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Feeling increasingly irritated with elderly mother who lives with us

(67 Posts)
Avalon85 Thu 12-Apr-12 15:31:48

I don't know if you can help me but I currently feel dreadful and must be a vile person. For the past 11 years, my 91 year old mother has been living with us (me, husband and teenage daughter). We brought her here when my dad died in 2000. She was active enough and drove her car, was quite 'young' for her age but pretty irritating as only an elderly lady could be. But she was newly bereaved so we went out of our way to make her welcome, took in her incontinent cat too (we had pets of our own) and made sure she had her own living room aside from ours. It went well enough to start with but, over the years she has become awkward, cranky, opinionated and negative about everything. She's in bad health and has regular district nurse visits to do her dressings (her legs are ulcerated). She does so many of the things people in the thread above have said, like the constant inane chit chat, the interfering and question asking that it drives me scatty. She has given up driving as she is disabled and cannot walk easily.

My elderly inlaws are brilliant, taking her out once or twice a weeks for tea or shopping. They have lots of time spare and are only 10 years younger so lots in common. But I feel like my life is not my own. My friends get monopolized by her so i dont ask them over any more, and she wants to be included in absolutely everything whereas I sometimes just want a normal life and would like to come home from work, kick off my shoes (anywhere I want) and turn up loud music if I feel like it. I would like to have a conversation with my husband without her being involved in it. I'd like to spontaneously go out to dinner with him or with him and my daughter, without feeling guilty and having to take her too. I'd also like to sit in my own living room without her leaving her own and wanting to come in and talk over the tv programme. I don't want to have a running commentary about who's I'll, who's died or how wet her dressings are (at the table!).

It's hard for my 16 year old daughter who gets as frustrated. Her life and her comings and goings are constantly scrutinised. She was very caring but over protective when I was a child and silly and irritating towards me as a teenager. I couldn't wait to leave home and escape. Any one arrives at the door for me and she's in the back ground ("who is it. Are you there. Etc). Constant reminders. ("don't forget it's black bin day tomorrow" "have you got your new car tax yet") and, the other week, when there was a mini heatwave and I was sat in the garden after work (tap tap tap on the window "come in, you'll catch your death".

My husband and I run a business. We are very young for our age, neither looking, dressing or acting like we're in our early 50s but this is making me feel prematurely aged. I could scream, I'm so frustrated. Of course I love her, but I really don't think I like her and I don't want to feel like I'm stuck in a time warp and life revolves around dissecting coronation street or talking about hospital visits. I have tried everything to get her to go to social groups for her age group where they will collect her and bring her back but she point blank refuses to go. I have tried to do everything I can think of to get her to interact with peope of her own age but she turns her nose up at it. I am under a lot of stress at work and my relationship is affected by my feelings of frustration as no one else seems to appreciate how I really feel. Hubby can hide away at work, or go on business trips but I'm the principle carer and have a daughter to run about to her social events too.

I can never get away from it. I find conseqently, for a break, I spend half my evening in my bedroom tv watching to get away from the comments and irritation. Hubby says she's annoying and daft - sometimes he gets pretty cheesed off, but seems to be able to switch off. I'm too young to spend my life like this. Her nurses come here and seem to be under the impression we live with her solely to help her, not she lives with us. She acts up with them, putting on a sweet little old lady persona and them turns into a grumpy old battleaxe when they are not here.Teenage daughter likes her long term boyfriend to stay over sometimes and she acts like I'm a child abuser allowing it. I could go on forever but what's the point. I feel quite hopeless like no one knows or cares how I feel. Its not my hormones, by the way, - everything has been checked. It's not anyone else at all that irritates me. I actually have massive reserves of pateince. Its just her.

A previous thread I posted this on (Decided to start this one ass that thread was last active in 2010) had a poster on it who said that her mother offers to unload the dishwasher, she's says 'no, im still cooking' and then leaves the room for something only to come back and find her mother unloading the dishwasher all over the place regardless. Its just like that for me! Only, that poster's mother only stays for a few days at a time. and still drives her crackers. Mine's been here for 11 years! Anyone who has a visiting elderly relative who gets into everything and make them feel like climbing the walls, may like to ponder what it feels like if they are there all the time. 24/7.

