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Lonelyheart807's avatar

Is this emotional blackmail/manipulation, or am I just a bad daughter?

Asked by Lonelyheart807 (1695points) 3 weeks ago

I’m living with my 81-year-old mother now, which family thought was best, as my dad went into long-term care year last year and won’t be able to come home. I’ve heard before that your parents eventually become like children again, but I never thought my mom would stoop to such tactics as described below. She has started acting like a spoiled child, who throws a “tantrum” is she doesn’t get her own way. I have tried to take all this with a grain of salt, as I realize people’s mental facilities often decline as they age, but at the same time I am having a really hard time dealing with being treated like this. Here’s the situation…

On Friday, even though she had already been out several times in the morning and was noticeably tired, my mom went out again in the afternoon to pick up her prescriptions. Seeing how tired she was, I suggested that maybe she wait until the next day (she was not yet out of her pills), or that I take her later in the evening. She was fine and insisted on going herself. While out on this errand, she ran her car into a pole at the shopping center. She herself was not hurt, but the car had some body damage. It is at the body shop, but will be there for a few days while it is being fixed.

Problem #1: When all this happened on Friday, I offered to take her by my dad’s facility Monday morning to visit with him and for her to pay the monthly bill. She seemed agreeable to this, but when we were talking Sunday night and I told her I would like to go at 10 a.m. the next morning as I had other things to do that day, she threw a fit, saying she didn’t want to go until the afternoon, and that she didn’t know I wanted to go that early. I reminded her that I had told her I would take her Monday morning, and her reply was that she didn’t know we were going to leave that early (10 a.m.?) She became very unpleasant but I stuck to my guns and said either we would go at 10 a.m. or she would have to wait. Monday morning she was back to her usual self. We didn’t go to my dad’s, as she still didn’t want to go in the morning, but I spent the better part of the morning arranging to have her car towed to the body shop and calling the claim into the insurance company. They offered her a rental, which was included in her policy, but she turned them down.

Problem #2: My mom was worried that she wouldn’t be able to go out and pick up some essentials this week while her car is in the shop. Since I have an extra busy week, I told her I would stop one day and pick up what she needed, which amounted to milk and bananas. This morning. when I came downstairs, she started going on and on about how the car was maybe going to take a while to fix (which might be true, but we really don’t know if it will take that long), and how was she supposed to get done everything she needed to do? When I asked what she was worried about, she mentioned grocery shopping. I reminded her that I would pick up what she needed, but then she started to insist that she needed to go and be able to walk around the store.
(My mom walks extremely slow and it takes her forever to shop.)I told her that I just didn’t have time this week, but I would pick up whatever she needed. She then started making ridiculous threats, saying she was going to walk to the store (which is 1.5 miles away. She then threatened to call one of my siblings and ask them to help, and I told her to go ahead. I let my sister know, ,and she’s going to take her shopping, but I am tired of the games. Every time she acts like this, she calls up the other family members and complains about me.

But…is it me? Should I be more accommodating to my elderly mom, or are my feelings justified?

I am just so tired of the manipulation.

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39 Answers

gorillapaws's avatar

When she misbehaves you can remind her what the Inuits used to do to their seniors during famines (they would leave them on the ice to die). In all seriousness, it seems like you’re doing your best. Hang in there!

KNOWITALL's avatar

Sounds like possibly you two are talking past each other instead of communicating. Does she just want to get out of the house? Is she lonely? Are you working so much she feels abandoned or confused when you’re gone and it scares her?

There are just so many factors that we can’t know. All I can say is that she is old, probably cranky and you offered to take her in, so you may have to focus on being patient and accomodating within reason.

We both know this situation is temporary at her age, so I hope you can find a way to enjoy the time you have left with her, and that she is able to go in peace and in good health. Honestly, it sounds like she’s clinging to her independence, and endangering herself with driving while tired, etc….possibly a good open talk will allow you both to discuss how to move forward productively.

(Take her keys? Have the other sibs take turns asking her to do fun things through the week? Are you getting enough alone time to be mentally fit to deal with her? )

Lonelyheart807's avatar

@KNOWITALL…I’m sure she doesn’t like being stuck in the house, but the ironic thing is that she doesn’t generally go anywhere much during the week, which makes me feel like this is more of a “dog-in’the-manger” situation (in other words, I didn’t actually want said item, but now that I can’t have it, I insist on wanting it.) I am home quite a bit, as I only work part-time, but just happen to have a lot of extra things going on this week.

