I need to save myself - what needs to get done before I move on?

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I posted here last July for the first time because I was struggling with how to deal with the needs of my dysfunctional family. I'm sure many of you dealing with these kinds of situations will not be surprised to know that little has changed. I'm here now because the situation really has reached its climax for me - either things change, or I have to find a way to leave ASAP.

Quick summary - both parents in late 70s, father has an autoimmune condition which causes problems with balance and walking and his "mind has started to go" (though he will never get tested). He has started to repeatedly fall for scams (nearly wired $500 to a scammer, got his computer hacked by giving access to someone over the phone, has gotten conned into giving ride to random person who then hit him up for money). You've never met someone in your life who has his head buried so deep in the sand - refuses to deal with reality. If anyone can give him a run for his money in that regard, it's my mother. After YEARS of trying, finally got her in to get tested and confirmed she has mild-moderate Alzheimer's. She's also as personality disordered as they come. Narcissistic, histrionic, obsessive compulsive, the consummate martyr and eternal victim. She's disgustingly emotionally manipulative and has made my life a nightmare. And my father has made it his life's work to enable her. My role is black sheep, scapegoat, and punching bag...oh, and the "adult".

About 4.5 years ago I moved "home" to get back on my feet after losing my job. What ended up happening is that I've gotten sucked into the black hole that my parents are. I've totally lost myself. I suffer from chronic depression and anxiety, and now add to that a level of anger that is absolutely killing me. I'm broke. I have no support from family, no friends nearby and those who were my friends have dropped off the map. And still I know, it can always get worse. That's what I'm trying to prevent right now. I really feel it's now or never.

Here's the deal. My mother's lifelong love and obsession and dysfunction is money. But the disease is catching up with her now and in the last 6 months she has started to forget to pay bills. Their cell phones were almost turned off the other day because she hadn't paid the bill since January. Every day is Groundhog Day, with her manipulating me into her psychodrama because she can't remember how to long into an account, doesn't know passwords, etc. I am so furious I refuse to continue like this. So I have put my foot down and said it is time for her to sign the POA and let me pay the bills. But she persists in her old ways and makes progress impossible. And my father will acknowledge privately to me I'm right, then five minutes later he'll be threatening to hit me and telling me to back off and leave him alone. They have no will, no medical advanced directive/POA, refuse to make arrangements to move to a community where they can transition to assisted living (which are at a minimum a year's wait to even get into). In my efforts to try to get them to turn over the bills, it has also become patently clear that they don't know what all their bills, assets, investments and insurance policies are. They don't know what they're for, can't find previous statements...it's appalling.

So I'd like to consider a hypothetical. What would happen if I left and left them to flounder? (Now, I'm not in a financial position to do this immediately, but if this is the best option, then I know I need to get creative and try to work something out). What happens when my mom's Alzheimer's worsens, her credit goes down the tubes, they haven't arranged for any care and there's no designated POA? Does this responsibility ultimately always come back to the children anyway? Because my fear has been that if I don't deal with this now, I'm going to have to take them to court later to get guardianship and I can't even stomach the thought. If all roads lead back to me, then I would rather push through now and figure out a way to get the POA signed at least.

Bottom line is, I need to save myself from this sinking ship. But once I've jumped ship, I don't want to still be roped to it. So can I leave them to wallow in their own mess, or do I need to get the POA and get them to commit to alternative living arrangements before I go if I really want to be free(er) of this and move on?

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Save yourself. Even if you were to do what's best for them, they will be unhappy. I would not lift another finger. Save money, move out, get therapy and don't look back. The will become wards of the state and the state will provide for them.
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You have a very nice fantasy of what you want for your parents - what everyone would want - but it does not look like it is going to happen. If family does not step forward, the state takes over and looks after them. Frankly I think you need to put the oxygen mask on yourself first, and get independent financially, and I would think for your own sanity, get your own place. I think your brother has the right idea. We see many cases here where it has to get worse before it gets better because stubborn, mentally ill/demented parents will not listen to sound advice. My mother has borderline personality disorder so I know what that is like. You do not have to answer phone calls no matter how many a day. Your choice, not an easy one always, but still your choice. Being dependent on your parents for financial support puts you in a very bad position.

You gave an ultimatum. No need to argue - just stick to it if you think it is the best thing. You could contact your local agency on aging for ideas and also APS for an evaluation of your parent's ability to live alone. You can tell them (APS) that you are unable to give your parents the care they need and move out into a shelter and get your own life back on track. Realise it is going to get worse as they decline. Good luck and blessings.
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If they are not paying the bills and will not let you help.. let the non essential ones get shut off.. cell phone, cable, everything but mortgage related things like electric/insurance. Then when the get PO;d.. tell them you offered and they refused. If they want it back,, they sign the dang papers! It may get boring with no TV, Phone, computer.. but you tried and they may need this wake up call.
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Be very careful about adding your name to others accounts. It can make you responsible for debts you have yet to discover.
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up - as you are seeing, just because you are being reasonable, organized and and honest about money does not mean your mother will be any different. I very much doubt that she is capable of being reasonable, so regardless of what you do she is going to behave the same as she has been. I believe that with the degree of dysfunction between your two parents a 3rd party, non family would be the best choice. The trouble is that a POA is for your parents to appoint - if they are competent - not for you to decide. And it does not sound like that is what they want.The alternative is for them to continue until they are deemed incompetent and then the state can take over. If you are POA you will not extract yourself from the dysfunction - believe me, I know.

