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I am 57 and have been dating a man (also 57) for the last 5 months. His 80 year old mother lives with him. She has dementia and mental illness. Given her age and situation it is not unusual that she clings to him. Actually she clings to both of us. Therein lies the problem. She acts up terribly if we choose to go out. I feel guilty when she gets so upset, as I understand her loneliness. Frankly, I really dont want her to come with us as she acts up. We are only together on weekends, so she has him all week. Friday evening when I arrive, she is in bed and we have good "couple time". We have a peaceful dinner, watch TV and just be us. The trouble starts first thing in the morning. I get tense thinking about this. If she hasnt bathed properly, he mentions it to her and she becomes very angry.I suspect he lets the hygiene slide during the week to avoid strife and encourages her to be clean when I visit, thankfully. Then she starts bugging him about what our plans are for the day as she wants to join us.Sometimes she starts crying or gets angry to manipulate. I become very stressed. If we offer her breakfast she argues she is not hungry then when we make ourselves something, she wants it. (typical of dementia) This is bothersome, so I just make her what we are eating and either she eats it or continues to complain. She has tried anger and tears to get her own way. He wont tolerate this, puts his foot down and the tension mounts. We have zero privacy during the day when she is up unless we flee the house to be alone. It is very difficult to get to know someone if you are always on the go. Not having time within a home environment when dating impedes the development of the relationship. We just cant hang and be ourselves. We cant enjoy morning coffee together, be able to have a conversation without her constant interruptions or dirty looks and it is stalling our relationship from further developing. We need time to bond, just the two of us and she will not leave us alone. Ideally, without the issue of dementia, a mother might have the common sense to let the lovebirds be alone. Make herself scarce. She likes me as I am a source of entertainment if you will and she loves to manipulate and play on my guilt. He and I had a conversation about this as he recognizes what she is doing to me and what I was allowing to happen. I think you all have the picture.
So, what is this doing to us as a couple? I feel like I am in the middle of a threesome! I am starting to dread going to his house on the weekends because of the tension. I am getting cranky in my day to day life at home as I dread being with her. I am resentful that we cant develop as we should have by now. He has talked about marriage in the future, which I hope for as well, but never will it be the three of us. She qualifies to be in a home, but since she is still somewhat functioning, he hates to put her in one at this time. I dread the day, if it comes, that I have to tell him, its one of us not both of us. Obviously, this is taking a toll on our relationship as I am getting more and more on edge. I find myself crankier and less tolleratant in my general life and its creeping into our relationship which makes me very sad. I am going to have to encourage him to start spending more weekends at my home in order to salvage this relationship. The problem is, leaving the mother alone....
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It is a man responsibility as a son taking of his mother. I would do the same as a daughter taking care of my father who is suffering with dementia. My boyfriend encouraged me as well. He said that if I can have the patience to take care of my father, I would have the same with his parents. So, basically, it is about whether you have the compassion for his mother or not. People who are suffering with dementia, they say things that are not making sense.
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sendme is so right-on-the-money. Don't go back to him.
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Awww, Dotville... just a couple things - YOU did not make his mom unhappy - she and her dementia made her unhappy. And, scheduling more time for you and her primary caregiver to have to yourselves while someone else looked after her for a short while would have been good for everyone, indirectly even her, because then he might not have gotten as burned out and testy with her. It is very hard to accept the decline of one's own parent, and i had a good friend who would occasionally yell at his mom too, and yet he was basically very good to her and made a point to bring her out for things she still enjoyed, even quite a few of our Kiwanis club meetings. And yes, anything at all that increases pain and/or inflammation can make dementia-related behavior quite a bit worse. It is always good to look for medical causes when that happens, because they can't at that point verbalize what is really happening physicially to them. It sounds like she was definitely to the point of needing full time around the clock care. Sorry it did not work out for you two to pull together a realistic plan in time to provide for it that he could live with - I bet he felt gulity underneath it all too.
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As I get older, and my friends and relatives, a lot of them are also forced into dealing with their aging parents, and keeping their relationships in spite of it. Sometimes they feel they have to say something about their S/O's plans for their parents and are told to keep out of it. It's a hard thing for everyone involved. Bless you, wish you all the best, thanks for sharing.
