Mom panics when I don't answer phone. Any advice?

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My mom is 93, in fairly good health and still lives in her own condo, even though she is legally blind and has mobility issues (i.e. needs to use a walker all the time). I am her primary "go to" person for grocery shopping, doctor appointments and anything else she needs.

In the past few months, she's developed this habit of freaking out if she calls my home and I don't answer the phone right away. She'll leave a voice-mail and start calling around to different relatives to see if they know where I am. The most recent incident was the other day. I was in the shower. She called and left two voicemails within 20 minutes. When I returned her call, she was all agitated...she said she thought I'd been in an accident. She even got out her rosary and started to pray. I told her that I was fine; I was just in the shower. I again told her that it's not good for her to get this upset. She tells me I don't understand...I've never been a mother. Then I point out that she never did this until just a few months ago. I try to get her to explain why she's doing this all of a sudden, and she changes the subject.

This behavior makes me feel so uncomfortable...like I can't even take a shower for fear that she'll call me and go haywire if I don't answer the phone. Does anyone else have this issue with a parent?

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Average cost of AL in most US cities is almost $4, 000 per month, which doesn't cover everything-- an expensive option is Medication Management which can add 800-1, 000 per month. These places are Very Expensive, and no guarantee of the Real Costs, before you move in! I've checked with several in out area and not one would give a "maximum" cost, they all hyped up their "menu" approach but not one said there's any way to control costs. Most people cannot afford that. Be very wary of runaway costs before moving to AL.
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jetta -so familiar and it is all about boundaries. Someone said that her mother could still have her love, but could no longer have her life. Works for me. You can look after yourself while you are looking after them. In fact you need to look after yourself. That means adjusting the care mother gets, as she needs more, without harming yourself. There are options other than working yourself harder and harder.
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My Mom is 87 fragile, walker, cane etc.and biggest pain the neck. I am her daughter and she treats me like slave. Nothing is ever good enough, perfect enough and she has been a complainer since she came out of her mother's womb 87 years ago.
She too,if I dont answer her call on the first ring and goes ballistic. Or if she lives with me she has a bell she rings...do I need say more. I love my mother, but I do not like her. I sought counseling...my counselor said because she has done this all her life with me, it has just gotten worse with age. The question she stated to me to ask my Mom was "do you want a daughter or a caretaker because I can't do both?" It is setting boundaries with your Mother. I said she would have two weeks, either go home or go to assisted living place because I was no longer capable of taking care of her demands.
I use to call her anyday, she NEVER calls me...I set my boundaries and asked politely if she would call me the next day. It took 10 days of waiting and she never called!!! I called her and she read me the riot act. I said she was suppose to call me (and no she didn't forget either) She said it was not her responsibility to call me, it was my job to call her. Politely I told she needed an attitude adjustment she became furious and threatened to hang up on me and she did. I did not call her back for two weeks then she called me not apologizing but saying "Hello it is so nice to hear voice, I missed talking with you." It's about boundaries!
PS - I am not talking about people with dementia or Alheizmer's whole different game, but the scenario of making boundaries for yourself still stands otherwise you are going to be in the next bed to your mother, either seriously ill and/or insane. Done that for 55 years of my life....counseling and setting boundaries helped me in the last five years. My mom decided she wanted a daughter after all.
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alwayslearning, you seem to be right, at least in my case, where being in a care facility lessens the anxiety and takes that worry about you away. My mother was in the hospital for over two weeks and is now in a NH for rehab. There are no phones in the rooms, but provide portables. When I told her (hesitantly, Lol) she could call me anytime, she declinad and said it would be best if I called her. I visit her daily and phone her before bed. I've noticed much less anxiety about me. Will see how things go once she returns home...
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Disable call waiting on your phone and take it off the hook.
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ps, the way your mom is framing her anxiety -- that she's worried about YOU -- makes it sound like something that wouldn't be fixed by moving to an AL. But don't take that too literally. If you change her situation to where there are more people and more help around, her general level of anxiety would go down, and I'd bet anything that, by extension, whatever portion of that anxiety she has hooked onto your well-being would go down too.
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BTW there are ALs where you do NOT have to eat at set times; and there are workarounds for the places that have meal-times. For example, for a couple extra bucks you can have your meal brought to your apt on a tray, and then warm it in the microwave later when you want it. Or skip a dining-hall meal and microwave a frozen dinner you've kept in your little fridge.
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Catbalou8: you stated she fears that something might happen to you. Please heed this warning: many caregivers suffer debilitating health issues like stroke and heart attacks( the latter being more fatal to women than men) due to the stress of caregiving. Don't put off getting additional professional caregiving - do it now.
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I realise my insight will be taken as a gnarly ol' fed up caregiver but here's what happened in my house. My Mother-in-Law lived with us the last nine years of her life. She was h*ll on wheels with combative dementia; would kick and hit me every time her son left the room--knocked out two of my teeth even. But the truth to this question lies in who your parent always was. The day we got married, my MIL sent a telegram to my husband at 4 a.m.: CALL HOME IMMEDIATELY! We thought his father died. We ran around trying to find a phone to call her. When we reached her, she wanted to know if I needed extra money so we broke into her house and stole all her guests money and her 12 year old black and white TV that only got two channels. IDIOT! When we took a vacation to Hawaii, she called us constantly describing how sick she was. When I arranged for her to have antibiotics delivered to her house, she said she would start taking them once we got home!!!!! IDIOT ALERT!!!!! We spent our 15th wedding anniversary at the beach to get away from her after 5 calls to our house demanding to know if we took her money (she hired a lawyer to go over her books who, after 3 days, informed her we had not touched a penny. MIL sought to make my husband choose, all of his life, his mother over his wife. She came to our house with the same crazy set of anxiety/narcissism and drove me, especially, crazy until she died. She would hit me and then tell my husband I hit her!!!!! This is not a stroke or dementia. This is self-serving individual who will keep doing this as long as you let it work. I got to the point where I told her, "I don't care." in response to anything she said. She never stopped. When she died at 98 after *I* had two silent heart attacks, all I could think of is, "Ding dong the wicked witch is dead!" Good riddance!!!!! And for those of you who are going to tell me it's all God's plan, I've paid my dues already. I don't have to listen to anymore of that justification. Helpful to some but not helpful to me. No one helped, in fact. That was the problem with what amounted to the last 17 years of caregiving both the 8 years while she lived in her condo and the 9 she lived with us. Good luck all of you. I wish you the best!
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Thanks, all, for your kind responses. I should probably clarify a couple of things. Mom is not lonely at all. She lives in a seniors' building (but it's not AL) and has made lots of friends. Despite her low vision, she plays cards every night. She has friends in for tea. She goes out to lunch sometimes with her church friends. Sometimes, she has more of a social life than I do!

