My mom is 78 and gets around pretty well. She still drives (although she’s had a couple of minor fender benders.) I do take her various doctors appointments most of the time but she does drive herself as well. Her mind is good except for being a little forgetful and mixing up her appointments sometimes. She lives alone in a large home with a big yard. The house is always needing repairs and the yard is never ending, the lawn needs mowing and due to all the trees there are tons of leaves to get up. My husband has been taking care of the yard work and usually fixes minor things around the house when he can. Every time we go to visit she has a list of things that she needs or WANTS done. She calls often to ask for us to do this or that and it’s always like an emergency to her. She loves to plant flowers, watch and feed the birds in her yard and is fantastic at making pound cakes. I’m thrilled she enjoys these hobbies. However, she lets all other chores go. She used to be so particular about how tidy her home was. Now it’s so messy and cluttered. She will say “I need someone to clean for me” or “I need someone to iron clothes for me” etc.... so I know she realizes that these things need to be done. It’s like she only wishes to do things that she enjoys and expects me to do the other things. I have tried talking to her several times about downsizing to a small apartment so that she won’t have the responsibilities that her large home requires. She won’t even discuss it. My feeling is if she’s able to bake cakes and plant flowers then she can clean her own house. Am I wrong? Where do my responsibilities end? I feel used and unappreciated. She has actually called crying and screaming that nobody will do anything for her and nobody cares about her. We’ve found a handyman who is reliable and honest and she’s hired him for a couple of odd jobs but I don’t think she wants to pay for any work, she expects us to do it for free. Any advice on how to handle this?

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You and your dh should not be expected to prop your mother up and do everything for her so she can keep up the facade that shes living independently! She's not, when she's relying on you to do all the dirty work for her because all she WANTS to do is a bit of gardening once in awhile and bake a pound cake. She should not be cleaning or painting or climbing a ladder, obviously, which means the house is too much for her to handle. I'm 63 and cleaning my house is too much for ME, even though I cook. So I can hire someone to clean for me, or I can ask DH to help me, but what I won't ever do is expect my children to clean for me. Or paint or do anything else when I can call a handyman service to do it. Do I like paying someone? Nah, not really, but that's how the cookie crumbles in the real world.

Stop doing things for your mother, just tell her it's impossible for you or your husband to squeeze ONE more thing into your busy schedule. But you'd be happy to put her in touch with Merry Maids and a handyman service and whatever other services she requires. All she has to do is say the word and you'll be happy to help her sell the big house and downsize to a smaller and more manageable place that will be cheaper to maintain in the long run. If she moves to a senior living residence, they'll even include weekly housekeeping in the monthly rent.

In the meantime, she can retire that iron and use permanent press clothing and sheets, like everyone else!

The only way she'll see the light is when you stop doing for her and she's faced with the truth. Let her get angry and scream.....the calls can go to voicemail. She's being unreasonable and unwilling to separate needs from wants, which is imperative now. Getting old means many things must change, whether we want them to or not. Even though I WANT to sit cross legged on the floor and play with my grandchild, I can't. I accept that fact and make the necessary adjustments, like it or not.

Stick to your guns and don't falter. Let mom see and FEEL that the house is too much and she can't handle it anymore, and understand it's not YOUR job to run HER household.

Good luck!
Helpful Answer (18)
Reply to lealonnie1
Riverdale Mar 27, 2021
I don't cook much. I do work out. I would have the cleaners more if I didn't have to work so hard to prepare the house for them to clean!
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AlmondJoy, you want to know what is happening? Our parent(s) still view us as 25 or 35 years old with a lot of energy, so they are in total shock when we say "no" we can't do something. Like, hello, I am NOT climbing up a ladder at 65 years old to change the lightbulb on the ceiling fan on a vaulted ceiling. I would need a zip line !!

My folks also didn't want to blow the dust off their wallets except for major fix-ups.

Make up a list of everything, and I mean everything, you do for your Mom. Cross off half the things, now cross off a few more items. Tell Mom these are the things you have time to help her with. Unless Hubby truly loves mowing the yard and his yard, too, then that goes off the list. And stick to the list, no exceptions.

