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Selfish elderly mum - feeling so worried for my sister/property issues

(14 Posts)
hungrylabrador Wed 17-Oct-12 17:40:46

Regular but have name changed, as my dd tends to stalk me a bit on these boards and I don't want her to read this. Not sure what sort of response I'm looking for. I think I just want to unload. If you read - thanks! It's very long.

My 79 year old mum was widowed a couple of years ago. She is still living in the family home, which is ever more quickly 'eating itself' because of the equity release my dad took out on it a few years before he died. They used the money to sort out the windows and have the house repainted, also to buy cars/go on holiday. The idea was that mum would be able to stay in the house until she died.

However, it's dawned on all of us, EXCEPT MUM, that her staying in the house is actually a problem in the medium and long term as she's now on a very small income (half of dad's pension) and the house costs more to run and maintain than this income allows. The house needs rewiring and is very difficult to heat. It also has a very large garden that she can't manage, and she is having to pay gardeners to come and deal with it.

She's managed up to this point because my 50 year old sister had moved in with her in the last year of my dad's illness, and has been contributing to the costs of running the house from her salary. My sister has been fantastic with my mum, who has been very difficult since being bereaved. Mum can be very nasty – hypercritical, snobbish, spiteful, childish, self-pitying. At the same time dsis has also been dealing with withdrawing from alcohol, and the fall-out of leaving a long term abusive relationship. This relationship turned her from a beautiful, property owning professional woman with a successful career, into someone with no confidence, no money, no job and no home. sad Since stopping drinking a year ago she has slowly begun to get her life back, and has now got a good job and a new circle of friends, with the support of AA who have been a life-line to her.

Dsis has said to dm that she wants her to sell the house and buy a place together, with Dsis taking a mortgage and using it to turn whatever home they buy into two separate dwellings, so they can both have their own space. Really this is the only sensible thing to do. Mum can't stay in the house on her own - she simply can't afford it or cope with the garden. And if she doesn't make a decision soon, the equity release will have snowballed to the point where she simply won't be able to sell it and buy afford another home.

If she sells it within the next year she'll clear enough money to buy a really lovely place in the very expensive little village she's lived in for the past 20 years and doesn't want to leave. Dsis wants to take a mortage out and have any property my mum buys converted so that she can have her own living space. She really needs this. Mum is very controlling about how she runs her home. She also snipes at dsis about being late back from work (she's a school teacher who commutes an hour and a half into work each way), and gets sniffy about her going to AA meetings frequently. She expects my sister to behave like a partner to her – doing all the paperwork in the house, dealing with the bank, putting petrol in the car and having it serviced, talking to builders, dealing with the inland revenue. Yet my mum is perfectly capable – she’s not senile, stupid or ill, just lacking in confidence because my dad infantilised her by not involving her in any of the financial aspects of running the home throughout their married life. She expects my sister to attend social events with her, shop with her, give her lifts, drive her into town. All of which my sister does, despite often being very, very tired because of her long commute and her stressful job.

Dsis is desperate for us to discuss this as a family, but my mum is behaving in such a childish way about it. Whenever we raise the subject she says it’s too upsetting to talk about. My mum has ALWAYS done this whenever we raise any issue which makes her feel uncomfortable.

I can see mum insisting on staying in the house, and us all (but especially dsis) driving ourselves into the ground as she gets older, supporting her to live in a property which will eat up all of her income, and all of our time and energy. The house has no downstairs toilet, and she has no money to install one. She has arthritic knees and her mobility is getting worse. God knows what will happen when she can’t get up the stairs any longer, but no longer has enough equity in the property to buy a more suitable home. I also feel that she’s being very selfish to dsis, who will probably end up caring for her for the next decade, maybe even having to give up her job to do so, and then be left homeless after my mum’s death.

Mums friends, all well-off widows, are encouraging her not to allow us to ‘bully’ her, but I know mum hasn’t told them that she is on a very small income, and can’t afford to stay in the house without my sister there to pay for the upkeep of the property.

