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At the end of my tether with my mum

(19 Posts)
bringincrazyback Sun 10-Mar-19 14:34:15

As those who’ve read my pps will know, my elderly parents live with me and DH (on separate floors of the same house). My dad has multiple conditions but actually seems to be doing unusually well at the moment, touch wood. It’s my mum that’s the problem. Apologies in advance, this is going to get long.

She’s my dad's main carer and to be fair seems capable and comfortable in that role (she worked in healthcare previously), but everything except for her caring role is disintegrating. She doesn't have to do a lot in the house apart from my dad's care and a bit of housework she chooses to do, she knows help's available there if it's needed but she refuses it, basically she's not coping with anything else except my dad's care which is fair enough except she refuses to admit it and throws massive strops if anyone so much as hints she's doing too much. She's always been difficult and personally I believe she has narcissistic personality disorder, definitely some form of mental illness/personality disorder, everything has to be about her all the time. Tears and histrionics if she's ever challenged on even the tiniest little thing, martyr behaviour etc. On the rare occasions she puts other people first you’d think she’d invented a cure for cancer, the amount of gratitude she’s apparently owed, throwing instances of gift-giving/favours etc in people's faces etc, no one appreciates her, etc etc.

Lately things have got a lot harder because she appears to be starting with dementia (or has at least become forgetful to the point where it's getting problematic, we've had issues with flies 3x now because she's left food outside the fridge/freezer to rot, standard response when told this is 'No I didn't'.) She has become very thin and doesn't look well but refuses to see the doctor, never mind that my dad and I worry ourselves sick about her, she just says ‘well don’t worry then,’ in quite a nasty tone of voice. (She’s always thought she could tell people how to think and feel, my younger years were a mass of invalidation and resulting low self-esteem whenever I failed to do, say, think or feel as she thought I should.)

My dad has so many illnesses on the go, I know mortality is looming large in his mind even though he’s doing better for the time being, and she reduces him to tears sometimes. He’s the kindest man you can imagine, and it is destroying me to see him hurt. (It tells you a lot that as I type those words I'm imagining my mum pulling a face and repeating them in the most sarcastic tone imaginable, then using a put-down such as 'ridiculous'.) It was their wedding anniversary earlier this week and although he’s housebound he got me to help him get her a diamond ring, she got him nothing, despite my offer to get him something on her behalf. (She’s perfectly capable of leaving the house, doesn’t have agoraphobia, but refuses to go anywhere except my dad’s appointments.) She actually rolled her eyes when I tried to have this conversation with her, that my dad was getting her something, and should I get him something on her behalf. ‘He annoys me when he does this, we agreed we weren’t going to get each other anything’… I’ve now just made things worse by apologising to my dad on her behalf that she didn’t get him anything, because now he knows it was discussed with her and she couldn’t be bothered to even say ‘yes’ when I offered to do ALL the work for her as per fucking usual (Christmas/birthday cards are a thing of the past now because apparently it’s too much for her to even get in a car and be chauffeured to a shop to pick them out, so my dad and I would end up with shitty generic boxed cards if DH and I didn’t sort it all out… I'm not saying that's a big thing, it's sort of because it's such a little thing that it just speaks so loudly to me of how selfish she's become) I’d be a lot more understanding about this sort of thing if it wasn’t for her refusal to see the doctors, if she can’t even cope with a brief shopping trip then she needs at least an elementary check-up, but the mere mention of this causes her to turn nasty, ‘I won’t be told what to do’, etc etc… My dad is struggling to cope emotionally too and I just don't know how she can treat him like this.

What’s brought it to a head for me today is that she’s put her back out, admittedly trying to catch frogs that our cats had brought in (she’s about 2000% nicer to our cats and DH than she is to me or my dad, and she does do a lot for our cats, I’ll give her that - well, they never disagree with her do they, she must love them to bits) and I’ve had to have a conversation with my dad saying that if the back problems turn out to be severe I may need us to get some help in for things like washing and toileting. I hated saying that, because I feel like a bad daughter already for not being able to cope with doing it, I feel a good daughter would do whatever was needed (what sort of daughter won't wipe her own parents' bottoms, is kind of how I feel), and naturally it touched a nerve for my dad and made him cry. I feel like the worst daughter in the world right now. I thought I’d better ask my mum and dad not to try to catch any more frogs in case they fall and end up injured. Just now I started to say to my mum ‘Can I just ask you not to…’ and before I even got any further her whole face had changed, nasty, glaring. This happens every single time anyone except DH breathes a word about anything she’s set her face against.

