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My mother lives just up the road. She was a professional woman and is fiercely independent. However she has had six falls in six months - four of which were caused by alcohol abuse (which she denies - but there is red wine spilled all over her kitchen, her clothes, her sofa - and she often has black lips and teeth. If you arrive without warning she has a mug of red wine that she tries to hide in the cupboard. Last week an online "food" delivery arrived with 6 litres of red wine and two garlic baguettes. I think she thinks this is the Mediterranean diet!)


She is now becoming very frail, but is in denial about this too. I understand and have some compassion for this - it must be so hard to be this old and infirm.


I don't want advice, just sympathy really.


The problem is I have arranged carers for her but she refuses to let them clean her or change her clothes. She sits in soiled clothes day after day. I felt compelled to change her the other day. She will let me do it if I insist but it's not great as she complains the whole time. Sometimes she completely loses it and can be really nasty to my face. I had to leave one time when she screamed at me in front of the family. (I would say this might be dementia but she has always been like this, alas. She can be extremely unpleasant if she doesn't get her own way, and then switch on the charm equally easily.)


The other day the carer found feces in the bathroom sink. This has happened before but she denied it. I was going to get a plumber but she shouted at me to stop interfering. In the end my husband (disabled but mentally well) insisted. It was really shocking. Horrible really.


I am trying to distance myself emotionally as we have a difficult relationship. She was emotionally and physically abusive to me in childhood and beyond, and I believe suffers from narcissistic personality disorder (I could explain why I think this but that would be a separate post). This makes her expert at manipulation - which I have had help with identifying and resisting, though I sometimes get caught out.


How do I keep the boundary and protect myself whilst keeping her safe? The social work team say she is within her rights to refuse care as she has "capacity" - and I understand that - but it is so painful to watch, and I am sick of being at her beck and call.


I am thinking of contacting Al-Anon as I believe they help adult children of alcoholics, and I can see signs of codependency in the way I react to her ... but does anyone have any other suggestions?


I feel very sad that she is choosing to live out her last few years in this way.

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Good Luck with Al Anon. Just remember, you can't help her. You can't make her happy. You are not responsible for what she does. Its her life. You can only help those that are willing to take the help. And never feel guilty if she ends up in a nursing home on Medicaid. She will have done this to herself.
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Reply to JoAnn29
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Thank you all for taking the time to write such helpful and considered replies. Since I posted we have had the care needs assessment - and the team leader understands the situation. I have also approached Al Anon, and am arranging some therapy for me: trying to change what can be changed, and accept what cannot be changed etc...

Only thing is that yesterday there was another fall, another trip to A&E, more drama. The Meals on Wheels team told me what had happened and it sounded very frightening - she had been found "in a pool of blood". I was very scared. But when I spoke to A&E it turns out she had banged her head (drunk) and had taken her fall sensor off (again). So lay on the floor for some time with a minor head wound.

I spent the day yesterday very worried - but resisted going up to "help". By the evening she was complaining that it had taken them so long to see her. She was declared medically fit to go home.

Then I found out today that the evening carer saw her later on and she was sitting drinking red wine from a mug, with it all spilled down her front and all over the kitchen.

She had previously been referred to the falls team but declined their assistance. The Social Services lead has re-referred her, and is also going to speak with her directly about the potential impact of another fall on her independence - and how alcohol isn't helping her mobility.

I have my first Al Anon meeting this evening. My husband and my friends are being a wonderful support.
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Reply to TurningWorm
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Hm. So, your mother is in receipt of reablement services following her hospital stay, yes? Which local authority if you don't mind my asking?

This is how it works. The temporary cover focuses on rehabilitation at home. It is a free service, provided for up to six weeks. Normally the person stays with us for more like three weeks: once they are managing confidently and independently, the service is reduced from a maximum of four calls down to, say, one 15 minute welfare check daily, and then service is ended with the client's agreement.

Now I will put money on it that your mother is telling her social worker and the reablement assessor "oh my daughter lives just down the road, she'll do all that..."

I have in mind one client whose notes I read the other week "Son lives around the corner, visits daily." As a matter of now proven fact, however, Son lives a ten minute drive away (which is not nothing) and has a young family. Son visits once a week when he can. Son does NOT supervise medications, stock the fridge, do the laundry as claimed, etc. etc. for perfectly good reasons.

Now, again. We have to have the client's consent before we can lift a finger. If a client says get lost, we get lost (and report it). If a client says "I can manage" or "my daughter will help me later" we take her word for it; but then check that the task has been done, and become suspicious quite rapidly if it obviously hasn't. Sentences like "Bob needs lots of encouragement with his personal care" begin to appear on the support plan updates. I am beginning to suspect that "encouragement" is a euphemism for "cattle-prod."

You have to see this as a work in progress. I hope there will be enough people on your mother's team who are truly working on it. Winning co-operation from people who are refusing care is tricky, especially if there isn't continuity of personnel, but you shouldn't worry that they aren't trying or that they necessarily *believe* everything your mother says that they're writing down with a straight face. Are you only in touch with her social worker, or have you had any contact with the coal-face people? Any discussion about what's actually in the Support Plan?

