My mom lives in northern Illinois. I live in Florida and have a very happy life with my significant other of 30 years.

Mom is the primary caregiver for her husband, who has been diagnosed with dementia. She and her husband both have diabetes, and my mom’s is not well controlled.

Recently, mom fell and broke her ankle, requiring surgery. I flew in and stayed with them for a week, and my younger brother drive in from 2 hours away and stayed with them. My older brother lives 15 minutes from them, but is too busy and unwilling to check in on them.

three weeks after the surgery, mom became quite ill, but refused to call her doctor, resulting in a trip to the hospital in Thanksgiving (my older brother refused to take her and argued with her when she called him for help saying “you need to call 911. I am not taking you.”

things are complicated because mom’s husband cannot really stay home alone. He has a daughter who lives nearby and she has helped tremendously.

this has brought several issues to the surface. When I suggest caregiver support, my mom gives a resounding “no.” When I beg her to call her doctor, it’s another “no.” She feels that all support should come from us kids.

I am certain that she also feels I am her ultimate plan. She brought my grandmother to live with us, and she seems to feel I should do the same. I watched her relationship with my grandmother deteriorate, and watched every romantic relationship my mom had fall apart. She was so unhappy.

Yet I overheard her talking to a friend while I was there, and both said “you just can’t expect the same level of care from the boys.”

basically, she expects me to be her 24/7 caregiver at some point, because that is what she did, and I am the girl.

Everyone I have asked about this has said that moving her in with me is a bad idea. How do I have that conversation without hurting her? How do I convince her that I love her and I am here to help, but I do not want give up my life the way she did? Admittedly, we have grown apart in recent years, but I do love her and want to be sure she is taken care of. How do I reconcile the fact that she expects this of me automatically because I am the daughter?

I feel incredibly scared, sad and guilty about these feelings. I do not know what to do.

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What you need to avoid is tip-toeing around the issue hoping not to anger your mom. We needed to have the "no, we are not going to move to take care of you. No, we are not going to take care of you in our home" with both my mom and my inlaws. There was just the assumption that we would do so.

We were politely direct - they did not like it. They were angry. There was yelling - attempts at guilt tripping etc. We held firm. Politely - over and over "we'll not abandon you - but you are in charge of your aging - and it is not in our home". So be ready for that.

Good luck.
Helpful Answer (19)
Beatty Nov 2020
Excellent advice & reply.

Honesty is the best policy so both sides can plan properly.
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Unfortunately your story is not an uncommon one. The answer however is not easy because it mostly requires a series of difficult conversations. I am going through the same thing but by asking for input on this exact site I have been able to have the difficult conversations with my mother about her own care. In the end the children are not there to be the caregivers to their parents. Discussing with your mom what her future plans are for her care is going to take a lot of willpower and it’s going to take several episodes of denial and most likely blaming you for not loving her enough to invite her into your home and into your life. The first question to ask your mother is what is her financial status and what is her plan on care once she gets to the point where she can no longer care for herself. I had to remind my mother that I work a very demanding full-time job and that I would not be there to care for her the way she needs to be cared for and to be honest I don’t think that it would be good for my own sanity or my marriage to have my mother requiring everyone’s full attention and help (my mother just happens to be a malignant narcissist)
The second question to ask your mother is why does she feel that it is your responsibility to meet her care needs. That is a question that I can guarantee you she will stumble on because my mother certainly did. The best she could come up with is because I gave birth to you and you have to. My mother even brought up the fact that there is an old law on the books that states that the kids have to take care of their parents. She was prepared! This one question is going to open up a lot of conversations and probably a bit of yelling. Just stay calm and continue to ask your mother why she feels that it is your responsibility and duty to care for her as she gets older. Eventually she will start to understand that it is not your role and that she has to take responsibility for her own care. Now this does not mean that you would not be there to help her through the process and to help her when you are available and willing to do so. Keeping that line of communication open but defining what you are willing to do will at least let your mother know you are not abandoning her.
As for your older sibling who lives 15 minutes away, I would suggest having a conversation with that sibling and asking them what has happened that they are not willing to assist. I had the same thing in my family and it turned out that my sister was abused after the older kids had left and she just had no mental or emotional capacity to help. And to be very honest with you, I don’t blame her one bit. This may not be your siblings story but it is certainly worth asking the question so that you don’t lose that relationship. I have actually become closer to my sister than I ever have been and I’ve also learned a lot more about my own parents. Some of it was good and some it was very bad.
I hope you are able to start to resolve this issue, not necessarily for your mother but for yourself. I know how heavy this burden weighs on a person. It affects everything in your life and every moment of your life. It is a shame that some parents put that kind of burden on their children instead of working to have a loving relationship. In closing I can imagine your mother is scared of getting older but she is very lucky to have a child that is willing to assist her through that phase of life. I wish you all the luck and all the strength that you need to get through this.
Helpful Answer (16)
ExhaustedPiper Dec 2020
"My mother even brought up the fact that there is an old law on the books that states that the kids have to take care of their parents. She was prepared!"


