A bit of back story. My mom is 68 years old. She’s always been a bit narcissistic and afraid of doctors. As an example, about 13 years ago she had (what I now think) was a stroke and didn’t seek out any medical care. She claimed that her loss of use of her left hand was from her rheumatoid arthritis but being older and wiser now I don’t think that’s the case. She has even referred to it to me accidentally as “when she had a stroke”. 4 years ago she got sick with the flu. I talked to her everyday and she just seemed to get weirder and weirder. Saying things that didn’t make sense, sending me nonsensical texts. Her and my dad have been married for 35 years. He’s 62. I told him that he needed to take her to the hospital and he refused. Told me to “mind my own f*cking business”. Okay, I thought it was my business, but sure. He told me she was “fine”. He didn’t believe she was acting strange at all. He finally took her to the hospital when he found her grey and unresponsive oh the couch. The doctors told him that if he waited until the morning she would have been dead. She was diagnosed with COPD and pneumonia. Her blood oxygen level was in the low 70’s. She was also diagnosed as being delirious. It took her more than a week to come out of it. I thought I’d never talk to my mom again. She was hallucinating and calling me terrified in the middle of the night terrified from the hospital. She couldn’t tell her hallucinations from reality at all. The last 4 years she’s been pretty normal. She recovered almost entirely from her delerium (she never went entirely back to herself but close enough). She was a heavy smoker from the time she was 15 until she was diagnosed at 64 with COPD and then quit.

A couple of weeks ago she caught a cold. Her respirologist told her that if she ever caught a cold and it went to her chest to take these antibiotics he had prescribed for her and if they didn’t work within the first 2 days to go to the hospital to get checked out. She took the antibiotics, finished the 7 day course of them but still didn’t feel better. Sunday afternoon (1 day after being done the antibiotics) she started to sound weird to me, using weird words for things, not answering my questions directly, just sounding a bit off. I finally convinced her to go to the hospital to get checked out on Sunday night. She wouldn’t go until she showered. When I told her that the hospital wouldn’t care if she showered she told me that she hadn’t showered in 4 weeks. She’s been sleeping on the pull out couch in the main floor the living room for awhile. The main floor only has a powder room (sink and toilet) She has had trouble getting upstairs where the full bath is since she was diagnosed with COPD but I never would’ve thought that my dad would’ve let her go 4 weeks without a shower.

Anyways, she said (so I don’t know how true it is) that the doctor at the ER checked her oxygen level, did a chest X-ray, blood tests and a CT scan and that they all came back normal. At 2 am I got a call from my parents while they were in the car on the way home from the hospital saying that they had left because “the doctor didn’t know what he was talking about” and thought that my mom might have had a stroke but that that was “bull**it” so they had signed my mom out of the ER against the doctors advice. My dad is obviously an enabler of my mom’s craziness.

My mom didn’t seem any better on Monday. After talking to her on the phone I noticed that she was still acting out of it and crazy. My dad works nightshift at his welding job (4pm - 2am) so I drove the hour to see her with my husband and she seemed normal in person. Everything I noticed on the phone wasn’t happening. I decided with the help of my husband that calling for emergency help wouldn’t work out (my mom would turn it away) and that I would continue to keep a close eye on her. Today (Wednesday) my mom still sounded a bit off when I was taking to her on the phone. I asked her again to go to the hospital to get checked out and she asked me where my positivity was. She then said “positivity. That’s a weird word. Did I make that up?”

Around 5pm she called me and told me that there was nothing to eat in the house and asked me to bring some food over. I asked her why she didn’t have any food and she told me that my dad didn’t go shopping over the weekend and gave me a list of things that she wanted. My husband and I brought over the things she requested. I did a quick check of her fridge and pantry and saw that there was food but it was expired. Eggs expired by 2 weeks, moldy bread etc. I asked my husband to step out for a bit so that I could be alone with her. I tried to convince her again to go to the hospital, that she needed some help. She yelled at me that I was stressing her out, that I was making her blood pressure go up. She said “don’t do this to me, don’t do this to me, don’t do this to me” and “give me just one more day”. My husband came back and she stopped the hysterics. I realized then that with how crazy she was acting but how she could just turn it off that calling an ambulance wouldn’t work. I made sure that she had everything she needed and went home. She said that my dad made her her a family doctor appointment for Friday morning. I’m worried that she’ll either be much worse by then or that her family doctor won’t realize how sick she is and just adjust her blood pressure medication, which is the only thing she plans to ask him about. So that brings me to where I am now.