A word of comfort - if they've documented possible self-neglect, it is officially a safeguarding issue and they won't just walk away. I don't know what happens about charging/funding after six weeks but I do know that when a package of care proves difficult to organise (for various reasons, not money, usually location or challenging behaviours or shortage of care services in an area) we are also the provider of last resort. Lucky us!
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TurningWorm Sep 24, 2020
Thanks for your post, Countrymouse. I won't say which local authority as I'd rather not be that easily identifiable. Very helpful to get your perspective though - and reassuring to know that the reablement service won't just suddenly walk away or stop. Thanks!
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Us children (we children?) of these types of women are TRAINED from birth to be 'co dependent' and to feel guilty that we're 'not doing enough' or to think that whatever we ARE doing is 'wrong' or 'imperfect'. "If only".......if only we'd do THIS, then they'd be just FINE. Except it never works out that way. They want what they want when they want it, at our expense, and in spite of the fact that we're sweating bullets and suffering emotional harm as a result.

If you'd just leave her alone, she'd be fine! Then she falls or craps herself and then you hear, If you'd just come over and fix me dinner or wash my clothing or whatever. Then you go over and do 'whatever' and IT'S wrong too, and 'should have been' done differently.

"Just". The one word I'd love to remove from the English language.

Contact Al Alon, it sounds like a good idea. Get some tips to deal with emotional abuse alcoholics love to dish out. They can't guide you about narcs, but there's Facebook (private) groups called Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers which are VERY enlightening. You can join the group and not even post, just read, and wind up going OMG, THAT IS MY MOTHER! And feel not quite so all alone anymore. Like there are others in the same boat as you, who even have it worse with their darling mothers.

The best thing to do, I guess, is to decide what your boundaries ARE. These women LOVE to shatter our boundaries because boundaries=rules and they HATE rules with a vengeance. But rules=our sanity. Decide how often you will have contact with her and to what degree. I will visit you on Monday each week, mother, and I will call you on Wednesdays & Fridays at 6 pm. (or whatever, doesn't matter). Then you STICK to that schedule like GLUE because at the first sign of a crack, BOOM, she'll slither in like a SNAKE and you're back into the web of lies and deceit she's dishing out. She'll be gaslighting you like mad to make you think YOU are the crazy one! Oh I NEVER said that, what are YOU talking about? My mother does this to me all the time. Childhood stories I have heard for 60 years she'll say I've invented!!! Sometimes making me question my OWN sanity. But I KNOW I'm sane, and what KEEPS me sane is limited contact with HER.

What will keep YOU sane? That is the question. Your mother will hurt herself one of these days. She will drink too much, get sloppy drunk, fall, and get rushed off to the hospital where her future will be determined by OTHERS. That's how things work here in the USA, anyway, if that's where you live. But hearing you use the word 'whilst' makes me think you are not in the USA, as that's not a word we often hear here.

In any event, you can't really 'keep your mother safe'..........you can only offer to do what you can on YOUR TERMS and on YOUR SCHEDULE, and the rest is up to HER. She's a grown woman who makes a choice every single day to either pick up a bottle of wine or not pick it up. The ensuing consequences are HER burden to bear. You'll be there to pick up the pieces of her actions, but that's about it I'm afraid.

Wishing you the best of luck in a very difficult situation.
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Reply to lealonnie1
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TurningWorm Sep 23, 2020
Thank you SO much for this reply, I will check out the FB groups. I do much better than I used to at boundary setting but the old conditioning is still there. I feel uncomfortable watching her live like this and stopping myself jumping in. But I know I have to, or I’d be there all the time. they call it FOG, don’t they?

When the sink incident happened, it was her insistence that black was white that I found triggering. I have had to deal with many undigified and difficult situations with my husband’s multiple sclerosis, so I am not squeamish. I’m quite strong in many ways, It was the way she insisted I was wrong and interfering and screamed at me.

The little girl inside of me thinks I should see it from her side, poor thing, it’s awful, she must be embarrassed etc etc and lashing out is what poor animals do when they are afraid etc.

but that little girl is tired of making things right for the Mummy who hated her but says she loves her, The Mummy who got angry when the little girl just needed a hug. The Mummy who beat her. The Mummy who humiliated her every day. The Mummy for whom none of her achievements was ever enough,

That little girl is quietly holding her teddy in the doorway, crying. She says, “no”.
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Who is providing the carers? What is their assessment of your mother's situation?
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TurningWorm Sep 23, 2020
Social Services. She is due an assessment as this was a temporary package of care for six weeks after her last hospital stay after a fall. It is now eight weeks. They have said to me in the interim that they have noted she is at risk for “unintentional self-neglect”. So at least they see it.
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Its hard not to give advice when you feel you can help someone deal better with what they are going thru. There are a number of members that are or have been in your position. I remember one member saying its not always enabling but your disabling the person. Do u do things that she or her caregivers could/should do? If so, stop doing them. Tell her she is paying for caregivers to help her let them do their jobs. You also have a husband who probably needs you.

Do you have POA? You may just have to wait till an emergency and she lands in the hospital and then rehab. You can then have her evaluated for 24/7 care and maybe some cognitive decline or even Dementia. If Dementia your POA will allow you to place her in an AL or LTC. Its no longer what she wants, its what she needs. You at least have SWs involved and they seem to think she can make her own decisions so safe there.

You cannot do for those who won't allow you to.
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Reply to JoAnn29
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Please read Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend. It’s helped many here, me included. You need firm boundaries with your mother, and know the boundaries are for your own self protection and well being, not to punish her. Your mother has the illusion of independence and won’t see that it’s just that as long as you keep trying to step in and fix things. It’s not your fault or your mess. You have a good idea in Al-Anon
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Reply to Daughterof1930
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You are only at her beck and call if you choose to be.

Step back and stop supporting and enabling this charade. And yes, Al-Anon will help. Individual therapy for you might also be a good support to have.
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