My mom is giving up on life and I am in shambles feeling helpless. Any advice?


I left my mother's home yesterday hearing from her mouth how sad and depressed she feels. I came on here..looking for answers..looking for guidance.. because I feel alone, lost, helpless.. I feel powerless. She retired a few months ago, and now, it's routine wakeup cook, TV, sleep in bed..
She told me she feels like ages just waiting to go. I'm trying to understand how I can help her.. the home I grew up in us overturned with toys clothing and all of my sisters items. She is 36 years old, with 2 children. She doesn't clean, she doesn't cook, she doesn't do laundry..she doesn't pay rent, electric, she contributes food stamps on occasion. ..but she does nothing. The house is a wreck. My mom doesn't have a room for her peace of mind. It's just clutter. My sister refuses to accept responsibility.. refuses to help. What's worse is that I can't talk to her. She has this volatile personality..she blows up with anger..and then ignores me with silent treatment. I wish she could understand that my mom can't live like this. Depression is setting in. She's giving up...on life. And I am in shambles feeling helpless. She now has her boyfriend come over...laying down.. a grown as man ... in my mom's living room..which is a converted toy clothing area...thanks to my sister. I feel I can't talk to her without her fighting..I just want my sister to help clean... to make a more comfortable environment for our mom, as well as her children... but after reading so many responses.. it may be pointless to even try explaining to her that our moms health and happiness a really in jeopardy.

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DlovelyCat: What is the rationale of the sister incapable of doing anything? Has her behavior always been like this? If she was using, she'd be able to whip the home into shape because of high energy so that means she's not. Get mom to a psychiatrist and suggest that she get a part-time job.
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In the 80's my husband and I took in his sister and her family which included the out of work husband and three kids. To make a very long story short, we had to move. And I totally agree with Joann about your sister being unable to take responsibility for her own life. Your mother is enabling this. You get therapy to stay strong and call BS on all of this nonsense. Call all the resources you can to help your family. Your nieces and nephews need a functioning adult in their lives. Try to get your mom to look to that generation. She probably thinks your sister can't take care of them and maybe she can't but if your mom is going to have to raise them better without the slugs hanging on. Mom will probably need to evict them to get them out. She has to do something to get their attention. If it's after you get mom started with help with the depression that's fine but she's going to have a tough time getting better if she doesn't take action to reclaim her life and again she's not doing anyone a favor to allow this to continue. Good luck.
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My daughter's love me but both found places of their own because...They got tired of hearing me bitch. I have worked and when I cleaned I wanted it left clean. When m oldest lived with me with her toddler son, her room, his room and my family room weres mess. They were not allowed in my livingroom. I needed one clean area. I'm probably like this because my Mom was really laid back when it came to housekeeping. I had a sister like yours. She was a slob. Her house was dirty. She also knew how to intimidate. I can see why ur Mom is depressed. She is the only one to stand up to your sister. Does your Mom really need this house? If not, sell it and have her use the proceeds on a nice ONE BEDROOM apartment. Your sister will then need to go on Welfare and have HUD place her in a place of her own. Welfare pays for childcare, so she can work. If something isn't done, your sister will never take responsibility for herself. A lawyer may be a good idea.
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I am only 61--and already "retired" and yes, it can be a tad depressing to find enough "stuff" to fill a long day. BUT, if I had my 36 yo do-nothing daughter and her kids and their hoard AND a no-good BF to boot--wow, I'd be depressed too.
Whole family needs help-ASAP. For one thing, living in hoarded conditions is horrible--(how many of us are addicted to "Hoarders"??) and not healthy in any way shape or form for anyone. Sounds like sis has been doing this for some time and mom's escape was work.
She can do volunteer work, lunch with ladies etc., all day everyday, but at the end of the day, she hasn't got her own space. ANYBODY would be depressed.
Sis needs to move out. There are programs made for her--and maybe she needs a boot up the tush to get her moving--this dynamic of mooching off the parents into your 30's is one of my personal bugaboos. You're going to have to help mom be tough to reclaim her home, her life and her sanity.
Mom will NEED someone in her corner, and getting sis and BF out will be tough. (We had to do this with my brother once) It isn't easy or fun. Gear up, get mom some help (she doesn't have to see a geriatric dr, any psych doc can easily dx what's going on!!) and help sis if you feel she NEEDS it...then help mom to reclaim her home!! Sorry I come across as being kind of mean, but tiptoeing around the situation with sis hasn't worked so far, has it? I don't suggest you be mean, but tough. Also, mom could probably use some therapy, 'cause she is going to feel guilty for booting her kids out. I say "kids" but, wow, at 36, if you aren't capable if some level of independence, the you have some problems. Mom's enabling her, and not doing her any favors.
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From your description, it's possible Sister may have depression as well. I encourage gently suggesting they might need help. Offer support - not condemnation. Right now, so soon after her retirement, Mother may be in natural grieving process which she likely will awake from on her own with a little time. If not, definitely encourage doctor/counseling- whichever she will agree to. Some exercise for both women will help.
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The dynamic between mother and sister is a long-standing 2-way street. This 36-year-old running roughshod over your mother didn't "just start." There's decades of pathology here, right??

