My mother is being difficult about her upcoming surgery. Any suggestions?

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Hello, tonight my senior mother who recently turned 80 years old--but still lives alone and is somewhat independent--was told by her doctor that she will be receiving hip surgery in February. While we knew that this day would be coming, I asked her to ask the doctor if doing the surgery in the middle of the winter will be the best thing to do with snow and ice most likely being on the ground. This is among other things like my working and going to school and it would work better, especially because my FMLA coverage would increase on the anniversary of my job start date in May. So these two reasons are why I think she should get the surgery done when the weather is better and when my coverage kicks in so I can be off if I need to. She said she will be receiving help other than me, but I still want to be realistic and prepared. What's perplexing is she keeps saying that this is not about me. While I know she has narcissistic tendencies, it still puzzles me how she can keep saying that. I have been there for her over the years even though she is hard to talk to all of the time. With my other two sisters: one lives out of town and likes to be on the go a lot (also with narcissistic tendencies that doesn't help because she jumps and accuses without talking things out like my mother) and the other lives right here in town and never, ever comes around. I've been there for her and my grandmother (my deceased father's stepmother) for most of the holidays and regular days but I am not always there because of my own life and frankly because of my mother being hard to get along with. Yet I can say I have done things to try to make them happy, even though I receive a lot of negative comments, especially from my mother. She can be very competitive even with her own children. So now, I was even considering taking off a semester from school along with using the FMLA with the work leave, but with her keeping on saying this is not about me and being derogatory instead of discussing the issue at hand, I don't know if I want to even do that, specifically with school. For one, I'm currently an A student and two, I'm already 52 years old and obviously don't have the time to stop going, where I'm picking back up to finish my B.A. degree after years of being away. I'm even thinking about her in doing that because then I will be getting paid well and it can help with her finances. So the question is what do I do about her upcoming surgery and just her in general? To point out, I don't expect her to do it my way as she puts it. I told her I just want her to think things through in considering everything and the best possible course of action. Thanks for any advice; I have been reading the stories here and I love this site that gives great online support.

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I think what you do about the upcoming surgery is believe her and thank her. "Oh, Mom, I am so glad you have arranged for other help! I sure wish you the best for your recovery." Nothing more "about you." (Mother is being ridiculous, but don't give her any ammunition.) If her other help doesn't work out and she calls on you, sorry you won't be able to take off school and work on such short notice.

I think what you can do about her in general is get on with your life. Do what you need to do for your own reasons. You are working toward a higher salary so that you can help her with her finances? What? You don't expect to be retired someday yourself? You are certain you won't have expensive illnesses yourself in the future? What does she need financial help with?

I think you can allow and encourage your mother to maintain her independence as long as she possibly can.

Most people who schedule a hip replacement are in considerable pain, or have severe mobility issues, or both. Now Mom has an opportunity to feel better and move better, starting in a few weeks. But you suggest she should put that off for a few months. While you certainly mean well, you can surely see that this might not be perceived as being in her best interest.

Let her make her own decisions, support her in them, and keep doing what is good for you.
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Cee Cee, I want to second what Surprise is saying. You need to follow up on the boundaries, not just talk about them.

If you call your mom and the phone is busy, it's NOT your job to try to figure out why. She went to the hospital, was offered aftercare and chose not to have it. That's HER bad choice. Not your job to fix it.

Her apartment, her door, HER PROBLEM! Not yours.
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When an older woman in my extended family had hip replacement her surgeon would not schedule the OR until she proved to him she had arranged convalescent care in an AL facility, while everyone was annoyed about that I wish all doctors were so proactive in foreseeing problems beyond the actual operation. Fortunately in the USA you have the option of rehab paid for by medicare, correct? Hopefully she sails through the surgery and will manage well after that with the supports she already has in place, but it wouldn't hurt to keep the number of local care agencies handy.
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When mother needed a hip repair aged 99, she changed her mind from having it done locally (to her, I am 5 hrs drive away) to having it done in another city even further away from me. She made arrangements for her own transportation, and rehab for afterwards was set up. I had said would come down when she had planned for it locally, but couldn't when she chose to have it even further away. Her reason for the change was she could have it sooner. So be it. It went well without me around. I would just have been another body anyway. When she discharged herself from rehab before she was ready, I was not available then either. She managed without me. Go along with your mum's plans, and your own plans. My mother is hard to get along with too, and I have learned that I need to keep firm boundaries, and that I will never please her. Don't even try! Good for you going back to school. I wish you success. Use your money for your own old age.
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I didn't say you shouldn't respond. If Mom has an emergency and you know about it, you'll certainly call 911 or the appropriate emergency service. This is same as you would do if you were in another state and she called you, or if you lived next door. And what anybody else would do if they knew about the emergency and you were recovering from being hit by a bus. And you can certainly decide on a case-by-case basis whether you want to help out in a true emergency. Not every call from your mother is an emergency. Arranging your life on the expectation that you'll have to handle lots of emergencies doesn't sound reasonable to me.

