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One of the hardest parts of caregiving for me is that I don't mentally connect with my mother. I don't know how much is me and how much is her, but I've never been able to get a relationship going with her. Sometimes I think that maybe I'm going to spend time and talk with her or maybe watch some TV together. It never works out that way. Pretty soon I pull away and go about my tasks. She doesn't seem to want me around and is not very nice to talk to.

Sometimes she'll be doing things and I ask her if she wants some help. She says no. She doesn't want anyone to touch her when she walks. If I get too close to her, she stops moving and says I'm in the way. She doesn't see well, so likes to have a big area around her walker to navigate.

I have a feeling that most of this isn't my fault. It does make caregiving empty feeling, though. Mostly I feel like a visitor in the house that does all the tasks of keeping the house together. I don't feel like a daughter. I think caregiving would be a lot more rewarding if I could find a way to connect with my mother.

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This is a fascinating question, and the responses so far have been very interesting too. I also have a very limited relationship with my mother, but not for the reasons others here describe. Am I the only one here for whom caregiving itself drove the wedge in what was once a friendly, caring relationship?

I moved down to Florida when my mother started needing help. I thought she should have a family member close by in case of an emergency (my two sisters were two hours away from Mom but there had never been a close relationship with either one) and I wanted to take over those household tasks that were unsafe for her with her balance problems, like changing the batteries in the smoke detectors. I quickly learned that my caregiving plan was not her caregiving plan. Her attitude was "Good, I've got you here, now I want you to do A, B, C, X, Y and Z." Including some stuff she could do herself, stuff she could figure out how to do herself, stuff she didn't really need, etc. etc. For example, she wanted me to come by daily to take out her garbage and walk her dog, which were things I never contemplated doing or offered to do. That's the key point. I wanted to do what I offered to do out of the goodness of my heart. I didn't want to be seen as an unpaid service provider, at her beck and call for whatever she wanted.

That's the first part. The rest of it is that, due to our close friendship, my mother knew that I had plans for my own retirement, and that I was the last person who'd want to spend years of it stuck in one place (a place where I hate the climate, BTW) doing somebody else's chores. She knows I feel oppressed by this arrangement, she knows I feels trapped. She acknowledges that from time to time, long enough to wish out loud that I felt differently.

So the silence between us is dense and heavy, fraught with unsaid things, unexpressed resentments and hurts. It hurts her that our friendly relationship is gone. But not enough to release me from the prison of caregiving. She thinks if she ignores my feelings they will go away (that's a hold-out from old times - she always thought that way about me). At this point I hate to spend time with her, and wish every day that I could just pick up and leave.
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I've seen this in a lot of older people. Even when they are good people, old age can bring in a narcissism they never had before. Their worlds can become smaller and smaller until pretty soon they don't see anyone but themselves. From what you write, it doesn't seem like your mother is particularly narcissistic except when it comes to your time, Carla. Are you her only person? She seems to be holding too tight to you. I wondered if she would be upset if you tell her that she needs to walk the dog so she can stay as mobile as possible.

I know that we can become their arms and legs for them. Some people think I should cook my mother's breakfast and do other things for her that she does for herself. It would actually be easy to do these things, but I don't want her to stop doing what she can. These tasks are the things that keep her up and moving.
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Jessie:

"Things in her childhood family and her marriage were idealized and perfect. Things with her own children were distant and cold. My father didn't have anything to do with the family. He and my mother may have been close, but they never showed any affection to each other. My mother always thought that hugging and things like that should be left to the bedroom."

And there you have it - they weren't emotional people, they were distant, and that's your mother's nature. Unfortunately, it won't change.

In your next post, I want to hear about your plans for a new life, FOR YOU! You go, Girl, GO! Use that compassion and insightful analysis you have to connect with others and get some joy out of life before it's too late.
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I cant even look my mother in the eyes anymore which is hard because she lives in my house. But after many years of 1 sided conversations I just dont have anything left in me. she dosent want to hear about my life and I don't tell her anymore. I gave up trying .after hearing the SAME things for years you just kind of learn to block em out. Im good at it now.
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Jessie, I empathize with your situation. I am having a very difficult time relating to my mother. She has a long history of depression which left many emotional scars on my childhood. Now she has chronic pain and is memory impaired due to some tia's. Her daily routine is laying in bed watching TV,reading tabloids, and sleeping. She would love for me to spend all my time with her discussing the lives of celebrities or anyone in the media who had made millions. Or she will digress on subjects from her past where she was hurt or felt unloved.

