How does an only child caring for their aging parent get help?

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I am an only child who is divorced and raising three children on my own. My eldest (aged 12) is disabled - legally-blind and autistic. My mom has no life outside her home other than attending mass once a week, going shopping and tending to her yard. We live in the same neighborhood, so I am able to help her with what she needs help with and she watches my children on Friday nights, so I get a night off since my children's dad wants less and less to do with them. I love my mother even though we have never been close, and lately, she has begun to make my life a living HELL. Last night, while I was attending an all high school reunion, she got her self completely drunk, insulted my neighbors, demanded that my children get in their own home and stay there while I was gone, and then verbally abused me when I spoke up and told her that I am the parent...not her. She constantly reminds me of anything I have done that hasn't met her expectations. We are struggling financially, because I am unemployed, but instead of offering help, she continues to fill her house with meaningless material "crap" just to have it...a big screen TV she never watches, a high-tech cell phone she never uses, tons of new clothing she doesn't need and an endless array of toys for my children that they lose interest in and eventually throw in the heap with the rest. Last Mother's day I went out of my way to find a special card, her favorite shampoo and other little things I know she likes, and when she realized I had done this she went out a bought me the cheapest box of chocolates she could find and gave them to me stating how she refused to buy the good ones because they were too expensive. My mom's family is all overseas (she came to America to marry my dad) and when he died suddenly, I did everything for her...took care of all of the financial things that need to be done and got her every single benefit that I could from his being deceased. When we were going over my dad's investments and making a plan on how they should be handled, she told her account advisor that she had no need for long-term care insurance since I was going to care for her in her old age. So here I am. I bought a house in the same neighborhood for my mom's sake and now that we're close to facing foreclosure, she acts as if it is no concern to her. She insists that I will not find the economic conditions any better than where we currently live, so there is no use in trying to sell my house, If I let it go back to the bank, that will just ruin my credit, blah, blah, blah. Every time I get a night out to have adult interaction, she finds some way to throw a wrench into my plans so I end up coming home to care for my children. She has stopped just short of accusing me of stealing from her bank accounts, and has complained that I have my name on it as the sole surviving family member. She says that it should be illegal for me to have access to finances and she doesn't understand why I have to have my name on her accounts. Honestly, I've had as much as I can take of this behavior and wish I lived on the opposite side of the country from my mom. I feel like a nobody with no emotional support, yet here is where I stay, feeling an obligation as an only child to take care of my surviving parent.

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As a single mother you definitely have your hands full. It's completely understandable that you want to help your mother, but clearly she is making that almost impossible for you. It's unclear whether she is testing you and your willingness to help her. What kind of care does she need? It sounds like she is much better off financially than you are and her unwillingness to help you out as you struggle with your children - her grandchildren makes no sense. But apparently that is the hand you have been dealt. It's time for you to take some distance from her. It's time for you to set yourself on a path to getting very clear about what you will and will not do for her vs. what you can and cannot do. Very different concepts here. NO ONE and I mean, NO ONE should take abuse from anyone, let alone a mother. You cannot continue to put yourself and your children in an abusive situation. As much as I advocate for adult children to help care for a parent - I always draw the line at abuse. It's time to change the scenario you find yourself in. Begin today. Take action. Start by focusing on the needs of your children and yourself and start writing down exactly what action steps you need to implement to change your financial and emotional situation. You need to be very pragmatic when you do this. Approach your current situation like a business and get very clear about what you MUST do. In my opinion, which is only my opinion, you MUST make some changes. All you're getting from taking abuse from your mother is a lower self-image. It's wrong. It's not fair and it's not loving and kind. Knowing that most interactions with your mother are going to turn out in a disappointing way, does nothing to improve your life or the lives of your children. If your mother won't help you with your finances...then you have to distance yourself. Her behavior is clouding your judgement. Often we need to shake things up in order for bad behavior to change. Don't let her assume that you are going to continue to do "things" for her in exchange for abuse. You have value. You have worth and your personal self esteem is important. Your children need to see you set the example of what you will and will not accept.
All this being said, if your mother does have dementia, then we're talking about a whole other issue. But you say, she doesn't. I would definitely remove myself from her bank accounts because you are setting yourself up for more accusations. No one needs this. Caring for a loved one is an act of kindness. It doesn't sound like she is thinking of it in this manner. You are not meant to become an indentured servant during the process. If you need more support...let me know. Find your voice. Find your internal strength. Do something differently.
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Personally, I think you do have a moral obligation to see to it that an elderly parent is taken care of.

You do not have an obligation to accept abuse, blackmail, or undermining of your parental authority.

