My mom (83) thinks I am a horrible son (41/married) because I am not willing to visit her numerous days a week to help her. Any advice?

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She has cancer. Currently I am 41 and she is 83. I have no siblings. She weighs about 85 lb and had her stomach removed in her 40's. She's been losing weight for many years but the cancer isn't helping.


Since my dad died in 2001 I visit her once a week for 2-3 hours to help her with things. I have mowed her lawn, raked her leaves, and shoveled her driveway EVERY summer, EVERY fall, EVERY snow storm (and before he died as well). I've helped with all sorts of projects, fixing billing disputes, you name it.


She was accepted to a senior condo community earlier this year so since April through June I helped weed through a 3 floor house to donate, throw out, and pack everything as well as move it all over to the apt. She was diagnosed with cancer a few months ago, so I was going back and forth to the doctor with her numerous times a week since then as well as helping with unpacking since May as well.


Now that I have her apartment livable after nearly 7 months (still lots of stuff she won't part with but manageable) I feel like I can go back to one visit a week. Although I tell my mom if she needs anything I will help figure it out like giver her rides and go more days a week if necessary. I also have a home care worker coming 2 days a week.


We get in little arguments here and there but today she really let into me saying I was selfish and I don't care about her. She says her friends will corroborate what she is telling me. She doesn't seem to have much common sense left. She told me I need to go to a psychiatrist. I'm not the type of guy to call all the time checking up on things, I show my love with my actions. I tell her if she has a problem or needs help to let me know and I will help her with it or the home care person can help. It's never good enough. She wants ME there numerous days and to call her all the time to check on her. Anything less and I'm a selfish horrible person. I told her I am not going to be her caretaker. I'm at the point where I don't think I will be going there any more at all. She has been miserable to spend time with for YEARS (not pleasant at all) and only complains to me the whole while I am with her. Most of the complaining is about ME, go figure. I can go on and on but that's the synopsys. Don't really think there is any answer to this I haven't thought of already. Just trying to get all this off my chest.

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You are a great son! Your plan to visit once a week is perfectly reasonable, but may not seem so to a person thinking about her own death. What stage is her cancer at? Is it in remission? What is her prognosis?

I understand what you mean about not being used to or comfortable with calling everyday. My mother was sweet and I never had to hear her complaining, but it could be weeks between phone calls (while she was well.) For one thing I don't know what could possibly found to talk about everyday!

But, given that your mother is lonely, possibly scared, and sick, do you think you could call her often, briefly, and cut your visits to twice a month? Continue to be firm that you can't be her primary caregiver.

I have a few health issues but do not need caregiving! My husband died 5 years ago and I am still living in our house. I realize that while I like to think I am independent I really couldn't live alone in a single family home without a lot of maintenance support. And my funds for hiring people are limited. A neighbor volunteered to shovel snow in my driveway whenever he did his. I found a neighbor kid to pay to mow the lawn. That helps a lot. But there are many chores that require strength or skill that I ask for help with. When I contact my son and say I need a new little shelf unit hung, or something heavy moved downstairs, or the drier vent cleaned out, he says "I'll be over tomorrow morning", or "how about this weekend?" If it is some emergency he'll tell me what to do immediately then offer to come right over or suggest I call a plumber, electrician, whatever. He is a professional handyman. I pay him for large jobs (he gives me a hefty family discount on labor) and make him special treats for smaller things. He sometimes unloads frustrations. ("You won't believe what the guy taping the dry wall did!") but never about me. And I would not dream of telling him other sons take better care of their parents. Unthinkable!

What you are doing and putting up with make you an exceptionally good son, whether your mother can acknowledge that or not. Take her cancer into consideration, but do your helping on your terms.

And on behalf of not-quite-independent seniors everywhere, Thank You!
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Alan, you have been VERY generous with your time. I found that (in some cases) all of the time doing chores, cleaning out houses and driving to doctor's appointments doesn't count to the person who needs help. She just wants you to sit and visit with her! Can you off load some of the other chores so you would have more sit down time with her?
Ultimately, when you visit, direct all conversations to her. And if she complains, say 'Mom, I am here now, let's not get negative. How was your week?" You may have to follow WindyRidge's advice. If she gets nasty, LEAVE. Mom I'm sorry you aren't feeling better now, I'll come another time when you are up to it.
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I think you are a spectacular son.