I am finding it difficult to stay positive when there always seems to be a black cloud looming. I try to have compassion, but honestly...I am weary of all her suffering. Placing her in a nursing home would fill my sister and I with so much guilt and I know my mom would never forgive us.

I am in transition myself with employment, and returned to school last year to better my career skills. It has been a huge struggle. I recently turned fifty and am hungry to really live fully, but most days it feels like my life has basically ended.

I pray everyday that I will be released from this confinement.
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Wow Meowserkat - I can't imagine doing this for 11 years. My mother is only 84 and I've been her maid/servant/chore fairy for 4.5 years. My mother is the bossy and demanding type too and that drives me crazy and makes me avoid spending time with her.

I don't know what I'll do if my mother lives into her nineties. I can't even contemplate the thought. It frightens me also to think that a person in a nursing home still needs a "helper" waiting in attendance on them. But my mother is the type who always wanted things done for her and I can see myself right there holding the water glass to her lips, spreading the blanket over her and folding it up again. I'm just praying it doesn't last for years on end because you can't really have a life and be doing that, and how do you maintain your spirits, and your enthusiasm for life that way?

I'm glad you found this site and we can all commiserate with each other.
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As I read these comments, I find a little bit of the situation with my mom and myself. This morning I am intrigued by two things: One is the distant relationship one has with the person they care for. Hard to connect with one whose scope of things has diminished so greatly. Hard to converse about things that are brought up daily (I call it a hamster wheel) and feel like even responding---same people, same situations, same bodily aches and pains. If you try to bring up a thoughtful subject you get very superficial responses (if any). Mine always brings a weather response like, "Another beautiful day" or "Have you heard a weather report"? You start to avoid communications at all cause they are fruitless.
The other thing I recognize (at least in myself) is the lack of desire to have my mother show affection toward me. I don't feel close to her at all. In my case, since I am sole live-in caregiver, I am subject to alot of negative behavior toward me. She can absolutely say nasty things about me to my face and loudly behind my back but then she turns and tries to say how much she's 'grateful for me'. It's a kind of emotional abuse and I don't feel warm fuzzies toward her. So I've developed a kind of distant coldness toward her. My shrink tells me I am 'objectifying' my mother. I am.
Anyway, nice to hear people similarly experiencing these things---these emotions.
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Mom and I used to be great friends, but now we have no real connection anymore. She is not interested in anything happening in the world, I am isolated with her and so have nothing new to talk about. I've tried to get her to reminisce but she usually says she doesn't remember, or gives a one word response. My sister chatters non stop but we have both gotten so used to the silence that it is a relief when she goes home...
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Jessie I don't know how I missed this thread five whole days ago. I was spared the pain of caring for my mother. As an adult I could not bear to have her touch me. She wanted the hello and goodbye kiss and I just managed to sideswipe her cheek. All her siblings were the same and from an early age just could not bear any of these strange adults I hardly knew to embrace me. mother wanted to know everything about my life and if I inadvertantly left a letter out she would read it without asking. "Oh I saw a letter from N I thought you left it out for me to read" I have no idea what else she got into when I wasn't home and she was watching the kids. When we got married in a hurry she must have written to a friend that she thought we "had to" because the friend wrote back sympathising with her "after all you have done for her" Well that pregnancy lasted 6 years so there. all the above is background for what my husband has been diagnosed with which is "Attachment disorder" he was born early in WW11 and his parent were simply swamped so he spent many hours alone left to cry. he was fed etc and well cared for physically but not emotionally. That has resulted in him not being able to bond with others, especially with our children. It is only by my efforts that they have any connection. Interestingly when he thought he was having a stroke and went to the ER he was afraid he would not be able to talk and told one of the nurses to be sure and tell me he loved me. that meant the world to me and has sustained me through many bouts of bad behavior.