Glad you stood strong Thomas!
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Seriously, I do get some of that pressure - being a girl.

I sought counselling feeling so stressed out with the weight of this kind of future that others had laid out for me... The councillor asked 'What if I was a man? A man who drove long distance trucks for a living? And moved to Canada?' Would everyone still have the same expectations?? Wow that hit me as (unlike you) I hadn't seen it like that before.

My (female) cousin had. Her Father started priming her for HIS future. Started *joking* he would come to stay. She said great. "For one week. Only. Then I will deposit you & your bags to the nearest hotel".

So I'd say you've heard your Mother's hints - time to hint back... in whatever style is yours;

Caring & wordy;
Mother dear, you know I live in FL & I love Fl & am never leaving Fl. So if one day you can't live independently, I suppose you will have to decide to stay in IL or move to Fl. Both probably have nice assisted living options.

Honest & brutal;
You want to WHAT??? Live with ME?? 🤣🤣🤣 Gosh that would never work! Get that out of your head right now! What?? Me leave my home, partner, friends, life & move in with you so you can continue to live the way you want with no thought to my life at all? Now Mother, no-one would be that selfish surely? That's just downright CRAZY!
Helpful Answer (14)

You cannot tell her the truth without upsetting her. But you still have to tell her. It is possibly you could start the discussion by asking her how she sees the future playing out? What does she foresee happening? That might tell you what exactly she is expecting and give you the opportunity to shape her reality by telling her what your future plans are.
She made this plan. Her husband who needs care lives in Illinois as she does. If she did not think about what the next steps were when he began to develop dementia, that is on her. You are not the fallback plan. She can move to Florida and you will find her a place to live, and not with you. You don't need to be scared, you are no longer a 6 year old at her mercy. It is okay to say No. Might not be easy but it is okay.
Helpful Answer (14)

You may have to hurt her feelings. She isn't thinking about your feelings is she? Just say "I am sorry, I can't do that". Don't argue, or feel guilty, just keep repeating that sentence over and over. Why are we so afraid of hurting someone's feelings when they want us to uproot our lives for their comfort?
Helpful Answer (14)

You tell her the truth, that it's not possible for you to be her caregiver. You love her but 24/7 care giving is not in you, sorry to say. You will be happy to help arrange Assisted Living for her, or in home care if preferred. It may hurt her, but it will hurt you more to agree to something you don't want to do. Let's face it.

I grew up in the crazy house caused by constant fighting between my mother and her mother,,,,,oil and water. My childhood was ruined as a result and I vowed to never take either of my folks in to live with me. I made myself crystal clear about that from the get go, too, because honesty is best. I'm an only child you can imagine the expectations my mother has of me. She'll be 94 in Jan and lives in a Memory Care Assisted Living community and still wants to come live with me. There is no way I could possibly manage her myriad of health issues, wheelchair and moderate dementia, even if I wanted to. So she has her life over there and I have my life with my DH over here. I do A LOT for her, and manage her entire life, but it's from 4 miles away. It saves what's left of my sanity.

Best of luck making a plan and sticking to it.
Helpful Answer (13)

