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My 91-year-old mother is very able in many ways - she walks upright without a stick, exercises, reads and does some online shopping. We live in New Zealand and she lives in an independent unit in a retirement village about 1.5 hours away (there are staff who keep an eye on residents but it isn't assisted living). In the past year she has undergone two bowel resections (not cancer) and has lived with us for six months of the past year to recover. I am the only family member in New Zealand. This situation is quite complex - just over a year ago our adult son died tragically after a long illness (we cared for him) and my husband has been diagnosed with Parkinson's - so we are a complete mess emotionally right now. I did feel I was burning out the second time my mother lived with us and our relationship has improved with her going back to her home. The retirement village has tried to persuade my mother to go into a more supported apartment where nursing care is available but she isn't interested. At the same time her expectation is (and I am doing this) that I handle all her finances - which are complex, make most phone calls (she has become very hearing impaired) and do most of her food shopping (she has complex needs with food and shopping can take 5- 6 hours). When my father was alive, he did everything and I think there is an assumption we will pick up this role.


She does have money but has become increasingly reluctant to spend it on any form of care although I have persuaded her to employ a wonderful person to come in for 1.5 hours three times a week - and this person is taking her to some appointments and picking up a few groceries. She also has someone coming in the mornings while she showers and there is a safety check at night. I respect her wish to live independently but it feels like a constant struggle to maintain boundaries with her requests - which are perfectly reasonable in her mind but not for us - for example driving across town because there is only one acceptable brand of coffee (we did refuse). To be honest I think I feel angry that mum is not cutting us some slack at this time - it feels like I have lost my mum and am dealing with a small, spoiled demanding child. She never mentions her dead grandson and tells me that I shouldn't be feeling tired. Somehow I need to balance our need to grieve (which is exhausting), spending time with my husband (we are already seeing some changes) and supporting my mother. I am sure there are many reasons for her demanding behaviour - anxiety (she is on medication), brain changes etc. Any wise advice?

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So sorry about your son.

I think Dad spoiled Mom. I think she should hire a CPA to handle her finances. Hire someone to do her shopping. Calls probably should be done by u to keep in the loop.

I have a classmate who has had Parkinson's for 25 yrs. His speech was effected a while ago. At 70 he is getting worse. He now uses a walker. Your energy should go to your husband. Like said, enjoy ur time now.

Time to have a sit down with Mom. Tell her you r not Dad. You have an an ill husband and you need to care for him. You cannot be at her beck and call. 1 1/2 hrs ( 3 hrs) is a distance to come. Its time for her to consider an AL where she gets 3 meals a day. No need to grocery shop. She needs or will need more care than u can provide. You just can't care for 2 people. She will need to either move as suggested or hire people to do her errands.

Just a note: I hate to grocery shop. A hour is too much. I would have put my foot down long ago.
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First of all, I am so sorry you lost your son. I lost my son, also. Your mother is very selfish to make these demands on you, especially now.

She is 1.5 hours away. How often do you go there? Is it several times a week? My mother (when she lived "independently") made me take her when she did her food shopping. I would have much preferred to do her shopping and do mine at the same time WITHOUT her. But, oh, no, I might not get the exact pear or peach or can or might not check the expiration date to get the absolute best expiration date! It would take hours...when she wants a certain kind of coffee, does she call you up so you can drive for 3 hours roundtrip to get it for her?

You are emotionally vulnerable right now, so between grief for your son and taking care of your H, it will be hard to summon up the strength to say NO! to your mother. If she is anything like mine, she will then emotionally abuse you if you try to establish boundaries (does she do that?).

We are here, though, and will be your cheerleaders! Keep us updated. You can do it!
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Penelope1 Jan 2, 2020
Thanks for your kind thoughts. Setting boundaries with her is difficult - if I am firm she will drop the subject for an hour but then raise it again - and again. For example, last time she lived with us after surgery I suggested she buy a small thank you gift for her neighbour for keeping an eye on the house. From my mother's perspective the only acceptable gift were chocolates from a shop that would have involved about 1.5 hours travel. I was sick and proposed an alternative gift. She asked for those chocolates every two hours for two days, even though I had a heavy cold. I bought an alternative gift for the neighbour - some expensive French cheeses - which my mother didn't give to the neighbour because they weren't "acceptable." My mum has always been fussy but this behaviour is worrying - however she has been assessed and all the health professionals say "wow, she is amazing for 91."
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Just wondering - are there family members not in New Zealand, then?

Any who might be good candidates to come over for an extended visit?
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Penelope1 Jan 2, 2020
No, there aren't any other family members in New Zealand.
The family members overseas are kind and supportive but aren't in a position to offer extended help - young families, jobs etc. One of the challenges is that my mother is very self contained and has not encouraged friendships at her retirement village - despite overtures from neighbours etc. The downside of this is that she doesn't have support other than us.
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You’re in a tough spot. You have suffered a lot. I am so sorry that you have lost your dear son. That is truly heartbreaking. I am also terribly sad to hear of your husband’s Parkinson’s diagnosis. My mom has Parkinson’s disease and I know how devastating it is.