As we age, I am now in my mid-70's, I have put off so many routine things. My excuse is "I'll do it tomorrow", rinse/repeat. My energy ship had sailed. Even taking a shower and washing my hair feels like a workout at the gym [I use to be a gym rat]. It's all part of aging.
Helpful Answer (17)
Reply to freqflyer

I made it clear to my parents, then Mom, that I wasn’t going to do their housework or yard work. I hire people to do that for me so why should I wear myself out doing it for them? I know they didn’t do any of that for their own parents!

At that time I was in my early 60's and most of their chores were things I wasn’t physically able to do anyway like scrubbing the kitchen floor on my hands and knees. I found them house cleaners, their church mowed the grass and when Dad had a stroke I found a home care service. I would find them repair services when needed. After Dad died I was able to prove to Mom that she couldn’t afford to stay in the house, it was costing her more than her income!

We toured several Assisted Living facilities until she found one she liked, near lots of family and friends. We sold her house and invested the money to fund her fees. She enjoyed the last few years of her life socializing, playing bingo, and making new friends.
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Reply to Frances73

While your mother doesn't want to do chores anymore and who can blame her, she does not have the right to expect you and your husband to step in for her. You can calmly tell her you have your own chores to do and you can't take hers on on a regular basis; that she will need to hire to have the work done or she can sell the house and move to a smaller place. It sounds as if your mother may not need AL living at this time, maybe independent living with space to do her favorite hobbies. No matter where she goes she'll need to hire someone to iron. In independent living she'll be able to continue to bake, but probably not when she's in AL, though some have like a "community kitchen" where they can do some things.

My parents' apartment in independent living included cleaning 1X/week, no upkeep or repairs to be done. They had a kitchenette, but a continental breakfast was available and they purchased a meal plan that provided one hot meal/day. My parents then moved on to AL living when my father kept falling.
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Reply to cweissp

Be diplomatically honest with her that you are burnt out trying to take care of 2 homes, one in which you do not even live. You can give her a written list of what you are willing to do and how often (and in your time schedule, not hers) and also help her vet handy-people to outsource the work for which she should pay. She won't like it one bit. She doesn't have enough to do in the course of a day so she creates these home maintenance projects and they seem urgent. My 91-yr old mother lives next to me and was a very busy person all her life. Now she can't do as much but her mind keeps going and several times a day, even though my DH and I are working from home (and she knows this) she will come over with an urgent need. Today it was to look at a corn on her toe. One that's been there for a while. She has bags of clothes to donate and "needs to get them out of her basement. Today. And she wants to bake bread and insists we carry over our Kitchenaid mixer to her house. Now. I smiled and said no to every request and told her I'll do it when I'm not in the middle of my work day and when if have time. She grumbled with disappointment but I know she'll be back tomorrow. With our senior LOs we can't allow ourselves to be controlled by the tyranny of the "urgent". Also, I don't think your mom is being lazy or spoiled. I think she may be sliding into either memory loss or cognitive decline. I'd go with her to the doctor and have her given a cognitive exam and checked for a UTI. Hopefully you have PoA for her. If not, this should happen soon.
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Reply to Geaton777
Riverdale Mar 27, 2021
I would take those bags of clothes out. That is the easiest fix. God forbid those bags go back into the mix because they have become necessary. It took my husband and I six months to clear out my mother's 1 bedroom apartment. She promised me she would never do to us what my MIL had done with her house. She broke that promise. We are both only children. Clearing out their homes was beyond exhausting. At least you are next door. We had to travel to do both. One night when my mother's toilet overflowed at 2 in the morning after having been there for hours I truly felt ready for the physch ward.

I am sure you are making your best choices. I just recommend doing what is easiest sooner than later.
Yes, you tell her what you will do and then she can hire the rest. The elderly who are independent are often frustratingly stubborn. Went through this with my dad about hiring someone to clean the home. You have got to have boundaries and stick to them, do not clean her home when she is perfectly able to do it herself or hire it to be done. When you allow people to use you, they will only continue to do so. You say you feel used and unappreciated...well you hit the nail in the are.
Tell her what you will do and then no capitulating. When she hands over the list only do what you already told her you two were willing to help out with. The healthy behavior is to know and accept that having boundaries doesn’t mean you are a bad person. It’s your mother who doesn’t have healthy boundaries. Seventy eight is not all that old. And believe me it will get worse not better.
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Reply to Harpcat
KatKat124 Mar 30, 2021
I am sorry but 78 is hell, when you are 78 I am sure it will be Hard to do your floors, toilets, bathtub & shower and dont forget the Refrigerator!
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To stay in her home, she will have to hire people to do the things she is not able or willing to do herself. It's the price of staying in place.
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Reply to RedVanAnnie