I think it is IMPORTANT to have this conversation, gently but firmly. There has been a huge shift in the norms of social expectations in the last several generations. Think of how new Medicare itself is? I still remember when it came in. Think of how many of us saw grandparents in our own home, there until their deaths (which in my case all came in their 60s; we can now add three decades to that).
In some cases these changes are recognized. My eldest daughter is 58. I am 78. It would hurt me to think she would even consider giving up some of the most quality years of her life, free of job and children raised and through college, to sacrifice those years to me. We have been clear with one another that that is NOT happening. I have saved most of my life to be certain it will not. But there is a whole other group my age, who cared for their own parents, who still see that as the norm, and who expect it happen.
Sit with your Mother, tell her of your fears for her in attempting still to care for her husband in the home. Tell her that several things she has said has led you to believe that she thinks that you will be caring for her in future in your own home. That this will not be happening, but that you will never abandon her, and will attempt to help her find the best living circumstances she can for the latter years of her life.
If she asks you why give her the real answer. WHATEVER that may be. As gently as you can. For me it would be "I am so sorry, but my human limitations are many; I am not as strong or as good as others, or any way you wish to look on it; I simply am not capable of doing that kind of care. "
Don't expect her not to feel anger, grief. Don't expect yourself not to feel guilt. Are these hard facts not worth the grieving, the sadness, the pain, the confusion?
When my bro became ill, in his last tiny home, with Lewy's Dementia, age 83, there was one brief shining second after flying where he lived, when I said to myself "If you were any kind of human being you would give up your partner, your comfortable life in a place you love, and you would move here and take care of this man who was the best and most decent man you will ever know for the rest of his life". As I said. ONE MOMENT. After that, he and I were honest with one another, supported one another, did the best we could the next two years, until his death. Tears? Fears? Anxiety? Dread? Oh, my yes. Part of the price of love and our own human limitations. Be honest. Relieve yourself of this by honesty so that you don't face every single conversation with your Mom with dread.
Helpful Answer (13)
Nancymc Nov 2020
So well said. And yes, customs and expectations have changed ALOT over time. Thanks for sharing your heartfelt experience, AlvaDeer.
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Please set your boundaries now before you get roped in because of guilt. You owe her nothing - especially giving up your own life to be her caretaker. She has options and she best understand this now. My mother has been here by me for 9 yrs now. She forced her way in because I was weak at the time due to my dad having just gone into a nursing home and my beautiful sister dying of a brain tumor after 11 months of diagnosis. So my mother took advantage of my frailty at the time and forced a move near my husband and me. She was 85 yrs old at the time. Now she is 94! You must consider the fact that this could work out to a longevity factor. If I had to do it all over again, I would have insisted she take a year to think about things (and me too), before we arrived at any decisions. My health has suffered terribly and there were times I didn’t think I would be here to continue caring for her. I pulled back, set up boundaries and am fully prepared to send her to a NH or a hospice facility if her health gets to the point where she can’t manage on her own anymore. She is in end-stage chf, but she’s been at a certain end-stage for over a year! I took back control of my life 4 yrs ago. It was 5 years of complete and utter misery before that. (For both of us I might add). We were always like oil and water and we still are. Give her options to make a decision for herself, so she is in control of her own destiny.
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Guess what, you are ahead of the game, because you found this forum BEFORE you made the horrible mistake of taking on being your mother's caregiver out of FOG (fear obligation guilt).

Read for awhile, you will see MANY, many stories from people like me who found this forum way too late, in my case I had already made decisions about caring for my mom that I regret 100%. I moved her next to me when she decided it was time to get rolling with her elder care plan, which was me.

What I should have done when she started in with the manipulation was to stand firm and clearly tell her that I was willing to help her find senior housing, close to me, on her dime. And that's it.

Now she is right next to me, and everything is falling on me.

Do NOT be me.

Your mom is caring for a person with dementia. She FULL WELL knows the toll of this, and when you have the talk with her, mention senior living with a continuum of care "in case" she ever needs dementia care. If she gets angry, push back and say -- "Why would you want that for me?? I want to be your visiting daughter who watches out for you while you get quality professional care".

The sooner you make things clear to her the better.

One more thing- that local brother who seems to irritate you with his seeming indifference, is possibly the one you should talk to, because he seems to have successfully established some boundaries for himself. Being local he probably has seen more than you know and has wisely distanced himself from the BS.

Good luck, and remember you are ahead of the game! Need some incentive? Check out this recent thread (and there are many, many more just like it)
Helpful Answer (12)

Perhaps that's why your brother who lives15 min away doesn't help. More than likely he is the one who has made suggestions to her about getting some help and he's tired of being told no. He just figured that she'll need to suffer for a while till she swallows her pride and accepts help. Just because you are the girl doesn't require you to do what mommy wants. Simply tell her how it's going to be, like it or not. Once you tell her no a few times, eventually she'll get desperate enough to get help. Quit enabling her. Please learn from my mistake and once my friend woke me up to quit trying to please mommy, the better off I was and most importantly, the better off she was as well. Good luck to you!!!
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