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Elderly parents driving me around the bend

(16 Posts)
MrsMiniver Tue 06-Sep-11 08:21:17

My parents are both in their 80s. Dad has always been controlling, rigid and anxious but he's become a hundred times worse in the last few months and been diagnosed with severe OCD; he's getting treatment in the form of therapy and medication but won't take some of his medication or help himself and instead whines like a child. My mum is co-dependent and he treats her like a doormat and she now has no life of her own. She's a good woman and I love her but she enjoys being a martyr and won't stand up to him.

I do what I can to help, phone every day, offer to help with the doctors etc but feel like I'm getting nowhere. One minute mum can't take it any more and wants me to step in and then it's "not that bad really". I've always had a fraught relationship with dad who never showed me or my brothers any real kindness, and I'm beginning to dislike him intensely. I feel that maybe it's best that I just don't get that involved; I'll carry on phoning every day and offering practical help but as they won't listen to my suggestions for getting him better/mum being more assertive with him, I might as well stop trying on that score. It makes me feel disloyal but what else can I do? Anyone been in a similar situation?

CailinDana Tue 06-Sep-11 08:39:40

You can't change them. You need to accept that. They are who they are and they're going to be that way until they die. It's a very tough situation and you're trying to make it better but remember they've set up this dynamic between them and chances are they aren't able to change it, they might not even want to. It's what they're used to.

It's not disloyal to try to stop changing things. It's sensible, and just about the only thing you can do. You're right not to want to get involved - the situation is causing you a lot of stress. I think you should just continue to offer as much practical help and support as you can and try not to let their dramas get to you.

MrsMiniver Tue 06-Sep-11 09:43:44

Thanks so much Cailin, as I'm now beginning to think along those lines it's good to have an objective view. It has been causing me huge stress as I'm not able to change anything. As you say, they've been like this a long time and I don't suppose they can be turned round now.

BagdadCafe Tue 06-Sep-11 10:06:48

MrsM We are/have been similar with ILs, DM, GM - they reject family advice and help with practical changes, yet are not capable of coping with eg GPs, admitting treatable illness, daily meds, reject support from social services. Comparing stories with friends, it's par for the course.

Solutions have been covert taking over of practical aspects of their lives rather than offering advice, in collusion with medics and any social service help you can get. Breezy uncompromising practicality has been a good approach. Get power of attorney otherwise you'll be funding them as well later on.

Huge sympathy. Am currently dealing with MIL not taking daily insulin replacement pill, loses mental function, leaves gas on etc, codependent with overbearing FIL obsessive about his major and minor ailments, complaining about her mental function but will not check her pills.

I know how you feel. Sometimes I leave them to it to pay the price of their pigheadedness. Then we have endure the unspoken criticism of other family and professionals with their 'useful' suggestions. Your mental health and your practical support network for their care come first, I would say.

At some point, you have to bulldoze: turn up at the GP without asking, talk over them, organise daily care, etc. Tell 'em how it's going to be for your own sanity and conscience.

MrsMiniver Tue 06-Sep-11 10:29:52

Bagdad, huge thanks. Am sorting power of attorney as we speak, not a moment to soon! I think the steps you suggest are sensible and for the time-being will be there for them if they need me, as well obviously as maintaining regular contact.

You sound like a hugely empathetic person who values her own sanity and I hope your situation doesn't impact too much on your own life. That's what I'm concerned about, my mental health has to remain strong, not least for the sake of 11 year-old DD who has a complicated-enough life living between me and her dad (we're amicably divorced).

BagdadCafe Tue 06-Sep-11 10:39:38

Thanks, MrsM. So many women are dealing with elderly care + childcare + £. Note they are his parents, not mine - he is a non-starter on this + childcare. Would love to see more threads on this.

Reward yourself for your maturity, good conscience and hard work - you damn well deserve any respite you and DD want.

MrsMiniver Tue 06-Sep-11 10:50:11

It's unfortunately no surprise that your DH lets you do everything - thank God I'm divorced! It always seems to come down to the women, I have two brothers who are totally uninterested/useless with regard to my parents and one of them even lives with them!

I hope he realises how lucky he is to have you.

BagdadCafe Tue 06-Sep-11 10:54:22

I do find a lack of male involvement liberating and empowering... my word is now law wink

MrsMiniver Tue 06-Sep-11 11:02:38

Know what you mean, I love living without a man most of the time!

frostyfingers Tue 06-Sep-11 11:12:28

I feel your pain. Having had strokes my mother has gone from being an independent (widowed for 30 years), capable and prickly woman to being dependent on lots of help and she hates it, not surprisingly. She has to take lots of medication twice daily and despite carers coming 3 times daily still resists and resists.

She also refuses to go to bed at a normal time, and ends up falling asleep in her chair or at the kitchen table which of course makes her stiff and sore and mucks up the schedule for the pills. I was staying for a while and trying to get her to go to bed at 11ish and take her medication was really stressful - she ended up having a real go at DH and I, and was pretty unpleasant.

I come away exhausted, stressed and riddled with guilt so I know how awful you feel. You can only do your best, and try not to let the unkind words and bloody mindedness get to you.

MrsMiniver Tue 06-Sep-11 11:49:05

And I feel your pain too FF. We're only trying to be dutiful daughters but there's no straightforward solution. I don't want to end up hating my parents, it just feels so wrong and just trying to accept them is something I never thought I'd have to face.

You say your mother has always been prickly and I think that whatever traits they had when younger become magnified a hundred-fold when old age takes its toll. Having said that I know some really wonderful women in their 90s who still somehow manage to radiate positivity. If I make it that far, I do hope I'm in some way the same.

frostyfingers Tue 06-Sep-11 11:58:57

I totally agree about dementia etc exaggerating original characteristics - another thing that scares me is the thought that I might be like this too, in fact I'm sure that's one of the things that I find difficult to handle!

There are times in between caring for my 3 dc's who although between 12 & 16 still need me, and for my mother that I wonder about "me time" or tbh "me & dh time" - it's an age old problem I know, but I wonder whether I'll be only ever worrying about us, rather than the generation above and below as well!

One thing I'm grateful for is that it's not just me - my sister takes an equal responsibility and both our DH's do their best - it would be so much harder on my own.

BagdadCafe Tue 06-Sep-11 12:28:35

As a full-time carer for chronically ill DD, no benefit entitlement or help with £100 regular journeys to hospital (postcode lottery) because DH is working, inheritance divided amongst the other slackers, my old age will also be impoverished confused.

This is why power of attorney for care costs is so important. We also got hit with funeral costs, at least £2k. DM, DB and I thought the estate was sorted and probate still took over a year. Just saying.

moonstonezoe Tue 06-Sep-11 12:49:44

This is my life too. I have just had to accept that their difficult character traits have intensified with age. Fortunately they can still live independently but I do not know for how much longer.

They want me to listen to their complaints but not to do anything to alleviate them.

MrsMiniver I do sympathise with you.

MrsMiniver Tue 06-Sep-11 14:36:53

There's the rub Moonstone, I suppose we just have to practise being saint-like when all we want to do is scream! I do so hope I don't ever inflict this on my child but you just never know.

moonstonezoe Tue 06-Sep-11 14:43:13

I have thought exactly the same thing. But my DC have already chosen the Old Folks Home that they are going to put me in, they would put my name down now if they could and I'm only just over forty ;) So the DC should be OK!

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