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Who is losing their mind? Is it me or my mum? Help, I am out of my depth!

(12 Posts)
hildarobbo Wed 15-Oct-14 11:38:03

I am after some advice with a situation in which I feel particularly out of my depth. This is going to be a lengthy post so apologies in advance.

Firstly a bit of background. Elderly parents who live about a mile from their nearest neighbour retired and in their eighties. Mobile in as much as my father drove my mum to the shops but could barely walk himself, and my mother could walk short distances but was not able to drive due to poor eyesight (cataracts). Not conversant with modern technology they had no access to mobile phones or internet – just a landline and not even a cordless one. They refused any help from me unless they were absolutely desperate ie hospital visits to the city hospital as opposed to a local town one which only delivered limited services. They said they were independent – I’d say stubborn.

In recent years Mum has had a form of skin cancer which has meant many trips to the city hospital (about twenty miles away from their house and a eighty mile round trip for me). I was there willingly and uncomplainingly. It wouldn’t have struck to me to be any other way. However, when it reached the point of daily visits it was impacting massively on my business. I tried to explain to them both and offered solutions such as a volunteer service, an ambulance or friends but she wanted me to take her. She became so distressed that I relented. Regrettably two months later I had to return to employment (which I was lucky enough to fall into) as I lost so much business over previous months I was unable to keep afloat.

Obviously I could not take time off work to the same degree from this point on and my parents cut me off, choosing instead to ask a neighbour for help. The neighbour provided one of her employees to drive my mother as it was necessary (by this time appointments had returned to one a month at most). I was grateful for the help but upset at the fact my parents no longer wanted contact. If I called they said I had left them in the lurch and if I tried to point out anything to the contrary my father would shout abuse. It was very distressing times.

Then my father was admitted to hospital. I didn’t find out until he had been in there three days. Of course I immediately went to visit only to meet head on with their neighbour’s employee who was very prickly. Mum refused lifts from me to visit my dad, refused to come and stay with me and would not discuss my father’s care. She said “We have managed without you until now and we can carry on”. After over five years of hospital visits and care I was somewhat shell-shocked.

My daughter (the eldest of my four children – the rest are still in education) came to visit from overseas and went to see them. They spent the entire time telling her how awful I was and how I had abandoned them in their hour of need. They also told her tales of how they called me and I never answered and that I had changed my telephone number without telling them (I hadn’t and neither had they tried to call as my phone lists any missed ones). My daughter attempted to point out the other side but realised it was fruitless. She was also very distressed as she was aware of the flip side completely – she had often accompanied me on hospital visits when she lived at home and knew my concerns over their welfare as we talk frequently on Skype.

I called my parents after my daughter had returned home as I hoped that her visit may have had an impact. My mother was vaguely ok but my father was still in the same frame of mind. Nonetheless I paid them a visit. Sadly it was filled with name calling, recriminations and blame, none of which I felt was just or fair. My husband and I sat in dumbfounded disbelief as they railed against me. It was fruitless trying to argue.

Two days later my father dropped dead of a heart attack. I found out from the neighbour they had turned to. She was very rude to me on the phone and also said I had abandoned my parents.

Needless to say I immediately went to my mother’s side. Understandably after 60 years of marriage she was absolutely distraught. Again I met head on with the neighbour’s employee but at this point my mother decided she didn’t want her knowing her private business and pushed her away. I also met head on with a man they used for odd jobs – I had never trusted him as he didn’t do a particularly good job and still took their money (here it is worthy of note that my husband runs a maintenance business but they refused to accept his help although free) – and he always scuttled off when I arrived. Odd job was the first person she called when my father had his heart attack and she claims she will be for ever in his debt. It is also worthy of note that my father was barely cold when he was asking after all his gardening equipment and his car.

It is a month since my father died. My mother is living in the same house and claims she will never leave. I am completely behind her if that is what she wants to do. Here in simple terms are our situations along with my observations and concerns about my mother.

The house is a mile from the nearest neighbour and twenty miles from us. My mother does not drive. I work full time (and work have been really supportive and helpful through the last month – I have been in less than 50% of the time). My husband works full time and more. I have two teenage boys at home and my husband has two boys from his previous marriage who stay with us for part of every weekend. My parents property has 6 acres of land attached which needs tending (my husband and I do this now). The house is in a state of poor repair and is heated with a coal fire and a back boiler. My mother is afraid of fire and often struggles to get it lit in a morning. There is no oven or microwave – just a hob. The bathroom is basic and my mother refuses to use an immersion heater and the fire is never hot enough to heat water. She boils a kettle to wash pots. This list goes on.