I know that my mom is sick and needs some kind of medical intervention but my dad is no help. I think that he’s very possibly neglecting her and enabling her but I don’t know who to talk to. My dad has a history of physical and emotional abuse towards me and my mom and sister and honestly I’m a little bit scared of him and his temper. Where do I go from here?

This question has been closed for answers. Ask a New Question.
Krizzlestix, how did your Moms Dr appointment go last week? Any updates?
Helpful Answer (0)

Gained so much knowledge from the book “Understanding The Borderline Mother” by Christine Ann Lawson. Thanks to CountryMouse for mentioning waif. It made me research this disorder and wow how significant it is to all the females in my family. This forem helps me stay strong and away from my dysfunctional family. Krizz hope you find relief from your parents soon. Please keep us posted.
Helpful Answer (0)

The only thing i have to add is that if there is an abuse hot line in your area to contact them. I would not expect them to be able to do anything but they may have some helpful suggestions and contacts to help you cope with this.
How your father is behaving would definitely be considered elder abuse.
he is deliberately allowing there to be only bad food in the house when he clearly knows she is sick. I mean physically sick. her mental issues are not paramount and can be delt with later. With her level of COPD she definitely needs hospital care at this time. If she refuses or he won't let her they do have the right to make those decisions.
I don't know about Canada but if a person refuses to be transported to the ER the paramedics can't lift them up and take them.
I also agree with CM read all you can about personality disorders and dementia so you understand as much as possible about both of them.
Helpful Answer (2)

Do keep us updated, yes, please.

Thinking more, I think it's her "go away don't leave me" shtick that must have pressed my buttons. This is the classic refrain of the waif-type borderline, a personality type you seriously need to read more about. Not just so that she doesn't get to you and stress you out quite so much, but even more because it will help you give her help that is genuinely helpful.

And it might refocus your perspective on what your father is coping with (even if he is doing it badly). There is no excuse for abusive behaviour, and I don't make any. But to change it you still need to understand where it comes from.
Helpful Answer (3)

Thank you everyone for your insight and advice. I should’ve mentioned in my original post that I’m in Canada so I’m not sure what is accessible for me here or if it’s the same laws etc.

My sister and mom haven’t been on speaking terms in more than 10 years due to my mom’s craziness. Having my sister directly involved isn’t really an option but she’s definitely my closest emotional support who really “gets” what my parents are like. My dad is her step dad.

My mom has cut off contact with everyone in her family for one reason or another except for me so there’s really no one else that could go over to check on her without making her extremely angry.

You’ve all given me some things to think about and I think I’m going to have some hard decisions to make. I’ll keep you updated.
Helpful Answer (3)


This is very difficult.

There is such a thing as show timing, it is true. But show timing, and snapping out of "acting weird" when somebody you don't want to look idiotic in front of comes into the room, are not the same thing.

COPD + a cold could = pneumonia; and that doesn't seem to have been got rid of.

On the other hand, your mother has an appointment to see her PCP this week, and s/he will certainly check out her chest, and if there's a problem it'll be treated.

I don't know...

What do you want to happen?
If you were to call someone, what would you hope/expect them to do for your mother?
How would you like to see your parents' living situation change over the next, say, 12 months?

Personally, I feel that probably the best thing you can do is work on your own boundaries. Your mother is living with an able-bodied consenting adult. Hence, for example, you do not do a two-hour round trip to restock her fridge. Slightly stale refrigerated eggs will not kill her.

Their attitude to you manages to be both defensive and offensive simultaneously. You don't have to tolerate that, you know. And while it may be your father who has the track record of abusive behaviour, your mother didn't leave him to protect herself and her two little girls, did she?

I don't know why I've taken such a dislike to your description of her. I apologise - I'm not normally unsympathetic, but there's just something about the way she seems to be playing you that's got right up my nose.

State to them what you believe they ought to do. If they insult you again, end the call.

I just can't see how you can win without first thinking clearly and specifically about what you would like to achieve.
Helpful Answer (4)

Yea, I agree with the above. You need to act on your mom's behalf, I spoke to the local aging council and they advised me to call APS, I had a neck injury the next day and quite frankly could not add one more thing to my body, mind or soul. When I did not call APS, they did, somethings are out of our hands and need to be dealt with by others, you are in one of those situations.

It will be hard, no doubt, but far easier than burying your mom because of his neglect, which her response to you says that her seeking treatment is causing her abuse at his hands. You know what he has done in the past, so you know how low he can go, your question tells me that your gut is telling you what the SOB is doing.

