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My mother has dementia. She lives with her husband in an assisted-living facility. She is safe, well-fed, provided with transportation to medical appointments and shopping, and has everything she needs. However, she is constantly on my sister and my adult daughter to do things for her that are just plain nonsense. They, however, come running, at her beck and call, then complain how much of their time she uses up and how frustrated they are with her. It doesn't need to be this way and I'm getting sick of hearing the complaining. My sister and my daughter need to realize they can say "No" once in a while, especially when our mother is only making up excuses to get one of the girls to come and pick her up and take her out. As with many dementia patients, my mother is not pleasant to be around, so wouldn't these two girls try to find ways to keep their contact with her to a minimum? Like make sure her fridge and cupboards are always stocked with the foods she and her husband want to have in the house. That's the number one thing our mother calls the girls for. To go to the store and get her milk, or bread, or ice cream, or smokes. And these girls go running, almost every day! Why on earth would they not buy her a carton of smokes instead of only a pack? Why not separate a loaf of bread into two or three separate freezer bags so she isn't throwing out half a loaf of dry or moldy bread? Why not buy 2 litres of milk instead of one which is gone in three days. Just turn up the fridge -- 2 litres of milk will keep for two weeks! I think there a lot of things these two girls can be doing to make their own lives easier where my mother is concerned, but they seem to like to complain so maybe they don't want to make it easier for themselves. I live too far away to be a hands-on caregiver for my Mom but I try to help by offering solutions to problems. However, the absolutely viable solutions I offer are never considered -- never put into action. Like I said, it seems people would rather complain than fix the problem. I'm sick of it.

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There is no definitive answer or solution to this situation. It has gone from bad to worse and of course, I'm the bad guy. It's okay though, I feel no resentment and certainly no guilt. Before my sister actually, finally, moved them into the facility, I had quit my job and moved right into the house with my mother and her husband to care for them 24/7. It was a disastrous move on my part and after only 6 weeks I was told to leave. The agreement had been for me to stay with them for 3 months to help them get ready for the move into assisted living, but they got it in their heads I should stay and care for them indefinitely. When I told them I could not possibly do that, mainly because of their incessant bickering and arguing with each other that was driving me crazy, I was ordered to "pack and leave". I complied and was subsequently judged by certain family members to be a monster. How could I just up and leave them? It was, and remains, a ridiculous situation that I have ultimately distanced myself from.
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Your original question was "How can I tell my family they are doing too much for our Mother?"
Regardless of their motivation or whether what they are doing is unnecessary and foolish, there is no way that you, as the distant relative, can tell them that without getting yourself into trouble. It sounds as though you have already stated your case since you say "My sister is offended at being called a martyr". You can't change her reaction to your mother's demands, but you can refuse to listen to her complaints about it. You might ask if there is anything concrete you can do to help ease her burden, but if all she wants is someone to dump on you can tell her "yes, mother is a pain, but you already know what I think about that" and change the subject. I have a sister who dumps on me about her work or marital problems and sometimes I will listen, but sometimes I just have to tell her I have heard enough, it can take me hours to decompress after her calls.
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Terri, maybe it is time for your sister to get back into the workforce. Have her read this......

Here are some things to think about if one is trying to decide whether to quit work to care for an aging parent.... on average if a working person quits work he/she will lose over the years between $285,000 and $325,000 which includes not only loss of salary over those years... it also includes the net worth loss of the health insurance coverage.... loss of money being put into Social Security/Medicare..... loss of other benefits such as matching 401(k).... profit sharing.... workman's comp insurance.... company sponsored life insurance.... vacation pay, sick pay.... tuition assistance, etc. [source: in part Reuters 5/30/12]

Is getting a carton of milk and a pack of cigarettes worth this?
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Terri, I understand them. Some parents haven't been able to put down the boss role. If there is a vulnerable child, the parent will call them. If the adult child says no, the parent says that she HAS to have something and can't go get it themselves because something hurts so bad. If that doesn't work, there is either the "you owe me" or "you don't care about anyone but yourself" to make the child feel like the lowest form of life walking on earth. The adult child is left with the decision if they want to cut ties with the parent forever or do they want to go get the milk. I bet this is what is going on with your mother and siblings. The only way they will be able to stop it is to make themselves less vulnerable, either through being less available or saying a firm no. It will be very hard.
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You're absolutely right -- there is a small bus to take her to Walmart but she calls up my sister instead. She uses her poor mobility as an excuse but, believe me, she has an excuse for everything. They moved into the facility 7 or 8 months ago and my mother used the bus that whole time. Then my sister decided to quit her job and move closer to my Mom, and of course, my mom hasn't used the bus since. My sister is offended at being called a martyr -- she says she is only a concerned and caring daughter. That's true enough, but running herself ragged is not a gesture of caring -- it's a sense of duty and so unnecessary.
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Terri, you are right, get two cartons of milks instead of one, and a carton of cigarettes instead of just packs. Since your Mom probably goes out with the girls, she only get the very minimum, thus it gives her a really good excuse to call them over and over.

My Dad lived in "Independent Living", and I kept wondering who came up with that term "independent" as I was the one running here and there for him. Eventually he got his groceries once every two weeks, he was well stocked up in case there was a huge blizzard and couldn't get out, especially with toilet paper. Dad did get one meal in the main facility dining room.

Time to set boundaries, only one afternoon or weekend afternoon or morning a week. Almost all Assisted Living facilities have a small bus that will take the residents to a local grocery store, to Walmart, to the Dollar Store, etc. The trips are usually free, and should be on the facility calendar. Have your sister and daughter check on that.
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I don't know, I think guilt has its place and serves a purpose but primarily for when someone has done something wrong. You're doing nothing wrong - no guilt. That's how I felt in dealing with my mother. I certainly felt bad for her but I've never felt guilty as every choice, action and decision I made was in moms best interest. When my mom wanted something done that wasn't necessary or even plain silly I'd tell her I'd do it on my next visit - then sometimes I'd do it - sometimes I wouldn't. When I wouldn't, my mom would call my brother and complain about me and then ask him to do it. Instead of doing it, brother would call me and try to bully me into doing it - not like he could be bothered to race over to moms and do it himself. It took a while but I learned to just tell brother "no" and to stop bulling me. Then I'd tell him he was free to take care of whatever it was himself - which he rarely did. If it were me I'd tell sister and daughter that they are adults making their own choices and you just don't want to hear them complain about it anymore. Period. You didn't mention how long this has been going on - or I missed it - but I'm betting your mom will burn her bridges with her personal minions and it will all come to a conclusion. Eventually.
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I think it's more martyrdom. "Look how I do everything for Mom, look at the sacrifices I make..." it's definitely martyrdom. Maybe guilt too -- after all they were the ones who moved my mother (and her husband) out of their house into a tiny apartment which my mother hates and reminds us of frequently. I just don't get the guilt thing because I don't feel it. Guilt is a useless emotion that leads only to everyone's despair!
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They are running on Guilt Mode. Apparently your mom is very good at playing the guilt card and they pick it up. When I hear those kind of complaints I twist the knife and say "Behold your future" or "C'est la vie". In one ear, out the other.
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