Lots of good answers here. I think I can give you input from both perspectives. I am 70, my mother 96, soon to be 97. My mom would like to remain in her own home forever. She feels my sisters and I could "do a few things" for her now and again because we are so much younger. My answer, like that of others here, is "I hire someone to come in every month to do the heavy cleaning at my house because I can't do it; I will not clean your house." Other sisters have had a somewhat more difficult time telling her no, but we pretty much stick to the same script: she does it, she hires it done, or she moves to a place where there are others employed to do the work. As a daughter, I have some things I will do for Mom: I will take her for a drive in the country, I will take her to lunch (mostly drive-through pickup, then park in a beautiful place and eat in the car), I will visit with her every week and pick up her prescriptions and a few other errands. That is it. When she cannot manage any more, then she needs to go into nursing care. We are not kidding ourselves or her that assisted living would be an option. She is already far beyond that.

On the other hand, as an aging senior, I want to stay in my home as long as I can! I like preparing my own meals, baking my own bread, making jams and jellies from the fruit I grow in my own yard. I like doing things my own way. I love caring for and walking in my gardens. I already have some minimal assistance in maintaining the gardens (lawn service and someone who prunes the trees) and the home (monthly heavy cleaning). I do anticipate hiring more assistance in the future. However, if the time comes when I can no longer maintain the house or the 2/3 acre surrounding the house I do have plans to move. I do not wish to impose on my sons in the way Mom would like to impose on me and my sisters. On the other hand, I remind myself frequently that staying here and watching it all fall into decay would not be a good experience. I have asked my sons to remind me of this decision as well. I think part of my mother's resistance to moving is that she just doesn't want to have the bother of deciding what goes with her. I want to move before I get that tired--but wait as long as I can! It is a contradiction, and I know that. I hope to assert my more logical side when it is needed, not give in to the lazy non-action of staying put when it is no longer a good option.

I have, for the last 30 years, kept photo diaries of the progress of my gardening and house projects. These are all digital. When I can no longer do the actual work I will be able to see my homes (3 of them) and their gardens as I took them from basic to the best I could get out of them. I have every intention of enjoying these repeatedly when I can no longer engage in them actively. My husband and I also took massive numbers of photos on our travels together and we enjoy "going to ..." again by way of these photos once in a while. Probably such extensive photo collections are not for everyone, but think about taking a good number of photos this spring and summer of the things that your mother enjoys the most and put them in either a nice album or a slide show in a lap top or a pad might help your mother a lot in adjusting to the idea of leaving the work behind and taking the memories with her.
Helpful Answer (10)
Reply to LittleOrchid

I am 78 and rambling around in a bigger house than I need. I have no children or relatives who can help with cleaning or physical chores. I do what I can myself and hire help for what I cannot do. I do not feel at all ready for a nursing home and am not a fan of assisted living. I understand I will have to pay for what I need. It seems presumptuous, perhaps demanding, to expect friends or relatives to step up and accommodate us if we have made the choice to stay in the home.
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Reply to RedVanAnnie

Downsize to where?

You could try it from the other end - find the more suitable, easier to maintain place that might be ideal for her first, and then say "wow look at this!"

You've already begun the list of must-haves, including somewhere for her to garden and a proper working kitchen. Now for the research into retirement communities that don't expect older people to sit in a chair all day and do nothing for themselves - I think and hope you'll be pleasantly surprised :)

Meanwhile, for you and DH, boundary building; and I'd suggest the list approach. Start writing down each task she asks you to help with for the next couple of weeks or month, and then when you have the conversation with her about the amount of support she needs and the effort that keeping up her house demands of both her and you, you'll be able to show her in black and white. The bottom line is "this is too much." She can save her energy for a more enjoyable and more productive later life.
Helpful Answer (8)
Reply to Countrymouse
Beatty Mar 27, 2021
I love how you can advocate for quality of life for elders. I so agree. Eg If at X yrs I love painting & old movies, but hate gardening then why not move so I can do just that?

Why cause resentment in my kids keeping this old place & the garden going. For what?
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