Some background: I'm 23, just recently graduated college, and found my first decent job early last year. My father passed away last year, leaving a monthly employer pension and veteran's affairs benefits for my mother to collect. Plus, my mother will be able to collect social security as early as next year. She doesn't work right now, and she doesn't really need to with her current income. Assuming that these benefits don't become reduced at any point in her life, she will be able to live a somewhat lavish lifestyle and retire. I agreed to stay with her and help pitch in for the bills until she is able to collect social security, as to help her save and see if she can get rid of most, if not all, of her debt before then. While she means well, living together after so long has taken a toll on our relationship with each other and I don't see her as someone I enjoy living with at this point. So, as soon as she becomes eligible to collect social security, it's vamoose for me. The problem is, as soon as I leave, I believe that she won't be able to handle common problems that arise from everyday life. Prior to my father's passing, he took care of literally every problem that came up for both my mother and I. Now, I'm kind of picking up the pieces and learning as I go; I guess you call this "being an adult". While I feel like I have a pretty good handle on things and can probably come up with, or at least find, a solution to any issue that comes up, I can't say the same for my mother. I guess part of the reason for this is that my mother's English is poor, as she is a native from South Korea and moved here back in the late 90s. She can speak English well enough to get her point across, in my opinion, she just doesn't convey confidence in what she says and she thinks everyone is confused when she talks to them. While my relationship with my mother isn't healthy, I still have an interest in her well being once I'm out of the house. My concern is that once I leave, she won't be able to maintain the current lifestyle she lives and will eventually have so many problems that she'll beg for someone to help her (a.k.a. me). If her car needs an oil change, she'll come to me to either take it to a dealership or change it myself. If the dog's toenails get too long, she'll just leave them for me to trim and/or take to the groomers. If she has to talk on the phone to ANYONE about anything she doesn't have the answer to, she brings the phone to me. Like, I understand that she just needs help every now and then but, she doesn't even make an attempt to try to learn how to do things for the future or try to figure something out for herself if I'm not around. It'll just sit until she just forgets about it or I find out and realize it needs to be done. I've brought up this issue with my mother and she claims that her English is too poor and that I can articulate things better or that her eyes aren't good enough to read the documents that come in the mail anymore - which reminds me that she still needs me to set up an appointment with an eye doctor at some point when I get a day off from work. Maybe this post just turned into a huge rant but, my question is still the same. How can I even begin to think about moving out when my mother would be incapable of taking care of herself and their assets? Should I just have confidence in her to learn the hard way when I move out? Are there any methods out there that I'm missing that will help me ease her into an independent lifestyle?

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Dear CrazyAsian,

I'm so sorry your dad's passing has put additional pressure on you to care for your mom. I can relate to so much of what you wrote. As another Asian I do think it is harder to just say good luck mom, take care of yourself now. There is something embedded in our culture.

Yet at the same time, you are a young woman and entitled to your own life. I wonder if you have any other family members or siblings that could help her. Or any friends that could also guide her. Maybe its time for her to live in assisted living if she is old enough.

I know its not easy to set up boundaries. I'm sure your mom is afraid to be alone as well. My mom is a lot like your mom and to this day her late 60s, I am the one that does all her bidding. From changing a light bulb to doing the taxes. I have to say I do have a lot of resentment and anger about this. It has damaged our relationship. My mother simply doesn't understand why I would be even angry about helping her. I have tried to tell her but she doesn't get it.

You would try and just let her be for even two weeks and see how it goes. In some ways you won't know till you try.
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So your mother is facing adulthood a little later than most. She is what we call a late bloomer! If she were in her 80s it might be hopeless, but in her 60s she should be able to catch up. Maybe not if you keep enabling her, though.

It is essential that you establish your own life.

I saw myself a little in your description of your mother. I just sent a list of odd jobs to my son, so he'll know what tools to bring this weekend. I think I'll ask him to check my tire pressure while he is here. He is a professional handyman, and I do pay him for large jobs. But the fact is, I depend on him in order to keep my "independence." I've found a young neighbor to mow the lawn and another neighbor to shovel. I found a garage I like and I take my own car in. I called a repair service when my washer stopped working this week. I don't do a lot of tasks myself, but I am figuring out how to get them done.

I can see that if I had a problem with English that would complicate my getting things done a lot. Your mother has been among English speakers for more than 20 years. I'll bet she has picked up more than she recognizes. If she had to use it, I'll bet it would come pretty quickly. It really wasn't a favor to shelter her all those years, but that is Not Her Fault, and the task now is to gently encourage her to become more independent. As I say, if she were 85, finding her a Korean community and/or a retirement community might be the best approach. But she is young enough to start on a new chapter of her life as a widow.
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I could be wrong but Your mom sounds like she is suffering with “learned helplessness”.
Look this up on Wikipedia and other sites and see what you think.
Since you have a deadline of next year you have a year to help your mom get better. Insist she go for therapy. She probably needs treatment for depression and anxiety. That goes with the learned helplessness. And she needs exercise. If that’s not her problem then the therapist can help you sort it out.
Set up a notebook with all it takes to run your moms life.
Finances, medical care, home maintenance, pet care, auto details etc.
Each time a task is requested of you or you see a task needing action, pull out your task form. Fill it out and then have mom do the task and put the form in the notebook under the correct tab for future reference.
Set all her bills up on autopay but help her check them. She will be vulnerable to scammers. It might be easier for her to manage her life in an independent living facility where her needs can be met as they increase.
I have a friend whose sister has this. Sister was about to lose her home to a social worker scammer when my friend got involved. Sister just wanted someone to take care of everything. All she wanted to do was watch tv, play with her cat and buy lotto tickets.
She’s not much better now but at least she is managing her life with only maintenance type interaction from my friend and she gets out to go to the the therapist. At one time this intelligent woman was a business owner. At one time a stock broker but life happened and she got stuck. She lives in a retirement community with resort type ammenities but she takes advantage of none of them.
I can see how your moms language issues could contribute to the problem.
You might try to find her acting classes. That’s great for building confidence. She can pretend she is someone else to help her get through tough spots. A speech therapist might also help.
Spend this year getting mom self sufficient. The right therapist can help you. She’s got a lot of life left to live and so do you.
And make a copy of the notebook so you can guide her over the phone for after you move out.
Good luck.
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CrazyAsian - I agree with Snoopy above. You should not stay. Where does your mother live? I happen to live next to a Korean town in Southern California. If language is a problem, she can move to a Korean town. Whatever she needs she can find here/there: banks, dentists, doctors of all specialties, many markets, restaurants, and everything in between. Many first generation immigrants live in their own communities and they are doing just fine. Don't under estimate your mom's ability. She might be more capable than you think. Time for her to be on her own and for you to spread your wings.
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How old is your mom? She can't be all that old, right? This is a tricky situation but, no, you should not defer your adult life and plans until she can trim or cause to have trimmed the dog's nails. Otherwise you will be "helping" her for the rest of your life. If it even is helping.

It's time to set boundaries. Maybe one boundary would be that you start to lovingly limit your help to one specific area where you really can be effective, say language issues, and assure her of your confidence that she can handle the rest?
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