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Elderly parents

Feeling so resentful 🙁 How do you cope with looking after elderly parents and have your own life?

24 replies

StLevanBlackcaps · 05/04/2023 07:59

My parents are divorced, both have new partners but are still close. My relationship with them is complicated. I don’t feel like either of them has been a very good parent - my dad has never really been there for me and my mum has made very bad decisions that had a huge impact on me but refuses to acknowledge it. On the surface we look like a happy family but I don’t feel like that at all.

I cope best by seeing them for a limited amount of time and keeping them at arm’s length the rest of the time. However my dad is now unwell and I need to visit more and in between get constant updates on his condition. I know it sounds selfish but it’s driving me mad already - my mum insists on calling all the time even though I set up a WhatsApp group that we can all use and I find it so intrusive. She is being very helpful practically but she dramatises everything as she always has done and tends to make everything about her.

I can’t see how I can ever have a life of my own now they are getting older and need me more. I can’t keep them at arm’s length and I’m worried about the impact it will have on me. I’m finally getting my life back on track and I’m not in a place - either practically or emotionally - where I’m prepared to compromise that for them. But how can I not?

I’m aware how selfish I sound, I just want to do the right thing but I’ve no idea how.

OP posts:
CuriouslyDifferent · 05/04/2023 08:12

Don’t answer.

Think of them as kids, schedule a daily call with her, or a set time for calls. Set boundaries.

As for him, the level of support he needs from you sounds like it’s getting too much, so back off before it becomes expected. Say bye to any inheritance if you do so, as care costs are high. That’s the trade off.

you’re their child, not their carer, unless you choose to be.

Xrays · 05/04/2023 08:13

Your Mum sounds very over involved if your Dad has a new partner and so does she. I think you need to put yourself first more, you don’t have to answer every time she calls. Just ignore the phone, tell her you were driving / busy etc. It’s okay to put boundaries in. I had a very difficult relationship with my Mum and in the end I just had to distance myself, it’s okay to do that.

shutthewindownow · 05/04/2023 08:15

Have you got siblings ?
Set boundaries and they will have to get carers in if this is what they need
You are entitled to a life and you must have time for yourself they both have partners so they arnt alone

RoseThornside · 05/04/2023 08:27

I have similar issues with my parents. I have had to set boundaries (one being that I can't constantly take time off work to take them to and from medical appointments otherwise I'll lose my job, not be able to pay the mortgage, lose my house etc!). I find it hard to understand how they behaved towards me when I was a child and sometimes have to almost disassociate before seeing them.

Set boundaries - they will try to break them down initially i.e., ignoring your wishes, but you just have to keep to them. Good luck.

PermanentTemporary · 05/04/2023 08:48

I think it's possible to have love and empathy for a parent's difficult situation without that then meaning you have to trash your own life to try and fix the unfixable.

It's sad that your father's health is poor but why specifically do you visit more often as a result?

Your Mum values phone contact over WhatsApp. That's a reasonable choice but you don't then have to answer the phone all the time. Or respond with a 'can't talk, message me' text most of the time.

StLevanBlackcaps · 05/04/2023 09:32

I do have a sibling but they've fallen out with my dad, it very much feels like it's all down to me. I've tried so hard to put boundaries in place over the years and I'm finding it hard to set new ones.

OP posts:
CMOTDibbler · 05/04/2023 09:49

You absolutely have to set boundaries and keep them, otherwise you will have no life, and its not just for 6 months - my parents didn't live to be super elderly but even then it was 15 years of them needing assistance with my son being a toddler when it started.
Why does your dad need you to visit and give updates to your mum? I found with my dad (who I appreciate was anxious and lonely) that I had to put my foot down and tell him I would phone him once a day otherwise he was calling 7 times a day and I needed to be working.
You can keep them at arms length. They can use volunteer car service to go to appointments, use online shopping, get a cleaner - whatever is needed can be outsourced. Of course they would always rather you did things, but thats no reason for you to do it

Somanycats · 05/04/2023 10:21

I cope by setting out in stone how much I am able to give them time wise. I am generous with my time I think. They both know, as do my siblings that I will visit for four hours on Tuesday and Thursday. During that time I will fix the computer, do shopping if necessary or just drink tea. Thats it. Thats what I do. If they call in between times, I say I'll do the thing on my next visit or if it's an emergency I'll tell them to call 111, siblings, electrician etc.
It may seem mean, but it's the only hope I have of maintaining my own mental health.

