How can I support my elderly, toxic Mother (early dementia, history of cancers)?

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No other family, just me ... 750 miles away Hi all - first time poster here. Thank you all for sharing your stories... bits and pieces resonate w me. I don't wish upon anyone the pain of watching a loved one age or become ill, but helps to know that others might experience the conflicting feelings I'm about to share. I wish you all peace & resolve.
My mom and I have never gotten along, and though I'm a little better, at 47 yrs old I still cannot control my reactions toward her (yelling, cursing, complete disrespect). She brings out the worst in me and I am very ashamed of myself for how I treat her. We are very different - she's very status quo, obsessed w image & appearance, judgmental, superficial, negative. I have never fit her ideals and she's never really accepted me. But up until about 8 yrs ago when she sold her house (my childhood home), she'd always been there for me (in her own toxic, drama-filled way) and her house represented a safe haven of sorts. She's now 82, lives alone in a suburban NY flat, and has early dementia. I live several states away and don't see her often. There was a time in my life when I thought I would die when she died - even though I sink into the worst depressions when I spend any amount of time with her. Indeed, it will still be very devastating when she does pass, but our relationship has dwindled to the point where I can't stand to be in her company at all. I have struggled my entire life w terrible suicidal depression, and I do what I can to help myself and finally figured out that I have to limit contact w her for my own mental health issues - yet, I feel so much guilt and shame that I can't seem to rise above my feelings toward her.
A lot has shifted in recent years. I now have a child (10) who I'm trying to raise w more positivity, acceptance and emotional support than what I had growing up; for this reason I am increasingly intolerant of my mom's negative outlook.
I don't exactly have a pulse on her day to day life, but I know she pays her bills, gets out of the apt., eats (poorly), sees friends, bathes, and gets on OK in that regard, not a danger to herself or others as far as I know.
For about 7 yrs she lived in absolute fear of a family that lived in the apt. across the hall. It all started out w the "strange smells" of what they were cooking (they were from a faraway country) and soon developed into full-blown paranoia e.g. breaking in & stealing things, transmitting voices through the walls and "little boxes," blowing pot smoke through the vents, and other fantastical story lines. She thought they were trying to sue her, and on and on. I talked to the "offending" neighbors, talked to other neighbors, the cops who were called on multiple occasions, the superintendent of the building, her friends, just to be sure there was no validity to her claims. (I never did find the "stolen" stuff though). She wouldn't move because she didn't want to rent out her apt for fear it would be trashed. All she would talk about had to do w that family and her paranoid delusions about what they were doing to her and I just became so exasperated that I asked her to stop talking about it. One time I tried to divert the conversation by telling a story about a cute puppy we encountered and sure enough she mentioned it could have had rabies, and then went back to her life and her woes. Honestly, I think she's thrived on drama her entire adult life (she's had some crappy stuff & people in her life, including me). She will not have an aide come spend time w her. Adult protective services didn't feel she was a threat to herself and did nothing. She wants to move into private assisted living where I live (waiting list), but for one thing, it would drain every penny she has, and frankly, I don't know how long I will live in this town nor do I really want her living close by. It's way too $$$ for AS in her area.
She sold her flat a year ago (huge loss $$) and now rents an apt. and from what little I know, her paranoia seems to have subsided a bit. I've only seen her once since she's moved.
She had cervical cancer & hysterectomy at 28 (I'm adopted), and at age 78 stage 3A breast cancer (she stayed w me while she underwent mastectomy & chemo). I think she was so preoccupied w her thoughts, she ignored obvious symptoms and didn't press for more testing when mammograms "showed a mass" but docs didn't think it was cancer (!!).
What it boils down to is that as her only family member, I have a duty to be there for my mom but don't really know what to do at this point. I have been horribly disrespectful to her my entire life and really owe it to her to look out for her. But to be honest, and please don't lash out at me, the thought sends me spiraling downward. I am ashamed that I feel relieved not to be in regular contact w her at this stage of her life. I'll spare you the volumes of other details e.g. doctors, diagnoses, money issues, POA, etc (no more room anyway!). The holidays are particularly rough ... thanks so much for reading.