Notwithstanding all the hardships unnecessary in this day and age, I am worried about my mother’s state of mind. Her memory has always been poor or selective. Now it is non-existent. We have found cupboards full of paperwork from over the years which we are beginning to sort through (some of it dates back to the early 1900s and belonged to my grandparents) and burning what is not necessary. My mother has also been adding to the paperwork for burning pile and has been throwing out all sorts of things which I have already sorted and filed away. She has lost important documents, forgotten where she has left stuff and mixed things about after they have been sorted. She has told many different stories about the same thing and forgets who has called, who she has spoken to and many other things besides. She told me that her neighbour’s employee is all she has now my dad has gone (did she forget who I was?) and then in the next breath says she doesn’t want her around. She complains when she has visitors because she can’t get on but complains when she doesn’t because she is lonely. She tells people we don’t visit (we go every day even if for 5 minutes). She has no care for her safety, refuses to use a mobile phone when out around the property (rabbit holes everywhere - really easy to fall over) and yesterday walked to the nearest neighbour along a road down which cars race at 70mph + without even calling them first to say she was on her way. They were horrified – I know because I now talk to the neighbour’s employee who found my number and called me – we had a very enlightening conversation which revealed many contradicting pieces of information.

We have offered to live with her if she doesn’t want to move house. The property is big enough to convert into a house for us (at our expense) and a good sized granny annexe for her. She was furious. We have tried to explain the ramifications of the current situation but she is in complete denial. I was at my wit’s end before my father died but this is truly awful. I have asked her to go to the doctor because I am concerned about her state of mind but she refused on the grounds she had been through enough with doctors in her life. She says there is nothing wrong with her, it’s me that needs to see a doctor for my state of mind. She has accused me of bullying, railroading, taking over and to top it off she yesterday accused my husband of running his business out of her house. Umm no! She is clearly not coping but I am helpless. I have considered calling her doctor and reaping the whirlwind. We cannot all continue like this and with winter coming I am becoming increasingly concerned!

And the reason for the long post - to highlight that it has been difficult for a long time and I can no longer see what is my parents really and what might be the start of something else or what might just be grief. Any advice or thoughts would be gratefully received.

hildarobbo Wed 15-Oct-14 11:47:13

Oh and incidentally - I don't have power of attorney on either count! Nor will she grant it.

ohtheholidays Wed 15-Oct-14 11:56:46

I know how you feel.Sadly my poor DM passed in April this year,she became ill really quickly and passed away so fast I still haven't come to terms with it.

My mother and my father were both registered disabled,but my mother managed better than my father,she cooked,cleaned,did the ironing,walked the dog and did the gardening.

As her health got a bit worse myself and my DH had been helping them a lot,cleaning the house,I'd batch cook meals at home for them and take them round so they had plenty of home cooked meals in the freezer all my father had to do was stick them in the oven to reheat.Our oldest DS and DH did the gardening,our second oldest DS walked they're dog everyday for them.We arranged hospital and Dr's appointments for them both and my DH would drive them to they're appointments,wait with them and go with them and drive them home.

We'd see them 2-3 times a week and second oldest DS saw them every day and oldest DS would visit nearly every day to keep an eye on them.

I'm not an only child there's 3 of us,one of my brother's(so called)has moved in with my father and so has his oldest son(my nephew)we went round the house this week and had to deep clean 3 of the rooms downstairs,sort out a flaming bill my nephew has run up in my poor Father's name all unbeknown to him and now we've found out that they're both living there free of charge and my poor Dad is now getting into debt.

My poor Dad has dementia as well so one day he'll remember what shits they have been and then the next he's singing they're praises,telling me and DH about all the things they've done or telling my Aunts and Uncles what they've done and that we've not been there.When it's us that's been doing everything for him and us that's been there.

I've decided I'm going to have to tell my aunts and uncles the truth about what's been going on and I'm going to speak to my Dad's GP this week as well and see what they suggest I think we may have to get adult social services involved as he is now a vunerable adult and he's been taking advantage of by his own sons and grandsons.

It's all so much more difficult as I'm seriously ill and disabled myself and we have 5DC all still at home and 2 of our DC are disabled so it's hard enough having to run one household but for the past year and a half we've been running 2 households.

WhatchaMaCalllit Wed 15-Oct-14 11:58:29

First off - sincerest sympathies on the death of your father.

Can I ask are you an only child or do you have siblings?

You may be able to apply for power of attorney as she may be considered not compus mentus (excuse the spelling) but if she isn't of a sound state of mind, irrespective of how she herself thinks and believes her conduct to be, the law may have a different interpretation.

I don't have any legal advise to offer you but I wanted to wish you all the best in dealing with the situation you now find yourself in.

ohtheholidays Wed 15-Oct-14 12:02:22

Sorry should have said I think you'll have to do the same as were having to do.Make other family aware of what's going on and speak to your Mother's Dr about getting outside help and your mother's memory.

hildarobbo Wed 15-Oct-14 12:07:41

ohtheholidays this looking after elderly parents lark is no fun. I hope you can sort your situation.