MenopauseSucks · 05/04/2023 10:54

Both your parents have partners who should be pulling their weight. They're the carers.
Unless there's some massive drip feed about their post-divorce partners being incapable of caring, of maintaining the house, you're just the daughter.
You're not being selfish. Ignore your mother's calls & just use the WhatsApp group as that's what it's there for. Visit your father as much as YOU feel able to.
Sort out your oxygen mask before sorting out anyone else's.
And don't feel guilty about looking out for yourself.

MrsSkylerWhite · 05/04/2023 11:00

MenopauseSucks · Today 10:54
Both your parents have partners who should be pulling their weight. They're the carers. 
Unless there's some massive drip feed about their post-divorce partners being incapable of caring, of maintaining the house, you're just the daughter. 
You're not being selfish. Ignore your mother's calls & just use the WhatsApp group as that's what it's there for. Visit your father as much as YOU feel able to. 
Sort out your oxygen mask before sorting out anyone else's. 
And don't feel guilty about looking out for yourself.”

This. In no circumstances do we want our children looking after us. They have their own lives.

IthinkIsawahairbrushbackthere · 05/04/2023 11:50

Right now it sounds like your biggest burden is being an emotional support for your mum with her constant calls and updates. It's easy for me to say these things now because the burden of caring has been taken from me - my mum is in a home - but like you I have struggled with boundaries and a very emotionally needy mother. If you are not needed for physical care then don't answer your mum's calls. Ignore them. Phone her when you feel able to give her 15/20/30 minutes once a day. I very much doubt you can reason with her so you have to protect yourself.

StLevanBlackcaps · 05/04/2023 13:56

@IthinkIsawahairbrushbackthere you have hit the nail on the head. If it was my Dad himself calling or his partner I wouldn't mind it so much but my Mum just rubs me up the wrong way, she always has for multiple reasons. She expects too much from me but I'm not very good at saying no as I cant deal with the 'poor me' fallout.

WRT their partners, didnt mean to dripfeed - my dad's partner is a bit younger and she's fine. My mum's is lovely but not in great health himself. I think part of the reason I'm finding this hard is knowing how much support my mum will expect when he becomes worse/needs more care, it just feels like the start of years of stress.

OP posts:
bamboonights · 05/04/2023 15:53

I'm in the midst of all of this with my parents. The last three years have been intense with dementia/dad - my mother is his main career but wants nothing to do with finances etc.. and passes them all on to my Ds to sort (she's more capable of finances than me; I deal with the 'caring' side) Luckily Dsis and I are a good team - we have discussed how we never want the situation to break our sibling relationship and as it's happened, when she breaks down, I seem strong and vice versa. It's wickedly hard, frustrating, and difficult to be a carer. We don't have young children any more but both work FT. As others have said boundaries are absolutely necessary-we all have a right to a life and we all have a breaking point. I have no desire for my own children to ever be in this position, so I'm praying assisted dying laws are passed before I may get to this point. 💐

Thesharkradar · 06/04/2023 12:44

You're not selfish and the reason you're finding it hard to keep your boundaries is because your parents don't want you to have boundaries, they want to be able to use you as their lifelong servant that's why they don't want you to have boundaries.
It's up to you to stop them from doing this ....from exploiting you like this.

Number24Bus · 06/04/2023 12:47

You're not being selfish and it's fine to give as much support as you feel able to give and no more. When your mum calls, say "I can't talk right now, put a message on the WhatsApp group and I'll look at it later".

Thesharkradar · 06/04/2023 13:00

When your mum calls, say "I can't talk right now, put a message on the WhatsApp group and I'll look at it later
Or. Don't answer the call, and then about an hour later send a message saying sorry I'm too busy to talk etc, and then the same thing about the WhatsApp group.
If she leaves a voicemail send her a message responding to what she said in the voicemail.
What it boils down to is she wants everything on her terms and for her convenience, she wants you to jump up and answer the phone when she calls, it's easy to play her at her own game, respond to the call in the way that is most convenient for you i.e messaging and at the time when it's most convenient for you.
Never reply straight away, take back control and make her wait until you're ready.