Are there other siblings? Is your father (or stepfather) living in that home, also?

Is your mom the type who moans and groans about the drama w/sis & kids & boyfriend, but actually thrives on the drama....and "needs" to be needed?

Not sure where you fit into the sickness. Scapegoat? Former favorite? The sibling who did "everything right" but got no attention, because trainwreck sister was always sucking the air out of the room?

This problem is bigger than you. And it is not your problem. Set boundaries. If that is difficult for you, seek help from a therapist.

Tell mom -- kindly -- that you are not wailing wall. If mom genuinely wants to change her home situation, she needs to be firm and take action. And leave your name out of it.

If mom is stuck in a loop of "the noise," that's that. Since mom is only 65 and recently retired, I'll assume her cognition is intact. If mom has food, clothing, shelter and all utilities on, you do not have to be a party to the chaos.

Check in on mom as a DAUGHTER. As others here have said, mom would certainly benefit from counseling. And please remember, you are not the counselor.

Last thought: Does mom genuinely express interest in your life? Or does every exchange with mom lead to a list of mom's woes?
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[mutters] "... evicting her non-paying exploitative boarders..."

I especially like that bit!

But, seriously, the reason I ask about the children and the sister is that I wonder if sister too is suffering depression or similar mental ill-health? All the more reason to seek out a good counsellor, of course.
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The triple whammy of living in a cluttered house, being taken advantage of, and then also facing the big life change of retirement would be enough to send anyone into depression, especially if they are predisposed to that disorder.

I doubt that you are going to make any progress with your sister. Maybe later, when Mom is better ...

For now I would focus on Mom's depression. It is a dreadful condition, but it is treatable. (I have Major Depressive Disorder, and have been through this more than once.) Here is what I suggest:

1) Take Mom to a doctor -- ideally a geriatric psychiatrist (hard to find sometimes) or a geriatrician. An appointment at a mental health clinic would also be fine. Note: Don't expect Mom to take the initiative on this. She may even resist. But persist and get her there!
2) The health professional will probably prescribe a medication. Help Mom to remember to take it, as directed. There are a number of antidepressant meds available. Often it takes trying more than one to hit upon one that is effective. And they each take a while to start working, so this solution is not going to work magic overnight. But I've learned the hard way, it really is the best way to start. The right med helps the person be able to go on to the next steps.
3) The health professional may also advise counselling. Encourage Mom to do this! Help her set up appointments, and try to see that she keeps them.
4) As the pill and the counselling start to pull Mom out of her lethargy, encourage Mom to get involved in some activities out of the house. This could be a part-time job around something she likes (if she loves animals, apply in a pet store, etc.) or a volunteer position, or a weekly lunch with other ladies who've retired. Check out the senior center. They often sponsor outings to see plays or take a local tour. Suggesting these things right now might not be effective, but after the outer layer of her depression is treated she might be more receptive.
5) The counselor may suggest and help with some life-style changes. Outside activities might be encouraged. Perhaps some steps to change her home environment. That could be anything from insisting that the natural clutter of childhood be confined to certain rooms and order be maintained in the rest of the home, all the way to evicting her non-paying exploitative boarders. Support your Mom in any changes she decides to make.

Depression is a serious condition. It is treatable. Ironically the condition itself robs people of the initiative to get treatment. That's where a loved one can be extremely helpful.

Treatment often is a combination of medication and talk therapy. Lifestyle changes can also be therapeutic.

Sorry for writing a book ... treating depression is something I feel strongly about!
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How old are the children, DCat? (and where's their father, not that I'm judging or anything).
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Any chance your Mom could find part-time work?   I know many people, including myself, once retired will continue to either work and/or do volunteer work.   It gives a person reason to get up in the morning, and to be doing something they really like.   Retiring can be a huge shock on the system, and depression will set in.

I remember my Dad saying when he first retired, there felt like a huge hole in his life.   So he and my Mom did volunteer work for the next 25 years.  I believe that helped them live into their 90's.

As for your sister, it is time for Mom to put her foot down.... her house, her rules.   Sister and boyfriend need to help pay for their keep, otherwise move out.   Do you think Mom can do that?   I know it won't be easy.
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