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Still trying to set boundaries with my mom in assisted living. She calls (leaves voicemails) with a needs list and I drop off to the administrator who says she is fine. These calls are full of abusive, narcissistic, and emotional accusations. She always reports something that she has discovered such as I called the bank, you're not giving my tithe to the church, etc. She enjoys telling me that my deceased dad would not like me spending all his hard-earned money on this place, you need to get over here & straighten them out, food is disgusting, and everyone is either quitting or upset. I inform the administrator who says she is nitpicking everything to you but she's fine. The list of needs is over $200 each month. I'm going to include the receipts on this next delivery so she can SEE it and yes, I'm now spending her money on this, not mine, even though it will shorten her days at the facility.


1) Does she know at age 89 what she is doing or does it really matter? Am I making excuses because she's my mom, elderly, and so unhappy? I know I've been groomed to take it and she's diminished me to a daughter who hates hearing her ugly voicemails; however, my self-esteem and physical health are affected each time (so I'm not doing a very good job of setting boundaries except for not going to see her in person!). I have walked away but the POA job involves getting her list to her and not neglecting her. She will not tell the facility to call me with the needs list. The spin, lies, and stirring of the stew still continue to bother me even tho I'm avoiding the physical abuse.


2) Any advice on what to expect from a counselor? I do not want to hear "be nice to yourself" as I can do this. Will it be beneficial to my anxiety, family, and well being? Any experiences to share? Thank you all!

Oh, this is actually a lovely boundaries exercise.

Your duties as POA include:

To ensure that your mother is supplied with toiletries.
To assist your mother with making purchases when she wants to.

But you are required to do these things in a way that serves her best interests, yes? And you are also required to compensate for her cognitive deficits, acting as far as possible as she would have done before she lost any marbles.

So. If she is determined to try the wonderful new bees' bottom extract she's heard so much about, no problem. Ideally get her a sample from your friendly perfumery department; but if you can't then it's fine to get her the smallest available size. Say she takes to it, and lo and behold it really does make her crows' feet vanish (actually, if it does, can you get me some?), but it costs $99.99 a pop. When her money runs out then she can't have it any more and she can be abusive as she likes, she still can't buy it. But there are birthdays and Christmases and Mother's Days ahead and she can discover the meaning of the words "special treat" instead.

Whereas, by contrast, with the Avon face cream: she may be using it to excess, which is for the caregivers to deal with because it's a personal hygiene issue; or she may be repeat buying because she's become obsessed and/or she forgets or can't find her stock of it. [H'm. It's a popular brand: it's also possible that her face cream is going walkies out of her room - just something to keep an eye on.] But here you can make the list your friend. You know her personal care routines, you know what she gets through; you can easily create a template shopping list and tick the items that need replacing week by week.

Anyway. Here's the thing. Your boundary as regards mother's supplies must be permeable *to an extent*. You need it to let through information about what she actually does require, but to filter out everything else - the rudeness, the needless urgency, the redundant repetition.

Is she up to checking things off on a list? If you were to provide her with the templates, would she be able to read it and mark items on it?

