After temporarily moving in with mom out of care and concern over a post op recovery, I am burned out. Mom has a history of mobility issues which began before I was born (30+years).

Over these last few months I have seen a lot more of mom and her issues than I've ever seen before.

Long story short, this time was an opportunity to help mom, evaluate her needs, monitor her post operation and discuss long term care. What I got was a fight.

A fight with even getting her to medical appointments because she will not schedule them as agreed. You have a discussion with her, agree on dates and times, and she flat out does not schedule them or schedules them way outside of what was discussed.

Almost everything with her is a fight and then a discussion with a neighbor, relative or pastor (flying monkeys) where she takes no accountability and I am the horrible person. But then a week later she is so grateful to have me there.

It really is bizarre in a way, but honestly it's not entirely new. She has been this way just about my whole life. It's just up to now, I was denial or raised to flow with the discard, love bomb, discard. I also did not fight back or question her as much as I do now, which I know she does not take kindly to people that question her or offer other ways of thinking.

Granted I have not done everything perfectly. I am not perfect, but who is? She really showed just how selfish she can be, that she could care less about her long term care needs, etc. Even if her lack of care causes others hardship. She doesn't care.

She seems to believe that she has to fight everything. What is wrong with compromising?

She can also be sweet as pie. People believe she is so nice and helpful, which she can be, but there is this side, when the "mask" is off, that I and maybe 1 or 2 others can see.

My question is how do you care for a parent that seems to enjoy games, fighting, chaos, values the prospect of "winning," and bad mouths you for even the smallest of things? For anyone else, this would be game over. You just get out of the game. But it's just not that easy with a parent, especially being an only child... or am I wrong?

Maybe there's dementia at play with your mother? Or just the usual narcissistic passive/aggressive behavioral issues I see with my own mother, especially problematic as an only child myself. Mine has always been argumentative, just for chits & giggles, I think, but now with dementia present, if I say black, she says white. If I go ahead & agree it's white, she'll start arguing it's gray and has been all along. It's a no-win situation so most topics are off the table nowadays.

Women like this don't compromise. Everything is a game and they have to win to feel in control. They hate authority of any kind. My mother is 94 and lives in Memory Care Assisted Living and STILL fights authority tooth and nail. When the CG comes in to help her get dressed, she's 'not ready yet' and they have to leave. Then she falls off the bed insisting she can put her shoes on herself. 70x she's fallen, honest to God, b/c she has to do things 'her way.'

To others she is sweet as sugar. To me, her sharp teeth come out and she's vicious. She's always worn a mask her whole life, but now with dementia, it's getting harder for her to keep up with that 'nice face' for others. She can still do it, it's just crumbling a bit. Her slip is showing more and more, is what my DH likes to say.

Here is a good article on the subject which I found quite helpful:

For me, I'd never be able to move in with my mother, and I've known that all along. You say that you moved in with yours 'temporarily', so maybe now is the time to move out and get back to your own life, especially if your mom is giving you such a hard time. You're not wrong to be tired of the chaos; this is what they THRIVE on though, and what exhausts US to the point of getting depressed. Don't let that happen. She can call in paid caregivers if need be, and you can limit your contact with her to something YOU can live with. Nothing we do ever seems to be 'good enough' ANYWAY, so keep that in mind as you decide what boundaries you want to set down.

Wishing you the best of luck coming up with a livable plan for YOU.
Helpful Answer (15)
Reply to lealonnie1
disgustedtoo Apr 9, 2021
"Mine has always been argumentative, just for chits & giggles, I think, but now with dementia present, if I say black, she says white. If I go ahead & agree it's white, she'll start arguing it's gray and has been all along. It's a no-win situation so most topics are off the table nowadays."

Oh yes... I've often used the black/white example with my mother, and when you give up and agree, nope, we jump the fence and it's the other way! Best it not to get sucked into the question.

Not so easy when you have to work out appts and she's pulling this. I'd agree, perhaps time to move on... per the OP it's been several months, so even if it is residual cognitive issues from surgery, it likely won't get better. Make a to-do list for her, list the numbers to call and announce departure.
How old is your mom? Old enough to maybe have the beginnings of dementia or ALZ? If not, then yes you are wrong. Just because you're an only child (like me) the same rules apply: choose and enforce boundaries or continue to suffer in this dysfunctional relationship. It's not an all or nothing proposition. If she asks for your help, you can give it as long as it's something she truly cannot do for herself. If you are making her medical appointments, this would be called enabling. Are her fingers broken? Did she lose her voice, hearing & vision? Is she illiterate? Low-I Q? If not then she is perfectly able to make her own appointments, keep track of them and get herself there. If she misses her appointments or doesn't make them in the first place, she will suffer the consequences of her own choices and actions and won't be able to blame you. When you interject yourself into her business you've handed her a weapon for her to beat you with. For the things she truly does need help with, the second she starts to fight or move the goal posts, you just calmly walk away and don't take bait to go back until she gives an unsolicited apology. FYI if she is apologizing for the same infractions, then she really isn't sorry in the first place.