Yesterday, as an example, she decided to unload her washing and put her drying in the tumble drier while I was at work. But mine was already in there, half dried, ready for someone to push the button to start a new cycle. Instread of pushing the button again while her own washing was doing, she simply took my laundry out and dumped it all, damp, on the wooden floor next to the machines and put her own in. When I mentioned it (Just got home after a long and difficult day at work, tired after battling through the shops to find something for tea for us all) she got aggressive and said "Oh, one day I'll do something right for you!" She has done this before; I've mentioned it before, and thought she had understood it wasn't quite the right thing to do! Would have been nice to hear her say "oops, sorry, not 'I cant do anything right! in an agressive manner"

Just want to know if anyone empathizes or do you all think I'm the devils spawn for speaking out? This is seriously getting to me and making me feel miserable - guilty for feeling irritated at my own mother but conscious that this is not a natural situation and its not good for me to feel like this either. Thank you for listening.

janx Thu 12-Apr-12 15:39:13

Gosh that does sound hard - I am not in the same situation but it does sound very draining. I am sure someone with more experience will come along.

Mumsyblouse Thu 12-Apr-12 15:40:25

I don't want your plea to go unanswered, no wonder you are tired out! I also live with relatives and it is tiring and you can get very irritated by each other. My main tip seems to be to live your own life and try and ignore their huffing and puffing. Go and meet your friends outside for lunch, not in the house. Do activities that you enjoy and make you feel better about things. Go out with your husband. Get out of the house or do as you do, go to your bedroom and shut the door, don't feel bad about wanting some privacy, it's normal! Put on a bit of a shell, don't listen too carefully to her moanings and groanings, just say 'oh yes' even if you don't agree (a stock set of phrases such as 'oh yes' 'really' and 'hmmm' probably cover most of it).

You have done something very kind by taking her in, but it is tiring you out, so don't be afraid to reclaim some time and some energy for you and your life, as it's the only way you will be able to cope in the future. Good luck.

pinkappleby Thu 12-Apr-12 15:47:20

I echo mumsyblouse in saying go out with your husband and your daughter, don't feel bad, don't end up being a martyr to your mother.

I would go one further and tell her she goes to the activities that are available in the day or she goes into sheltered housing in order to give you some space.

pinkappleby Thu 12-Apr-12 15:48:02

forgot to say, you sound like a lovely daughter, she is lucky to have you.

BonnieBumble Thu 12-Apr-12 15:48:45

I agree with Mumsyblouse, you have to reclaim some time on your terms. If you want to go out with dh just go, don't feel guilty or bullied into taking her along. Bite your tongue when she criticises you, it isn't worth falling out over.

My mil had her mother live with her for a few years and my mil got increasingly annoyed with her mother, there was nothing major it was just the general annoyances that you get when you have adults living under the same roof. Then her mum died and mil went into a deep depression because she felt guilty that she was always bickering with her mother.

Don't sweat the small stuff and make sure that you get quality time on your own when you need it.

GoOnPitch Thu 12-Apr-12 15:50:25

Is there any way you could get some 'respite', a week or two where she could go to another relative and you have a break?

My MIL had her own mum at home and she found it so difficult that she told us that she would never ever want to live with us when she is old and to put her in a care home as she knows how draining it is...

margoandjerry Thu 12-Apr-12 15:51:16

gosh poor you. I have no experience here but just wanted to say that you do not sound unreasonable. It all sounds infuriating and I can't think of many ways around it but I hope that's because I have no experience of it and other, better posters will be along soon.

I do not think you should waste any time thinking this is your problem or feeling guilty about it. You are certainly not the devil's spawn.

Have you tried laying down some house rules for her? It might sound harsh but perhaps say that you are finding it hard to get any privacy and you are thinking of inviting her to your living room twice a week or whatever but the rest of the time, expect some family time of your own. Even writing that down sounds harsh but she is driving you nuts and is not showing much respect. Of course at that age I think it's to be expected - I guess she's lost some of the sense of boundaries that she should have - so maybe you just have to put them back in.

Sorry if that's hopelessly naive. My mum is still early 70s and jolly so not in your world (yet).

ImperialBlether Thu 12-Apr-12 15:52:55

I am sitting here in tears at your thread. What a horrible situation for you all to be in. She is being completely unfair. She can't only rely on you for companionship - it's not fair on you or your marriage or your daughter.

I agree with the poster who said go out as much as you can. I'm tempted to say you should lie about what you're doing, in an effort to make life easier. Could you three start swimming (eg) or join a running club or similar so that you're out of the house, doing something together and can go for a meal afterwards?

Can you three start doing something like Saturday brunch on the pretext of going out to shop? Does she want to go out with you if you go shopping? Arrgh it's like having a shadow!

What about one night per week you go out with your husband and your daughter sits with her. Another night you go out with your daughter and your DH sits with her (or doesn't - she probably won't demand that of him) and a third night your husband and daughter go out together?