I agree it is useful to record and to show her exactly what her outgoings are. I think it's probably a bit optimistic, possibly even not appropriate, to expect her to handle budgeting as such. Do you hope to nip in the bud her idea that you are a magic shopping bag that never sends in the bill? I wouldn't count on that. I think it's more likely that in due course your filter will also need to separate out indignant disappointment; but by then you'll be so good at this stuff anyway it shouldn't trouble you too much.
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Marylin Apr 16, 2019
Yes, excessive use of Avon. It's like a jar per week.
Last night she had a hissy fit with Administrator, talking ugly to her & then she refused her meds.
Today, calling me again, left ugly message wanting to meet & talk with all children so she can sway the weakest one. My siblings are either sick or uninterested, so not meeting.
I have no intentions of seeing her at this time. I'll just make the needs drop off.
Thanks so much, CountryMouse!
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Me again...I'd try begging the older one you wanted:-) in light of the other going on maternity leave so soon...don't settle. Ideally this may be a long term relationship even if visits are spaced apart. And though years back I would never have imagined myself saying this...I do, think there is a difference sometimes in how guys and women see the situation especially in re to caregiving. Someone who has someone with dementia in a nursing home, or has attended a support group and heard what others are dealing with is not the same as having the daily responsibilities and pressures. I'm sure you know about the mental and emotional fatigue of taking care of yourself in addition to the million details of a loved one, even if they are not so loved:-) I think it's okay to go to counseling for support, not necessarily an expedition...but one can still talk and gain a better understanding of one's strengths and how one got to where they are. Let us know how it goes.
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Marylin Apr 15, 2019
I'll wait to get the right one! Thanks for all.
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Marylin, I have never once left an abusive voicemail on my son's cellphone so it isn't exactly the same, but I can tell you that all the same he never listens to my messages - he just sees there is one, and calls me back. Eventually. It can be a little trying... 🙄

But in your case, I do honestly think this might be a tactic worth adopting. Don't listen to your mother's voicemails, delete them. Call her when it's convenient and make a note then of anything she really needs. This puts you in charge of what you listen to. If she is abusive when you call her, you hang up.

She is in a good ALF. There is *never* going to be an instance where you genuinely need to know information that is only available mixed in with the abuse she leaves on your phone. Therefore, you are *never* going to fall down on your POA responsibilities simply because you deflect this abuse by deleting it.

I am delighted to hear that you are now avoiding the physical abuse. Time to work on permitting yourself to avoid the equally damaging mental and emotional abuse, too.

The list, the list... what's on it? What kind of thing are you getting for her?
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Marylin Apr 15, 2019
Needs list this month includes Graham crackers, instant coffee, Avon moisturizer to excessive levels, exzema soaps & lotions, bunion pads, Kleenex, detergent for handwashing blouses & compression socks, dark spot cream, mouthwash, Polident, hairspray, and Cetaphil face wash for roscea to name a few! High maintenance for a woman who never worked or was never rich. If she makes it to NH & on medicaid, I understand she'll get 30$ to spend. So, yes, after all her grips, I want her to see the receipts now & know it's coming out of her money now! This month it exceeded 200$. (What will it be when she needed Depends?)
I can't wait to hear your response because you always tell it like it is!
I know it's ridiculous....but it's HER money! I'm the unappreciated errand girl & she's my mother....even if she begins her message with "You need to get your a-- over here!" And, continues with demands & how this place is hell!
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I'd be getting a different phone number or blocking her calls:-)
Have you considered rescinding your job as POA or do you want it? There are probably legal ways to deal with this situation.
As for the counselor...as a survivor of long-term therapy that goes back so many years...I can say...go with your gut. See how you feel about the person, how you relate, if you feel comfortable. You can tell them what you said here, that you don't want to here the BS about being nice to yourself...but the difference is by going and saying these things out loud, not you have someone to be accountable to FOR being nice to yourself! They may hold you to it:-) I think it can be very helpful if done in a kind and gentle way. In my case, with one therapist, it was not. In the name of doing good it was anxiety provoking and I still wrestle with all of it. Good came out of it, if I am honest with myself...but at what expense? And could it not have happened with a different game plan? Yes it could have. Most importantly having this person to confide in will give you a more objective sounding board and someone to ride through the storms so you won't be alone. That in itself can be beneficial. But remember: you are in charge...there are many therapists out there. You can leave. Sending hugs and wishing you all the best...
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Marylin Apr 15, 2019
I have thought of rescending POA but I think of my dad's wishes & there is absolutely no one else (obviously) who'd touch it! If I involve a lawyer, her money will dwindle faster. I've told her to find another but she knows there is no one.

