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Thanks in advance for any suggestions.


My mother is 84. She has had health issues (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, small strokes, heart attack, two bypass surgeries) for over 30 years. She is also a non-compliant patient and as a parent, she was controlling and occasionally abusive. At least once a year, she has medical "emergencies" that require a visit to the ER to be admitted for observation and tests for a few days. Something that, in the past, the entire family would come running and sit with her. 30+ years of that....and more often than not, nothing being found wrong...well, none of us really come running anymore. This past year, her medical 'emergencies' have increased but coincide with stressful/life changing decisions such as, moving into assisted living and closing on the house. She's obsessed with her blood pressure, taking it multiple times a day. I am one of three girls and the only one that lives out-of-state. With small children and a husband who travels, I can't drop everything for these 'emergencies'. Both of my sisters live in the same town with my mom. One has boundaries well-established that she is rarely called for assistance. The other, the one I'm concerned about, is emotionally exhausted and drops everything she has going on to run to mom's aid...basically, she and her family are 24/7 on-call for mom and she, understandably, resents it but can't figure a way out of it. The facility mom is living in....there really is NO reason for her to be calling either of my sisters for anything she needs. I just got off the phone with my sister, who is on her way over to sit with mom in her apartment. She cancelled her own appointment to run over and be with mom. Mom calls her to let her know what her latest blood pressure reading is...for attention, we imagine. Actually, she mentioned she had an appointment and mom asked how long it would be. When told, my mom's reply was "Oh." To which my sister said "I suppose I could cancel it" and mom's reply was "I wish you would, please." Big age difference between my sisters and I, the only reason I share that is because we're at different stages in our own lives and not only does the one sister get called but so does her husband and adult children.


Our father passed away 3 years ago and he catered to mom. There is no replacement for him.


As far as friends of my mom's, most have either quit calling or it is very infrequent. If she has not heard from someone for a while, she does not reach out.


I won't deny that I'm very angry with our mother because I tend to see what she is doing, as being abusive, manipulative to my sister. There is no reason that one elderly woman needs 9 adults to wait on her, hand and foot...especially when she is living in a facility that can take care of everything. Mom says she can't take care of herself but will not relinquish control of anything.


Mom will later apologize for disrupting everyone's lives. To this particular sister, she will shed tears....yes, the push/pull thing.


Any suggestions on how I can help/support my sister in establishing boundaries that she can feel good about? We have a plan for her to take a vacation, that I come down to be physically be 'there', so she can take a break without feeling guilt but it isn't for a few months (Summer when school is out).


I understand that this stage of life mom is in, has fears and anxieties all their own. There is no lack of compassion or understanding on that (although this post doesn't really reflect that). Her fears and anxieties shouldn't become all-consuming demands from my sister and her family...right?


Once again, I am grateful to you all for any suggestions to help and support my sister with this.

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Scatter,

So you have a sister with an "it better be a real emergency" attitude and another one who's a softy.

My mother, when feeling lonely, also resorts to selfish, manipulative, attention-seeking behaviors. No one except me actually tells her the effect that has on everyone else because they're afraid of offending her. Or having to live with the guilt if in fact something serious happens and they didn't run to the rescue when they were supposed to. ... As if we could predict the future.

Regardless of your mom's medical history, the BS has to stop. She needs to hear it from you.
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Your sister needs to back off little by little. Maybe the other sister can help by talking to ur Mom. The AL should be doing that, assisting. When she was admitted she was evalated. She is paying for the level of help she needs. Maybe the BP cuff sb taken away. The AL has to have an RN on duty who can check her BP daily. Your sister should never give up anything she has planned. The first time she cancelled an appt. she started a pattern. Your Mom is safe and should be joining in the activities. The one sister who has set boundries maybe can teach the other one.
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My word, there is a real problem with this woman! #1 hide the blood pressure cuff, #2 she should be seen by a psychiatrist and #3 she's playing all of you like a violin gone bad!
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There's always one. There's always one that gets the sh*t heaped on them but that's the way they grew up, that's all they know, they just can't say no. Eternal victims....There's something to be said for those massive families of olden days, like the Waltons, or Mormons - I wonder what they do about parents like this? Is there a schedule? 'this is your week to cater to mom' - or is there always just the one overworked overstressed slave, to drop everything ? The psychological sickness some parents instill in their kids is almost impossible to overcome. I have a friend who has a 91 year old narcissistic mother (to the max!) who treats her like a slave, calls her 10 times a day demanding things. And no matter how much my friend tries to establish boundaries, she always gives in, gives in, in addition to caretaking her b/f's mother! and then she is on the phone to me complaining. I tell her, no one can insult you or take advantage of you without your permission. It's hard. It must be very hard for you, LW, at a distance. (my brother lives across the country and claims he, too, is very stressed and worried about his mommy, but he only comes to visit a couple times a year. Leaving me to do it all. I would bet he hangs up the phone relieved after talking to me! 'well, she's still handling it! I did my duty, I called and talked for an hour, and gave some sympathy and plenty of good advice. Now, let's go out to dinner!'
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Your description of your mother sounds familiar. I suspect many families have people who suffer with this type of condition. I have conducted a lot of research on the subject because it really does disrupt a family. The patient has psychologically induced ailments that never can be confirmed. It's a lot of drama, pain, E.R., tests, suffering and attention getting. I've seen it for many years.