Treats me like a servant, won’t ever tell me when she’s short of cigarettes and then I’ll get ‘can you get me some cigarettes’ in the middle of a work day and it'll turn out she has none left (I’m self-employed and work as best I can from home, but neither of them seem to be able to understand or accept that my work has to be done at specific times.) I’ll say I’m going shopping and she’ll say ‘you can get me some cigarettes while you’re out’ like she's giving a servant an order, latest one is that I’ve started keeping cigarettes on hand in anticipation of her last-minute requests, unfortunately now she knows this it’s ‘oh, it’s fine, bringincrazyback keeps some upstairs anyway, so I don’t have to worry.’ Sometimes it feels like the entire household revolves around her fucking cigarettes, she gets defensive and says she'll get them herself if it's that big a deal, knowing full well that we won't call her on it because she'd get lost on her way to/from the shop.

I tell them I’m going to start cooking the evening meal and I just get ‘Right’ from my mum, rather than ‘thanks’, OK so I’m thanked at the end of most meals, but it’s just this ‘right’ that really gets to me, so many times I stand in their living room feeling like I’m a servant and they’re dismissing me to get back to my duties. I'm 51 and I feel about 6 most of the time around my mum. My dad hardly ever stands up to my mum because of the histrionics it causes when he does, weeping and wailing (my mum, I mean), everyone's so mean to her, she's so blameless, etc etc.

I’ve had it. I went on holiday by myself two weeks ago and it was absolute bliss, but unfortunately it also reinforced for me how desperately unhappy I am at home sometimes. I’m not cut out for this, but it would kill my parents mentally to have to go into a home, so that’s not an option either. I feel so trapped and can’t see a solution in sight. I try to talk about getting more help in and my mum just lies and says there’s no help available. She worked as an assistant OT and apparently none of 'these people' (OTs, physios, paid carers etc) know what they’re talking about. No one knows what they’re talking about except her. No one matters except her. This is destroying what little uneasy relationship I ever had with her (she’s always put me down, and then gaslighted me and tried to tell me she wasn’t putting me down and I was just being oversensitive, never any comfort when I was upset about something, tended to get shouted at about how it was making her feel whenever I got upset) as it just feels like the situation is swallowing what little niceness she is capable of and slowly turning her into a monster, that honestly doesn’t feel like an exaggeration. My dad and I tiptoe around her constantly and swallow the worry and hurt. My dad was scared she’d shout at him for spending the money when he presented her with the diamond ring (they’re not short of money), I just want to weep for him, he’s kindness itself and deserves better than the way she is treating him. So do I. She’s nice as pie around DH because she’s conscious she’s living in his house (albeit they do pay him rent), but her motto seems to be that you can treat immediate family however you want, be nasty to them, do nothing nice for them, and they’re still supposed to just magically ‘know’ you love them. I’ve been fed this fiction all my life and I am done with it now, it's led to countless problems for me in my life, settling for too little, letting past partners and friends treat me like shit. I sometimes think if they didn’t live with me I’d go NC with her (not with my dad), but my dad needs me all the more because he’s married to such a psycho, so I have to keep going, I can’t let him down. (I know I'm being really savage about my mum, I actually do love her but she is so hard to love. I also sympathise with her more than it sounds, because I think she is depressed, but what can anyone do to help when she refuses to go to the doctor?? - and that and the nastiness are what have caused this bitterness in me.)

It’s just so hard. I just needed to get that out. Apologies for the long post.

student26 Sun 10-Mar-19 14:40:40

I didn’t want to read and run but give you virtual hugs and sympathy. It sounds like a very hard situation for you and your Dad. X

smurfy2015 Sun 10-Mar-19 15:05:25

flowers, it's just an idea but are they registered with the same GP?

Can you explain the situation briefly in a letter to the GP and ask that the GP does a house call unexpectedly (was just in the area and called to check on how) your Dad is and do a brief check over, BP, listen to chest etc and while s/he is there, do the same for your mum.

GPs are experienced at assessing the mental state, as chatter esp when doing obs. They might be then able to do referral forward despite your mum's displeasure as they are not immediate family and so are likely to be treated well and not told to stuff off or similar.