I think you should probably have a really firm word with her actually and say that your marriage is suffering as a result of her being there, but the thing is what can happen then? Do you want her to go into a home? (Don't answer that!) I mean - are you prepared for her to go into a major sulk and say she wants a home?

It's really important for your daughter that she spends a lot of time with you and her dad because presumably she'll be off soon to do her own thing. You only have a short while left with her at home and you have to enjoy it.

As far as the kitchen goes, it would drive me absolutely fucking mad. I'm sorry, but it would. I can't bear anyone in my way in the kitchen. I simply have no idea what you can do about it.

ImperialBlether Thu 12-Apr-12 15:54:52

It's so easy to appear selfish, isn't it, by just wanting some time with your own family. So if you want a day out with them, you can just hear "What about me?" But realistically she shouldn't expect that - she didn't do it, did she?

hattifattner Thu 12-Apr-12 15:58:02

how would she react to you saying something along the lines of:

"the incident with the washing...clearly we are getting on eachothers nerves and I dont want our relationship to be this way, so I think we both need to spend time away from eachother and give eachother space to breath.

"SO at least once a week, Im going out with DH and possibly with DD. Id like you to do something outside the home once a week too - bingo or out with a friend or church or something, just to get you out of the house and mixing with other people. I think we'll all get on better if we live our own lives a bit, instead of being in each others pockets"

Helltotheno Thu 12-Apr-12 15:59:52

I feel sorry for you OP, that's really difficult. My mother sounds v similar to yours though younger. Like yours, I found her really irritating when I was a teenager and because she did nothing much with her life, she overly focussed on really unimportant stuff in my life and didn't focus at all on obvious things in relation to me that needed attention. People like that imo are more likely to be very irritating older people because they've become used to being self-absorbed and focussing on trivialities. That whole thing of putting on a sweet-as-pie face to strangers drives me insane too...
But at least I don't have to live with her and I think you did a very selfless thing in taking her in, I really do.

You need and deserve a break from time to time, and so does your family, in particular your daughter. Aren't there places they can go for a break for a couple of weeks, sort of respite homes?

What about siblings? Do you have any that could take over for a while?

But also what the others say is true. Tune out a lot of what she says, for example that comment about sitting outside, I just ignore comments like that and change the subject. And usually a non-committal 'yes' or 'no' covers the boring stuff..

Lovetats Thu 12-Apr-12 16:01:01

I think you sound like a saint!

I only see my mother a few times a year as she lives abroad, but she drives me up the pole after only a few hours. If we lived together, I'd be sectioned.

You have my every sympathy.

lisaro Thu 12-Apr-12 16:07:27

It sounds bloody awful, you really do have my sympathy. But (and I'll probably be flamed here) I do agree with her about your daughters boyfriend though obviously not to extent that she seems to feel.

NotMostPeople Thu 12-Apr-12 16:15:08

You have my sympathies, my Mum drives me nuts when she's here for a few days and I honestly couldn't live with her. I think you need to understand that by being a little more self centered you are actually being kinder to her because if you carry on the way you are now you are going to explode. More distance, more going out without her, less interaction.

NatashaBee Thu 12-Apr-12 16:18:59

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

AgathaFusty Thu 12-Apr-12 16:22:08

My goodness, what an awful situation you are in.

Does she have to continue to live with you, or would a residential home be an option? I understand that is not what she may like, but really, you have given her 11 years of your life, of your daughter's growing up years, it's time for you now.

I really don't think I could tolerate your situation (even if I got on with my mother!).

Rezolution Thu 12-Apr-12 16:28:27

OP You have no quality of life I agree, but you have put up with this situation for 11 years. What has made it particularly difficult right now? Are you a bit under the weather yourself? How about a chat with your GP?
Your DM could probably do with a bit if respite care (respite for YOU) brew

Avalon85 Thu 12-Apr-12 16:34:36

Thank you for all your comments - i'm really very touched. Im currently at work so dont have a lot of time to digest all of this, but from what ive seen, there are some very positive comments that I will certainly think of. I like the idea of maybe talking with her as hattifattner suggested. A residential home isnt an option - she'd be outraged and furious and very, very hurt. I will look at this all in more detail later but thank you for caring. Its helped enormously just being listened to. Currently, we're going through a lot of stress at work and when I tried to talk to my husband last night, he wasn't having any of it. Told me to quit complaining as a lot worse was happening at work and to get things into perspective. He doesn't mean to be hard - we're just going through a really problematic spell and have made some redundancies, so his thoughts are well and truly elsewhere. He needs me to be strong for him, not demand he helps me over what he sees as an unneccesaary reaction. He wants me to get along with her and not give him any additional stress. We do get out and about together, its just that she gets into a sulk and causes an atmophere when we do ...... Just for info, btw, I'm an only child! Thank you all and be pleased to hear any more comments as and when. Makes me feel a bit more sane and not quite so 'wrong'. xx

TripleRock Thu 12-Apr-12 16:39:56

I can totally understand where you're coming from and don't think you're being evil at all. I really take my hat off to you and can relate to your story.