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He will always blame you for forcing him to a decision.
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When she is in a home, he can take his frustrations out on you-and yell at you.
Some old advice: If you want to pick a good man, see how he treats his mother, observe carefully-not just the devotion, but the yelling. Another red flag.
You said: "Glad I am out".
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Thank you Jo Ann, oddly enough a brand new home is opening next month and she can get in immediately. This is the perfect opportunity. Another thing i wondered about floated to the top...as she gets worse, he has started to yell at her. I mean yell! Anger issues are apparent. God works in mysterious ways. Glad I'm out.
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Sorry for the breakup. Be aware, that he is between a rock and a hard place. With her problems she cannot be reasoned with. I pray that he realizes she needs more care than he can give. If possible, keep in touch if just texting. Maybe when all is said and done u can get together again. He just may need some room. We all say "Time for a home" but there is a stigmatism here. We all remember they weren't the nicest places. This is where his mind probably is.
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Update: Thank you to everyone. God bless all of you. The dear lady is declining more rappidly than i have ever seen. He gets quite angry with her because he is frustrated and she is determined. We talked, i said she needed to be in a home, he said not yet. 6 mos to a year maybe. It broke us up. Then tension in the home was too much for me. The relationship couldn't progress. I couldn't stand to see her suffer any longer. I felt helpless, there was nothing i could do to help any of us. But all of you helped me and i am eternally grateful. I signed up for more than i bargained for. May the good Lord bless all of you caretakers and guide you and give you strength. You are true angels.
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Dear Dotville,
Go with what you already know after 5 months: This man is unavailable for a relationship.
R U N
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I agree with cwillie, You need to know whether your man is a selfless saint looking out for his mother or is he an adult who is still tied to his mother in an unhealthy way. Take your time, do not, I repeat, do not, rush into anything with this man. You have only known him for 5 months. That is not long enough. She is only going downhill from here. As others have expressed, talk to him about when he thinks she will go into AL and listen really listen to what he says.
You have to take care of yourself first.
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This woman should be not left alone. You said your friend puts his foot down, so maybe he needs to put his foot down and explain to Mom that you need some time alone. Because of this, he has someone who will sit with her while he goes out on a date. He has to try to get thru to her that he needs some time to himself. I agree with the others, it may be time for a home. I feel the way ur friend does about Mom, she's not that bad yet but...if an AL can be afforded they are limited to what they can do. If I had the money, that is where my Mom would be.
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Watch out. Mommy isn't capable of learning or being reasonable. She is going to get much, much worse. I have a feeling this man is snuggling up to you to become more and more and more of a free caretaker. If I were you, I would RUN. Or at least meet outside the house. How anyone can relax and be intimate with a demented mom in a dirty diaper in the next room....beyond me.
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I think it might be wise for all concerned to step back from this relationship. Take a break. Ask yourself some hard but real questions about what you want for your own life.
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Hi - this is an interesting topic and dialog! As you know, you're adding both relief and stress to his life; I guess lots of good things are like that. I think some visits to a counselor for one or both of you would really help. If you're determined to be together, you'd both benefit from more tools to manage the dynamics. Also of course, ask yourself whether you need a man in your life enough to take this on.
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Dot, my childhood was no more dysfunctional than yours seems to have been, but reading the threads on this forum concerning family dysfunction, narcissism and mental illness and the effects it can have on the family has given me a real insight into the ways my extended family is broken. Some little old ladies are not sweet and they never were, they manipulate their children through fear, obligation and guilt and care little for anyone's happiness but their own. I think you should take some time to educate yourself about these issues, either by reading a little on this site or searching the internet. You need to know whether your man is a selfless saint looking out for his mother or is he an adult who is still tied to his mother in an unhealthy way.
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Sunnygirl, you are very insightful, a very smart woman. I thank you for your advice.

