My parents are in their late 70's. I moved back home a few years ago after losing my job, intending to stay only a short time until I got back on my feet. But when I got there, my parents' dysfunction took over my life (and became my dysfunction). There are too many deeply rooted psychological issues to go into here, but suffice it to say that I've been reliving all the toxic mental manipulation I endured as a child under their roof. What's worse, they've developed worsening physical problems that are preventing them from adequately caring for themselves and their home.

My father has a chronic autoimmune condition, has extremely poor balance and difficulty walking, falls asleep anywhere anytime (including driving) and takes countless medications. He shouldn't be driving at all, and recently I did limit him to short trips to and from the grocery, but my mother is "helpless" and has always relied on him to do everything for her. Everything that is except all the stuff I do - which includes all the yard work, heavy lifting, house repairs, shopping and preparation for my mother's book club, shopping and cooking for dinner parties for neighbors, driving on long trips, etc.

My mother likely has dementia or Alzheimer's that has recently become very noticeably worse. She has two siblings, a father and a grandfather with Alzheimer's. My mother refuses to be tested for dementia (despite acknowledging that she recognizes some decline in memory) and my father can't be bothered to have a conversation about anything, let alone anything of any significance. He's content to let my mother do or act whatever way she wants as long as his routine isn't interrupted.

I am at my wits end because they are the most stubborn, self-involved, heads-in-the-sand type of people you could imagine. They refuse to complete a will, despite my and my brother's incessant efforts to encourage and/or help them. They refuse to consider moving to a retirement community where they could be transferred to assisted living if need be. These character traits are longstanding, but time is short now. And it won't be long before something happens, or before my mother isn't able to make decisions for herself. My father has bouts of extreme confusion as well. Honestly I wouldn't know where to begin to take care of matters if/when that happens as I don't have the details about their finances.

I have been trying very hard to get them to make their own decisions both for their own sake and for the sake of their children, but they won't. If I push the issue, my father gets angry and threatens me and my mother throws tantrums and tells me to leave. But in the past whenever I have "left", she tantrums, stalks me via phone or email, calls my brother obsessively, etc. good conscience, I feel like it would be irresponsible of me to just leave, knowing that they can't take care of themselves; however, this is killing me. I am not in a financial position to "just leave" because all of my time is eaten up by these issues. My brother thinks I should take any job I can and just leave asap, and who cares if they don't finish the will. He thinks if I don't leave, they'll never admit they need help. I think they'll never admit it anyway, and if I do leave, I'll be stalked and harassed again, or they'll hurt themselves or someone else, and then I'll be the one who has to go back again and pick up the pieces. My brother has a family and lives many hours away and isn't in a position to take them in. I am single and so the burden falls to me. But I am near 40 and feel I've wasted most of my life dealing with their issues.

I don't know what to do. Any advice?

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What if we realize that we aren't here to protect, cover up, do damage control, and be personal slaves to our self centered, and sick parents? What if our true purpose was to come into this family and to help the parents realize the lessons they never faced? Just by taking care of yourself, and finding a way to love from a distance, you make the statement that might start their destinies whirling in a different direction. I believe we are souls and we all have lessons to learn. Being born the slave girl in dysfunctional families is like having to decipher a code from a different planet and then finding your escape route.

I think we all needed love so much as children we believed that if we do as we were told and try to be "a good girl" we'd be loved and fullfilled. But now we see that was just a sick dillusion that grew out of the sick family members. Now we have to struggle with "being a good girl" to ourselves, growing up into a woman who stands alone, stands up to abuse, and says no with confidence. Someone who sets boundaries and finds joy in your life. Someone with faith that your life has a different purpose, an adventure. There are talents to give to the world and there is love for you to find, outside of that house that is your prison.

You can walk out and from a distance help them as they need it. But you must save yourself first. Change yoru handle from upacreek to something like SwimmingStrong! We are all rooting for you!! We are swimming beside you in fact.
Helpful Answer (31)

Leave. Get a job. Live your life. They are not going to change; you can't help them, neither can they help themselves. they've made their bed and are going to have to deal with the consequences down the road. By staying, you are enabling their dysfunction.

You should notify their doctor if you feel they should not be driving. You should outline their symptoms to him/her; you can notify APS that you believe that they will need a wellness check after you leave.

Who is going to take care of you in your old age? Do you have retirement savings? Social Security credits? Sorry to be harsh, but you need to get out.
Helpful Answer (19)

Tough love, from a distance.
Screw the will.

Get a job, move out, get on with your life.

Follow your brother's example.
Helpful Answer (19)


Only you can draw the lines that need to be drawn. Only you can come to the realization that your life is YOURS, and you need to live it the way you want.

