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Feeling anxious about difficult relationship with ageing mother ...

(7 Posts)
LightSky Thu 10-Oct-13 23:16:35

My mother is in her mid-70s and has slowed down considerably in the last year. I recently spent some time with her in the Summer, and felt sad and at a loss to see these changes and her sudden visible decline.

She lives on her own, about 1 to 2 hours away from me.

We have always had a strained relationship from my teens all the way through to my current middle-age, a lot of distance and neglect on her part. Plus there were several times throughout my adult life when we did not speak for 6-12 months because of her abusive outbursts and behaviour. Though there is an umbilical cord of love there I have no doubt on both our parts - this has left me with a residual feeling that I don't feel responsible to take care of her in her old age.

She recently made noises about moving closer to be nearer to me. I remained non-committal, though part of me was thinking, isn't it a bit rich late, and would that be a good idea anyway given our troubled relationship at times? I don't know.

So now I am worried what will happen in the future, and am not sure what to do for the best.

Did/does anyone else have this kind of dynamic/experience going on with their parents as they got older? Did you manage to find a way to manage and cope with this?

Sunnysummer Thu 10-Oct-13 23:27:11

My grandmother is awful, and my siblings and I supported my mother to move away from her home town before my grandmother got to a point of needing help.

People who don't come from families with challenging mothers often come on to these threads to say its sad, in other cultures this wouldn't happen etc and give a last chance... And that might be right for you, especially if she suddenly sees the light, and if so that is brilliant. But if not, please don't feel bad. If you've suffered from an abusive mother all these years, sacrificing more years to being a main carer - which is incredibly tricky even for close families - is not anything you have to do, it is your choice.

If she would like to be emotionally closer to you, though, it sounds like that would be lovely. Are there compromise options? Retirement villages or even you spending a bit more time together to try to rebuild and find your connection again?

LightSky Thu 10-Oct-13 23:38:29

Thank you. Perhaps I just need to see what happens and enjoy whats left.

(Though my mother and I have improved our relationship to some extent in recent times - those years of disinterest and rejection have definitely coloured things sadly, but perhaps realistically.)

"Challenging mothers", yes that's a good phrase.

Needmoresleep Fri 11-Oct-13 08:34:37

Plenty of us did not all have storybook childhoods, though it not something many admit to. Even so there is some satisfaction to be gained from doing the right thing, depending on what that is. I have gained quite a lot of insight into the Victorian type childhood that shaped my mother. We now have a much better relationship than we ever had, though a bit late. The memory loss means we can have a great and constructive conversation and then she forgets...

My mother, who is older, has had sufficient funds to purchase a flat in "very sheltered" accommodation. Plus extra so that if she needs increasing support, she can pay for a carer. She has stayed where she was, but the burden on me would be about the same if she were closer. Quite a number in her development are younger than my mother and still fully independent, driving etc. They know that having made the move they are future proofed and that the community and care are on site should they need it.

I would check out what was available both close to her and closer to you, and both for now and further down the path. If the money to provide the 24 hour support and the hands on care weren't there, I would have been writing a similar post to you. I am not sure I could have taken on acting as her carer. Luckily it is. Also if I did not live in Central London, I might have also suggested a move closer. Flogging up and down motorways when a crisis hits is not much fun.

The manager of the development my mother lives in is Retirement Security Ltd, who operate in much of the Country. Worth also looking at any Abbeyfields and Almshouses. There will be more.

LightSky Fri 11-Oct-13 09:50:37

Something I have wondered - do you think some mothers/parents realise their failings as they get to old age, and try to make up for it a bit?

Don't get me wrong, my mother can still be a scary and difficult person, but she does at times have a more helpful/sympathetic attitude towards me, unthinkable previously (to give a flavour, I remember I telephoned her aged 21 to let her know I had come down with a serious illness and was hoping to come home for xmas. She simply put the phone down on me and that was that ... I spent xmas very ill and alone in someone else's empty flat).

This slight reorientation never happen though till her 70s - what was she doing/thinking in her 50s/60s though, I would have thought that was a time of reflection too?

Whereas other parents seem to get (even) more difficult and unpleasant with old age ...

LightSky Fri 11-Oct-13 09:54:59

p.s. appreciate possibilities outlined re. retirement developments, etc ... we haven't got to that stage but helpful having these ideas at hand if comes up.

Needmoresleep Fri 11-Oct-13 10:32:31

Awful, and I have a matching Tshirt. Part of my motivation has been to try to break the cycle. As a teenager and young adult I witnessed my aunt doing most of the caring for my grandmother, and didn't want want my children to judge me in the way I judged my mother.

I have said it before on the longer thread but I like my cousin's observation that many women in my mother's generation appear angry and frustrated, perhaps because they had the intelligence, and in my mother's case the education, but not the opportunities.

In terms of pleasantness etc it is really unpredictable. Dementia, especially in the early stages, can cause personality changes. Some of it is stress. In one lucid conversation recently my mother explained that she wanted to stay where she was for Christmas and indeed did not want to spend a night away ever. If she wakes up in the middle of the night she knows where the loo is. It was awful no having any bearings.

Previously she could not admit (to herself as well?) that there was a problem, and so everyone else was to blame. Keeping up appearances was really important as mental health problems carry quite a stigma with her generation, which took a huge effort. Then last winter when I had to take over after my mum had a fall, my mother was a bit like a wounded animal lashing out at anyone. Though at times she did not know who I was, but seemed to retain an instinctive understanding of how to hurt me most.

My learning is that she is worse when she is tired, and finds direct questions difficult.

Must of the rest is fear. The idea of a care home is terrifying for many of that generation. (And indeed for us if we were to think of it.) So a huge battle to retain control and cling onto independent living, and real anger at any challenge to any suggestion that support might be needed.

Ten years ago, when she was in her seventies she should have given some thought to the future. This was the time when she and my dad should have set up a Power of Attorney (both Care and Financial), when they should have taken me through where their financial paperwork, eg banks, property, will etc, or at least engaged an accountant who would have had an up to date picture, and have considered possible home moves should either of them have become incapacitated.

I understand why they did not. I might do the same. At that age, head in the sand is easier than looking ahead to what may well be a bleak future. Plus I don't think at that stage my mum would have wanted to ask me for anything, given her longstanding lack of interest in me or my family.

If you do feel able to engage, being able to work on a long term plan is useful. This reduces the stress and fear and also makes it easier to consider future care and support arrangements that place minimum burden on you. I had already decided I would do the "right thing", when I was in a position to do so. (I had previously tried to intervene but till there was a crisis it was clear that there was nothing I could do.)

I think the real answer to your question is what you would feel able to do if you had a phone call saying your mother was in hospital and unable to go home. Would you want or feel able to put the phone down and say it was Social Services problem. If not perhaps you need to have quite a frank conversation with your mother about her ideas for the future, finances etc, and then examine options that give her the right support at the right time so she retains as much independence as possible and you only pick up responsibilities you feel able to handle.

Sorry this is long. Cathartic though!

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