How to deal with a difficult parent? - AgingCare.com

How to deal with a difficult parent?

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Mom Is in her early 90's. She's always been very moody. If things do not go exactly her way, she gets very negative. It's now been where she's crying and yelling (mainly at me). I live at least 170 miles away. She had stayed maybe two weeks with me well over 10 years ago; it was awful. She ruined some of my things, rearranged things her way and replanted plants (because it looked better the way she did it). She lives in her own garden condo, where she has an extensive garden. She used to tend the flower beds, but her mobility does not allow it now. When I do go for a visit, it's an endless list of cleaning, weeding, trimming, laundry - all labor intensive items. It's like she wants to exact some sort of punishment on me, after all I live away (I'm almost of retirement age and I can't switch jobs now, contrary to what she thinks). She actually was glad that I moved away years ago. She now says it was always her dream for us to live together (been her mantra for the past few years, never heard it before). I have a brother who lives within 2 miles of her; he takes her around for errands, makes stops in, but leaves. I am sure he feels the mood swings, but we are not on great terms. He basically clams up, doesn't share any personal details (because she will store any detail and use it somehow against you later). She absolutely refuses to entertain getting any help in and definitely will not go to "no damned nursing home". She has two "kids" who should take care of her 24/7. She'll then go on about how much she did for us growing up (basically the typical mom stuff - which she says no it was not her job to make sure we were fed and clothed). She's now said she also regrets ever having children. She will go on and on about every hurt, real or imagined, going back to when she was a child.


She has limited mobility, especially with her arms and hands. I've offered to make an appointment to one facility there that does some treatment for that sort of thing (or may be able to help). She doesn't want to go when pressed on it, but keeps saying oh I'd pay big money for a cure for this, I can't do anything with my hands and arms (not exactly true - dexterity and loss of strength issues is main complaint).


Even with all of this, I am thinking about perhaps doing a trial run (one week) of her in my home. I'm sick of the calls yelling at me all hours. Not sure it'd be any better, maybe worse. I'm at my wits end with her. She called today crying and yelling because a circuit breaker popped. "I wish I never moved into this damned place", "Oh, it's ok, because I'm the forgotten one!". (We both absolutely did not tell her or advise her to move into her current home, as we knew as soon as something went wrong, which it does with any home, it'd be our fault. History is being rewritten as she now says she wanted to move in with me and buy a home together - at that time, but I refused then. Never heard it before maybe 5 years ago). I'd like to lay out ground rules, but I know I'd be met with "I didn't have any rules for you when you were in my home (which yes, she did but it'd be another argument). I'd give up my bedroom short term as it as a walk in shower. The only thing is I have stairs, so I'd have to get a stair lift before she could even visit. I was hoping maybe even a visit would appease her somewhat, at least for a while. I don't think she'd want to move here full time, as her hometown is all she knows. It's the best city ever in her mind; every other place is "stupid". She did come to stay with me years ago (at least 25 years ago), in another city/state. It was awful then, but she says oh we got along great. Nope. I made up stuff, like being called into work, so I could leave the apartment.


I will admit to avoiding going there, as every time I go there has been a huge fight. I bite my tongue, but even if I look at her sideways, it will set her off. I think I've realized that almost nothing will be good enough, or I will never be good enough for her.


I honestly do not know what else to do. Any suggestions much appreciated.

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I have experience with this subject! I have nothing that is immediately helpful. Long term, getting a good therapist has been awesome for me. Deciding not to pick up the phone when she called was also a good decision. Honestly, I could be having a fantastic day, but after talking to her I would end up feeling crushing depression and despair. I've also mastered setting expectations, "mom, I can't talk long. I have to ... in 10 minutes".