She has caregivers in on Mondays and Fridays to do light housekeeping, change her bed, etc. They also help her shower, although she's still able to do this on her own on other days of the week. She has a cleaning lady in to do a thorough clean once a month. She makes simple meals and heats up stuff in her toaster oven. There's a senior centre across the street where she buys cheap, nutritious meals. So, she really does all right on her own...for now. I know this can change.

Mom has been waffling on the idea of assisted living. She's very influenced by her friends' opinions. A while ago, someone she knows moved to an AL facility and she loves it, so mom was all gung-ho about taking a look at some places. Recently, another friend said that she wouldn't go into an AL because mealtimes are regulated in the dining room. Mom now says she would hate going to breakfast, lunch and dinner at designated times. She likes to eat when she feels like it and do her own thing.

So, for now the plan is to keep Mom in her condo as long as possible and if/when her needs change, bring in care-givers more often...every day if need be. However, that doesn't ease my burden. Yesterday, after working all day and then picking up Mom's groceries and delivering them to her, she said, "I don't know what I'd do if something happened to you. I would have to go live in assisted living." I just said, "Well, I don't think I'm going anywhere anytime soon. Let's not worry about that just now." I think her statement says it all...when she doesn't reach me on the phone right away, she's afraid that something's happened to me and that she'll be left to fend for herself. I get that, but wow, does that ever put pressure on me.
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