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FAQs #23

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Q23. My mother has reached the point of not being able to tend to herself very well (cook meals, clean house, take correct meds, etc.) Should she move in with us?

A23. Nancy Driskill, R.N. , M.S.:
>First of all, it sounds as though you are doing a great deal for your mother; more, as a matter of fact than most are able or willing to do for a parent. It sounds as though you are devoted and responsible and are very good about seeing your mother's needs and taking care of her.<cite>

It is just as important to take care of you, however. You are the only one who can adequately judge how much you can give. It is important to ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you doing for your mother what you are doing because you want to and because it pleases you to give this energy and time in this manner?
  • Are you doing all these things because you haven't considered any other sources of support for her?
  • Are there any services in your community that could step in and add to the support you already provide? Your responsibility to your mother is to be sure she has what she needs, to live safely and comfortably. It is not necessary that you actually DO everything for her.
  • Has your relationship historically been one of mother apparently expecting more than you seem able to do or give?
  • Has it been characterized by your constant efforts to please her; to be a "good girl?" Or is this a relatively new development?
  • Is she more demanding and negative than ever before? If this represents a change, it may be that there is something going on with regard to her health that needs investigating. Sometimes depression can have this effect on people. If she has severe arthritis, she is probably in significant discomfort, and that in itself, or perhaps the medications she is taking can have an effect on her behaviors in this way.
  • Is it time for a medical check-up to rule out these sorts of possibilities? Do you see other possible reasons for a change in your mother's demeanor? Will she talk to you about how she is feeling?

When mother begins to be accusatory, even if it is, in your opinion, unfounded, it is usually wise to refrain from arguing or reasoning. Say instead, "I am sorry it sounded that way to you, Mom." I will be more careful. Now, that doesn't escalate things and gives her some indication that her feelings are important ....and feelings are quite real even if they are not founded in reality! It requires that you LET GO of the necessity to be right and validated at this point. It requires that you are able to separate your hurt feelings from the reality that she has not been able to understand what is real.

Of course, it is painful for you to have tried so hard without appreciation or gratitude. This is where you must find ways to take care of you. Adjust your expectations of your mother a bit, and begin to look for others who can pat you on the back and say good job! Is there a support group around that you could join? Other folks in similar situations can be enormous help and support. Your ability to change your mother's attitudes and behaviors are limited. Other than to explore possible causes (i.e. depression, pain, fear, loss of control) and "fix" them, your best bet is to adjust your own attitude, starting with accepting that what you do for your mom is good and loving and responsible; that you are a good person and that your mom is somehow unable to give you now what you need.

A good book for you to read might be Coping with Your Difficult Older Parent, A Guide for Stressed Out Children by Grace Lebow....There are many good sources out there. I have had several clients in similar situations tell me that this one was particularly helpful.



>

Ruth Tipton, Adult Child:<b>
>I have received your e-mail regarding your situation with your mother. I also took care of my aging mother for a number of years – at first helping her while she lived in her own home close to us; then when she moved in with us; later when she moved to an Independent Living facility (with 3 meals a day, housekeeping, and additionally hired home aide visits); and finally when we had to move her into an Assisted Living facility. However, unlike your mother, mine was very appreciative of all I did and used to worry that I was doing too much! Quite a different situation than what you are facing. But I can still empathize with you and have a great understanding for the emotional roller-coaster you are on.<cite>

There are several issues you didn’t address in your communication that would help others help you: Was your mother always a complainer? Before you started doing all of this for her, did she think you didn’t pay enough attention to her? Did she often think that people were talking negatively about her or saying things about her behind her back? If the answer is no to most or all of these issues, perhaps her new, negative attitudes and suspicions are actually being caused by some changes in her physically, emotionally or because of medications that she may be on to ease her pain of arthritis. So you might want to talk about these changes with her physician. Or, she may be having real difficulty in facing up to her declining abilities and is angry and frustrated by these changes over which she has little or no control. And she is taking her anger out on you, since you are the one closest to her now and she sees you most often.

Of course, you are angry too — angry that your mother is no longer the person she used to be. The image we all have is of our parents staying the way they were when we were young — strong, healthy and in charge. When they change, many of us have a hard time accepting this. So now we have two angry people!

I remember so vividly my own inner anger — I just flat out didn’t want my mother to get old. It took a long time for me to realize that I had no control over that situation and to get over my own anger. Although it is very difficult to do, it seems to me that you are going to have to take a lot of deep breaths and hold your tongue with your mom. Try to remember that while she is directing her anger towards you, she, in all likelihood, really doesn’t mean all the things she is saying. I know – easier said than done! I personally repeat the serenity prayer constantly to myself:

      God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

      >

      I know that I cannot control other people and make them be and do what I want them to be and do. I only have that control over myself. So if I choose to get angry, that’s my choice — if my mother is angry, it is not my choice.<

      cite>

You also didn’t indicate if it might be financially possible to get some outside help in to do some of things you are now doing for your mom. If so, it might make both your lives a little easier and make your time together more enjoyable.