Your dad is housebound so the GP call is not out of scope entirely. He may be in a better spell but the GP doesnt know that and they were "just passing"

The GP is aware of the situation and will not break your confidence but will have a fuller picture to assess the situation and see from there. They have the professional knowledge of how this goes and how to deal with it. Older parents esp are more likely to concede to what "the Dr said" and that may lead to support, possible intervention down the line.


bringincrazyback Sun 10-Mar-19 15:33:02

Thanks guys. @smurfy2015 that's not a bad suggestion, thanks... might be worth a shot.

Grace212 Sun 10-Mar-19 17:01:15

I really feel for you

would you not suggest a home because you don't want your dad to be stuck alone with her?

it almost sounds like it would be better if your mother went into a home. how old is she?

I take my hat off to you for all you are doing. I understand the guilt and feelings of wanting to be a good daughter. I am in the position where my mum is nice and I'm struggling just to help out!

bringincrazyback Sun 10-Mar-19 19:24:21

would you not suggest a home because you don't want your dad to be stuck alone with her?

Partly, but it's mainly that I think my mum would be desperately unhappy in a home, and she's always been terrified of being put in one. My dad's more of an extrovert and would adapt, I think, but the main reason is that they've lived here for 5 years and this is very much their home now too. We did agree at the beginning that if it ever became medically necessary, a move to a home or hospital living situation may have to be considered, but I'd never forgive myself if I took that decision just because my mum's being impossible.

It's also really hard to describe their marriage, I think on balance most of the time they are still as happy together as it's possible to be in the circumstances, it just makes me so sad that my mum can be so inconsiderate and unkind when she's not in a good place. I've never understood their marriage, and I'd never be in a marriage like it myself, from either side, but I do know that they love each other very much, unfortunately though I'm fast coming to the conclusion that my mum is extremely unskilled at showing love. I don't think her upbringing ever afforded her the opportunity to learn, her family was very cold emotionally from what I can gather. sad

Personally I think they'd both benefit from counselling, but you can imagine the reaction I got when I suggested that. Sigh.

Thanks for the thoughts. smile

Grace212 Sun 10-Mar-19 20:41:17

if they are happy together in that inexplicable way - which I know what you mean, sometimes you meet couples who really don't even seem to get on confused - then could they go into a home together?

it really doesn't seem right for you to carry on like this.

bringincrazyback Mon 11-Mar-19 11:07:29

@Grace212 it's not unthinkable, but I can't see myself ever doing that without feeling terrible guilt for the rest of my life as a result, especially if they went into decline because of it, as I suspect they would. sad

I suppose there's a part of me that thinks they made sacrifices for me growing up so I should be willing to make sacrifices for them now, I'm not even sure if that's a rational thought, it's just one that I find myself having constantly.

Grace212 Mon 11-Mar-19 11:18:32

OP how old are they? Some people do better in homes etc as they have less to do and recover a bit more. Though it sounds like you are running round after them a lot?

re the "they did everything for you" - hmm, I am childfree and I very much feel that people have children, they raise them as they wish to etc those "sacrifices" were chosen.

on another thread, someone said "you can't set yourself on fire to keep someone else warm" . I thought that was a really good phrase. There's a limit to how responsible we can be for oldies, even when we have desire to be helpful. I know this is easier said than done....I was thinking of moving in with my mother but have realised it's not a good idea.

Soontobe60 Mon 11-Mar-19 11:29:25

Going into a home should be the final option. You need to think of your parents needs as two separate issues. What support does your dad need, and how can that be sorted out? Then the same for your mum. You need to try and understand how it might be for your mum in particular getting old and unable to do things like she used to.
I've just been listening to a woman with dementia on R4 this morning. She talked about carers allowing her to do things for herself even though they may take much longer than having someone doing it for her. To her, that was very important. The more she is left to do things, the longer she will be able to have some independence. The same could be true for your mum.
She may have dementia, which compounded with her difficult behaviour will be very challenging for anyone to live with.

Grace212 Mon 11-Mar-19 11:42:26

Soontobe60 "Going into a home should be the final option."


re the carers allowing people to do things themselves, I can totally see why that's important. However, even though I was going to move in with mum, I always said it would not be for care. If she needed an actual trained carer we would have to go that route, or I would totally lose my mind. Literally.

bringincrazyback Mon 11-Mar-19 11:52:49

You need to try and understand how it might be for your mum in particular getting old and unable to do things like she used to.

