My 90 yr old mother is bipolar + paranoia + who knows what else. She lived alone for 6 years but due to a fall....she now lives in my house. Mom is on medication which helps a little bit. I have chosen to keep her here (she would go wild in a nursing home and never ever forgive me).
For as long as I can wrapped her tentacles tightly around each of us (My brother, my dad, me). She manipulated us emotionally. It was real. It was bad. I met and married a wonderful man and we had a wonderful life. My brother did too. We were able to do this because of my father's incredible sacrifice .............taking care of her and keeping her from ruining our lives. My dad was my hero and he was sane!! Dad died in 2008, then my husband died, then my brother died. Mom moved in with me and she is slowly pulling me into her web with her complicated set of manipulative behaviors. (Guilt, hysteria, feeblemindedness, neediness, backhanded compliments,....). Don't think I'm being overly dramatic. This is only a simple description of her mental illness. These days I struggle to get any significant time away from her as she follows me everywhere - even to the bathroom. She will stand outside the door calling for me. I believe she knows she is upsetting me but anytime I try to communicate this, she responds all sugar sweet and says something like "I forgive you." She scares me...........always did. Because her manic depressive episodes are absolutely awful. BTW, the outside world sees only her sweet side.............but watch out when she gets home. Even with all this going on, she's still my mother and I love her. She could be a good mother at times. After an episode I am left reeling.....and I end up being the bad person.
How do I set boundaries without being perceived as an ungrateful, nasty, rotten daughter. I hate feeling like the bad person..........It wears on me emotionally.
Any practical ideas for implementing strong boundaries?

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When a parent has been emotionally manipulative all of the child's life, that doesn't just go away or become "okay" because it is now additionally mixed with dementia. Marialake, odds are as your mother's sense of control lessens she'll lean more on the manipulations that always worked in the past. One of the most powerful is to make you feel like as if you are a selfish, ungrateful daughter when you are actually simply trying to have some balance in taking care of yourself. To have one's own mother projecting that view back at you when you love her is hard to take....especially if you can't tell yourself it is just the dementia because she's used it on you in the past. A truly selfish ungrateful daughter wouldn't even be manipulated by those words because she actually wouldn't it's a bit of a trick on the selfless daughter to cause her to be even more selfless.
Helpful Answer (12)

Maria, I did not realize that your mom has dementia. Listen to what Sunny is saying!

In a situation where one person is not dealing with an adult's sense of reality and executive function (dementia patients, children ), sometimes we find ourselves feeling like the ogre.

My daufhter, as a senior in HS, applied Early Decision to a college we all agreed would be a great place to go. She was accepted (and when you are accepted Early Decision, you are committed to attending)

I drove her there for an overnight stay for "spec" weekend, when students who have been accepted go to "take a look". She was going as an accepted and committed to attending student

We got there and suddenly, she decided this was a big mistake . She wanted to go home. Or back to grandma's. Or anyplace that was not this college. I told her she needed to stay for the overnight. If she still hated it in the morning, we'd talk. I left her there, crying and miserable. I drove back to my MILs house, weeping all the way. I didn't sleep at all that night.

When i arrived back the next morning, she was having breakfast with her 3 new best friends. All was smooth sailing from there on in. Sometimes you have to be the adult, take the bull by the horns and make executive decisions.
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I find it amazing that some parents can continue to be critical and blaming even when you are making the tremendous sacrifice of moving them in with you and providing daily ongoing care.

Maria, your mother's words are laced with more than innuendo. They're laced with venom. Just hearing what she said (and who she said it to), I want to throttle her. She is deliberately trying to make your life miserable while living in your home and receiving your care. I find that just incredible!

My mother does not have dementia, but she can be nasty and sarcastic like yours. When my mother makes unwarranted nasty comments to me, I don't hesitate to tell her that is she doesn't knock it off, she'll be doing it all on her own.

I've come a long way since I started taking care of her five years ago, maybe too far. But I'll be damned if I'll be putting my life on hold to help someone out of the goodness of my heart and put up with being disrespected and abused. No way, Jose.
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Your profile says your mom's primary ailment is dementia. I think I would read a lot about dementia and it's symptoms, behaviors and impact on the family. That might help you to understand how dementia damages the brain and renders a person incapable of many things. Often dementia patients follow their caretaker around the house, say odd things, resist treatment, make false accusations, etc. They can be very difficult to handle and tolerate. To me, the key is remembering that regardless of how they may have been manipulative, mean or hurtful before they got dementia, they now can't be blamed or held to the same standard. So, it might be expecting too much to expect your mom to understand or respect your space.