Love your advice, robinr. I will be honest & forthcoming. Hoping I don't expect too much though....I've procrastinated too long and am anxious to begin. Nervous but hopeful.
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Marylin,

You asked an earlier reply if you should take a written document of what you have gone through, yes is the answer. It will accomplish two things, one it will give the therapist an over view of your situation and two it will allow your to put your thoughts in order prior to the visit.

FF suggested trying to find a therapist who has lived through care giving, that may help, but a good therapist is not looking at only the care giving relationship. They will be looking at the family dynamics that have led up to this current situation. Do not be surprised if the first few visits are all talking about the past and not your current concerns.

When I was in therapy after my marriage broke up, the therapist I saw had not been divorced, but that did not mean she was unable to help me.

Please know that you can delete your mother's voice mail without listening to them. She may not want to give the admin her list of things, but if you refuse to respond to her calls, she will have no choice but to do so. And yes, provide an itemized receipt, so she knows how much of her money she is spending.
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Marylin Apr 15, 2019
Thx, I'll get this written asap. I am hoping it'll help sped up the beginning a little. I'm anxious, nervous, but hopeful.
She's my mom, even though she's got demons & dementia. My dad chose me as POA; I always think of him when I wanna throw in the towel. As things grow worse (& I know they will), I'll call the administrator & get the list from her.
Thanks so much, Tothill.
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Marylin, I had talk-therapy and found that is it best to find a therapist who is close to your age and who has been on that road caring for a parent. I know I was so happy that my therapist had been-there, done-that with her parents :) So, she really did understand.

Oh, for anyone who is on Medicare, I found it wasn't easy finding a therapist who took Medicare, thus slimmer pickings. Just a heads-up, unless you feel paying out of pocket is worth it.

One thing to remember, our elder parents will continue to be the adult, and we the child, no matter how old we are. We are just the "kids", and what do we know :P
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Marylin Apr 13, 2019
Thanks so much! Yes, I will just have to pay for counseling. The one older therapist I wanted is no longer taking new patients, but her colleague that I've left message with is available but taking maternity leave soon. I maybe outta luck. I really wanted a woman but may be going to an older Christian man with great recommendations. Counselors in my area seem to be few & far between.
Yes, I'm still the kid at almost 67...ughh.
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If I remember correctly, your mother has you running out for things she already mostly has access to/provided by the AL (food, etc.)

If she hasn’t been declared incapacitated/incompetent, there is no obligation on your part to get anything for her. Her responsibility. If she is competent, she is capable of procuring things through other routes. Do what you are willing to do. She is certainly not going to die if she has to eat the breakfast her AL provides.

DPOA means you have the ABILITY to handle her affairs, not the RESPONSIBILITY to do so. It does not make you her personal assistant. It means you can take care of her business if you want/need to. If she is still competent, there is nothing you HAVE to do. IF she has been declared incapacitated and you have Medical POA, you have responsibility to keep her safe and see that her basic needs are met. Not necessarily by you.

And if you have DPOA and she has been declared incapacitated (forgive me, I don’t remember your whole story), it is completely reasonable for you to make decisions that ensure her money lasts for her care, whether or not she agrees (broken brain).

Do not spend your money on her. You have to take care of yourself.

You do not have to visit every day. Once a week is more than enough, especially in a really unhealthy situation such as this. Did you see your parent every day after you left the house, got your first apartment job, lived away from home? Probably not. Think of that if it helps alleviate some guilt.

This age/cognitive stuff comes on so slowly, sometimes we get enmeshed in ways that are not normal or healthy without even noticing. Stepping back and looking at what would be reasonable in a normal world (your peers... lol, in this case peer pressure is a good thing;) can help.

FIL with dementia would always say you need to get over here and straighten these people out, etc. By that time, we were aware of how he would use (or imagine) scenarios to get us scrambling to “fix” things. The dramas in her mind are not emergencies for you to fix. Listen to her complaints and let them go in one ear and out the other, if necessary. You aren’t a secretary... you don’t have to keep a running list of her issues. Forget them (unless there is a huge safety concern). You get your life back and the administrator gets to use the time previously dealing with these stressful calls for actually running the facility.