My Grandparents lived with my parents for about 15 years before they both moved into a care home. So they were mid 70s when they moved in. I was about 7 and they were still there when I left home at 19.

At the time when they moved in, it seemed like a great solution all round. They were able to sell their house and pay off their mortgage. They were able to baby sit for me and my little sister and contributed to the bills. My Gran would do Sunday lunch which we would all eat as a family and generally things worked well.

As time went on and they became more elderly/infirm it did become more difficult to be honest. Over time, they received a lot of support from adult services who would come in and prepare meals and help them get dressed etc, but even with this help the whole situation was still a massive strain on my mum and it was difficult for my parents to go out for the evening or get away for the weekend and leave them. The presence of her own mother seemed to make my mum behave like a surly teenager all over again in some ways (admittedly this was from my own teenage perspective). She started spending a lot of time upstairs.

This is difficult for me to say, because my Grandma did pass away fairly recently, but there were times whilst she was living with my parents where her behaviour was manipulative and childlike. She would tell the carers all sorts of things that weren't true, whether she realised they were inaccurate or whether she truly believed them at the time is less clear, but I know it really hurt my mums feelings.

I can also relate to your comments about your DD, because I did feel like a bit of a criminal if my boyfriends car had stayed on the drive overnight. And I did have to endure some pointed 'subtle' comments and lectures on the subject from my Grandma. Which I guess I can look back on and smile about now, although it was pretty cringeworthy at the time.

On the brightside, my sister and I were always much closer to my Grandparents, so that it is a real benefit of living together as a family. My Grandparents used to talk to us about their experiences in the war and some of the amazing things they'd achieved in their life and I do really value those memories of my childhood, particularly now my Grandma has passed away.

I have no advise really, other than to say I can totally see where you are coming from. My parents only real coping strategy, was to get as much support from social services as they possibly could (even for things that would be quite easy for my parents to do). My parents made sure my Grandparents received all the help they were entitled to, which in turn took some of the strain off my parents.

My grandparents also took a lot of comfort in the later years from my parents dog, who seemed to provide them with a lot of company and comfort, especially when my parents were out, I don't know if this is something you could consider?

lagartija Thu 12-Apr-12 16:46:26

My mother also lives with us...have to see to small children but will be back later OP. xx

kerstina Thu 12-Apr-12 17:03:37

Just want to say I think you are amazing .I am an only child and think the world of my mom I like to think I would do the same for her as you are if she needed me to. Although am not sure my other half would be as tolerant as yours smile
I think you definitely need some respite and as others have suggested getting out and having some space. Also encouraging her to go out and meet other older people. Just think if any thing happened to her you have done your absolute best to look after her. Also try reading a book called Don't sweat the small stuff as she is irritating you and triggering a stress response in you. Also get her to read it !
Keep venting you are a saint smile

OrmIrian Thu 12-Apr-12 17:09:02

If residential care is out of the question, would she consider some sort of warden-controlled housing near enough to see each other once or twice a week? I think it's quite reasonable to say that since she now needs more medical care than you can give, she should consider somewhere where there is help on tap 24/7.

IloveJudgeJudy Thu 12-Apr-12 17:14:27

I think you must be saint-like, too smile. I think that no matter how you say you wouldn't put her in a home, you might want to threaten her with it.

You say she has her own sitting-room. Can she go there after dinner, or for most of the day on, say, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays?

I also agree with one of the others about making her go out for the day to whatever day centre stuff is available. Not the same at all, but DH's mother still lives in her own home, but was like this. Eventually, she did agree to go to Age Concern once a week. They came and got her and delivered her back home. My goodness, what a difference it made to her. She had started going a bit "strange", but having half a day or a few hours talking to other people did her an absolute world of good. She had other things to think about and met other people. This then led on to a couple of other clubs, I think, or at least other people to telephone or visit.

I also agree that you need to sort of manipulate her into behaving differently. Maybe say something about your marriage (but talk to DH first, you don't want her being horrible to him behind your back).

I do hope you manage to sort something out for your own and your family's sanity.

ImperialBlether Thu 12-Apr-12 17:15:07

The OP came back to say residential care was out of the question, OrmIrian.

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