Anyway, my feelings about all this are getting a bit hot, because it’s stirring up old resentments against my mum, who I feel is very spoiled. I think my sister has had a hard life. My parents put her in a horrible boarding school at the age of 11 where she was bullied. They later left her living in a hideous bedsit with almost no financial support at the age of 17 and moved abroad. It was her choice at the time but it was very hard on her. She was young for her age and not at all streetwise. They left her not long after she had an abortion and she was ill and alone. She had a series of grim catering jobs over the next decade, and never had any financial help from them. Eventually she returned to college as a mature student and became a teacher. Paid her own way from start to finish.

I can’t stop thinking about her living as a young woman in her horrible bedsit, while they lived the high life in luxurious houses abroad. Even though she was very beautiful she never felt she deserved much, and so ended up going out with a selfish man for 18 years who refused to move in with her or have children. 18 years of ‘dating’. Three nights a week staying at his house, while he expected her not to leave any of her things there, and would charge her interest if he lent her money for anything. Eventually she left him for another selfish shit, who encouraged her to sell her flat, then squandered all the equity from it on paying his debts. I still hold it against my parents that they were so tolerant of this person – that they stood by doing and saying nothing while this man robbed my sister blind, hit her, and emotionally and financially abused her. Encouraged her to drink (he’s an alcoholic himself). I think my parents would have been a lot less forgiving of him if he hadn't been a barrister, whereas for me, this made his behaviour towards my sister even more psychotic and reprehensible. They have always been very snobbish about people’s professional status. (hence my dad not selling the house when he was alive – wouldn’t consider moving into a semi-detached property as he felt it was his right to live in a detached house).

Anyway, this is a long post. I’m not sure what I’m expecting. I feel so angry with my mum who I find very self-pitying and self-centred.

Roseformeplease Wed 17-Oct-12 17:50:50

What a tough story to read and, no doubt, a very tough thing to deal with. My own mother won't move for similar reasons, so I know, partly, how you feel. You also show such love and concern for your sister. I am not sure how much I can help.

Could your sister "withdraw" from helping your mother and actively begin property hunting, perhaps during a holiday? Sorry Mum, I can't help, I am going to look a flats near where I work. Would love to live with you but I need my own space and, as you won't move I am going to have to get on with my life.

What about seeking help from a financial advisor or accountant. I find with my mother, she listens to men far more than women and will do things that are sensible if told to do so by my husband. Is there an Uncle or Cousin who might step in and help?

Whatever you decide you have to remember it is your Mum's bed and she will have to lie in it. She will have to pay bills, wet herself getting to the toilet etc. she is an adult and only SHE is responsible for her decisions. However, I would suggest you take your sister away somewhere nice for a weekend to thank her for her help and care for your Mum. Perhaps your Mum will appreciate her when she is not there.

I also know that widows often seem to need someone to simply "become" their dead husband and that, in some ways, it helps put off the genuine need to grieve.

Good luck. You sound like a fantastic sister and daughter.

hungrylabrador Wed 17-Oct-12 18:07:32

Rose - you are SO RIGHT about my mum listening to men.

My younger brother also wants her to move. Maybe if he encourages her more. She dotes on him and respects his view more than she does mine I think.

But the whole professional thing - aaargh! I said that we should talk to a solicitor about the equity release and she said we could go back to the man who sold them the plan in the first place. That he was a 'very nice man'. I pointed out that he had encouraged them to take out the equity release without explaining to them that he worked for the organisation selling it (they had had separate business with him prior to taking out the equity release), and that he didn't ensure that my mother fully understood what the implications were of signing up to the deal. She still doesn't really understand the concept of compound interest. sad

"I also know that widows often seem to need someone to simply "become" their dead husband"

My mum feels the loss of her status as part of a couple very, very keenly. She can't bear to have to do things on her own.

I wish my sister would move near me, which is nearer where she works.

crazyhead Wed 17-Oct-12 18:15:02

Can't your sister get out of there and rent alone? Regardless of this house sale the situation sounds grim and your sister should be putting herself first for once.

