How do I protect myself?

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My mother is almost 83 and is leaning on me very heavily. Since 2007 I have had the entire burden of responsibility for both parents. I'm third child out of four. My brother ( the eldest) died suddenly in 2007 (cardiac arrest). I was diagnosed with epilepsy early 2008, lost my driving licence and my business as a consequence. My Dad had Alzheimers at the time of Ian's death, was in a care home by that point and died in May 2010. Ian had power of attorney - I had to go to court to take Guardianship of Dad when Ian died. Older sister (C) lives in Canada (we're in UK), younger sister (A) is about 30 miles away. C does what she can considering the distance, including taking Mum to Canada for 5 weeks (back 2 weeks now). A doesn't do much, visits once or twice a month that I know of - may be more, I don't know for sure. Mum is in excellent health for an 83 year old. Slight osteoporosis, needs two hearing aids, walks with a stick now, but is otherwise healthy (as far as I know). She lives about a 15 minute walk/5 minute drive from me. I'm self employed, working from home as a dressmaker. Mum gave up on life when my brother died. She has sat in her chair for the last 8 years, reading and watching tv. She's carrying way too much weight and fights every suggestion I have that would keep her independent (walking stick and hearing aids took two years of persuasion). I've got her going to a day club one day a week. I'm in the process of organising a cleaner for her. She won't leave the house unless someone picks her up in a car from her front door. She is incredibly unfit now, and can't walk the length of herself without being out of breath. She's taken to phoning me on an almost daily basis to do small things for her that she could do herself. Today she asked me to feed her cat. She is very emotionally manipulative and I am very easily manipulated. I've got her a neck alarm, so if she falls she can press the button for help. She fell in the garden last week...neck alarm was indoors, by her bed. She sat there for an hour before a neighbour came outside for a smoke, as she couldn't get herself up. She isn't disabled, just overweight and unfit. I feel like I'm living on a knife edge. She phones constantly...get me milk (the shop is a 5 minute walk from her house, but she won't do it), I need batteries for my hearing aids (pharmacy is 5 minutes walk from her house too). I'm terrified to NOT answer the phone calls as the time I do ignore it, she'll REALLY need me but she is driving me CRAZY. I feel like I'm going mad. I'm angry. I'm fed up. I'm frustrated. I want to scream until my eyes bleed. She's making me hate her. What can I do? My husband says I need to ignore her phone calls during the day, as I'm working. My two sisters don't get called during the day, and they work from home, but they work FOR someone. I'm self employed so clearly aren't doing a "REAL job". But I don't get paid unless I'm working, unlike employed people. I'm going mad. I'm really and truly going mad. Please tell me I'm not alone in this.

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Rainbow, as you get used to saying "no" to these non-emergencies, it will get easier and easier.You need to take care of yourself because as you pointed out, you will gradually get to hating her. Sounds like you have to be the adult here and deal with that. If your mom were wise, she would figure this out for herself and be grateful for all your help and make helping her as pleasurable and stress-free as possible, But it is rare for an elder to think that clearly about their situation.
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Thank you everyone, for understanding. I'm feeling a bit more in control now, after making and eating a decent meal for me and hubby.

The problem today was she had a headache, so didn't want to bend down to pick up the bowl off the floor "in case she fell over".

The cat himself always has dried food available, this was his wet food, which comes in a sachet so it simply tears open. Thinking about it, she could have put the food in a bowl from the cupboard, and left it on the countertop for him, or let him just eat dry food for today.

She wasn't well, I could see that. But it was a headache. Just a sore head. She hadn't even taken a painkiller, she hadn't drunk anything at all (and this was 4pm) and she hadn't done anything but lie in bed that day, not even get dressed. Now I know headaches are awful - I get migraines myself. I'm on beta blockers three times daily to control them. When I'm ill with one, I can't even walk up the stairs to bed...it's a crawl on all fours.

I texted my younger sister about it, and she phoned our Mum an hour or so after I'd gone up and guess what....she was much better.

I'm going to take all your advice. I have caller ID on my phone, so when she rings whilst I'm working, I'll let the answer machine take a message. I'm going to have to stop this now, for the sake of my own sanity and to salvage what love I still have for her, before it all turns to pure hatred and resentment.

I don't mind helping her, I genuinely don't. I don't mind taking her grocery shopping, or dropping a carton of milk in to her midweek. I don't mind getting her some cash from her pension. I don't mind sorting out a cleaner for her, or paying her bills on these automated phone lines (she's deaf and can't often hear what the voice is saying). I don't mind ordering her things online that she needs, or picking up her prescription, or helping her change her duvet, or dropping things off for her. But I do mind when these things are suddenly presented to me as emergencies, as urgent things, with that horrible whiney weak voice she uses when she wants company or attention. I hate that she's making me dread her phone calls, that I now get in, do what she wants and get the heck out of there as quickly as possible. I hate that she looks on my two sisters as a source of pleasure (ooooh lets go out for lunch, how about a trip to the garden centre, lobster for dinner? Don't mind if I do!) whilst I'm the free labour. That I do mind.

Thank you all for listening and for letting me vent my spleen.
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Rainbow, I totally relate. For a while, in the first year I was helping my mother, she had me coming to her house to walk her dog and take out her trash every night. Half the time she wasn't even home when I got there - she was out with her friends.