You must consider that you have a co-dependent relationship with her. Maybe some time with a therapist would help clarify what's going on and how to protect yourself. FYI there's also a thing called "planned incompetence" which is when a person acts like they can't do something or are just awful at it and then the object of their manipulation rushes in to do it for them. It's a passive-aggressive form of control. Kids instinctively do this with their parents.

Please keep in mind that your mother is a fully grown adult and has had the entirety of her life to learn and become responsible for herself. If she chose not to do that, that is NOT your problem. You are not responsible for her happiness, ever. Stop orbiting around her and see how she will change her tune and your life will vastly improve. She will still do what she does -- she just won't be able to do it to you. Especially when you move out. Soon. Hurry. Wishing you all the best!
Helpful Answer (13)
Reply to Geaton777
Geaton777 Apr 9, 2021
correction: the term is "learned incompetence", not "planned incompetence".
See 2 more replies
My mother is the same but her staunch independant spirit cost her her independance. Shes now in hospital after several near fatal falls waiting to be trasfered to a nursing home. She insisted on allowing her young friend to take care of her when she was living in her flat then became obcessed with the girl who was not taking care of her she was just taking care of my mothers money, shes ripped her off for around £60,000 so far. I washed my hands of it 18 months ago when i got Social Services involved then my mother called me a liar infront of that criminal. Sometimes you have to step back and allow them to continue to make their own very bad decisions. Its not been easy to stay away but my mother is a narcissist and extreamly toxic. She has no real friends shes burnt all her bridges she lit the last bridge with her own match. Only someone with a narcissist parent could possibly understand the constant emotional blackmail, tantrums and trauma.
Helpful Answer (13)
Reply to Charmainejay

Why are you doing this? Mom won't love you, or let you help. Move out.

The approach of "It's hard when it's your parent"... did she ever make any sacrifices or devote her life to you? No. She had her whole life to get help, learn to be a good mother, and to prepare for old age. She did none of these things, because she expected you to step in for her. You've sacrificed most of your life to her craziness. Why are you letting her take even more from you?
Helpful Answer (9)
Reply to LoopyLoo
disgustedtoo Apr 9, 2021
"...did she ever make any sacrifices or devote her life to you? No."

I am surprised the "Oh this was your mother, she took care of you and changed your diapers" gang hasn't shown up yet in response to this! AUGH!
She is picking you apart, and eventually there will be nothing left. If she is toxic, like you say, you need to get away from her. If at all possible, distance yourself from her.
Helpful Answer (9)
Reply to Isabelsdaughter

"..discard, love bomb, discard..". Wow. You have powers of insight to be envious of!

Getting out of the game does sound like safer strategy... way less emotionally exhausting. But only child.. Hmm.

What about: not IN the game, not OUT of the game completely, but at the sidelines. Make suggestions for doctor appointments, catching taxis, home health aides - whatever is needed. Then back away. Let her decide & she wears the consequences?

This is where I am trying to be. OK so far. Eg Dr says she needs xyztest/scan. OK. (Not yes you should). But I don't want to. Ok again. That way I can't take any blame for forcing her to go or if some dire thing happens for supporting her not to.

Is that where you are heading too?
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to Beatty
disgustedtoo Apr 9, 2021
Per original post, it's been several months. Plenty of time to assess and try to get things "in order", to make mom's life easier.

Well, at this point, a list of doctor names and numbers along with suggested rechecks, etc and a departure date. If you need some REAL help mom, you know how to contact me. Exit, stage left...
Often, if not always, there comes a time to LET GO. Sounds like you are there.
It is incredulously painful to watch a loved one, or family / friend who you feel for make decisions NOT in their best interest. Often though we are unable to intervene, for legal reasons or family dynamics, or both.
It ISN'T a matter of being WRONG.
It is a matter of accepting WHAT IS.
Your mom's MO is as you describe.
All you can do is not engage in the anger / arguing.
Acknowledge how she feels and leave it at that.
For instance, if she says something like:
"You did xxx and now you've caused me to feel anxious and angry.
Your respond: I understand you are feeling angry now at me.
DO NOT ENGAGE in her anger.
You are wanting / trying to use common sense and effective communication and compassion with a person WHO CANNOT do this. When you 'get this,' you will shift your feelings and dis-engage - give yourself some room "based on understanding - where she is mentally / psychologically / and distance yourself from taking it personally.
She will not change.
You can.
Yes, it may be very hard and even emotionally painful - this is your mother.
Do you take her bait. Stop being the fish she reels in !
After these episodes, do something NICE for yourself. You need to give yourself the positive, unconditional love that she cannot. You need to fill yourself 'up' with loving kindness. We all need to do that and not expect it from other people, even or especially our loved ones / our parents. gena
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to TouchMatters
marymary2 Apr 9, 2021
Loved your answer. Just curious, as my mother is on the far spectrum of abusiveness, do you have any tips on how to grieve the loss of the dream of a mother who cares at least one iota about you and actively works to hurt you physically, mentally and financially?
I merely informed my mom that she has a choice: either she behaves or she can fight with them in an old folks home. She straightened up fast.
So many folks see her as a sweet little old lady. I just ask them if they would like to take care of this sweet little old lady and they shut up real fast.
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to Christservant
disgustedtoo Apr 9, 2021
You were lucky she didn't bluff your ultimatum. Many will - even if initially they seem to back down and comply... Given a little time, they slip right back into it!