You have so much to deal with and having the addition of caring for your mom adds a great deal of stress to your life.

I think it’s time to have a serious conversation with your mother and tell her that you simply cannot take on the responsibility of continuing to care for her.

Look for a well run facility where your mom is cared for by a professional staff and resume your life with your husband. You and he both deserve that. He needs you. You want to support him as much as you can.

How can you possibly care for him and your mom at the same time? That is extremely exhausting and you will constantly feel as if one or the other is being shortchanged. Please let go of caring for your mom. Allow others to do so and then you can visit with her.

I wish you and your family all the best. Let us know how you are doing.

Sending a million hugs your way.
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Penelope1 Jan 2, 2020
Thanks for your advice. We can't force her into assisted care - but there seems to be a theme in all the replies of setting better boundaries - and she can afford to buy in more care.
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My heart goes out to you... can either of you move closer to each other? Keep up with the caregiver. Ask for help, like at a church or wherever you are comfortable. Other siblings? Try to take time for yourself. Easier said, then done. Thank God in heaven, that with all of this going on you still have your mom and your husband. I know that sounds strange. Ask God for help! Sorry if I sound preachy. With your mom, as my mom ages sometimes it's more about them and their needs. They can't see outside the box. Turn the other cheek, yet there will be times that you need to stand your ground. I'll be praying for you. Lastly, take one minute at a time. Breathe. Easier said than done, but possible.
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First off, I'd like to say how sorry I am to hear of the loss of your beloved son. I can't imagine losing a child, and my heart hurts for you. Then getting a grave diagnosis for your husband on top of it all is a lot to deal with. Then add on an unmanageable mother.............UGH.

Sorry, but your mom is not living 'independently' if she requires 100 things to be done FOR her! Who 'needs' 5-6 hour shopping trips to be done for them? Come on! Your mother doesn't get to choose what she 'wants' now, she she gets to do what is necessary for her safety once you tell her you can NO LONGER do whatever she asks you to, nor can you house her! It's time for a heart-to-heart conversation with the woman letting her know that you cannot be a replacement for her deceased husband anymore. Enough is enough. My father did everything for my mother also, and she's like a toddler now, unable to even write a check!! Thank God she lives in Assisted Living Memory Care so everything is done FOR her, but I still do a ton myself and it's not easy.

I wonder if your mother isn't going down the dementia road? Has she been tested? It sounds very suspicious that she has no concern that her grandson has passed away, and has no idea why you would be tired after running yourself ragged on her behalf? Dealing with elders suffering from dementia DOES indeed feel like dealing with spoiled, demanding children most times because they are totally self-centered and have zero empathy or compassion for others.

Wishing you the best of luck getting your mother placed in Assisted Living and being able to grieve your loss and move on with your own lives. Sending you a big hug, too.
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Penelope1 Dec 31, 2019
Thank you for your reply and kind thoughts. It's interesting that when I do say "no" very calmly, she accuses me of being 'over wrought' and actually once suggested I was being abusive. But I guess whatever is going on it is a simple case of setting boundaries - courteously and calmly - and not backing down.
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Thank you.
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I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child.

You are allowed to say "No Mum, I cannot do that." Repeat as often as needed for the message to get across.

Set boundaries, and stick with them. Setting boundaries includes how much you will do, but also how many calls you will field, how much time you will spend on Mum related things.

If you do not yet have it in place, make sure her paperwork is all up to date. Power of Attorney, Living Will (various names for this), Health care Representative (many names for this too) and Will.

Have you spoken with her doctor about the level of care she needs? If her retirement community is saying it cannot provide the level of care she needs, Mum does not get to choose not to move on. She may not like it, but it is now a safety or medical care issue and she does not get to say "no."

Her demanding behaviour may be caused by any number of things, but you have said Dad did everything for her. She has a expectation that you will continue to do as Dad did, but that is not possible. If she can shop online, she can place an order for the coffee from the shop across town.

I do not believe in giving up my life to give a senior the illusion of independence. You need time to grieve for your son and to spend your husbands remaining best years with him, not at Mum's beck and call.

Unless Mum's food preferences are medical or religious in nature, she can suck it up and shop at the local shop. My former mil though it normal to take 3-4 hours to go grocery shopping. Me, a busy working mother, not so much. For several years I would drop her off at the store and pick her up later. Then I told her sons it was their job to take her shopping. Finally I signed her up for grocery delivery.

What to prioritize?

You, your, physical and mental health.

Grief therapy.

Spending quality time with your husband.






Mum is this far down the list. She needs to move into the nursing facility and she gets the time you have left. She is not first on the list.
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Penelope1 Dec 31, 2019
Thanks for your advice and thoughts on this.
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