Jessie I wonder if your mother never bonded with her parents and that is why she is unable to bond with you.
As I get older it becomes harder and harder both mentally and physically to get things done and many jobs get started but sit waiting to be finished. it is not because I am not interested but literally don't have the energy or strength.
i really do enjoy being on this site and talking to all my friends. Obviosley caregivers don't want their loved ones on the same site but I wonder if something like this where people being cared for could share their own thoughts and feelings.
Maybe Jessie's mom would write " I wish Jessie would not talk so much, it is really annoying when she shouts at me. Doesn't she know I just love these old songs on Lawrence Welk. Doesn't she know I just want to sit here and watch TV and not walk that stupid dog. it's cold outside and they go too fast for me. makes me feel stupid having to use that walker where everyone can see me" Someone else would write back "I know what you mean jessie's Mom my daughter wants me to go to the senior center on chair exercise day. if i wanted to sit a and squeeze a stupid ball I could do it at home in my comfy recliner not a stupid hard plastic chair in case I pee myself. I can tell you if they make me dance with Mr garlic breath again I will more than pee myself, and the bathroom....well I won't go there because after Mrs S has been in there you can tell what she had for dinner last night. Then there is the knitting group. I don't need triple zero needles to knit a dishcloth, Anyway when I get it home my daughter tells me how much she likes then uses it to wipe that stupid dog's feet. new did have dogs in the house anyway. Give me a herd on Angus and I'm happy. How I miss the farm"
Sorry guys I got on a roll and probably not much comfort for Jessie. I feel as though I am in a kind of no man's land between youth and useless old age.
Mirror mirror on the wall am I really that old?
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Its hard to feel close to a dementia patient, despite that you had a close relationship 30 years ago, so for all of you with moms who were always cold and mean - don't let yourself feel like you should change things now, you can't. Mom was once loving, she isn't now. They are not the same person, and their world is so narrow, their conversation so limited! For the past 8 years, the topics of conversation with Mom have been exactly the same, every visit - no deviation except as the years go on, they are much much narrower. At first it was constant complaints about wanting her house and car, and how sorry she feels for herself and pity for my daughter who cannot move out of her state because of custody laws, obsession with her bowels and a lot of "isn't that awful" when she was lucid enough to understand the news. The last five years these are the only topics - ten times a day: blink blink, I need glasses (we explain it is a catarac and six years ago she freaked out and refused to have surgery and now its too late) five minutes later - blink blink, I need glasses, etc ; I feel sorry for Kris because S__ won't let her move (the children are grown but she's still on the topic ); how is your dear husband; how are you, didn't you break your hip? (I broke my ankle 3 months ago but I got 4 phone calls last night asking about my hip); I don't feel good; I never thought this would happen to me, I've always been healthy; I hate it here; I'm depressed; did you have lunch; I haven't seen you in weeks (it was 2 days ago). I feel totally helpless when I visit. I don't know what to say, what to talk about because she can't hear half of it, doesn't understand it and I have to repeat it five minutes later anyway. Thank God Mom is not aware of what she has become. It would devastate her. The worst for us was when she went through a couple of months where she would call several times a day saying it was so awful because my daughter died, or because my brother-in-law died, wasn't true, but she couldn't remember it each time we told her. Poor thing, she can't help it, her mind is gone, it is on a loop of memories, many imagined and those fading every day. Soon she won't know who we are. She no longer recognizes my husband. I feel pity, compassion but she is no longer Mom. She isn't antagonistic to us any more, she is just sad, existing in this awful empty world. But, saying all that, yes, it is hard to relate to her or to feel warmth toward her, she no longer wants to be touched or needs hugs and neither do I. Getting this old with absolutely no joy in life is not a gift, it is a curse for the person and sadness, a sense of loss and hopelessness and confusion for the family, wondering what we are supposed to do, say to make it better to make her happy when we can't. So please, those of you with mothers who never treated you right - you shouldn't be feeling guilty if you only feel a familial obligation.
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