How to handle an elderly mentally ill parent whose health is declining?

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Following my brother's death last month, I reconciled with my estranged 80-year-old mother who had been abusive when I was a child. She suffered from borderline personality disorder, and I couldn't cope with her abuse and manipulation, and so I walked away 18 years ago.


My mother always made me feel diminutive, as if I don't matter, a nothing. Her whole world revolved around my brothers, both of whom also suffered from mental illness.


Understanding that this abuse was due to mental illness, I've forgiven her, and I feel obligated to be there for her at the end of her life. But it's very confusing, painful, and stressful for me. I'm not sure what role I'm supposed to play. I fear that it will be beyond my ability to care for her and that no matter what I do, it won't be enough. I'm also afraid it will hurt my marriage.


My brother who likely suffers from Aspergers can't be counted on to help.


I talked to my mother on the phone last night and came away upset as all she did was talk about herself--she has always done this. Since the reconciliation, she has asked very little about me or my life. She could care less about my three adult sons. Self-absorbed, she interrupts and redirects the conversation back to her if I try to get a word in. No one has ever had anything worse than her. And she's so dramatic.


My husband hates my mother and feels she's toxic to me and wants me to limit my contact with her. His disapproval is also stressful.


And limiting my contact is easier said than done as I'm worried about her. She has significantly declined physically, and is living in a filthy apartment piled high with junk. She and her husband are hoarders and have a rental house, an apartment, and many storage units all around town full of junk.


I feel that she can no longer take care of herself. And my stepfather, who has no children of his own, is also 80, and has stage four prostate cancer. They don't have a penny to their name and are living on social security.


Needless to say, I worry that they will become a major burden to me in every way imaginable soon, and I don't know how to handle it. But I'm all they have.


I'm not well myself. I can't drive as I'm legally blind, and I have a lot of health issues, including COPD. I get tired very easily. I was looking into assisted living for them, but I can't afford that and neither can they.


I think that if I had to move them into my home that I'd go completely loony.

I would really appreciate any suggestions about how to handle this situation.


Thanks in advance.

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Hello. If you are the only "one" they have... I think given the situation, that you should apply for an independent 3rd party guardian who can make some decisions for them and organise help. This is usually through a government department. Don't be guilty. There is too much pain and suffering under the bridge for you to be able to do this. Be the daughter, not the carer.
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As others have said
Don't move her in.
Don't risk loosing your husband.
Don't risk your own health.
Don't try and help her out you will just kill yourself.
Don't give them money.
Do not sign anything that will make you responsible for anything financial.
Lots of don'ts.
Now get yourself in touch with Adult Protective Services on Monday. Hubby can drive you, take a bus or taxi ask a friend or one of the sons to help.. They need someone in there to stop them living in this squalor. Don't rely on a phone call you will be harder to refuse if you are in their office looking depressed. COPD is nothing to be taken lightly.
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Thank you all for your thoughtful replies. You've given me a lot to think about. I'll certainly look into agencies and services that could help.
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I agree 110% with golflady! Don't do this!

Quote CTTN55: "I feel obligated to be there for her at the end of her life." Why? Don't do this at the expense of your marriage."

I agree with that, as well. Even if YOU would put yourself through what will undoubtedly be hell trying to care for your parents, ask yourself this very pointed question:

"Does my husband deserve this?"

Seriously, please think about that for a moment. Even if, as the child who was taught to just "take" the abuse, you're willing to take more abuse, is it fair to open your husband up to that as well?

When I got married, my narcissistic mother and enabling father started abusing my husband, and that was the point at which I got the courage to stand up and say NO! Enough! Sometimes, what we aren't able to do for ourselves, we can do for the sake of someone else. Your marriage is valuable, and it should come first, before abusive parents.

Best of luck to you!
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I let my toxic mother move in after step dad died. Worse 2/12 years of my life. ended with the worse case of PTSS ( yes child abuse and neglect causes PTSS ). Your mothers personality is only going to get worse. Don't wait for a moment where mom says she's sorry and suddenly starts acting like a real mother... it wont come. Call adult protective services and let them handle things if need be. Trust me you have NO IDEA about the anger you are about to feel by inviting this back into your life . you will be shocked at the memories that come flooding back and its painful and I don't recommend it. Some children just shouldn't take care of their aging parents especially if they never took care of you. Its a horrible situation I wouldn't wish on my worse enemy.
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"I feel obligated to be there for her at the end of her life." Why? Don't do this at the expense of your marriage.
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BB is right. This is not a job for amateurs. And not only are you an amateur, you have health concerns of your own. It would be a disservice to your mother and most definitely a disservice to yourself for you to step in where you really aren't qualified.

If all that weren't enough, this person has abused you! OK, fine. You've forgiven her, but unless you are a truly exceptional person, there is still lingering pain.

Dr. Pauline Boss, a psychotherapist, has this to say about taking care of abusive family members:
"Taking care of someone who years before was abusive or neglectful of you is beyond what is expected of you. Caring for a family member who was or is physically or psychologically abusive is dangerous. ...
... I encourage some kind of continued management -- often through a social worker -- to make sure that the caregiving team or the nursing home professionals are treating your family member well. This may be the best you can do given your history together."

Go for the best you can do, and arrange for trained professionals to address your mother's needs. Don't strive for the impossible -- it will only bring you all grief.
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How are they paying for storage facilities and a rental home and an apartment?
Call area on aging and see what services are available for them and yourself.
They don't want to live with you unless you have a spacious empty home for their hoard. Be sure to tell area on aging that they are hoarders. They may have someone who helps with that.
You might be able to give your mom moral support but really you don't sound well enough to be of much assistance.
Unless your mom gives you DPOA for financial and medical there is little you can do. If she is competent you can't make her move if she doesn't want to. If she's not competent she can't sign a DPOA.
I'm sorry for the loss of your brother.
I think with the hoarding situation you need to visit with the local authorities to determine what if any action you can take.
Of course, it's always good to get them clean and to their primary doctors for evaluation.
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My dear, Borderline Personality Disorder is a very serious mental condition. Combined with increased physical frailty and illness, it's a perfect storm...and a recipe for disaster for an amateur, even a loving amateur attempting to do hands on caregiving and problem solving.

Folks with BPD needs professional care from dispassionate, qualified folks. You need to involve your local Area Agency on Aging and perhaps Adult Protective Services to get them the caregiving they need.

Do not offer to move them in with you or go to their home to caregiver. That way lies disaster. 

Your resources and money should not be used to support them. Your local AAA will be able to tell you what resources are available to your parents, often through Medicaid Waivers, for care and housing.  

Call your local AAA tomorrow and discuss your mother's needs frankly with them. And don't let ANYONE tell you that you are obligated to provide care.
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