Yes, you have to look after yourself. Leaving them at this stage to experience the consequences of their choices is not abandoning them. It may be the only way help can be brought in. Contact APS and the agency on aging and find out what is possible. Get a job and get yourself set up as they are going down in flames and you don't want to go down with them. Keep in contact with them and agencies and be the family "go to" person, but at a distance for now. Have all your efforts to date helped them? Has being there helped you? Think about it!
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I should add that being dependent on your parents for financial support is not good. Being paid by them for your services is good.
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If you are planning to stay and care for the parents you do have to take over complete control of the finances. It either has to be you or someone. Yes she is going to acuse you, have hysterics, threaten even call the police so it is essential that you keep imaculate records, even down to the grocery store receipts so that you can prove you really did spend that $100 on food. Is she still driving? sounds as though that might need to be the next thing to stop. As you are so quickly learning you have chosen a very rough path to follow so try and plan ahead to line up all the help you can get. You have signed up for quite a few years of this as others will tell you. Take care of your health which means regular Dr visits and get anything done that you may have been postponing because there will come a time when you can not leave them home alone. see an elder care lawyer and have him draw up a legal agreement to cover any eventuality and the POA documents both health and financial and have them both make living wills. This won't be easy and may need several trips to the lawyer. Make the first one alone so you can clearly explain the situation and what your expectations are. No one likes to give up control and Mom sounds especially unreasonable but if you are going to do this do it right or bail out now.
If you can think of them as some kind of clients rather than your parents it may be helpful. if you have a close friend to confide in he/she will help you find a reasonable path. if you don't have anyone in your life create an imaginary one and when frustration overwhelms as this friend what they would do ot write your questions down. Come here often there are plenty of people at different stages of the same journey who may wish they had started out differently.
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Thanks so much @emjo23. It's taken me a long time but I see that it's not that my efforts aren't good enough - it's that no amount of help will ever change them. And I see first hand that the way they behave privately with me is atrocious but they do work hard to save face with professionals. So I think a 3rd party POA would ultimately be a better choice for them. You're right though - it's their choice. So I think my priority right now will be to distance myself as much as possible, work on getting my own finances and career together, while reiterating to them what their options are. If I can't change them, I can at least change myself. I really don't want to play this dysfunctional role any more, and I don't want to enable them to keep playing either.
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upacreek, I was in your position. I made my mother sign the papers reluctantly and she would only sign the one on do not resuscitate (She 's planning on living forever) but would not do the POA-Financial or Medical it but I filled the out for her. And so when the time came and she needed the help to get into an assisted living home I was all she had for help and she was in the ICU. So I just got the Notary to come into the hospital when she was back in real live world and had her sign them to get her out of the hospital because she didn't want to stay there. Bad timing but she at least knew what they papers were because she had seen them before (like every year for 6 years) until it was evident that she was not going to go be able to live on her own. I took care of everything for her. I took care of all the paperwork got her into an Assisted Living center, Medicaid, Physical therapy doctors appointments. By myself. Did I get a thank you from the relatives her sisters and brother or any one no. But I sure got a lot of criticism from all of them after she was settled and she was there. I put her there and took away everything from her. And I've been paying for it ever since I got her there. To do over again at this point. I wish I could have been 5 minutes faster at getting to her apartment and being able to talk to the Emergency Room doctor before the intubated her. If I had the chance I would have given them the document that she signed and stated she did not want any of that done. And it would be over. I know that she was not ready to leave this world yet. But I wish I could have. It would have alleviated the hell I have been through after getting her into Assisted living from them. So I saved her, ruined my health, lost a lot of time and sanity, relationship with my husband, and lost relationships with my relatives, killed my car, gained a dog I hate, more money I have to pay out for her care because believe me Medicaid does not cover it. And she has never been appreciative about any of it. She is just as nasty to me now as ever. She calls me everyday and asks me what day of the week it is. what time it is, do we go to the doctor today. She was using the computer and everyday I would get the calls about how do I do this and I can't make it work. Forgot my password, etc. where is word at. So I said no to a computer in the new place (my brother actually agreed with me on that thought anyway) but they went out and got her one anyway after I said I would not be her assistant and they could troubleshoot her problems from across the country. Yesterday it was can you hook me up to the network so I can use it? Can you show me how? I said no call and talk to them how to work it. I have a degree in IT and have been doing this for 25 years so of course everyone has previously called me for assistance on their computers. For the first time in 5 years while she was there she was actually going out and talking to the table mates and others in the complex. She was walking around and actually finally looking better than before (probably because they made her quit drinking) because of new medicines she is on. I think that right there has been the life saver. Now after the doctors appointment yesterday she thinks she is perfectly healthy and fine and there was no problem with her at all, the doctors and the hospital made it up. Yet she couldn't tell me where we were or what we had just done that day. The dementia is getting worse and there is nothing I can do about it. But she can rip me up one side and down the other and think it is okay. But it is not. I'm going to save myself while I have a chance and I will pay her Assisted living payments each month and other payments. As long as she doesn't take any money out of the account and she has just enough for the assisted living payment. If she starts taking it out of the account then doesn't have enough to pay the assisted living. She is my brother or my aunts and uncles problem not mine. My best advice, save yourself. If she and your dad have treated you that badly and will not come up with a caretaker agreement plan to pay you for their care. Get out and get out fast.
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My father is an alcoholic and a narcissist. My mother was the enabler but she took very good care of me and my brothers growing up. I still live with them but I had to literally distance myself from my dad within the home. I ended up getting Conservatorship over my mother but I always say that if my dad needs it someday, it's not gonna be me. My advice: get out.
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