I have two stories about it. One family member after undergoing numerous tests and doctor visits to all kinds of specialist (thought it was his blood pressure too, but no) he was referred to a psychiatrist and diagnosed with CONVERSION DISORDER. Check it out. I bet it will seem very familiar. My dad accepted the diagnosis. (Pretty impressive for a man in his 70's) He went to therapy for a little while and went on medication for anxiety. It REALLY helped. He's only relapsed twice just a little in the last couple of years.

The other person refuses to accept that she has it, but has finally agreed to take anti-anxiety meds her doctor strongly recommends. Her symptoms are way out of control and now the family just ignores her. It doesn't matter. That type of psychologically ingrained illnesses are so deep rooted and resistant.......Good luck. Beware that it runs in families and you may see it in children and grandchildren.
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Cmagnum, that is my concern as well.

Kimber 166, precisely! She moved recently to the assisted living center, end of November.

Since she has returned, another resident and their spouse have been bringing mom her lunch to her room. This resident asked when she would be returning to play cards and the reply was the usual "oh, I just don't know when I'll be feeling better." The resident replied, it doesn't take that much energy to get downstairs to sit and use your brain a little. Now, that isn't an exact quote. However, I was happy to hear that a 'peer' told her that. I think it would be good to be around some others who are also in their elder years and not willing to mess with the pity party. Or it could completely go the other way and she never leaves her room then constantly complains how much she hates it there.

I'm an optimist and also an opportunist (if the optimist and pessimist are arguing about the glass of water, I may take a sip of it. -yes, I'm trying to be a little funny.) So I have hopes....meanwhile, do what I can for my sister and go from there. Thanks for all the suggestions, concerns, support....I appreciate it.
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The frightening danger that I see could happen without boundaries is that your sister could well find herself all alone one day singing her own song, I did it mom's way. I hope and pray that does not happen.
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if mom is in a place that is caring for her - why does she NEED so much help? If it is a WANT - have your sister do 1 afternoon a week and then disconnect the phone
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Thank you all for your observations and suggestions. :-)

I put together some future dates and messaged them to my sister. Hopefully they are far enough in advance for scheduling and she can go away to recharge without worrying about getting called.

I've pretty much said my piece. Suggested counseling to her. As much as it pains me to say this, there is nothing I can do if she can't tell mom 'no'. I can give her a break when the kids' school schedule allows. However, if my mom is going to continue exercising her preference as to which daughter she prefers to have around...there isn't much I can do about that.

There will be resentment towards me. Currently, my sisters and I are to have a conference call...probably over the weekend. I'm calling the facility today so I understand what all is available and what can be done via phone. My sister agrees that she is being manipulated, abused and that it is affecting her family and marriage. Right now, she is so close to it all...I think she feels trapped. Has mentioned how hard it is to pretend that she cares when really she wishes she'd be left alone. I can't relieve her until this summer which I put together dates for each month so she can make plans to get away. Try talking to my other sister to see what she can do, aside from calling mom every morning on her way home from work.
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My mom has often tells about her friend's kids and how they do everything for their mom - run errands, dr. appointments, take her shopping, the whole deal - so she can stay in her home (and doesn't have to pay for help). This was her way of getting us to do the same. Well, in the past 18 months, these people (the "kids") have passed away. Their mom is still in her home, now having to figure out Plan B. And I wonder how much their running around, trying to keep their mom's life from changing, affected their own health.

What your sister needs to realize, as many of us are seeing, is that we're losing contemporaries way too young these days. How many of us have seen people in their 60's and early 70's leaving us? The constant stress of life, caregiving and all are hitting the "sandwich generation" hard.
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Maybe if her husband and adult children would back off, that might motivate her to see the need for boundaries for herself. She needs a wake-up call. Sounds like it's possible that husband is emotionally enmeshed with his wife's problem and their adult children are enmeshed with their mom's problem?
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It always amazes me the number of people who know they are being manipulated, get frustrated or angry about it, and still don't say "no". I was one of them. Counseling helped. Role playing helped. I actually taped phone calls with my mom so we could roleplay - my therapist using my mom's tactics and me saying, calmly, lovingly "no, that doesn't work for me" and then when mom escalated "I love you, bye". If grandma is causing neice such stress that she dreads coming home - for kittens sake - help the neice say "no!" and reclaim her life and her home. Ignore grandma's calls. Grandma is not physically there - block her. Your family is allowing one nasty old woman to stress out multiple family members and if your siblings can't protect their own children - shame on them. Everyone needs to strap on a pair and say "no" to this manipulative old biddy.
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Cmagnum, I don't know the discussions they've had. Unfortunately, I know there has been some fighting between my sis and her husband (especially over this past weekend where my sister agreed with me that they are being manipulated and its going to cause problems/fractures in her family if some boundaries aren't set). I think her family continues to help to try to take pressure off of her not for mom.