Mom says you need a psychiatrist. Agree with her!. Make an appointment for her with a geriatric psychiatrist. She clearly needs to be seen for her depression and anxiety.
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Well, somebody needs to see a psychiatrist but it's not you. You seem to have your life and boundaries with mom set pretty well.

Sounds like she overwhelmed with all that's going on. That's understandable. Maybe some meds could help her cope better, but the elderly brain doesn't always handle antidepressants well. She may or may not change behaviors, there's no guarantee.

Being an only child. you know no other family dynamic, and you have done well with your mom and her attempts to draw you in...sadly, if she weren't so demanding and nasty, as you say, you'd probably be a lot happier about helping you out!! When you're doing your best and getting zero thanks, it's nigh unto impossible to feel like doing more!

Keep up the boundaries that YOU are comfortable with . You have a family that needs you too, and not the leftover, exhausted you from caring for mom will create.

Don't cave into her demands that you call or come by at her whim--let her know you will see her on certain days and will not always be answering each and every call.

Stay strong!! You are doing a great job.
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It has to be on your terms.   Cut down your visits, if she’s nasty, leave.  I doubt she’s going to change.  You’ve been a good son, much more helpful than many kids.  Don’t let her nonsense get to you.

You mentioned her lack of common sense. I see this with my mom. She’s 86 and her judgement is terrible the last few months. Our moms may not have ALZ or dementia but the mind is just not working that well anymore. We have to take it in stride.

BTW, I’m the last living son for two parents.  I see them as needed as they’re 600 miles away.
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I agree that you need to set boundaries, for the sake of yourself and your own family. Folks on this site recommend geriatric psychiatrists quite often -- perhaps the understandable anxiety she feels about her cancer could be eased a bit with meds and enable her to tone down the neediness?
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Cancer can scare anyone and make that person more needy of attention. There's probably some fear involved as well.

I understand your position and it's a valid one. This is a tough situation. I suspect she's becoming more lonely, perhaps frightened, and just needs you around more. She may be thinking more about dying and wants to spend more time with you before that happens.

Do you think she'd be receptive to friendly visitors, such as some from a Meals on Wheels program, or county respite visitors?
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You could always be frank with her and lay it out for her. Let her know that you and your family will visit her on Saturday from 10am to 5pm. Tell her that on Tuesday you will call her at a certain time and no more phone calls during the week. Stick to it, if she tries for more, stick to those two boundries and redirect to she can call a cab for doctors, have her aid help her. Point out the fact that your family needs you too and she can't have all of your time.
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You are doing Great, providing the support that you already give to your Mom, but perhaps she is lonely and needs additional support from the outside.

Does her Cancer Care Clinic offer any services, in aid to their patients,  I know my FIL's did. Volenters who would come to check on them, do some shopping or just some companionship? Would your Mom be open to going to the local Senior Center,  to meet new friends,  have lunch,  play games or go out on there weekly outings? 

Could you think of ways to keep her entertained, puzzles, adult coloring books, reading materials, a biweekly outing to the library and lunch out with you and your family? 

I'm sure that the Cancer diagnosis is scary for her,  and you could always set your phone up to remind you to call her once or twice a week for a short chat. 

Does she still have other family near by, friends or others who could give her a call, or visit her? I'm sure that others will give you suggestions of different things you might want to try, but never think that you haven't done enough,  you've been a great Son, and more involved than most we hear about, here on the AC site! 

It's a really tough job, caring for our parents. My husband and I have only just lost our last remaining parent and the aftermath is still an adjustment, with each of us grieving in our own way.  

Pace yourself,  it's a long and difficult road for many,  especially when you are an only child! Take Care!
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Good boy! So many things we elders can no longer do or get done, and you did them for years for your mom.... Good advice from the others already, so I just say don't take any guilt; do what you can comfortably do for her.
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