If I'm coming off as lacking sympathy or empathy, that's absolutely not the case. My own mental health issues have actually worsened over all of this because I do little other than try to anticipate my parents' fears/worries/needs at the expense of my own. My mum still does quite a lot, by her own insistence, but this is complicated by my dad's constant hinting that I should take over everything (he always waited on her hand and foot in the past and seems to think I should take over doing the same now he can't, they've always tended to live in a bit of a 'reality airlock' if that makes any sense, and their marriage isn't really on the same planet as most people's, lol) - and by the fact that her capabilities are dwindling and it's becoming a regular occurrence to find one of the cats has been shut in a room overnight/food or rubbish has been left out to rot or similar. So finding the balance of how much to let her do is challenging, but I agree with you re the importance of her retaining some independence, in fact I think this is why she insists on it herself. She used to work with dementia patients and I often feel she must fear it even more than most of us do because she's seen so much of what it does. I'm convinced this is what's behind the doctor-refusal, but my attitude (which I realise may come off as unsympathetic, but that's because I'm at the end of my tether with worry) is influenced by worry of my own about how I am supposed to help her when she refuses to let anyone get a proper assessment of what she may or may not need, if that makes sense?

@Grace212 my mum's 78 and my dad's 83. My dad is actually still sharp as a tack in his mental faculties (which must make it a lot harder for him to have limited mobility, especially as he was always a very active and 'doing things for others' person before his Parkinson's and pain issues hit), it's harder to tell with my mum because she has always been vague and forgetful, even when apparently healthy. This is going to sound unkind, but I fully believe this is learned behaviour because in the past it always suited them both for my dad to play the rescuer and my mum the helpless little girl, but it does now make it virtually impossible to tell whether there is any dementia setting in or not - my examples above re the cats and leaving food to rot are things that have sometimes happened with her as far back as I can remember, because she's always been vague and forgetful. Other people have always picked up the pieces for her, if I'm honest, although I know that sounds unkind.

I really like 'you can't set yourself on fire to keep someone else warm' BTW, sadly that's a very good description of exactly what I feel I am doing lately, and I still feel like it's never enough. I'm childfree by choice too BTW and I often wonder whether I'd find all of this easier if I was more of a naturally 'nurturing' type, so to speak. I do agree with your reasoning re having children being a choice, though.

MumUndone Mon 11-Mar-19 12:00:18

Gosh OP, you're definitely not a bad daughter, it sounds like you're coping and putting up with way more than most of us would.

I think getting the GP to do a house call is a good idea. If that's not possible, what would happen if you insisted, i.e. she must see a GP otherwise you will have to consider alternative living arrangements? Clearly she will react badly but it sounds like whatever you do she reacts badly - or could your OH have this conversation with her?

Re. cigarettes, maybe tell her that from now on she's responsible for getting her own, which might encourage her to leave the house more often.

I think, if you can, you need to start standing up to her more as afterall she is living in your house, so really ought to start towing the line. Easier said than done, but the only alternative for your own sanity is the care home option.

Grace212 Mon 11-Mar-19 12:36:00

OP, yes, I can imagine it's learned behaviour.

when you've posted in the past, I've thought the issue is your mum's personality.

I'm not a nurturing person, I'm not a people person. I know exactly what you mean, if I was the type who wanted DC I might feel different about doing care.

my mother and late father were always adamant that they didn't want me putting my life on hold to do daily care stuff though, so I have been lucky that I haven't grown up with anyone telling me to do it.

tbh I realise you are probably keen to avoid pain, but I wonder if just telling them it's time they moved is the best thing. Otherwise you could be in this situation 10 years time.

I don't know how you find time to do anything else with them living with you.

bringincrazyback Mon 11-Mar-19 20:48:16

I don't know how you find time to do anything else with them living with you.

