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Firm Boundaries Around Caring For Parents

(20 Posts)
FixItUpChappie Sat 02-Apr-16 21:06:40

I'll try to be succinct. My stepdad became gravely ill 2 weeks ago. He is recovering welling though it's not clear what the long term prognosis will be or what will be the state of him and my mums lives moving forward.

My mum, I will describe as generally a kind of victimized sort. Not stiff upper lip like, doesn't cope well - my whole life has always been exhausted by even minor life tasks, always has a sore.....something, a headache, a bad hip/back/headache etc. I have no read on her actual capacity to do things. She delegates and is quite demanding with my stepdad who has taken care of her for the past 17 years or so. This includes last year when she had hip surgery which reduced her to an angry, sobbing...mess TBH.

If I sound unsympathetic, try to understand that this constant woe-is-me personality has taken its toll on my ability to be empathetic. She has some genuine health issues so I'm sure I'm being unfair....I know it, but am always annoyed with her nonetheless.

So my stepdad is home now, against my moms wishes - she really wanted him to remain at the hospital advising Drs that he is her caregiver and she has limited capacity to help him at home. They sent him home anyway. He has a catheter which she needs to help change, she needs to keep an eye on him generally, help him in and out of the shower, help him get to appointments as needed. All things he has done for her in the past without complaint.

The hospital told her I should be over there helping with cleaning, cooking, take them to appointments etc. I was firm this was not going to be my role. I have a full time job, 2 young children and live on the other side of the city. I help here and there but I don't want to be their caregiver. I do not have the physical or emotional energy for it. I advised they will have to look at a cleaner, look to friends/neighbours for rides or hire taxis as needed, hire someone to deal with yard maintenance (they have the money). I cannot take off work to help them get to appointments. I have suggested for years that a condo would be more suitable for them as opposed to a house that is unmanageable - this is always shrugged off. I feel now is the time to start thinking about how they can be self-sufficient moving forward.

This feels cold on my part and I feel myself throwing up boundaries. I have no sibling here to help and I'm not even convinced my mum needs help - I can't move past this irritation that she should step-up, shoulder some of the real work for a change.

I'm not sure what I'm looking for in posting this really - venting really and I guess I wonder if anyone is in a similar position with their parents.....and how much took on themselves in terms of care?

thesandwich Sat 02-Apr-16 21:18:02

Hello. If you look at the elderly parents topic in other stuff you will find lots of kindred spirits. Many of us and our close families bear battle scars of caring for elderlies- try and facilitate and seek resources and maintain your boundaries. Good luck.

Walkacrossthesand Sat 02-Apr-16 22:15:29

Incidentally, were you there when the hospital 'told her you should be looking after her & taking her to appointments'? I imagine not, or you'd have put them straight on that one - could that just be something your mum is saying?

Walkacrossthesand Sat 02-Apr-16 22:16:41

Taking him to appointments, I mean?

VertigoNun Sat 02-Apr-16 22:28:43

I feel sorry for you all.

I think the hospital have been taking advantage of your DM. Whilst you have no empathy for her I do. She needs help organising carers, transport and gardeners. If you are not able to I suggest you ask SS to step in and question the hospital and their discharge.

FixItUpChappie Sat 02-Apr-16 22:43:16

No, that I am going by what she relayed to me - I suppose she could have been asserting her own feeling that it should fall to me.

I do feel sorry that this has happened - it's unfair on my stepdad who is a kind person and on my mum too - nobody wants to be in this position.

I guess I'm not clear on why she needs help organizing a cleaner and a lawn care service - she is a very intelligent person, who is quite altogether mentally and who has her days mainly free to attend to such matters. what I'm trying to express is that I believe she has acquired some learned helplessness after being with a man who literally does everything at her beck and call for so many years. I think it's been unhealthy for her. My own irritation is directed at wanting her to pull herself together a bit.

VertigoNun Sat 02-Apr-16 22:47:42

Your DM is the person she is, you can't change her. The problem is her and your SD's. It's up to you if you want to be involved if not the decent thing to do for your SD is to call in help for them.

Potatoface2 Sat 02-Apr-16 22:59:46

the hospital havent taken advantage of the mother....hes well enough to go home and recuperate with help from his able wife.....if hospitals kept everyone in that didnt want to go home because 'my partner wont cope' no one would go home at all.....people do cope....you have to, and the OP mum needs to pull herself together and COPE!

VertigoNun Sat 02-Apr-16 23:04:25

has always been exhausted by even minor life tasks, always has a sore.....something, a headache, a bad hip/back/headache etc.

She is not able though and has always been weak.