Since I live at her house (at her suggestion and invitation), I would not be the one to take her keys. She already targets me as the source of all her woes. I try to get out as much as possible to have time away from her. I go to church and participate in several groups. Maybe she is jealous, but she refuses to go to her own church. When we offer to take her, she says she is too tired, or some such thing, but then she will turn around later and use the fact that she doesn’t go to church as a weapon.

She turns things around to use to her advantage however she sees fit in the moment. She will go around complaining she is tired, but won’t bring up the issue with her doctor, saying instead that it’s just because she’s old. If you offer to help with anything, she snaps as you, because “she can do it herself”, and needs to do it. Then later she will complain that you didn’t help.

I’m afraid I don’t have much patience with this sort of thing, as I am a very pragmatic person. If you ask for help, I will help you. I will offer to help with things when I see something you might need help with, but I’m not perfect, and sometimes you need to ask. If I ask if you want help, and you say no, or worse yet, get angry with me for asking, then I won’t offer again until either you ask, or after it’s been a little while. I am the most generous person in the world, but I’m not going to be constantly beat up for offering to help. Also, I have my own things going on, and quite a few health issues myself, so I can’t always accommodate you in the way you want.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Lonelyheart807 I hear you. We recently moved my mom in with us and there’s been some adjustments. Mainly I keep telling myself that I need to pick my battles and when i get impatient, I take the dogs out back and just chill for a bit until I feel better.

As another pragmatic person, all I can say is that we must find compassion for our elderly, even when it’s hard. Best of luck, PM if you ever need to chat.

jca2's avatar

I used to live with my grandfather, and as he declined mentally and physically he got very nasty and cranky. He ended up in a nursing home, and when he was first admitted, they evaluated him and started giving him anti-depressants. It was amazing to me and also confusing, because he looked like my grandfather but didn’t act like my grandfather. He started acting like a happy person, and he had not acted that way for such a long time.

It was a real trial living with him.

Do you have other relatives that can help with your mom, taking her on errands or spending time with her? If they can do a regular “shift” like once a week, that might help so you’d know you’re free then and your mom knows someone is coming to help her out.

LadyMarissa's avatar

Being a caregiver to a parent is one of the most difficult jobs on the face of the earth. In essence, you & your Mom just flipped positions. Now, you are te Mother & she is the child!!! She’s not trying to be difficult. She is just unhappy with the things that are happening in her life & you are the one controlling those things happening to her. You can treat her with the respect of the Mother you’ve always had without giving in to her demands.

Go to her doctor visits with her & be sure that you get some time alone with her doctor. Tell the doctor about how often she uses the “I’m tired” excuse & let the doctor determine IF she has a medical reason to be tired or IF she’s just usnig the “I’m tired” to get out of the things she doesn’t feel like doing. Tell the doctor about the accidents she’s started having & let the doctor determine when it is time to take the keys so that way she can’t blame that one on you. Doctors now have the authority to determine when a patient is no longer able to drive safely & they can send DMV a letter asking that the drivers license be pulled for specific individuals. You might want to ride with her to the store one day & let her drive just to see how comfortable you feel as her passenger to get a feel for how she’s doing before speaking with her doctor.

When I rode with my Mom, I noticed that she would forget how to get to stores that she had been using for years. With my Dad, he lived alone & drove around town. Any time he mentioned going to visit friends who lived a pretty far distance away, my brother would discourage him & he’d threaten to just get i the car one day & go wherever the hell he felt like going. My Mom’s sister had invited us to her house for the day & I was supposed to take him there. When we got to the car, I tossed him the keys & told him that he was driving us there. The only way he could remember was to get on the interstate & then the back roads. Traffic was considerably heavier than the last time he drove there & he was doing the “white knuckle” grip of the steering wheel. Then when we got to the back roads, I could tell he didn’t know exactly where he was but he was still driving safely so I didn’t say a word. A couple of times he asked me if he was in the right place for where we were going. I just said “you’re doing the driving so keep on going”, I knew that we were OK but I didn’t want to be his crutch & I wanted him to use HIS brain to figure it out. He did drive us straight there & he drove fairly safely without only a couple of scary moments. We had a pleasant day & he drove us back home. I think that day scared the crap out of him & made him realize that he wasn’t as ready to go visit long distance friends as he wanted to feel that he was. After that day, he never threatened to go out visiting those friends again & seemed content to just driving close by. My brother had been planning on taking his keys to retaliate the threats of long trips He thanked me for letting him drive & taking notes on his abilities because it made my brother feel better about his driving skills & it made my dad feel less confident about his driving skills. I told him that I’d be happy to ride with him to visit any long distance friends or take him IF he felt he wasn’t ready to do it on his own. It seems he lost his “need” to visit them & he never asked to go.