WhatchMacalllit - thank you. Yes I am the only one. I have this morning contacted her solicitor regarding power of attorney - it isn't quite so straightforward as just applying, particularly if she is considered not of sound mind.

But this is not my main concern I guess - it is more about her state of mind and her behaviour - although your response tells me you have picked up it isn't quite right!

ohtheholidays Wed 15-Oct-14 12:17:09

There are tests that your Mothers Dr can use to assess your mothers mental state.

This is how the Dr realized that my Father had dementia.The tests can be performed at home. This is the kind of thing that the Dr did for my Father www.nhs.uk/conditions/dementia-guide/pages/dementia-diagnosis-tests.aspx

hildarobbo Wed 15-Oct-14 12:33:45

That's very useful ohtheholidays - thank you. Now if I can just persuade my mother that going to the doctor is a good idea... hmm

whataboutbob Wed 15-Oct-14 16:46:51

Hilda this all sounds very upsetting. I think there are different possible explanations for your mother s behaviour. It could be bereavement, someone who has been married a long time and functioned as an unit as old age encroaches is going to struggle a lot when suddenly alone. It could be that she has never coped particularly well with life but now it is very apparent because your dad isn t there anymore to help her out. Or it could be the onset of dementia.
I suggest you don' t rush in to try and do everything. It is scary witnessing a parent's difficulties, but you also need to think of yourself. She is not letting you help, is holding onto fantasies of independence and sadly it will probably take a crisis to make her realise she is not independent.
POA would be good, and I went all out to get my dad to sign as I knew his confusion would only get worse. I shamelessly sweet talked him into it " of course dad you are managing very well,I it's just in case you need it in the future ". Especially if you feel there are untrustworthy people around her.

twentyten Thu 16-Oct-14 22:02:08

Sympathy from me too- could you speak to her gp and ask for a home visit? So much for you to handle.

greenfolder Wed 29-Oct-14 22:43:55

I had a similar experience with my grandparents. Their children moved to 3 different continents and I was left shopping hospital appts etc. Whilst working,studying,and having 2 small children. Overnight I became the worst person in the world , accused of all sorts,removed as executor, and was they told every person in their flats that I was terrible. At my nans funeral, they all stopped talking as I came in and I was told that they were surprised that I had gone. Arrrrggghh. I concluded that my nan had dementia (there should be a term stubborn dementia) and slowly drove my grandad mad! You can try go and adult social services but my strongest advice is developing a thick skin and some emotional detachment

Willshome Thu 30-Oct-14 17:36:10

Dear Hilda, I am writing because, while I probably cannot help, just knowing someone understands may be a comfort.
I speak as someone who pretty much did everything right when it came to my Mum. I don't say that smugly but because of my situation was able to be with her through her dementia, first in her home, then in mine, until her death, which happened with us holding hands. To complete the film-of-the-week ending, she'd suddenly said, the day before she died "I love you" even though she had no idea who I was. Our time together had its moments and sometimes I found myself shouting and being not the perfect daughter but pretty much I can look back on that time with contentment.
But my point is I WAS INCREDIBLY LUCKY. Not incredibly good, or patient, or hard-working, but incredibly lucky in who my Mum was and how the illness took her (and in the sudden and massive heart attack while she was still otherwise pretty fit, which ended her life with mercy and dignity).
If you didn't love your Mum you wouldn't be upset now by what is happening but you do and you are. But you can't control how your Mum feels. She and your Dad were unfair to you before your Dad died, she is being unfair to you now. You cannot change this. All you can do is forgive them. And every day now your job will be to forgive, forgive, forgive. (Forget about neighbours and other people who comment – you have no need to forgive them.)
Practically speaking, call in all the official help you can and then do what you can manage without making yourself ill to help them give your Mum the help she needs. If they fail, it is not your failure. Success is not something within your capabilities but the resources of the state may, on this occasion, do their bit.
Emotionally speaking,just pour your efforts into forgiveness, not into guilt or self-justification. The only people it made any sense to justify yourself to was your parents and they cannot see it – they just did not have the receptors to recognise your love and how you expressed it. That is their tragedy, you need not make it yours.
It is clear to me, as one who got all the kudos needed during this time, that you deserve it too – even though no one but us might give it. If it helps, I did once have my Mum say (when I was a bit slow handing her a towel in the shower) "When I see God and Jesus I'm going to tell them you're wicked," which I think you'll agree is pretty harsh! But fortunately I was in a good enough place that I could just laugh. I didn't need to forgive because there was no hurt.
I don't expect you to be able to laugh much about your situation but if you can develop a sense of how ludicrous the situation is when looked at from that angle (even if it's just secretly to yourself) it can help to lift the burden for a while.
If I could I'd give you a hug just for being as stalwart as you are. But take all my good wishes.
One foot in front of the other!

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