God give you strength and courage to walk this journey.
Helpful Answer (3)

Is your sister able to give you any support during this? Can you show her these comments?
Helpful Answer (1)

Doesn’t your mother have a PCP? I don’t know if I would want to always go the ER either every time I got sick. That’s the first thing I would find for her.
Helpful Answer (0)

Your father might be an enabler, but I think he's also a very dominant and controlling person who's unable, or doesn't want, to see what she really needs. And he's a threat to her health, if not life - probably both at this point.

Her plea of "don’t do this to me" unsettles me - it's almost as if she interprets your attempts to help her in a manner that she would if she was abused, so it didn't surprise me when I read that that your father has a history of mental and physical abuse.

This is a really difficult situation for you. My initial thought is that she needs to be away from him, but even if she were to agree to live in a facility (and I'm sure he'd probably physically remove her), it still doesn't address his need to control her (and women in his family?).

However, if he's going to insist that he be the only one to determine care, he has to meet certain standards, and he's not. Leaving AMA seems like such a flaunting of medical care, an insistence that he's going to make the decisions and not the doctors.

Your mother is probably by now mentally and emotionally conditioned to be more or less subservient, and not stand up to him, so putting him in his place isn't going to work.

Honestly, I really do think some type of intervention is necessary, and ASAP, but as Eyerishlass advises, APS is a serious move. However, in my experience they're not very effective, so I wouldn't rely on them for a solution. When we called, their response was so wimpy and pathetic, and they allowed an abusive situation to continue.

Has he ever physically threatened her in your presence? Do you have enough proof of his abuse to involve the police? Does your state have an elder law agency which provides free legal advice? Or could you get some legal advice through one of the Senior Center outreach programs, at which attorneys provide limited advice on a weekly basis?

Still, regardless of how good advice may be, the reality is that he's controlling, manipulating and endangering her life. Perhaps you could look at it in a different way - given that you're able to see this, what is your obligation to step in, or at least get an agency or law enforcement to step in?

Applying for guardianship is an option, but if she's living with him and most likely afraid to leave, I don't know how effective it would be unless you can actually separate them.

The nuclear option would be for an agency, outside the family, to file for guardianship and take control away from him, which would probably threaten him and heighten his need for control.

I think what I would do is contact her doctors or the ER department, secretly, and put them on notice of the situation, that he's preventing her from seeking health care when it appears to be necessary.

The hospital records would show that he took her home AMA; that might be a starting point.

Do you by any changc have HIPAA authorization? If not, you can still write a letter to her doctors, and to the hospital administrator about the need to be alert to your father's refusal to allow proper care, and do it anonymously if you feel you need to.

Has he ever been mandated to get counseling?

Another option would be to notify the police, even anonymously, after she calls and says there's no food. They can do a wellness check, and if they find old food in the refrigerator, they could take action. I think an APS referral from the police would be more effective than from the family.

Another aspect is that your father seemed to interpret that a stroke might occur, but that advice was dismissed. That could be a ticking time bomb.

I really feel badly for you; you're caught in a situation in which you know better care is needed, that your mother is being mistreated and probably malnourished as well as being denied medical care, but you can't convince your father to do something. Do you stand up and take over, if you can, knowing that his personality may allow him to turn even more against your mother, or you? If he did take his hostility out on you, would he prevent you from seeing her? Would he be that vindictive?

After reading what I've written, I think what I would do is visit the police and explain the situation, and ask for their help and advice. This wouldn't be the first time police have encountered controlling and domineering men.

Good luck, and please let us know what action you take and how it plays out.
Helpful Answer (2)

If your mom IS sick and your dad refuses to get help for her and she refuses help herself I don't see what you can do for her. You can't force her to go to the ER.

Is the change in her personality perceptible to others or just to those who know her? It may be caused by a UTI but my point is that if she's acting strangely it doesn't matter what she says, the paramedics will take her to the ER. That's how I got my mom into the hospital. I knew she wouldn't be able to pass the "test" the paramedics administer when they're trying to ascertain mental status. "Who's the president of the United States? What day of the week is it? What's your address?" If the medics decide that she needs to go to the ER she can protest all she wants but they'll take her if they see that she needs it.

Another option is to call adult protective services and have them look in on your mom. However, this is a big move that you can't take back so consider it carefully.
Helpful Answer (3)

Perhaps someone else go by to check on her. I too would be afraid if your father is abusive.
Helpful Answer (4)

This question has been closed for answers. Ask a New Question.
Subscribe to
Our Newsletter