Another thing you might need to understand. Your Mom only needed to go to the grocery store because she didn’t have a ride. I live alone & I NEVER want to go anywhere when I have a car to dtrive. Yet, let the car go in the shop & I don’t have transportation, I can think of a million places I need to be or 2 million items that I need from the store. Deep down inside, I know I’m OT interested in going anywhere &B I can WAIT on those items that suddenly became so important & I talk myself back down to OK of being without my car. To solve my problem, I keep an old used car as my 2nd car so I always have a way to go That way I’m NOT panicking when my car is in the shop. I choose a car that I can pay cash for & I put liability only insurance on it & it only costs me about A$30/month to have it sit in front of my house & it gives me a million dollars worth of peace of mind. Then when y better car goes into the shop, I’m NOT inconvenienced in any way & it’s cheaper than a rental car.

You might also want to speak with your siblings & be honest with the about how difficult you’re finding it to be taking car of your Mom. The truth is that NONE of them want the responsibility & they’re using you more than youir Mom is manipulating you!!! Suggest that they bring in an outside caregiver maybe one week out of the month to give you a mini vacation from the head butting that is occurring with Mom. Either that or suggest that each child take mom for one week at a time & that way no one child has ALL the stress.

Also, remember that Mom didn’t always have it easy when she was raising you & find a way to work around her tantrums & manipulation Treat her like the child she’s becoming & let her deal with it!!!

Good luck as it’s NOT an easy decision to make no matter which way you decide to go!!!

Lonelyheart807's avatar

Having outside help would not make a difference. Normally, she won’t even let me help with anything. What I need is to be away from her, but I have no options, no money, nowhere to go, and she’s not going anywhere.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Lonelyheart807 Hmmm, that last post sounds like a cry for help. If that’s the case, do something before it breaks you down mentally, or things deteriorate between you further.

Let me ask this, if you were to move out would you be able to support yourself independently? Because if living with mom and being a caregiver is partly to help yourself, you have to find a way to leave that resentment at the door. That’s not fair to your mom or yourself, it’s a kind of love that needs to be FREELY GIVEN.

Lonelyheart807's avatar

Not now. I gave up my apartment to move in with her at her request. Then I lost my full time job and have only been able to find part time work. I have some disabilities too, which makes things harder. As expensive as housing is getting, there is no way I could move out any time soon.

I freely give, but always figured I wouldn’t be constantly attacked.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Lonelyheart807 I’m sorry, maybe you can talk to her and just tell her how she’s making you feel, on one of her ‘good’ days? I try not to do it often, but I have had a few with my mom and it did work.

Lonelyheart807's avatar

@KNOWITALL… I’ve tried, but she can’t ever see anyone else’s point of view. You see, she’s never wrong, and the Earth would implode if she ever was

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Lonelyheart807 I’m sorry. Is there a local group you may be able to participate in, to help you get used to the situation and learn to accept it may not get better at her age?

There are also a lot of programs where Office of Aging/ Senior Services who may have some resources for you.

But the one thing you can NEVER ever do is hit her or allow yourself to get abusive with her. If you ever feel that way, you need to remove yourself from the situation immediately and go take a long breather, no matter what.

Lonelyheart807's avatar

@KNOWITALL.. No, that is something I would never do. I tend to bottle everything up inside.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Lonelyheart807 That’s not always good either doll, I do the same thing, but much better than taking it on on mom. :)

Dutchess_lll's avatar

First take her keys. She hit a pole but it could have been a kid.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

@jca had a good.point. She might do well with some antidepressants.

Lonelyheart807's avatar

If we take her keys, she’ll call the police…trust me.

jca2's avatar

I’d tell the police “she might kill someone” and ask for their names so in case anything happens, you will say that they made you give the keys back. Tell them that no matter what the law is, it’s going to be on their conscience and in the media that they are the ones who made you give the keys back.

MrGrimm888's avatar

Your mother sounds very frustrated. This is all likely misdirected anger. If she still has her mental capacities, I would say it’s time for a talk…

Good luck.