I would try to let go of how others perceive her as sweet, but you don't. With the dementia, it's not likely you are going to be able to prove your point. I wouldn't worry about being seen as mean. You decide how things go. You don't have to be harsh, just pragmatic. As long as you know you are doing the right thing, that's what matters.

There is a certain amount of tolerance that has to occur when you are caring for a dementia patient inside your home. It may be that the only way to prevent her from following you around is to have another person distract her or provide her with something to do that will keep her occupied. This is difficult to do, since their focus is poor and attention span short.

I wonder if you are attributing too much to her abilities in that she isn't likely deriving pleasure from annoying you. Dementia patients often annoy their caregiver and they are not aware of it. They are not thinking with a normal brain. I think it's difficult to understand this, but the more you read, the more you will see how that is the case.

If you continue to feel that your mom has tentacles in you, I might see a counselor to get some tools to help me cope and set me free from that feeling. It must be miserable to feel that way. I would try to remember that you are the one in charge of the household. You are the one who rules the roost. She actually does not control you. You could do whatever you want. You are the one choosing to care for her and you could change that at any time. This should help you feel better.
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Thank you so much to those who responded. You are right - the new dementia requires a different "take" on my mom's behavior and I must remember that. My MIL also lives with me - her dementia journey has been quite different. I will try not to compare lol.
No I'm not ever perceived by others as a bad person - quite the opposite. But deep in my heart I feel guilty and nasty when trying to draw boundaries.
I just read about FOG...........Fear/Obligation/Guilt. That's how I've lived around my mom.
Just now she said to me....................."Look at you on your telephone. You're so nice to people. You're such a nice little girl to other people..........." My response was: "I know what you're saying mom. You want me to get off the phone and spend time with you. All my time. Say what you mean. Please don't cloud it with fake fluff." Her response was: "Thank you. You are always right. You say everything perfectly. You are perfectly wonderful." Don't take any of that at face value. My mom's words have always been laced with innuendo. I just take a deep breath and walk into the other room.
At this point, I will try to separate the dementia from the other stuff. Thanks again for taking time to read my rambling. It's been a rough couple days.
Helpful Answer (9)

Maria, do other people in your life percieve you as mean? Did your father, brother, spouse, friends, neighbors, think that if you?

Maybe your "meanness" is a product of your mom's narcissism. Maybe she's all sugar until she doesn't get her way. You're not like that, are you
? You compromise, bend over backwards until you're bent like a pretzel.

Be sweet. " mom, i couldn't POSSIBLY do that" . laugh gently.

"No mom, that's not possible right now. Maybe next week. ". Smile. " sorry".

If she rages, leave the room. If she throws things, call 911 and tell them she's become a danger to you and to herself.

Sadly, Maria, she may need more care than you can give her, going forward. I think she'd do fine in a NH, because they'd have the geripsych adjust her meds so that she was calmer and happier. You might want to consider taking her to one yourself.
Helpful Answer (6)

Maria, I read and heard what your mother said, and it is just unacceptable what she said to you, there was no kindness in there anywhere.

My concern would be for your shattered self-esteem and sense of worth after a time of hearing this from her.

There should be consequences, but I don't have a clue. I don't care how many people would agree that you may or may not be mean, but after a time, you could develop PTSD. My doctor covered this kind of behavior in others towards me by saying to me: 'Sometimes being nice is not nice'.

Figuring out what that meant was part of therapy!
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I have a hard time saying anything specific about my mother. She's not really narcissistic. She's just very self-centered and, to tell the truth, not very smart. She sees things with a very narrow focus. It is impossible to get her to think about philosophical issues or even the implications of her own behavior. When she and I talk, it is like we are from different planets.

Something I really hate that mine does is take the opposite viewpoint from me consistently. If I say I like something, she doesn't. If I say I want to do something, she tells me why I shouldn't. There is never any real logic to what she does except that she wants to fight at me. I had a life of it when I was growing up, though, so I don't argue with her now. Arguing serves no purpose, because she is right in her way of thinking. I had always wondered why I never argued with people. Coming home taught me why. I learned early that there was no winning.

Ah! I just came up with the right word. My mother is contrary -- always has been and always will be, I'm sure. The only way to deal with it is to find ways to discharge the anger.
Helpful Answer (6)

Love all you gutsy ladies. This exchange has been such a blessing because I no longer feel frustrated and alone.
I'll try some bravery next time and maybe I can let you know how it goes. I'm in the basement right now ...........waiting for her to get tired enough to go to bed so I can relax and maybe drink a glass of wine. Always good to look forward to something
Helpful Answer (5)

Yes - contrary.
And I'll add - oblivious
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