My 80 year old parents make me feel guilty that I'm not doing enough! What should I do? - AgingCare.com

My 80 year old parents make me feel guilty that I'm not doing enough! What should I do?

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My father is in declining health and Mom is main caregiver - she is Korean and does not read or write English, so I am responsible for paying bills, etc. Dad is 89, mom is a healthy 84. I moved them from NC to FL to be near me and purchased them a nice 3/2 home to live in about 10 minutes from me. I stop in to see them every day. Dad is too much for mom to take care of, I arranged for in home health to come in, but mother expects the people to clean her house, mop floors, clean bathrooms, etc. and sometimes sends the people away if she doesn’t like how they look. She’s very rude at times. Also, if I don’t go by every single day, she gets a nasty attitude with me. She’s worried about spending too much money and would be fine if I paid for everything! But I cannot and will not do that to my husband / myself. I don’t think that’s my responsibility. I already pay for their electric, gas and cable.

The way she acts makes me not want to go there, by then my dad is the one who suffers. I cannot take it anymore. When I go every day, I just stop in for about 20 - 30 minutes to make sure things are okay, but it’s not enough for them. How do I get rid of the guilt? They make me feel that I’m not doing enough. I’m feeling like a bad person - like a bad daughter...

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So your mom needs help with your dad. You're the only one she wants helping her. Yet she is setting the terms and demanding more and more of your time? The loved ones we help, the loved ones we sacrifice for don't get to call the shots. It doesn't work that way.

You pay their bills so they can afford caregivers but your mom won't allow caregivers? Stop paying the bills. If she won't accept caregivers then she can use that extra money to pay bills. That's one less tie you'll have to them.

You're a hostage but you have the means to set yourself free. Your mom is keeping you prisoner with her guilt and your sense of obligation. If you don't want to go there anymore, don't. Try to keep in touch by phone for a while. Continue to encourage your mom to use caregivers. Inform her that the caregivers are there to make it easier on her to take care of your dad, not to be maids. It's true that caregivers do empty the trash when they leave and tidy up where they've been working but if your mom has a caregiver it's so the caregiver can care for your dad, not be a servant.

It's OK to distance yourself from them. As you said, your mom is sucking the life out of you. She will continue to do so as long as you allow her to. It's not her place to suddenly figure out what she's doing to you. It's your job to decide when you've had enough.
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The people who should be feeling the guilt are your parents. Your dad is sick, but your mother is still capable. It sounds like she is drawing your life and resources from you and making you feel like you owe her even more. I realize that she is Korean and has a firm hold on her house and family. However, you cannot let her take your life from you. You have to let her know what you can do and say no to other things. Telling her that you cannot neglect your own family for her sake may make her understand.

Why are you paying their bills? Do they not have enough or do you feel like you owe them? It may be too late to stop doing it outright, but maybe you could give some of the responsibility of life back to them. Yours is a tough situation, I know.
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Your mother turns shrewish when you have not visited for a very short while because she cannot manage your father without help for even a short length of time and therefore becomes stressed and exhausted. Nothing to do with your qualities as a daughter, everything to do with upkeep of house and husband being now too much for her. Time to find a better option for both of them.

As the person responsible for managing their finances, you do have the advantage of knowing exactly what shape their budget is in. Bearing that information in mind, look around for continuing care facilities (ideally - these are the ones that allow people to transition seamlessly from independent to assisted living to nursing care, as and when) and research funding options. Your mother isn't likely to make these plans, so do it for her and restore some control.
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Do you have any friends or family members that you can confide in and get support from? I suspect that if you explained things, they would tell you that your mom's expectations are unreasonable. When things are so lopsided, it makes me wonder why your mom is being that way. Has she always been that way? Is something going on with her? When seniors are are unrealistic in their demands, I question their competence. I mean, is she realistic at all? Sometimes, the adult child has to be the responsible party and step up. We may have to make decisions that they don't like, though, they may throw a tantrum like a child. We become more like the adult and them more like the child. I wonder if you take things into perspective, you'll find that guilt is not really productive or appropriate. But, don't you feel angry, resentful and frustrated? I get that.

I'd figure out how to get an assessment to see just what dad needs and explain to mom that's what he's going to get. There are ways to ensure that. If she's going to impede it, then, that can be dealt with too. I would see an attorney to find out the process, if it comes to that. Do you have DPOA and HCPOA?
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Your mother has created a situation that only she can control, as it is right now. She wants you over there, literally at her command. She's kind of the wicked stepmother in the Cinderella story.

I'm not criticizing her to be cruel, but this is the way I see it. She wants things to always be her way. And it seems she's dominating your father as well.

It's pretty obvious as well that failing to learn to read and/or write English reflects her lack of desire to integrate into American society. And to me that also infers a lack of willingness to blend in, to meld, to be part of a culture, but rather to remain literally an isolated individual insisting on having her own way.

Is she an insecure person? This obsessive need for control makes me wonder. Or perhaps that's a cultural thing - I don't know, and don't wish to criticize her for that.

And military men are typically strong types; perhaps she became so domineering to balance out the relationship?