Babalou, Yes...I agree that therapy would be most helpful. Perhaps to get a viewpoint from a 3rd party and such. Anxiety is definitely an issue with mom and we assume depression although mom does not agree that is a true medical thing. I know she has a script for Xanax that they used yesterday to help with the bp. Her habit with medication is this: If she's prescribed 5 mg of Lisinopril, she cuts the tablet into fourths and maybe ends up with 2.5 mg over a 24 hours period. Capsules? She opens them and pours most of the medication granules out then puts them back together. Doctors? Well, they are all younger than her now so she sees them all as 'quacks' that don't know what they are doing. I appreciate you sharing what went on with your mom, thank you. :-)

tacy022, Yes. She needs to get fed up enough to want to make it change. Guilt has been a big manipulator throughout all 3 of our lives and that's where I think therapy would help her the most....because it helped me (so of course, if it helped me I think it could help her...). Our eldest sister is a nurse in one of the local ERs and works the graveyard shifts. So it isn't that she is not available but no one will take her up on her offer to help...mostly because of the daytime sleeping due to her shift. However, manipulation is definitely going on because when middle sis went to mom's yesterday, it wasn't until she was getting ready to leave that mom 'fessed up that she didn't even call eldest sis, who had been off for days.

The three of us are scheduling a 3-way call, just us not mom. Mom seems to think that we do not talk to each other and is trying to use that to her advantage. It wasn't until events over the past weekend that enlightened us all on how this "game-playing" may have been going on for quite a while. So communication between just the 3 of us is key. There is already some resentment and we don't want that to grow and fracture our relationships.

I, personally, think my sisters AND their families are under NO obligation to provide my mom with their work schedules. I had a conversation with one of my nieces who told me how much she dreaded coming home on the weekends from college because grandma knew she was there and needed all sorts of things....my suggestion to her was to give grandma a call earlier in the week, tell her "Hey! I'm going to be around on Thursday this week, so get your grocery list together and I'll be by Thursday afternoon to get it and visit." Something more on her terms and schedule.

I can't do a lot from where I'm at. For me, its frustrating and almost torture-like to hear all of this going on....as if I have a front-row seat to watch it all but I'm gagged and tied to the chair.

Thank you all for your comments and suggestions...it had given me some things to bring up when we all have our phone call this week.
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It is very hard for someone who is emotionally blackmailed to leave the situation. The situation will not change until your sister is ready to change it. That being said, you mentioned a third sister who lives near your mom. Is there anyway you could explain your concerns to her and ask her to help, even if its only for a day or two?
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Has your mom been evaluated by a geriatric psychiatrist for depression and anxiety? Meds for those conditions helped mom cope with her unpredictable bp better even than having her doctor's cell phone number.

What didn't help? Having one of us kids there. No amount of reassurance helped. Somethinv in mom's brain was broken. She had anxiety that attached itself to whatever was available.

Your sister has to unenmesh herself from your mom. You probably should suggest some therapy.
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So, your sister is an MD? What the blazes is SHE going to do about mom's bp? 'Call the doctor, mom". That needs to be your sister's mantra.

Old people get obsessed about bp and bowels. They need doctors and rnds to reassre them. Not daughters to sit by their sides.
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So, neither her husband or her adult children see anything wrong with this dynamic? Your mom sure wields a lot of power of all of these adults.
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Thank you, Cwillie and Cmagnum. I appreciate your input. Yes, there is most definitely a need. Sometimes sis sees it and then she has days like today where mom says just the right things....she's back on the fence being pulled from either side, emotionally. She says she and her family have brainstormed ideas but can't come up with anything plausible. I'm of the opinion that there has to be some way but then again, I don't live in the thick of it all. Incidentally, she's a nurse. :-)
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What about her husband and children? Surely, they see a need for boundaries? Most husbands that I know, including myself, would see a need for boundaries.

Your sister sounds like your mom groomed her well for her current role. She's in an emotional dance that only your sister can stop being the dance partner in for mom is not going to change. Mom will get angry when your sister stops being her emotional dancing partner, but that is mom's problem.
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Hey Scattered, I'm going to answer and bump this post up, hopefully others will see it too. I don't think you have the ability to help your sister until she acknowledges there is a problem. You could direct her to this web site, you could read the F.O.G thread and dysfunction thread to get some better ideas on wise words and even books that may help her see things for what they are, but unless she sees the need to set boundaries she will probably disregard your advice because she doesn't see that she needs it.
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