How do I move on, and what is my moral, ethical, and legal obligation to these people?

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Alzheimer's father, Alcoholic mother, I Am The Only child. The nastiness, bitterness, foul language, cruelty, that I have experienced over the past several years. My life that I have built is going down in flames. They provided me a wonderful childhood but I cannot forgive what I've been put through these recent years. How does one move on and how much does one sacrifice....?

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Moving on is hard. If you have stable, happy, supportive people in your life then moving on from the unhealthy is probably a bit easier. When my Mom died I know her one wish is that we would support and love one another as a family. She even stated that in her last letter to us. I've tried. In fact, I've tried very hard. But when it's not reciprocated, and even used to make you look weak, as in my case, I figure they can come to me. I'm not putting out any effort anymore. It's sad though cause I really don't have anybody except my Hubs and my cats. I feel very alone but I'm not going to swallow my pride anymore and chase after relationships that didn't exist when Mom was alive and I can't conjure up out of nothing.
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jeannegibbs, thank you so much for your response and supportive words! To the extent of "forgiving", it's mostly about the ugly bickering that has been going on for several years - verbal abuse, extremely foul language, and mostly putting me in the middle of it over & over. It's like splitting up two 2-year olds...."well, he said it first!"...what I've seen over the past several years is going to be hard to put behind me and it has totally overshadowed the great childhood that I had. They have become two strange Zombie-people that I am now connected to and responsible for.
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I think that unless they were abusive in our growing years we owe our parents to see that they have food and shelter and appropriate care. We do not owe it to them to personally provide that care, or to cook for them, or to provide the housing. The decent thing to do is to see that they have these things. This is minimum to honor them, whether they are in Arizona and you are in New Jersey, whether they have chronic health conditions, and even if they are making poor decisions. More is fine, but decency only requires to see that they have food, shelter, and care, and you need only see that that happens, not provide it personally. Some parents, alas, make it very difficult for adult children to do even this much. Do your best. No child can be expected to perform miracles.

Sacrificing your own well being is not part of this picture. Martyrdom is Not Required.

Dementia is beyond your father's control. He did not ask for this hideous condition, and he cannot help the behaviors it causes. There are different opinions about the extent to which alcoholism is a disease and how much it is within the alcoholic's control. Let us agree that whatever the cause your mother is "not in her right mind" when she drinks. Her right mind is what you saw in her kindness while you were growing up.

So you have two people you love very much who are out of their minds and doing hurtful things to each other, and to you.
1) Your first moral/ethical obligation is to protect yourself. You deserve that in your own right, and also if you go down your parents will have no advocate.
2) I don't know if you have any legal obligations in this situation. Just the obvious things of not exploiting their vulnerabilities, etc.
3) In my view, you have the moral/ethical duty to protect your parents from their own disabilities, to the extent you can do that while still protecting yourself. This may involve turning some of your concerns over to appropriate agencies/authorities.

As to forgiving them ... if Dad were causing you all kinds of heartache and extra work because he had renal failure do you think you'd need to "forgive" him? How about if he had cancer? Hepatitis? Personally, I think it is critical and essential to accept dementia as a disease outside of the person's control. That makes a difference in how we relate to them.

Your mother is doing very ugly things right now. I suspect that in her present state she can't help them. I guess whether you need to forgive her depends on your opinion/attitude toward alcoholism.

Holding on to the anger and the hurt, no matter how justified, is detrimental to your well-being.

Put on your own oxygen mask first, then help the passengers around you. Do what you need to do to keep your life from going down in flames. Then do what you reasonably can to honor your parents by seeing to it they get the help they need.
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If it possible to call Adult Protective Service and make a report about Mom...i.e.: danger to herself?

Somewhere there needs to be official intervention with her.

Really, from the outside..it looks to me like as she goes down in flames...she will take someone with her..if not your Dad, then you will be the one. Yes, protect yourself...maybe by getting her into a residential program for her too?
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My parents live down the street. Dad has dementia and mom is his "care giver". She has become verbally, emotionally and even physically abusive toward him. I have had to step into the role of marriage counselor for several years now. Yesterday I put a deposit down to reserve a room in a nearby ALF and plan to move my dad in next week. The horrible things I have witnessed between my parents over the last several years will haunt me for the rest of my life. After I move my dad, I don't know how I can even deal with my mother moving forward from here. I honestly hate her but I am stuck with her for probably many years into the future. Thank you for your responses, yes, I am in self protection mode at this point and basically just getting angry about the toll this is taking on my life.
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I don't think you owe anything to someone who treats you horribly. Easier said than done I know. So before anyone goes off on me for saying this, let me say I've never been in your position. I was fortunate in that way. I had a loving mother who was easy to take care of. If she hadn't been I don't know how I would have handled it.
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That is a big question. You try to pull away some, but they keep trying to pull you back in. We want to do what is right, but we can end up doing a lot of damage to ourselves. The situation you describe sounds like it could be crazy-making. Are they determined to stay in their home, or do you think they might be willing to move to a senior community? That would probably take a lot of the weight off your back. Do you live with them now? or do you just come by to help?

I find myself wondering how their life went so off-track. They went from being good parents to being cruel, abusive parents. I imagine it has a lot to do with the dementia and the alcohol. Both of these things can change a person dramatically.

The main thing you can do is decide how much you are willing to do for them. You have the right to leave if they start treating you badly. No one has the right to treat you badly, even if they are your parents. You can tell them you'll be back when they are in a better frame of mind.

Giving advice is such an easy thing to do. I know it is hard to actually follow the advice, though, when it comes to our parents. We get caught between being the responsible adult and the willful kid. If you are anything like me, no matter what you do you'll feel like you're wrong. We just do the best we can at keeping good boundaries up around ourselves and walking away when they won't respect the boundaries.
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