I often don't! grin

MereDintofPandiculation Tue 12-Mar-19 09:20:14

I do agree with your reasoning re having children being a choice, though. I don't think anyone ever says "I think we ought to have a child, it's going to involve huge sacrifices and we're not going to enjoy being parents, but it's our duty". People have children, on the whole, because they feel it will be rewarding in some way. Conversely, caring for elderly parents takes away all that is rewarding in the relationship - you never have time just to sit and chat because all your time is spent helping to wash, cleaning, washing, driving to medical appointments (an ever more complicated event as mobility declines).

bringincrazyback Tue 12-Mar-19 13:12:33

Conversely, caring for elderly parents takes away all that is rewarding in the relationship - you never have time just to sit and chat because all your time is spent helping to wash, cleaning, washing, driving to medical appointments (an ever more complicated event as mobility declines).

That's so true, and it's such a shame. I guess this is one of the upsides to them living here, that there is a bit of time here and there to just chat, at least when my dad's feeling OK and my mum's behaving like a human being. lol

hellymart Sat 16-Mar-19 19:14:38

You have my sympathy; it sounds like an awful situation and I can identify with some of it (my father, rather than my mother, is the difficult one. I believe he also has a narcissistic personality disorder. Everything's about him. If you criticise him - or what he sees as a criticism - he turns nasty. My mother is - reluctantly - his carer and he bullies her and generally makes life hell for everyone, although they don't live with me).
I have a few suggestions, which I hope might help:
1. I agree with the other poster who suggested you get in touch with the GP and see if he/she will make a visit, or send a letter requesting an appointment is made. I recently wrote to my parents' GP and although he could not reply to me (they cannot discuss your parents without their permission), he did do the 2 things that I asked him to do, so I didn't feel quite so helpless.
2. Is there any kind of day care that your dad could go to, even if it's just once a week or once a month? If you contact Age Concern in your area, they might know of something. It would give him a break from your mother (you said he cries - is that perhaps a sign of depression?) and perhaps she could be encouraged to do something for herself/get out of the house?
3. Your mother is probably right, that there's perhaps no help available from the state but you could get carers in if you paid for them. You said your parents were not short of money. Is this something they (your dad?) could pay for, if you're not in a position to do so?
4. You said that your mother is respectful to your DH (this is classic narcissist behaviour. My dad's the same. They don't care what crap they spout to 'family' but they want 'outsiders' to have a good opinion of them). Can he not stand up for you, in some way? If he asked your mother not to speak to you in that tone (when she treats you like a servant/6 year old), would she take note? I realise that some of these suggestions might just make the situation worse, so ignore them if no good!
5. If your mother is a nicer person when people from outside are around, are there friends/neighbours you could occasionally invite in for a coffee/afternoon tea?
6. This forum is good - I posted on here once, when I was at my wits' end and feeling very stressed. There are people on there who can give you more/better advice than me, so have a look:

The only other thing I can say to you is remember, nothing lasts forever. This situation will not last forever, although it may feel like it at the moment. Try to stay healthy yourself - it's important. Try mindfulness, meditation, yoga, pilates, if possible (even if you just do it from the internet, not at a class). Have some time for yourself, when you can try to put your problems to the back of your mind.
Your father knows that you are on his side and trying to help him, so don't beat yourself up about that.
Take care of yourself. Come back and post again if things improve.

Happynow001 Sun 17-Mar-19 16:29:30

My mum still does quite a lot, by her own insistence, but this is complicated by my dad's constant hinting that I should take over everything (he always waited on her hand and foot in the past and seems to think I should take over doing the same now he can't,

This ^^. Careful OP that you don't find yourself, through misplaced feelings of guilt, drifting into this because of your feelings for your father vs your mother. If you are at the end of your tether now it will be worse if you give into his hints through guilt.

Great idea to get the GP round as he/she was "passing" - older people/parents are much more likely to take advice from a professional/voice if authority who is not related to them at all. Perhaps he can mention getting professional careers in to help and take the strain. Do, however, be very clear with the GP how you feel - as honest as you have been here.

Also how much help can your DH give you? Does he have your back - eg telling them both together that your health is suffering with trying to balance a demanding job and the help they both need, emphasising that because you may WFH doesn't mean you don't have outside employers/clients you also need to commit to, etc. Does your DH also do any of the practical chores around the house to help out?

Also one of your posts mentions "his house" and "paying him rent". Doesn't the house belong to you both - why does it seem they/your mother is separating you and your DH in their minds?

You sound mentally exhausted and wracked with guilt. If you (and your DH) find a fair resolution you will be the next one I'll and where will that leave you all?

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