My mother has been living with my husband and myself for two years. She is feeble with health care concerns but does not have dementia. She cares for her own personal hygiene. I shop and cook for her and take her to appointments for doctors, physical therapy, hair, spa, manicures, etc.

Much of the time she is so difficult with me. I feel that she plays passive aggressive games with me, and despite my attempts to not let her push my buttons, it gets to me. The things she does don't sound major and probably make me sound petty but hour after hour and day by day they add up. It's death by a million paper cuts. I feel like a marionette and she's pulling the strings.

I try to understand that she is unhappy and probably depressed, although she refuses to acknowledge that possibility. She is excellent at behaving like everything is great when talking to doctors and folks outside our home. I do my best to be kind, meet her needs and help her live a happy, healthy life, but I don't know how much more I have to give.

I have two siblings who do not live in the area. They call her every week but don't provide any real instrumental support. When I talk to them, they comment on how good our mother sounds. They deflect any of my attempts to discuss the difficulties in caring for her. I understand they don't want to hear my complaints but it makes me feel very alone.

My husband is totally supportive and helpful and I am so grateful. I don't know how I could survive this without him.

I feel so much anger and resentment. Sometimes I don't know if I am angry at my mother, my siblings or myself for letting this all get to me. I just know that I am full of negative feelings and have to fight to keep from blowing up or feeling sorry for myself. I guess I am just having a bad couple of days (or weeks or years). Thanks for allowing me to vent.

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I understand your frustration and hurt. Vent all you want! My 85 year-old mother refuses to allow anyone to move in with her, and she refuses to move in with anyone else. She's extremely independent but her body just isn't cooperating. She sounds miserable but the only thing that would help is to bring my dad back alive. She has said that to me when I ask if she can think of anything that she would enjoy. She claims to enjoy nothing. She's constantly negative. It's impossible for me to have a conversation with her if I engage in it at all. She hurts my feelings with her passive-aggressive behavior (such as not telling me about various activities or events that involve family members). She screams at me if I disagree with her on anything. Therefore, when I call her I try not to make any comments or voice any opinions. Lately, those phone calls end with me hanging up on her. I'm not proud of that , but when I hang up I feel like I just escaped death by explosion of the head. Yes, stress can kill you.
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When my mother lived with me for a year and a half I had numerous health problems and was even contemplating surgery. After she moved to an apartment in a continuing care community all my health problems magically disappeared! Be careful, stress can kill you!
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Thank you for the lovely responses. Sometimes all it takes is a kind word from someone else to make us feel better. These past couple years have been a roller coaster. There are stretches where I feel I am coping and there are other days when I just want to scream and/or run away from home.

Jeanne--I hear your advice about needing me time. In the last year my husband and I have started taking a couple of exercise classes per week so that's 3 hours where we can just be us while doing something healthy. My mother is a fall risk so leaving her for any extended period is a problem. She refuses to go stay with my siblings and refuses to let someone come here to stay with her or even stop by to check on her. She says she can manage on her own, but she fell earlier this week and I don't think she could have gotten up without hurting herself even more. She adamantly refuses to consider counseling. I should probably pursue it for myself.

CTTN - Fortunately money isn't a big issue. (I am grateful because I know others aren't as lucky. See- you've already reminded me to count my blessings). My mother's estate plans are all in order. My siblings
and myself are equal beneficiaries.

Sunny - The paper cuts are little things that include criticizing my appearance, telling others embarrassing or private/personal stories about me, refusing to come out of her room to meet and say hello to my husband's sister. These sound harmless but perhaps I don't want my neighbors to know I weighed 190 pounds when I graduated from high school. I know it makes me sound petty but it happens daily and it wears me down. She has always been a bit like that. I don't know if it's gotten more intense or that my tolerance has diminished over time. We hadn't lived together in over 40 years so it's hard to know. You are right that she's unhappy. She wants her old life back (as do I) but I can't bring my dad back to life and that's really what she wants. She refuses to consider assisted living, saying that she doesn't need it but I think she is too proud to admit she needs assisted living and is secretly afraid to live alone. She has never lived alone and I think the thought of it overwhelms her.

Cdnreader - You are correct that I need to find balance. I am trying hard to make sure that I do the best for my mother soI won't have regrets in the future.