It was very hard to start standing up to my mother about stuff like this. She's not a person who takes kindly to criticism, and I didn't know how to express my objections without sounding like I was calling her out. Eventually I told her "if you can go out with your friends you can take out your own garbage on the way out. She gave a little smirk and said "But I like you to do it."

Over time I've become more directly confrontational, telling her that everyone would like to turn over all the tedious, menial little tasks of life to someone else, but life doesn't work that way. Again the shrug and the little smirk, and she tells me "It does when you get to be my age." When I tell her I don't feel comfortable doing a certain task for her, she will say "Well, feel uncomfortable, but just do it."

I think the only solution is to tell her whenever she calls you during your work hours that you're busy and you'll take care of whatever it is when you have time. Unfortunately, that still leaves you doing it. The only thing that helped me is to have my sister, who my mother does respect, lecture my mother about taking advantage of me by asking me to do too many things that she could do for herself. Now when my mother asks me to do something, she takes on a pathetic tone and assures me she just can't possibly manage to do whatever it is herself. Oh, well....
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Rainbow, repeat after me "No, I can't possibly do that"... and say it again out loud, and again until it becomes comfortable for you to say. I know it won't be easy to say the first time, I was a bundle of nerves the first time I had to say that to my parents.

You need to set boundaries, even now, and one thing I learned from a therapist is that if your parent decides they rather live at their own home then they need to take on the responsibilities that come along with that choice. It as a light bulb moment for me.

Any time my Dad would ask me to do something he use to do, I would say "No, I can't possibly do that" and add to the conversation that if he were living at that really nice retirement center he wouldn't need to worry about cleaning the gutters, etc.

And I will get you milk the next time I am at the grocery store.... she's not going to wither up and die if she doesn't have milk [or whatever]. Now running out of cat food is a different matter, the cat cannot do it own shopping :) Oh, if the cat food has one of those pop tops, sometimes those are hard to open, I bought one of those heavy plastic can J-lifts for opening pop top cans.
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Seems this is very common. My mother had an alarm pendant but it was always hanging on a doorknob "somewhere". During the time I took care of her she decided I had to open the cans of food for her cat because she just couldn't. Did it for a while then, saying nothing, just stopped. She did it for herself for over a year until she went into as NH and the cat came to live with me.

Same with her little dog. She insisted it had cooked meat. I bought chicken on sale and cooked it and got "Why on earth did you buy so much chicken?". Well, I said, your dog likes to eat doesn't she? That shut her up. When she went into a NH the dog came to me weighing a whopping 28lb (constant tdtbits and people food all day) ... yiikes ... she's now a fit and trim 18lb as she should be.

Verbal, emotional attacks, manipulation and bullying were a constant life long, even after she went into the NH, forcing me to eventually change my phone number and make it unlisted, though the NH had it. I'm not sure there's an answer to the question except to stay away from these toxic people as much as possible for your own health and sanity.
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I fought so long with her to keep her mobile, I really did. I'm now working on her getting a walking frame as she says she has problems with her balance. She's refusing to go down that route. She really seems to want me at her beck and call, which I know from reading the forum is quite a common thing. I fell apart with her a couple of years ago. I told her it seemed to me that she was looking for me to fill all the gaps in her life. I said I couldn't take Dad's place. I couldn't take Ian's place. I couldn't take C and A's places. I couldn't even fill my OWN place at that time. I knew it was time to take a break when I was standing in my kitchen crying and hitting my head off the wall, really hard. I just wanted to feel physical pain instead of emotional pain. Does that make sense to anyone else? I'm so tired, and yet, she's WELL. She's pretty healthy. She doesn't have any physical pain like arthritis or joint problems, nor does she have dementia, any memory problems. Nothing. She's capable of so much more than she does, and I'm torn between being furious that she's expecting me to carry her around, and fear that I'll miss the time she genuinely DOES need the help. That's why I got the alarm sorted.....she has it for that time. I just need to convince my adrenal glands that if that hasn't been pressed, then it's not an emergency. I want to just stop.
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Sadly, you'll have to take some pretty firm stands to make it clear that your mother needs to take care of herself so she can do for herself instead of transferring that care to others. She knows she can manipulate you into responding, using emotional blackmail to get you to be subservient to her. And that probably gives her a sense of power to offset the control she's losing through aging and immobility.

You'll have to refuse and make it clear that you won't do anything she can't do for herself, and that she needs to address the mobility issue starting immediately.

Make it clear also that you're working and that the fact that your workplace is your home is irrelevant. You're still working and can't interrupt your work to do things she could do if she took care of herself.

The incident of laying in the garden for an hour because she refused to wear the emergency pendant is a good example. Had she been cooperative and worn the pendant, she wouldn't have had to wait for a neighbor to wander out.

She will undoubtedly resist, call you names, allege you're ungrateful, and try to emotionally bully you into being at her beck and call. Be prepared for that and resist it.

You can also try to find a walking program or perhaps an exercise program at a local community center that she can join, even if she flatly refuses. All you can do is provide her with options to take care of herself; if she won't do it, you can't feel as though you're responsible for what she herself chooses to ignore as to her own health and welfare.

Good luck; I know seniors can be VERY, VERY, VERY stubborn about these kinds of self care issues.
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