And another thing: is your mother relying on you and your family for most or all of her socializing? If so, it might be a wonderful thing to involve her in some adult day care several days a week where she could meet and interact with other people her own age (and with similar physical and emotional situations to talk about!). I remember my niece saying, as I agonized over my mother moving into the first elderly care facility: "Now Grandma will have some kids her own age to play with!" That turned out to be the greatest truism ever as my mother blossomed and was happier (and healthier for a while) than I had seen her in a long time! Even as her health declined and we had to get more and more care for her, she so appreciated her friends and table mates who could share their troubles with an understanding that I could never have.

I don’t know where you live, but in our community, we have support groups of caregivers. I never took advantage of them, but if I had it to do again, I definitely would. I do know that whenever I was out socially and the conversation turned to elderly relatives, it really helped to know I was not alone in my frustrations and perceived problems. Of course, that’s why you communicated with this Elder Care Network! And if this is a good way for you to talk about what’s going on, please continue to do so! Most of us have had or are now going through some type of caregiving situation and therefore understand and empathize with what you are going through. Our specific situations may differ, but we still know what it’s like!

Good luck, Linda! Oh – and I really would like to know if your mom does (or did) actually go to the baby shower or not!

 

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A good book for you to read might be Coping with Your Difficult Older Parent, A Guide for Stressed Out Children by Grace Lebow....There are many good sources out there. I have had several clients in similar situations tell me that this one was particularly helpful.



>

Ruth Tipton, Adult Child:<b>
>I have received your e-mail regarding your situation with your mother. I also took care of my aging mother for a number of years – at first helping her while she lived in her own home close to us; then when she moved in with us; later when she moved to an Independent Living facility (with 3 meals a day, housekeeping, and additionally hired home aide visits); and finally when we had to move her into an Assisted Living facility. However, unlike your mother, mine was very appreciative of all I did and used to worry that I was doing too much! Quite a different situation than what you are facing. But I can still empathize with you and have a great understanding for the emotional roller-coaster you are on.<cite>

There are several issues you didn’t address in your communication that would help others help you: Was your mother always a complainer? Before you started doing all of this for her, did she think you didn’t pay enough attention to her? Did she often think that people were talking negatively about her or saying things about her behind her back? If the answer is no to most or all of these issues, perhaps her new, negative attitudes and suspicions are actually being caused by some changes in her physically, emotionally or because of medications that she may be on to ease her pain of arthritis. So you might want to talk about these changes with her physician. Or, she may be having real difficulty in facing up to her declining abilities and is angry and frustrated by these changes over which she has little or no control. And she is taking her anger out on you, since you are the one closest to her now and she sees you most often.

Of course, you are angry too — angry that your mother is no longer the person she used to be. The image we all have is of our parents staying the way they were when we were young — strong, healthy and in charge. When they change, many of us have a hard time accepting this. So now we have two angry people!

I remember so vividly my own inner anger — I just flat out didn’t want my mother to get old. It took a long time for me to realize that I had no control over that situation and to get over my own anger. Although it is very difficult to do, it seems to me that you are going to have to take a lot of deep breaths and hold your tongue with your mom. Try to remember that while she is directing her anger towards you, she, in all likelihood, really doesn’t mean all the things she is saying. I know – easier said than done! I personally repeat the serenity prayer constantly to myself:

      God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

      >

      I know that I cannot control other people and make them be and do what I want them to be and do. I only have that control over myself. So if I choose to get angry, that’s my choice — if my mother is angry, it is not my choice.<

      cite>

      You also didn’t indicate if it might be financially possible to get some outside help in to do some of things you are now doing for your mom. If so, it might make both your lives a little easier and make your time together more enjoyable.

      And another thing: is your mother relying on you and your family for most or all of her socializing? If so, it might be a wonderful thing to involve her in some adult day care several days a week where she could meet and interact with other people her own age (and with similar physical and emotional situations to talk about!). I remember my niece saying, as I agonized over my mother moving into the first elderly care facility: "Now Grandma will have some kids her own age to play with!" That turned out to be the greatest truism ever as my mother blossomed and was happier (and healthier for a while) than I had seen her in a long time! Even as her health declined and we had to get more and more care for her, she so appreciated her friends and table mates who could share their troubles with an understanding that I could never have.

      I don’t know where you live, but in our community, we have support groups of caregivers. I never took advantage of them, but if I had it to do again, I definitely would. I do know that whenever I was out socially and the conversation turned to elderly relatives, it really helped to know I was not alone in my frustrations and perceived problems. Of course, that’s why you communicated with this Elder Care Network! And if this is a good way for you to talk about what’s going on, please continue to do so! Most of us have had or are now going through some type of caregiving situation and therefore understand and empathize with what you are going through. Our specific situations may differ, but we still know what it’s like!

      Good luck, Linda! Oh – and I really would like to know if your mom does (or did) actually go to the baby shower or not!

       

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