FYI, my mom is currently living with me due to a major health scare. The scare has passed. She is fine. There is no reason for her not to go home. But she is not going for at least another month. Do not do what I have done.
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Reply to modernbird
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I'm back again. I went to see her about two weeks ago. It was brief, but she didn't get her way 100%, so she went into her pouting mode. I just ignored it; we were going out, so I got out into the car, backed it out into the driveway. She said she didn't know where I'd gone, and didn't I know she needed help to get out to the car? She didn't the day before when we went to church.
We were to go out to eat Sunday morning, to her favorite place (that she'd been wanting to go to for ages). She overslept. No way was I waking her. I was all ready to go. She came out, said no it's too late to go now (didn't understand that this place did a Sunday brunch - until 3 - had no clue that people would still go all day up to that point). So I changed clothes and did the gardening she wanted. Just a little she said. Yeah, every time more and more is added. Anyhow, she got herself dressed and said well I guess we can go. She was all happy, but had to stare at me when I ordered something she would NEVER have ordered. I told her not to worry about it, but she kept staring at me - you'll never eat that all! I did, and put some into a carry out box (as she does every time).
I put some items together for her, and I had such horrible cramps in fingers, and then toes. I think it was partially anxiety and the heat in her home. Hell is cooler, I think. It had to be mid 80's in her house; if she sees me wiping my face, she'll say, there's something wrong with you! Nope, you're just cold because your circulation is crap now (I don't say it out loud though).
So I get back home, and she's ok pretty much the rest of the week, except her circuit breakers on several outlets popped. Her landline was on the circuit. She called me yelling; of course, it was all my fault! I'm not sure why she was so furious. She had a wired phone, plus a cell phone she begged for - but she still cannot use "that stupid thing". I've shown her multiple times, as has my brother, to no avail.
Then the next week, her cable tv got messed up (horrible provider), and I did step in to make it right again for her. I got a tepid thank you.
She is on a royal tantrum this week - just about everything. She never thought she'd be alone. If I were any type of person (as in a good person), I'd admit my mistake - buying a house without her approval. Yes, I am a grown ass woman, but I can't buy any major purchase apparently without her approval. I made some comment about her one neighbor, from comments I heard a year ago, has severe dementia. My bad, the neighbor has been moved out to live with her daughter. See her daughter takes care of her! My other friend has a wonderful DIL, just wonderful. Well your friend is not self centered and moody.
Her friend is gradually going blind, but mom thinks that her hands losing dexterity is a bigger "hinderance". I almost asked, so you'd prefer to be blind?
Thanks to the folks who posted about the narcissism. Two additional friends have recently said the same thing, well you know she's a narcissist, always has been. One added, she will never be the mother you really deserved, but get help (her dad was a narc). I've been reading and watching plenty of videos on the subject, which has helped immensely.
I think, at best, she may have a brief visit at my home, and that is it. I cannot abide her mood swings. Today, she's not answering the phone. I think last night she chastised me because I never ask her how she is doing. Her one friend (the one going blind) always asks her. She then called me back about another friend who probably has poison ivy. Not sure why I needed to hear a 30 minute conversation about that, but then she launched into how that wasn't nearly as bad as when she had athlete's foot back in the 1950's. I almost said, how is this even related to your friend's problem now? She then said see, I really care about others...……..ok. Mute button is my friend. I also keep a journal nearby to vent in there.
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Reply to Sissisu
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I AGREE!! You have been thru this before. She hasn't gotten better. You think phone calls are bad, wait till you have her 24/7. If you don't have caller ID get it. Turn your phone down so you can't hear what she is saying. Call her back when u think u can deal with her. I think you do enough for Mom. She gets a lot more from her children than a lot of people. Maybe its time that Mom forget about her plants since she can no longer care for them. One person can't get a place that dirty. Maybe find someone to clean a couple of times or once a month. Doesn't her condo have a maintenance man?

Please, don't have a trial run. You will not get rid of her. I think Mom has had a mental illness for a while that was overlooked. Meds may help but its getting her to the doctor. I have a a feeling brother does what he can but doesn't see the need to discuss her problems because she always has been this way. Talking/complaining about it doesn't change things. At this point she is not going to change. You may need to set up boundries. "Mom, if you want me to visit and help you, then you can't scream at me all the time". If she gets ranting, walk out. Tell her you will come back later. If when u come back she is still ranting, go home. You do not have to put up with abuse. We owe our parents to be safe, fed and clean. We don't owe them our lives. Please, don't tell her when you retire. Let her think you are still working.
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Reply to JoAnn29
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Barb is right. Do not take this woman into your house. You are not responsible for her happiness. And quite frankly at this stage she will never be happy.

Do what you can from afar. Visit less often and for a shorter time. Cut phone calls short if she gets nasty. She acts the way she does because she is allowed to get away with it. Decide what your boundaries are and live them.

I know a lot of people believe in not fighting with a senior. If my father starts garbage with me I give it right back at him. Now he thinks twice before starting a fight. What you don't realize is that you have all the power. Her biggest fear is that she won't have you as an audience. If she yells at you, have an emergency where you need to get off the phone right now. You may be able to retrain her but if you can't retrain yourself. We seem to forget when talking to our parents that we in fact are adults now too and get to make our own choices without requiring their approval.
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Reply to lkdrymom
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Dont. You. DARE. let your narcissistic, depressed mother move into your home.

Your mom needs a good geriatric psychiatrist and some antidepressant meds to stop the rumination.

If she doesn't have dementia, and you say "bye mom" everytime she becomes negative, she may learn not to whine at you.

In any event, you and your brother are in the sad position of just waiting for a fall or something that will land her in the hospital, then rehab and then long term care.

Do NOT let anyone, not a hospital or rehab, tell you that you have an obligation to house her or move in with her.
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Reply to BarbBrooklyn
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