I feel guilty (must be because I am Catholic) because I am making this woman miserable. If I were not in her sons life, she would be happy as a clam with him all to herself.
Indeed, she is quite delusional. She is Bi Polar. The things she says and the accusations are cruel and hurt him badly. We both know I should take them with a grain of salt and try my best to do so, but the tension is horrible. Of course, then I feel guilty as I am the cause of the grief. I am my own worst enemy.
Excellent advice that I should educate myself about the progression of dementia. I had cared for a friend of mine with Alzheimer's until practically the end. They are quite different.
A nursing home is his option and she qualifies. I would never consider being a caregiver for her, she is far too much to handle in many ways. He is used to it, I am not.
From a relationship perspective, many of you have given my head a shake and it needs it badly. Indeed I walked into this knowing she was there, unfortunately she was not this bad until 2 weeks after we met and has been getting worse. I am going to have to put on my big girl pants, as my nieces say and insist more time be spent at my home so we can develop. If he finds she cant be left alone, I guess that will paint a clearer picture for him as to what to do.
As Pam said, only I know what I can handle, I think it is becoming clearer.
thank you
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I'm trying to figure out why you feel guilty. I mean, you are doing good things for her and that is helpful for him. And you bring him happiness and companionship. All good things. So why do you feel guilty? I must be missing something.