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I think you probably have a very good attorney. If mom gave him the POA, she would have to be the one to ever change it back to you and could do that as long as she is legally competent. So, at this point, for better or for worse, you have neither the authority nor the burden of providing financial management for her. It sounds like he is staying in touch with you which is also a very good sign.

You could keep an eye on things as best you can, and her attorney should know he has to be accountable, and that should anything go amiss and you could potentially report that to the bar association and/or APS. You could potentially get guardianship if you actually want that; its a huge commitment you need to be sure you are prepared for, and you would get a separate attorney.
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I think your best bet is to make sure her building manager has your contact information in case she has an episode. Be sure her local 911 can call you too. Ask her to sign a Health Care Proxy so you can talk to her MD's if she is taken to the ER. Let the attorney know your home and cell numbers. Since he is financial POA, be sure you have a way to contact him on nights and weekends, since you may need him in an emergency. Be sure you know her health insurance and pharmacy, again, if she lands in the ER, they need that.
If you do all that, you build a safety net around her without invading her space.
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Thank you all for your responses. Yes, it's an emotionally difficult situation for sure, and yes, I've been therapy for years (part of trying to care for myself). I'm going to write my mother a letter with 3 objectives in mind: To tell her I love her, to thank her, and to say I'm sorry. I want her to know these things before it's too late and unfortunately, we have to stay very superficial with our conversations : (
Oh! One other question I wanted to ask - not sure if I have to start a new thread, but - up until about 2 years ago I was provided full POA. However, in following what many of her friends have done, she has given her lawyer POA for all financial matters. I have never, nor would I ever, meddle with her finances, so I found this confusing and bothersome. I just like the idea of doing things myself if the time ever comes such as being able to directly pay for medical expenses or anything else on her behalf. Now it all has to go through the attorney, and while I have to just let her do what she's comfortable with, I don't entirely trust him and fear for her finances. Tons of horror stories about lawyers 'skimming' client accounts, holding on to money after client passes, sketchy stuff. Her attorney knows my mom is a little "off." Years ago, she tried to get him to write letters to her neighbors to get them to back off and things having to do with her delusions, but he refused (I think he made up legal reasons why he couldn't so not to hurt her feelings or whatever). What do you think about this? Thank you in advance ...
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One simple idea that might help a little is to get a series of 'thinking of you' or 'hope you are feeling better' or whatever is appropriate and send her one once a week. Or have g-daughter make a card. Lets her know she's not forgotten but skips the drama.
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S, you have raised some BIG ISSUES here. Windy is right on the mark., I'm going to tell you to go to therapy, not because you're crazy or anything, but because your mom is mentally ill. Pre-dementia, that is. With dementia, it's even worse. You are going to need to learn specific techniques to " detach with love". Google that phrase and read all you can. Find a therapist. And stick around and let us know how it's going.
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You and your daughter are Priority #1 and #2. Mom is Priority #3. No shame in that! Your daughter is your first and most important person who needs to rely on you, so you need to take care of yourself first and foremost.

I agree with Windy that some counseling would be a good thing. It sounds like you're carrying a lot of shame that does no one any good. Your mom sounds like a very difficult person and you should manage her care from far away as much as you can. If the Area Aging group doesn't feel she's a threat to herself or others, there's not much you can do.

So give yourself permission to take care of yourself and your daughter and let your mom know if/when she wants more help, you'll do what you can from where you are. No need to move her near you. The state can take over her care where she is.
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You have some serious conflicts going on. I'll not even attempt to address them all. But you're going to have to decide between you sanity and taking on your moms care. I deal with my folks from 600 miles away. I have a good POA, it can be done. After reading your story I think you could benefit from some counciling to help with all your emotional issues about mom. It's ok to be concerned about her and want to help but you can't do her much good if you're a wreck. Take care of yourself first. Mom comes second.
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