I hope this helps you as you wrap your brain around some of the false guilt that you are feeling. I know this is hard; you sound so beaten down. But, you can do this. Just keep sticking with the boundaries, behaving reasonably, not reacting emotionally, and taking care of yourself. You will see results.
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Marylin Apr 13, 2019
DPOA, durable power of attorney, is what I have (per my father's wishes in 2001 for both of them & she signed it).
For years, especially after his death in 2009, she's stirred up things that didn't go her way. Physical abuse occurred in late January when I said 'no' to her request to move into an apartment on her own. I've not been back. She calls, gives demands, leaves orders, complains, curses, digs at me, nitpicks about ALF, and tells me I've always been hard headed, etc. One sibling hasn't seen her in over 2 years & the other one went Christmas Eve but cannot take the stress as she has RA & has recently been in the hospital. I'm it in more ways than one! But, all I hear is "I don't know what has happened to our family, especially you!"
She will be 89 soon, will not agree to any neurology visits or evaluations. NP visits her often, saying we need to find a creative way to deal with her angst because she has the right to refuse. She's still sharp enough to notice if her blood thinner is a different shape/color. Very adamant about her small dosage of Xanax at night, no more or less. If AL doesn't give her the water pill by 2:30 each day, she's either laying them out or leaving a message for me! So, no not declared incapacitated but there's little to no reasoning skills remaining. She has repeatedly told me to turn all her "stuff & money" over to a lawyer especially when I say no or she's not getting a loaf of bread to make her meals when she doesn't want to go to the dining room.
Her needs list includes Graham crackers, instant coffee, Avon moisturizer to excessive levels, exzema soaps & lotions, bunion pads, Kleenex, detergent for handwashing blouses & compression socks, dark spot cream, mouthwash, Polident, hairspray, and Cetaphil face wash for roscea to name a few! High maintenance for a woman who never worked or was never rich. If she makes it to NH & on medicade, I understand she'll get 30$ to spend. So, yes, after all her grips, I want her to see the receipts now & know it's coming out of her money now! She is safe so I am thankful for that. I don't know what I'll do in 2 years when money is gone but I cannot allow her in my home. It would kill me, no doubt. I pray counseling will help me do exactly what you're suggesting. My heart hurts for her but I'm having to back out of this drama as much as possible. Thanks for your suggestions, clarifications, listening, and compassion.
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Marylin; I wish you well in therapy. Your therapist should provide a place where you can vent, but will also question your assumptions (my mom is in a facility, therefore she will be unhappy); (I have to provide my mom with everything she asks for, otherwise, I'm a bad daughter).

Good therapists ask hard questions (usually after the relationship is established).

It sounds as though your mom has long-standing, untreated mental illness. This can be tough to come to terms with, as some folks think it means that they've been "blind" to it. NOT SO! You grew up with this! You had NO idea that THIS wasn't normal. You need to let the self blame go.

I doubt that showing your mom receipts is going to have any impact on her demands.

((((hugs)))))
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Marylin Apr 13, 2019
Thank you! Yes, self blame & self guilt are traits I've carried for many years. I am praying counseling will be beneficial in these areas.
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Re: Counselor -- it can take a bit of time to develop a working relationship with a counselor so you will need a couple of sessions in order to determine if there is a good fit between you and the counselor. Think about what you want to get out of the sessions and share that with the counselor. Sometimes the answer to that question is as simple as "a safe place to self disclose" (i.e., vent your frustrations). A good counselor will help you find techniques for managing your anxiety and learning to set boundaries. Wishing you all the best as you (and your counselor) navigate this difficult path. Side note - it seems to me that being in a facility brings out the worst in our parents...they are unhappy about their situation and they take it out on everyone else.
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Marylin Apr 13, 2019
Thanks so much. I'll begin to ponder what I need from counseling. I've thought that might be a burning question.
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