I got a call from my mom's alert system, saying she had fallen, she said she couldn't get up, but was not bleeding or otherwise injured. I went immediately, found the building maintenance guy, he unlocked her door then had to get a bolt cutter to open the chain, then in we went. Because she didn't think she could move even with my help, I called 911 and went with her to the emergency room. I am definitely NOT opposed to responding to emergencies! If I couldn't have I would have called 911 and then also tried to get a hold of the building guy with a key. And if I'd been out of town, or taking a class, or teaching a class, or recovering from a bus accident, the alert system would have called the next person on the list or 911.

You seem to be trying to plan your life around all the what-ifs. What if she refuses rehab, what if her boyfriend leaves early, what if she goes outside and it's icy? And all the what-ifs seem to be the worst case scenario. Thinking ahead is good. Catastrophying the future is not really productive or healthy.
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Thanks for the update, Ceecee. You describe a very complex situation that is very stressful. But you know what? It doesn't have to be that complex. Simplify, so you can continue with your schooling and get on with your life.

Could you have simply called the caretaker or super or maintenance person at your mother's apartment, explain the situation, and ask to have the door repaired? Was it really necessary for you to take off work and go there personally? This is just a small example of what I mean by simplifying.

Recognize that you cannot control your sister or your grandmother. Your sister can change jobs, stay where she is, take FMLA, take care of mother, or ignore all of you. Her choice. Extricate yourself from her decision process. She'll do what she's going to do. You need to decide what YOU are going to do, and stick to it. Let others know your decisions. "Gramma, mother says she will get some in-home help when she comes home, and she doesn't want me there. I am going to respect her decision. I will be working and going to school during her recovery."

This situation has gotten way too complex. Work to make it simpler.
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Ceecee, it is OK to decide on postponing school or going to plan B for your own reasons. Really. It doesn't have to be related to your mother or your sisters or caregiving. You can decide that the program is not what you expected and you need some time to reconsider how to proceed. And you don't have to justify your reason to anybody.

Maybe you can use some of the time that would have been spent on school to get some counselling. You seem very emotionally enmeshed with your mother, and maybe some therapy would help you establish a healthier relationship.
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CeeCee, this is what you ask: "I'm wondering what part that posters don't understand that I am being direct, as that is how I am. What part are some people seeing that seems wrong?"

Your directness is 100% fine! It's your follow through. It's not up to you to convince people that you are saying Truth. It's only up to you to change your own behavior - you can't do anything about anyone else. So you say, as you already have, "I'm not going to be able to help you in Feb, so I'm glad you've made other plans." You leave it at that.

You don't worry about what sister or aunt or Mom are going to do when mom has her fall, accident, or needs 24-hour care. When - not if, as you know - they call you, you say, "I'm really sorry to hear that. Do keep me informed. I won't be able to come help as I told mom back in Dec when we talked about this being a bad time for me and I suggested another time. In fact, I have to go now. Bye!"

Call that hard-hearted, but that's where the real boundary setting lies. With how you respond to those calls later, not now. Stop arguing. "Let your no be no and your yes be yes." Tell them the truth now (you have) and then follow through on that being truth (you won't have time when it happens). You don't have to argue them into believing you. Your actions will speak louder than any words you can say and will have a greater effect going forward.

You know how you say your sister is missing in action? She may have done the same thing by saying she would not do something, and your mom and other family members ignored what she said and guilted her into it. Now you all know that she WILL NOT help and you believe that about her because of her actions. She may have been trying to say "NO" for years until she put her shoulder into it! She may be narcissistic, but she has done something right not to get dragged into the drama with tending Mama.

That's the view from my perch! Bless you - follow through was the hard part for me too. The book my therapist had me read first was Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend, and they talk about speaking and acting on those words too.
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Ceeceeneedsme,

Sweetie, your screen name says it all.
You need to be needed.

That's why you're willing to leave school, rush to all the emergencies and are "planning ahead" because you want to be available (hoping to be needed).

There are therapists that can help you with this BUT you have to be willing to see yourself for who you are. Denial is a strong emotion.

Until then, you'll still be "putting out fires " until you decide to change.
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I'd like to point out that many colleges allow free talk therapy appointments with their mental health counselors. I've told my kids that they should take advantage of it while they are enrolled in classes so they can go in and get new strategies to handle crazy old women like their mom (me!). They snicker, go, and later thank me for pushing them into it.

If you think of it as taking lessons in how to handle difficult people, you may be less disappointed in the counselor.
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