He has a catheter which she needs to help change, she needs to keep an eye on him generally, help him in and out of the shower, help him get to appointments as needed. All things he has done for her in the past

RiceCrispieTreats Sat 02-Apr-16 23:57:07

I have serious doubts that the hospital told her that you were supposed to help them.

It is the kind of thing a "victim" comes up with, though. Basically victims don't or won't take personal responsibility and power: they always need to hand that power to another person or institution.

Your mother may be mentally and physically perfectly capable of taking care of SD and the house, but psychologically it's an impossibility for her.

You can't fix her neurosis. But you can choose your own limits, and stick to them. Don't feel guilty. Good luck.

ouryve Sun 03-Apr-16 00:03:46

Just for the sake of how the thread goes and the advice you are given, are you elsewhere than the UK? Just that the term "condo" tends not to be mentioned here.

But no, just because she has convinced someone that that's how it should be does not mean that that's how it can be. You have other responsibilities and cannot care for her (and her DP) for an indefinite term. By all means, point her to the help that is out there, but you can't be at her beck and call when you already have your own non-negotiable responsibilities.

FixItUpChappie Sun 03-Apr-16 00:43:21

no, I'm not in the UK

I just got off the phone with her - immediately it was all about how she feels, not how stepdad is...the person who is sick hmm

I know the truth in vertigos words though - I cannot change her. I want her to be different, I want her to be stronger - but she's not. This is hard to reconcile. I wish I was a more kind and accepting person...but I'm not. I guess neither of us ever changes.

RedRedWhine123 Sun 03-Apr-16 03:20:14

Do not feel guilty for not taking on the chores. They're both adults and cognitively astute (just reading between the lines) so it is ultimately their decision/responsibility on how they wish to manage. Maybe your mum is not coping emotionally with the prospect of losing her partner but from what you've described it is a long-term problem. Some people are just not copers. I would be frustrated too. It does sound like learned helplessness as you've said. Is there an aged care services team where you live? You could ask if they'd agree to a referral to see someone who could then assist in organising these services for them? You will need to get their permission though as they have all their faculties.

wallywobbles Sun 03-Apr-16 06:46:36

Financially could they afford to have an employee to do this stuff for them. My step mum has someone who does all this stuff with her. Gets it implemented etc. if the have a large house could they have someone live in?

FixItUpChappie Sun 03-Apr-16 16:27:13

Thanks you all for your replies - it's nice to express somewhere what I would never say in real life.

a "home care" person is going over tomorrow to check on stepdads catheter...he's not even going to see a Dr again until mid April. A neighbour has pointed her in the direction of someone to mow the lawn, I have forwarded some recommendations from friends on cleaners. She isn't in a space to consider what they will do with the house long term. ultimately if they want to sell I'll help them prepare the place as best I can (it needs tones of work), if they don't then that is their choice as adults - they will need to make arrangements for the care and maintenance of the home.

amarmai Sun 03-Apr-16 20:33:12

as you have dcc , your first responsibility is to your family and yourself. Between the 2 of them they can use the phone and make necessary arrangements. Keep yourself out of the equation as any little bit you take will only be added to.

pocketsaviour Sun 03-Apr-16 20:45:53

The hospital told her I should be over there helping with cleaning, cooking, take them to appointments etc.

I only have experience of adult care in the UK, but this seems unlikely.

Do you have any sort of adult social services where you are? In the UK I'd be suggesting she contact the adult services dept of the local social services, but I don't know how it works in other countries without a civilized healthcare system (sorry!)

At any rate you are not obliged to provide any care to this man who is not even your relative. Your mum needs to get off her arse and sort it out.

wallywobbles Sun 03-Apr-16 20:46:44

I agree with Pocket bin france the hospital certainly wouldn't say that.

jenkait Sun 03-Apr-16 22:46:24

Hi OP, I do this sort of job from the hospital...though I'm not in the UK I can try to offer some perspective. First of all, don't feel bad for setting limits on what you can do. You can only do what you can do. I would never push a family member to "do more", it would be unethical and totally pointless anyway! I'm not sure what happened here, but I'm wondering if either of your parents told the staff, "Oh our daughter will take care of that!" I hear this all the time, family members telling me their SIL or someone will "take care of that stuff" and sometimes the SIL or whoever has been offered up to help will have no clue!!

There are many resources for elderly people out there that you seem aware of (housekeeping, meal services, etc) but the catch is that most people don't want to pay for things they've never had to pay for before. They're adults and you can't make them do anything. If things get rough enough they might change their minds, sometimes it takes awhile.

Keep your boundaries and don't feel bad.

Potatoface2 Tue 05-Apr-16 21:39:21

im sure in the UK a district nurse from the GP surgery will be involved in the catheter care .....the bag will only need emptying 2 to 4 times a day....which isnt difficult to do

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