Again, I'm sharing my observations because perhaps they'll offer some insight into the dynamics of their marriage, and help you find "chinks in the armor" to create a better, more balanced relationship between all of you.

Perhaps she was overwhelmed with American society and culture? (I'm trying to give her the benefit of a doubt, as it can really be challenging for war brides to integrate into a culture that's very different.)

Are there any Korean cultural groups in the area, someplace where she could meet others and interact with them. If she feels culturally isolated, and THREATENED by you, developing friendships w/I her own culture might help her be less defensive and domineering.

Are there cultural issues between the two of you? I.e., does she feel that you should adopt more of a Korean attitude toward life and family?

I think at this point I would have a private talk with her, as well as one with your father (but separately) and explain plainly to each how you feel. With her, you'll have to be a little bit more delicate. But at least you can let them know that the situation isn't working, and things have to change.

If she blows up, calmly tell her that you're trying to work out a situation that benefits all, and you would really like her to be a part of it. In order to do that, she has to be calm and willing to listen to your suggestions. If you need to, just get up and leave if she blows up again.

In the meantime, stick to your own schedule. And the next time she becomes hostile, I'd tell her that she needs some down time, that you will NOT be treated that way. Then leave.

I also think as a caregiver you have the right to override their resistance to outside help. They'll resist, but don't let them dominate you. You're already burning out; it needs to change, now, slowly or quickly, but this situation needs to change.

If you could find a Korean center though, perhaps you could invite someone over to visit with her while you're there. That might redirect her anger.
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Paula, it isn't easy, the guilt will always be there no matter how much you do :( One thing I had notice with my own parents is that they didn't see me as a senior citizen with my own age related decline.... they saw me as still being in my 20's and 30's with a ton of energy.

Oh how I wished I had found this forum at the being of this caregiving journey, I would have made so many different changes. I would have stop the enabling.... thus I was doing a lot just so my parents could retain their own lifestyle while I was changing mine... and being exhausted and guilt written the whole time.

You mentioned that your Dad is retired military. Scroll down to the bottom of this page to the blue section and click on VETERAN BENEFITS and see if you can find your parent's some help. Such help might be more accepted if it came from the military, such as Aids coming in to help.

Keep us up-to-date with how things are going.
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What should you do about the guilt? Disconnect that button! Your parents (perhaps mostly your mom, but maybe both of them) installed the guilt button long ago. They certainly know how to push it. But what if they pushed it and it didn't work?

OK, the reality is that you may never fully and completely rid yourself of guilt feelings. (Counseling could help, if you are willing to go that route.) But you need to push the irrational guilt feelings way to the back of your consciousness. You need to make decisions about your behavior based on objective reality, not fantasy guilt.

As Eyerishlass says, "You're a hostage but you have the means to set yourself free." Gather all the support you need to take care of yourself -- including posting here, confiding in friends, and perhaps seeing a therapist.
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They have money, not a lot, but dad is retired military and was frugal with his $.  And I guess I feel like I can help a little monetarily, and I’m their only child, so I should... and if I help them save in these ways, they’ll have more to spend on caregivers. But they are sucking my life. And I am tired of feeling guilty if I can’t pay for everything or go by there every day. I was sick and didn’t go by for 4 days... but I called to check on them. When I did go by, my mother was very, very nasty. Acted extremely put out that I’d left her to fend for my dad alone - and yet she is the one who refused to have a caregiver there during the weekend.

Her cable went out for a few hours a couple of days ago and she called me incessantly. I told her I’d figure it out and I called Dish about it and had it re-set by 2 pm. When I get home, I found out that she blew up my daughter’s phone about it, as well. I’ve never known anyone so demanding. I do not want to go there or talk with them anymore. But I can’t do that.
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So tell us more about your mom. Did she take care of her parents? That can be an expectation in Asian cultures. If she didn't, she doesn't have much to stand on as far as expecting it from you. Has she always been this demanding? Is she close to her family in Korea (or where ever they are now)?

If they're in a 3-bedroom, 2-bath house, that sounds like a pretty big place to care for folks that age. I'd consider selling that and getting them into a smaller place in a senior retirement community. Your mom can get out and be around other people her age and typically those facilities have services in-house for extra support, which your dad needs now and will need more down the road. Those facilities also usually include some housekeeping and food preparation/meals.

Even if nothing changes, your mom is unreasonable in her expectations. I would question whether she has some cognitive changes going on herself. Has she had a good check-up lately? Do you see any evidence of cognitive decline in her reasoning?
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Please don't feel like one. There are cultural expectations at play; but you've done a lot and are within your limits to set a boundary she isn't comfortable with. The only way you would satisfactorily be what she wants is to live with them, do everything for them, and revert to an extended childhood for her benefit.

You may consider blocking the number from your daughter's phone or change her number; no granddaughter should be on the receiving end of her hostility. I agree with some of the posters; maybe becoming a part of something tied to her Korean heritage might diffuse the stress she's feeling. Or maybe you can find Korean caregivers that can arrive when you do, and they can help clean the house while you explain their presence in their home. But I would set the boundary of what you can tolerate; your visits shouldn't be marred like this and come at this price. It's too high; and your mom doesn't sound like she'll recognize the chasm she's creating with her behavior.
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