Adversecamber Wed 17-Oct-12 18:16:48

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Roseformeplease Wed 17-Oct-12 18:17:30

Property brochures all over the house might help. If your Mum doesn't understand equity release is there an argument for mis-selling? Definitely get your brother involved. I also thing older folks often worry that they are being ripped off by family eager to get their hands on the inheritance. A solicitor might be able to reassure her of her rights / problems.

hungrylabrador Wed 17-Oct-12 18:17:43

My sister could rent.

The complicating factor is her dog. She has a demented, piddling, barking rescue dog who she's had for 5 years who she's DEVOTED to. He's her baby. He can't be alone in a house. My mum already has a terrier so is ok about having 2 dogs in the house.

I think she would find it very difficult to tell my mum she was leaving too.

chickydoo Wed 17-Oct-12 18:19:35

I wish you were my sister, you sound lovely
It's so hard when parents get old. I am at that point too.
I think your sister should move out, and maybe say to your mum she can spend one weekend a month with her to help with bills, paperwork etc. I am sure it won't take long before she realises she can't cope in her house as it is. Then your brother could step in & try some persuasive tactics.
I think actions speak louder than words...give it a go, she may come round to your way of thinking.
Good luck.

halloweeneyqueeney Wed 17-Oct-12 18:20:12

I agree that your sister should withdraw her help and move out, even to a rented room as a lodger. Don't think anything will change your mums mind while your sis is keeping her afloat while she gets her own way

ultimately, you are probably right about what your mum should do, but she's probably not going to do it, so the only sensible thing is to make sure others (mainly sister) don't get dragged down with her IYKWIM

chickydoo Wed 17-Oct-12 18:21:41

There are lots of dog walkers who could take your DS dog out while she works.
She needs you to help her make this move away, you can boost her confidence I'm sure.

Corygal Wed 17-Oct-12 18:53:01

This is one of those situations where you understand why the word 'guilt' has become a verb.

Yep, the only thing for your sister to do is to withdraw help long term and IMMEDIATELY reduce/stop financing yr DM. Thing is, when (not if) yr DM dies, DSIS will certainly be left homeless and rather badly off. That ain't nice. DSIS must get a new life, fast.

As far as yr DM goes, her priority is keeping up appearances in the village. Legally you can't force her to move.

But you can and must tell DM clearly, if nec in writing, that if she carries on with her life choices she will leave her own DD penniless and homeless. DM needs to know that, altho I bet she will resist being told like mad. Persevere.

If DM then carries on demanding subsidy and 24/7 unpaid services, then you've got a much better platform to refuse giving them. Tell other people why you can't help any more - DM won't like that, which might lead her to change things.

On the dark side, I don't think bad parents suddenly become good parents in their dotage, so holding out for a happy ending may be premature here. However, you can reduce the damage DM is doing.

From the heart, I think after putting up with your DP 50 years, you have a duty to protect your DSIS.

charlearose Wed 17-Oct-12 19:34:58

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Mayisout Wed 17-Oct-12 19:53:05

Good advice here.
Please get your dsis awaaaaaayyyy from that selfish old besom. V sorry for her widowhood, getting old, not understanding finances and all that but please, leave her to be bossy and miserable on her own and not able to inflict it on someone else and spoil their life too.

I would get dog walkers in (often v cheap as people have time on their hands and will happily do this). Separate Dsis from care of DM, her finances and her home completely and get DBrother and a solicitor to deal with your DM. They can explain costs of future care, need to move/downsize etc and set things rolling. And lastly separate yourself from the situation too because ime people hear what they want to hear and I doubt any amount of pleading or bargaining by you or your Dsis will alter your DM's views but getting someone else (ie articulate males) might. So you would be wasting time, effort and stress levels if you continue to try to fix the problems, take a big step back.

Mayisout Wed 17-Oct-12 19:58:42

PS I am not saying cut off all contact with DM, I mean just keep out of the decision making until this is fixed. IE DM is settled into a small retirement flat/ home or sheltered accommodation or whatever is sorted out for her.
Then call and visit as and when, but don't you or DS become her whipping boy/carer again.(She might be happier with this set up in the end too).

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