EmotionalBlackmail · 07/04/2023 14:48

Why does your Dad being ill mean you have to visit more often? Stick to what you were doing and they'll have to sort out their own help/carers if more is needed. What have you had to stop doing in order to visit more often - prioritise your own needs.

I use the Do Not Disturb setting on my phone so I don't answer calls or even see I have messages from my Mum between 8am and 6pm. It's to stop her disturbing me at work but it's been very effective at making her stop ringing me about pointless stuff. I prefer dealing with msgs to phone calls so I will respond to a WhatsApp usually the same day (never immediately) but I only phone once a week.

Luredbyapomegranate · 07/04/2023 14:51

You can keep them at arms length OP - I’m not saying it’s easy but you can.

What are you willing to do and what aren’t you? And then set your boundaries.

You might find a bit of work with a therapist helpful if this isn’t a natural area of strength for you

willingtolearn · 07/04/2023 14:58

It's not down to you. It's down to them.

Their lives are their own to manage, alongside their partners.

You are not instant care. You have to assert your own boundaries so that you can live your own life.

I do have experience with divorced parents getting way too involved in each others lives (20 years after the divorce!) - I could not and would not interfere in their relationship with each other but neither would I get involved, no matter how much they tried to drag me into it - your father needs this....., your mother needs you to do that.....

It seemed to be some misplaced guilt that they thought they should still be looking after each other, but didn't want to so tried to get me to do it.

Nope. I did some things, but only on my terms. I was very clear if they wanted to buy in services - cleaning, gardening, caring they could use their assets to do it and not mine.

You have to decide what you are prepared to do and stick with that. You also have to deal with the guilt that tries to get you!

SheilaFentiman · 09/04/2023 18:24

Does your dad still do some caring for your mum? Do you actually need to visit more, if he lives with his partner and she’s well
enough to sort out appointments and care visits etc?

EmmaEmerald · 09/04/2023 21:06

The parent thing is a nightmare OPIt was a great step for me to just say that in here, as you can't say it in real life
Increasingly, I think it's something many people feel but can't say

Some people are family people. I am not one of them.

Re your dad, does he want emotional or practical help? How does it compare to what you are okay to give?

Re your mum's intrusive calls, tell her that. Tell her you've got no sympathy for "poor me". That's a really important boundary to set. My late father was very respectful about calls, mum less so. I yelled at her once after he died and that actually did the trick. 

What sort of age are you looking at? I wouldn't think too far ahead, it might not turn out as hard as you think. But set the boundaries. 

StLevanBlackcaps · 12/04/2023 06:57

Sorry not to respond, had a busy few days over Easter. I visited my Dad on Friday as he’s just come home from hospital and I was able to get a better idea of what’s what from him and his partner.

I think it’s my conscience that makes me feel I have to visit/do more, they aren’t specifically asking for it although when they say ‘it’s fine, we know you’re busy’ it does feel a bit passive aggressive even though it’s probably not meant that way.

Things would definitely be easier if they lived nearer - it took almost 3 hours each way to travel there due to Bank Hol Traffic - but as it was me who moved away (due to work) I don’t really have a leg to stand on.

I briefly saw my mum as well, she is trying to be helpful but I just find her such hard work in general and while it’s great that they’re friends I think it’s too much at times - their partners seem fine with it but I wouldn’t be!

I did make it clear to her that I don’t like all the phone calls and I think she was a bit put out but she sent me a long email at the end of the weekend (saying she didn’t want to disturb me which again felt PA but maybe that’s just me!) I guess it’s a start 🤦🏻

You have to decide what you are prepared to do and stick with that. You also have to deal with the guilt that tries to get you!

This is excellent advice and pretty much sums up how I feel 😩🙄

OP posts:
MereDintofPandiculation · 12/04/2023 10:00

Just reply with “thank you for being so understanding “.

Could it be your self-imposed feeling of responsibility making you feel things are PA?

And remember, they’re allowed to feel sad at not seeing more of you.

Hbh17 · 12/04/2023 10:03

You just don't engage at all. People who are childfree (like me) have to organise their own care. There is thus no reason why anyone should be relying on their adult children.

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