Peace n love.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Get a doctor in on it. She needs to be declared not competent to drive.

MrGrimm888's avatar

^I’ve hit stuff before. Maybe it was just a mistake.

Lonelyheart807's avatar

And it could be. I’m not going to be the one to make the call. But when you are without your car and relying on others to take of things, you can’t dictate the exact terms.

MrGrimm888's avatar

^Correct. But many older people are “set in their ways.”

It wouldn’t hurt to get her eyes examined. That would be a good start…

Lonelyheart807's avatar

We’re all trying to get her to do that, but she keeps making excuses to put it off.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

She is 81 @MrGrimm888. It seems to me that she is starting to exhibit signs of mental decline. She’s being irrational, forgetful and combative.
We had to take my mom’s keys when she was in.her mid 70s.
Talk to a doc.

MrGrimm888's avatar

^Well. I was trying to be optimistic, for once…

Dutchess_lll's avatar

This is serious. She could kill someone.

MrGrimm888's avatar

^That’s true, if it isn’t just that she needs new glasses.
My father probably shouldn’t be allowed to drive. But he might go on a killing spree, of we took his ability to drive. Fortunately, he doesn’t drive often…

Dutchess_lll's avatar

And no. You are not a bad daughter. You’ve stepped up to a very difficult situation. She should be grateful but I’m guessing she can’t see it.

Lonelyheart807's avatar

Thanks, @Dutchess_III

Dutchess_lll's avatar

I’ve been there. She used to get so unreasonably angry over things she didn’t understand.

YARNLADY's avatar

The Department of Motor Vehicles will revoke the license of an elderly person who is reported to them. you can ask to remain anonymous

Churches and libraries are free “get away” places.

The internet is full of support groups and ideas.

In answer to your questions, No and No, it is a standard reaction to an unpleasant event.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

The DMV will revoke on one complaint with no research or proof @YARNLADY?

YARNLADY's avatar

^^^ No, they will require a re-test and exam, unless the report includes a doctor’s diagnosis.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Ok. Thx. Yeah….it’s a bitch of a situation to be in. My heart out to you @Lonelyheart807. Be strong. Stand straight. Be firm.

Patty_Melt's avatar

I haven’t read all the replies here, but I did read most.

Proud people are the most difficult elderly to know. I don’t mean proud as in stuck up. I mean those who have managed many difficult eras and situations in life. They thrive knowing they can handle what comes their way. When they begin to fail at meeting their own expectations, it it frustrating, frightening, and they begin to feel that life itself has closed a door on them. She needs to be valuable and functioning. She needs it like air.
When your own body turns on you, you want to declare war, but you have nobody to battle.
Being without her car is l8ke being sent to prison with no crime committed.

Do you have some way she can be helpful to you?
Maybe she crochets nice doilies. So tell her of some fund raiser you know of, and could she make doilies for them to have at a yard sale.
That is just an example, but from that you might process ideas of your own. If she feels needed, then when she needs help herself it is more like an exchange than an imposition.
What makes her angry is not that you say you are busy. She is angry at her own needs. She is angry at aging. She is terrified that each new fail, like driving tired and hitting a pole, is a mile marker to death.

Give her a duty, or hobby, that helps her feel more functional.

That is my advice about handling her outbursts. Now, about you, and what to do with your feelings.
Invest in a lovely but inexpensive tea set. Buy some scrumptious flavored teas.
Set a date with your mother that the two of you can have tea every week. Agree with her on two rules for this weekly ritual,
1. You both will dress as you would to go out, or even dress as if you were children playing tea, and find over the top old society dress up attire.

2. There must be only happy, giggly conversation.

Having these weekly chances to be just pretty girls serving tea will ease tension for both of you. Be seven pretending to be grown. There is no better remedy for aging than childhood.
If she is reluctant at first, start without her. Have happy conversation with an empty chair.

I know you love your mother. But how often do you enjoy her? Try this, and both of you can enjoy each other again.

By the way, shortbread cookies go well with most any teas.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Patty_Melt Bravo, what a lovely post. I love the tea party idea and this “I know you love your mother. But how often do you enjoy her?”

Patty_Melt's avatar

You said several good things yourself. I only added what I felt you didn’t cover.
You should get many GAs, as you shortened my answer substantially.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Patty_Melt Awww, MAS moment (mutual admiration society) lol

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