to make me change anything because they are not walking in my shoes.
It is difficult at best. My older brother & I recently got involved with the care of my mother who left when I was eight years old, divorced my dad, and because it was deemed that she abandoned her children my father was one of the first men in Massachusetts to gain custody of his kids. This was in the early 70's. She was bitter about her life as the man she left me dad for left her to marry another shortly after the divorce. Her life did not turn out how she thought.

She was involved with us growing up but it usually involved creating a tremendous amount of chaos. So much so that we eventually became estranged. She has been terribly viscous to my father and I and extended her venom to our children on many occasions. The only one of her children she seemed to care for and dote on was my other brother who systematically abused & financially exploited her.

Now that she is elderly, sick, frail, and penniless this dirtbag moved out of state called us to step in and threatened U.S. With elderly affairs which I had already been calling for multiple years. It is a very strange position to be in to be caring for someone who was never emotionally there as a parent and was often abusive. We had to place her in long term care. While going through her belongings I found pictures of myself and my kids that I had sent over the years with some of the most terrible things written on the back of them u my mother. She has said some of the most horrible things about her own grandchildren, it is painfully sad as my dad who I was close to, passed when my daughter was 18 months old and before my son was born. I know that he would have loved to have been able to be involved with them it my mother has always been too bitter to put her own issues aside and therefore lost out on so much.

So the only thing I can say to you is this. I take care of my mother not out of love, that would be ridiculous, but out of compassion. I try to keep in mind that my mother was never fully healthy. She has been dealing with undiagnosed mental disorders for decades that have left her incapable of being kind and loving to her children. When the end comes I will rest easy knowing that I did all I could for s woman who could not do for herself and could never be the mother she should have been to her children.
Only1, I feel your misery. AND your sense of obligation. Please listen to what you are reading here, and find ways to let it go. You will never make her happy. She will be exactly as UNHAPPY as she is, whether you do everything perfectly, or whether she is moved to a skilled nursing facility, or whether she gets full-time, in home care NOT PROVIDED BY YOU. You cannot earn "good child" points here, much as a younger part of you wants to. You cannot love your Dad more, or honor him more, by continuing down this path.
We all want lots of things in life -- and in death. What she wants in her death is what she wants in life: to maintain intense control over you and anything else she can control, because so much else is slipping away. That's just the way it is. It was said above: What you are doing isn't working. It isn't going to work.
A last ditch suggestion is to find out if you can get her doc to prescribe a small dose or seroquil or haldol or some other anti-psychotic meds. They will tell you there is a black box warning and it's not appropriate. But it's the standard of care in SMALL DOSES and it could help her be less combative till you are able to step back and see that your true obligation is to your family next door. And to yourself. There is already a part of your being that KNOWS it's time to let others, non-family members, step in and take care of her, and it's willing to inform the rest of you of that right now. Let it do so with grace and ease, right now.
Good luck to you. She will be as fine as she can be. It will not be your picture of "fine" but it will BE fine.

Share your answer

Please enter your Answer

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support