Wow, I really have been rambling on. Thanks again for allowing me to let off steam. I truly appreciate that you took the time to try to help me.
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Dear LovesBooks,

I'm sorry to hear how you feel. When you are the dutiful daughter it weighs on you heavily. The daily responsibility of caring for an elderly parent does create a lot of anger and resentment. It hurt me when my siblings couldn't even ask "what can we do for you? for dad?" I felt trapped. I kept sending emails to my siblings about what I was doing or calling my other sibling about my frustrations but I was ignored. Everything was snowballing.

Please don't ignore your feelings. In hindsight, I wish I had find other options for myself and my dad. I should have gone to counselling or joined a support group. I could have found more home care, respite care or seriously considered moving my dad into assisted living or a nursing home sooner.

My dad was never the same after his stroke. I thought I was handling it, but the anger and resentment affected my judgement and compassion. I didn't understand but the last year of his life, he was dying of heart failure. Here I was being so impatient with him and not realizing the real reason he was so withdrawn. I deeply regret it and wish I could have gone back did things differently. It has been a torment since his death.

I hope you can find a better balance for yourself and your mom. Thinking of you. Sending you hugs.
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I'm not sure what the million paper cuts consists of. Maybe, being responsible for someone around the clock has just grown to be too much. There's no shame in that. Why not explore other arrangements for mom's care? There are agencies that you can get to prepare her meals, help with medical support, transport her to doctor's appointments, etc. There is no law that you have to do everything hands on.

After you free yourself from all that responsibility, maybe you and mom can get along better and you won't feel as sensitive. There's also other options, like Assisted Living for mom. If you are not happy, odds are mom isn't either. Neither is your husband. Life is so short. I'd find a way to make peace.

The siblings aren't around. They won't offer a way to change. And at mom's age....if she's a manipulator or passive aggressive.....not many people change their personality as seniors.

Has she always been that way? The reason I ask, is that my LO started out being a real handful and I couldn't figure out why. Later, it turns out that her poor attitude was dementia. It's not always apparent in the beginning. Sometimes, it more someone becoming nasty and difficult. Not always memory issues at first.
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LovesBooks, I am the only local sibling (of 4). When I found out a year ago that my mother thinks I do nothing for her, I decided to document the time I spend with my mother and what I do for her (as well as her increasing debilities) in emails to my brothers. I'm sure they don't like my (probably whiny-sounding) emails, but I don't really care. They are very uninvolved with my mother, and think phone calls and occasional visits (which have picked up in recent years) are enough.

But my mother doesn't live with me (at almost-91, she lives "independently" in a one-story condo). She never will.

How are you and your siblings treated in your mother's will? (I always ask this, sorry!) Is there money for Assisted Living for your mother?
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Your siblings "deflect any of my attempts to discuss the difficulties in caring for her. I understand they don't want to hear my complaints but it makes me feel very alone."

Well, you just come here and vent all you want! We understand. Most of us have dealt with anger and resentment regarding caregiving. We won't deflect your concerns! And hooray for your husband. His support is invaluable. Tell him so from me!

Your question is how to deal with your very understandable feelings. Venting will help. Taking some "me" time is always a good idea. Could you ship Mom off to one of distant siblings for a week or two? They'd get a new and more accurate perception of her needs, and you and hubby could have a little honeymoon -- even if you mostly stay home.

Would Mother consider going to family counselling with you or you and your husband? Tell her you need it and you'd like her support. Maybe you could reduce the number of paper cuts she deals out each day.

My husband kept telling me that he couldn't be depressed because he wasn't sad. But he wasn't himself, either. This was about a year after a fall onto a cement floor from a ladder. He agreed to see a psychiatrist just to keep me happy. The doc showed him a model brain. Given his symptoms this is the area of the brain that was damaged in the fall and hasn't recovered. It may never work again. Compensating for that damage was very possible with medication. It might take some experimenting to fine tune the med, but doc was confident it could be done. Seeing it as a physical defect from an injury removed all objections my husband had. Being depressed is not "crazy" or "all in your head." Could Mom hear that message, or is she too resistant?

Anyway, come back and vent about all those "petty" paper cuts. We get it!
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