I would be careful placing so much emphasis on what his mother says. She has dementia. She can't be held to the same standard as she would if she did not suffer from this condition.

You say she also had other mental illnesses before she got dementia. She may believe and say a lot of things that are not necessarily true. As her condition progresses she may become jealous of the goldfish or mail man. you can't take what they say at face value. They may have delusions and hallucinate. I'd be careful to put her words into proper perspective and I wouldn't rely on her to be polite, considerate or understanding. Most people with dementia aren't capable of those things anymore.

I would also read about the progression of dementia. How long will he be able to keep working and keep her at home? I would ask him what options he has in mind, before I invested too much time and emotion into the relationship. Since he may expect you to stay there with her full time if you marry. I'd want to know that upfront, so I could think about it. It's a huge responsibility and many people come to this site to vent and describe how full time caregiving has taken over their life.

Still, if he is a good man and you have the motivation, I'd open up with this man and see if the two of you could make a plan to focus more of you as a couple and get both of you some respite from his mother. She may protests, but she'll eventually have to adjust to it. I wish you all the best.
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Lori, Oh, but I am ever so much, too much, concerned for the lady. Therein is one of my problems. I care too much for everyone and not so much for myself. I agree, I dont know how he balances it all. I do her nails, take her to get her hair done, give her loads of attention and love. The problem is it is never enough. He has said I am too kind to her and that she is manipulating me into giving her all the attention. I am stuck between the rock and the hard place.
You did hit a nail on the head that I may be adding more stress to his life in that we are doing so well together and she isnt too happy about it. However he has said that his life is empty without someone to love and he has to think of himself as well. Many times I have thought to myself, I should just step out of this picture. She would be much happier. He would be devastated. Oh the guilt I feel.
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Thank you folks for your insight. As you can see I am struggling and I appreciate all the thoughts and ideas you can muster. Freqflyer, your note is so kind. Oh, but I do understand how she must feel being left out and the associated loneliness.That is what is making me feel so guilty all the time. Having said that, her son takes her everywhere during the week. She actually gets out more than I! He treats her very well, he is a very kind person and loves her dearly.
As she is divorced with a bitter story and the dementia and the mental illness, her memory is skewed. Sadly, she is jealous of her son and I only in that he is involved with me and that breaks my heart for both of us. She has absolutely no interest in making friends, socialising and least of all going to an event with other seniors. As soon as we take her somewhere, she wants to go home. This is so complicated. She was recently interviewed to see if she qualifies to be in a home and passed with flying colours. After years of threatening to go into a home, one has become available and now she doesnt want to go. We have offered care during the day for her and she pitched a fit that would rival a 2 year old. Due to the mental illness, she, apparently, can get quite nasty. I have seen this on a few occasions, but chalk it up to the dementia and age. It adds to the tension I am feeling, needless to say.
During the day, she is alone. Unable to concentrate on TV or books due to ECT treatments. She can make herself cheese and crackers, toast etc and eats well. If she is made a lunch in advance, she refuses to eat it. She is struggling in that she sees her abilities to look after herself vanish. Believe me, my heart aches for this woman, she is trapped in her own mind of unhappiness.
To address the bathing issue, well, by the time the weekend and I come around, she isnt very fresh and he is embarrassed. She likes bathing, but as of late, she draws the tub and barely gets wet, then denies it. She has also been getting infections so cleanliness is very important. A recent bladder infection could have killed her. The hospital said they hadnt ever seen one that bad in years and years. She was unable to articulate that she was in distress, there were no odours, the only thing we noticed was that she acted out more. Apparently bladder infections in the elderly have an adverse effect on the brain. He doesnt want the hygiene to slip too far as many can attest to, that once it has slipped, it is hard to get back in control.
Cwille, you have hit the nail on the head, he and I need to have a discussion. I can hardly bring myself to this as I feel so guilty putting myself first. Oddly enough, I have quite a few friends in their 80's and 90's, they in no way, act like this. I hope God spares me as well. My stress hits its breaking point when I think of this discussion and the outcome. She will be out of control if she were to go into a home due to the mental illness. Visits would be a nightmare, begging to come home. I dont know if I could forgive myself for putting her through this, yet she seems unhappy no matter what.
If anyone can offer words of wisdom that will help me be less edgy when I visit, Ill put them in my will! My edgyness is having an effect on the two of us. She loves having me around as I am a form of entertainment for her and simply put, she expects us to just sit there with her and do nothing else.
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She is 80, she could hang in there for many more years.. and I mean Many! you knew she lived there when you met him I assume? If marriage is being mentioned, you have the right to know the future plans.. You will always be part of a threesome, even if she goes into a home. I applaud his care of his mother. it reflects well on his possible care of you in the future if you need it.. but only you know what you can handle... and I think you already know..
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I have no idea how the man can make time for a relationship, work, take care of Mom too. I take care of my Mom, I could not, even, imagine adding another thing to my plate. Taking care of a parent is no easy task, stressful, and also can be the most rewarding thing you'll ever do in your life. To me, it doesn't sound like you are interested in helping your boyfriend with his Mom and this is going to add to his stress.
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I assume a man that age is going to work every day, who looks after his mother then? I can't understand why he would insist on her bathing when you are there, this is often a huge issue and she should be getting baths through the week instead, leaving the weekends as a time to just tidy up the needed parts. Unless she is extremely soiled (feces under her nails or on her legs) she doesn't need a daily bath.
You knew about his mother when you got into this, you need to have an honest discussion with him about both your expectations going forward. If his plan is to keep his mom at home "until she needs more care" then you need to understand exactly what that means and when he envisions that happening. If you have no interest in becoming a full time caregiver he needs to know that too. And as Pam says, for goodness sake hire a sitter and meet somewhere else once in a while, if that is too much to ask then it doesn't bode well for your future together.
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dotville, let look at the other side of the coin for a few minutes. Imagine being 80 years old, and I assume her spouse had passed [or divorced].... thus when she sees two people as a couple it brings back memories of her with her husband when they both were younger. That must be sad for her.

Imagine not being able to hop in a car and drive yourself somewhere any time you want. Imagine not being able to think as clearly as back when you are young, and having a aches and pains that come with aging decline.

What your boyfriend's Mom needs is to find a senior social center where she can meet new people and eventually have a new best friend that she can call and talk with while your and your boyfriend are enjoying an evening at home.

Or if Mom qualifies to be put into Assisted Living, then she could be around people of her own generation, that would be a plus for her. Or hire a caregiver to come whenever your schedule to be with your boyfriend.

For some reason your post sounds so very familiar, I will search this website and see if I can find it and what answers were given.
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Do not go to the house. Meet elsewhere, at a restaurant, at your place. He can get a sitter for her. It is important to establish those boundaries now. He has to choose, mother or wife, no matter if he is 21 or 61.
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