Your scenario is so similar to a young mother's: the toddler is throwing a tantrum and the mother is about to give in. Everyone in the store can see it and can see the solution except for the young mother who cannot seem to get a grip. Everyone wants to tell her to let her child reap the consequences instead of giving in and buying the bauble. Everyone wants to tell her that she is only making her own life and the child's worse by giving control to the child. Everyone wants to see the young mother take control of her life, discipline her child (by letting the child experience consequences) and thus set her child on a life course of good decisions. It's always easy for outsiders to see the dysfunction going on, and to know how to handle it.

Everyone who has commented can see what you are not seeing. You are seeing no way out, but, there is one. If you really want out, and I believe you do, you will need some help. Maybe just a little bit: a book or two might give you the insight and strength you need. Maybe much more: therapy. You have taken the first step in realizing the dysfunctions in your family and how you are caught up in them. I think your first step was in coming to these forums, where others know what you're going through. It was my first step. :)

I am not in your exact situation yet, but my mother is controlling me and guilting me, and I am preparing myself to resist the guilt. It won't be easy. She is MASTER at it. As for myself, I'm nearly finished reading "Boundaries", which I recommend. It's all right there. Now I just have to screw up the courage to draw the line. And I will. But only I can do it. I have no siblings. It's just me. Me against Mom. It won't be pretty. And she's has threatened me with her will crap (at least they do have one), but I truly believe she's blowing hot air. We'll see. And, like you, sure, I'd like to remain in the will, but not at the expense of my life. A lot of which I've already wasted on her.

I am amazed at the knowledge of the people on this forum. They know so much more than I do. Please seriously listen to them. I am learning very much from many of these threads, which I read daily.

So please take care of YOU. You are so young.

Helpful Answer (17)

upacreek, get your canoe, get your paddle and start moving away. Your own sanity comes first. Sooner or later one of them will land in the hospital. Just let the emergency responders know what their health issues are when you leave. Live YOUR life and realize they won't change until they are forced to.
Helpful Answer (15)

juddabuddhaboo -

Thank you - what an incredibly helpful way of reframing the situation. I often think I was born into this family to learn my own lesson, but hadn't thought much about the possibility that I was put here to teach my parents one, as well. I believe that I returned to my childhood home to face the issues that I never really resolved and that have always held me back. But I have struggled to let go of the negative beliefs about myself and others, and about my potential, that this dysfunctional family relationship helped to create. It's like I have the knowledge to crack the code but my stubborn ego won't let me.

As I said before, I KNOW they won't change. And I know I MUST. And I know in order to do that, I have to love myself and care for and nurture my Self. But that's so hard. And fighting with my mother about a chain saw is about the most useful distraction you could get if you're looking to avoid hard stuff. So, I know I have work to do :)
Helpful Answer (13)

Thank you everyone for your advice and suggestions. I definitely needed to hear the perspective of some people who aren't in the middle of this mess, and it sounds pretty much like a landslide in the direction of tough love. So, I've decided I'm going to work on my exit strategy, with the focus being on getting myself out and financially independent again and for good.

I'm still mulling over the best approach regarding their health and the will. I did investigate the intestacy laws in their state and it looks like if they both die, all the assets will go to my brother and me. If one dies, $15,000 will go to the spouse plus half of the remaining assets and the rest will go to my brother and me. My brother and I both just want the drama to end so I don't anticipate any fighting between us (although Miasmom1 - I definitely hear your point about your aunt and I am very concerned about feeling overwhelmed by their lack of planning and by this house and all the potential issues with its sale). I am also concerned about what happens if my mom "loses her mind" before she dies as no Power of Attorney has been established. So I think that may be something I need to make a priority.

But other than sorting out these details, you have all helped me see that it's time to cut the cord. Thanks for the wake up call :)
Helpful Answer (13)

You have seen all the posts. Now it's up to you. Forget about the will already. If it's a mess, so be it. Call a charity to empty out the house, and the financials are a few calls from an attorney. Get a job, for crying out loud. Get your butt moving. If not, in 10 years, you will still be in this situation, wondering where your life went. You can do this. Get going.
Helpful Answer (12)

freqflyer -

Those stories about your parents' double standards sound very familiar. With my dad, a bad driver is always a "dumb broad" even if the "stupid lady" is clearly a man. He used to tell me to hurry up and find a rich guy to marry. He's stopped telling me that now because, if I did, he wouldn't have anyone to take care of him.

Obviously intellectually it's easy to poke holes in their beliefs, but the bigger issue is that we have parents who don't respect women, therefore don't respect us, therefore don't value our opinions. I can totally see myself giving a book like that to my parents 10 years ago (and they wouldn't have read it then either). Now I don't even bother. But, I'm still here wasting my time and breath in other ways. Hopefully we can both find people (in career and relationships) who respect and appreciate our sincerity and help in spite of that rejection from our parents.
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I think there ought to be a movie about ElderParent Zombies or something! How they eat their children alive before they die.

I noticed my sense of humor has gone south!
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