But, for those who only see the sweet little old lady, HAHAHA! Yup, so true! Staff at MC would always tell me how sweet and funny my mother was. My response would usually be, sure, but you didn't grow up with her, did you? So, who IS this person in my mother's body? Who snatched her body??? ;-)

Funny too how quick they will back away when you suggest they take over!
See 1 more reply
Tell mom you are going to go back home.
Pack your things and make what arrangements you need to to go home.
Since mom is fighting tooth and nail there does not seem much sense in it.
Often family has to wait until some event happens that will land a loved one in the hospital, rehab then you can stress to the Social Worker that it is unsafe for mom to return to her home.
I hope you have discussed with mom the importance of you having POA so in the event she can not make decisions you can do so for her.
You can not MAKE someone accept help
You can not MAKE someone see that they need help.
You do not indicate any medical conditions your mom has other than you moved in to help her after a surgery. If mom is cognizant she can make decisions for herself. If mom has dementia then she should not be making decisions and she needs full time supervision. If that is the case you might have no option but to seek Guardianship.
And if she has dementia there is no "winning" because Rule #1 will never "win" an argument with a person that has dementia.
You go home and you play the "waiting game" you wait for something to happen that will make her realize she needs help OR you are forced to make decisions for her.
Helpful Answer (5)
Reply to Grandma1954
marymary2 Apr 9, 2021
Good advice. I'm just wondering when dementia is proven. My mother showcases (is that the correct term) when she sees her doctor, but then makes really really bad and dangerous decisions for herself. I've given up after years, in line with the advice here, but I'm POA (not active as she's "capable"), executor etc and worried she's going to get herself in a big mess I'll have to clean up with siblings trying to blame me for her mistakes. She did it before when she gave a $30,000 check to a man who came to her door selling insurance (I could never track him down after wasting 6 months trying), and other lesser times that I know of. She hides a lot from me though.
See 1 more reply
I am the oldest of 8 and my mother bossed me around endlessly because she couldn't possible take care of this huge household without my help. When I moved in with her & my Dad to help take care of them, it was argue, argue, argue. She wouldn't change her clothes, take a shower, go to the Dr., go to the ear Dr. It was all control stuff from my childhood that she couldn't get over. Finally I put my foot down & me & the sibs got a very nice AL place. She loves it. (Thank god.) And I discovered the big difference between being cared for by a relative with years of control stuff mucking up the relationship and very pleasant but anonymous caregivers, different faces each day, who have no skin in the game. When she says she won't bathe, the gal on duty sends for the next most important attendant and when she has gone through a few layers of staff people she gives in and takes a bath. And she's OK with that! There's no emotional stuff getting in the way of what needs to get done. To me this is the great difference between trying to care for an adult myself and having caring, warm strangers care for the adult. I think people under estimate the value that comes from the staff in institutions not having the emotional connections that some of us struggle with.
Helpful Answer (5)
Reply to BetseyP
bundleofjoy Apr 11, 2021
dear betsey,


how kind of you that in the past, you moved in, helped her.

this sounds great:
that she loves it in AL, listens to the carers, and you can save your life!

i see it in my situation too, exactly like you:
arguing against me on everything, even solutions that are very easy.

in general yes, abusive people treat strangers/carers better than family (in particular daughters). it seems millions of us daughters are in the same terrible situation/being treated terribly by the very people we care for.

in my case:
nursing home/facility would kill my loved one. (pandemic/corona outbreaks).

it depends where you live, how high the risk is in nursing homes.

in my case, home is best.
for many reasons.

my technique is:
to try to get someone else to say the ideas/solutions to the loved one. if the idea comes from me, the loved one argues/says no.


See All Answers
Ask a Question
Subscribe to
Our Newsletter