If your mother has dementia, then much of her behavior is beyond her control, and that alters how you approach it, but in any case you do not need to accept abuse. Is there any indication that Mom might have dementia? What kind of help/care are you providing for her now?

I do not understand why your mother is not willing to help you financially, at least to the extent of paying you for the services you provide. I would certainly do that in her situation. But she isn't willing to, so you might as well accept that and think of other ways to avoid foreclosure. The job market may be picking up a bit -- have you tried finding a job lately? Are there after-school activity options for your children so they are supervised while you work? Have you looked into any relief available to homeowners facing foreclosure?

I can see that having the kids spend time with their grandmother one evening a week should be a win-win. Good bonding opportunity for kids and Gram, and a night out for you. Obviously this is not working out for you. Find a way to have your adult interactions without depending on Gram, who has unfortunately proved undependable.

Do you have durable power of attorney for your mother? If she is competent and doesn't want your name on her accounts, why not take it off? (If she is legally imcompetent, that is a different issue, but you haven't indicated that is the case.)

You have your hands more than full as a single mother. I my opinion, your obligation to see that Mother is cared for can be fulfilled by arranging the type of help she needs. If she isn't willing to pay for it done, that is not your responsibility.

Pretend you do live on the oppostie side of the country. How would you handle your mortgage situation? How would you arrange for a night out? I don't think you can count on Mom, sad as that is. Accepting the reality can help you get moving to do what needs to be done on your own behalf.

Your mother needs to understand that you are not at her beck and call and that you will not put up with verbal abuse.

Good luck!
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Is sounds like you are on the right track. It is sad, but distancing yourself at this point may be the best thing to do in the long run.

Now that you know how it goes with your mother, perhaps moving closer to the specialty doctors your child needs and to a larger job market would be a good thing. If/when Mom needs more care she can pay for it. If she needs assisted living she may be sorry that she didn't take out long term care insurance, but that is not your problem. Your first obligation now is to your children, and to giving them a calm, sane mother.

Good luck!
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Thanks for your reply, Jeanne! This is a tough situation and I’m still not sure what the future holds for us.

I do not think my mother has dementia yet. She’s just becoming more forgetful and crabby as she ages. Right now I am running errands in town for her and helping balance her checking and savings accounts since she never had to do this before my dad passed away. She’s still pretty physically active as well. I also cut and style her hair yet she refuses to pay me what I pay to have mine done. Whenever she provides meals for my children, she expects me to replace the items she uses as the same value (dollar store) and become upset when I come back with anything different.

I have gone through the Home Loan Modification program with my bank, and they have agreed to reduce my mortgage payment by $85 a month, which really does not help much at all, but it is better than foreclosure. I have sent out countless resumes and have gotten little response.

I am educated (I hold a Bachelor’s Degree) and the employers here want to pay minimum wage whenever possible, so I find that I am often over-qualified. When I do get interviews, I don’t get the jobs I think primarily because I need a very flexible schedule to meet the medical needs of my son. Most of his specialty doctors are located 250+ miles away and whenever we travel for his care, I have to take whatever appointments are available.

We are so rural here than I cannot even find someone willing to go through training for respite care for my son, which would be paid for through the state. And if I did find a full-time job, there is not any child care available with openings for three children, let alone with qualifications to take care of my son with his sensory issues. He needs one-on-one care to avoid the self-stimulating behavior that is typical with autistic children.

I do not have durable power of attorney for my mother, so your suggestion for taking my name off her accounts may be a good one. I hadn’t thought of that and it might relieve some of the pressure she feel from my being on them and her fears of my being to close to her assets.

I was doing exactly what you suggested the other night for my HS reunion. I was pretending I lived on the opposite side of the country. I was just a mile down the road when Mom went a little “crazy” and insulted my neighbors and me, saying I was a terrible mother to leave my children home for a few hours. They had gone to my neighbors to watch movies with their children and that is when my mother called them, insulted them, and then told my children to get their “royal assholes home.”

Yesterday when she continued to hang up on us and not take our calls, I decided to distance myself and children from her as much as possible. I will no longer ask her for any child care, which is a loss to both her and my children, and when she wants me to do something for her I will now present her with a bill.
Thanks for all your suggestions. They leave me feeling a little less alone in all of this.
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Amen! And this has been my goal over the last few months...expanding my job search to that area where my son's doctors are. You made my day with your response. Thanks again.
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Thank you, thank you, thank you, Cindy! These are all things I need to hear in my attempt to completely, "cut the cord."
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Do you consider home health agency?
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Joanna24, a home health agency for my mom? She not at the point where she needs any help and is such a private person that she wouldn't let anyone in her home. Sad, but true.
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