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Posted: September 06, 2004

Practical Caregiving

Avoiding the Slippery Slope of Parental Control

When our parents need our help, they quite often try to control our lives. Sheila 's mother seems to be quite good at controlling and manipulating her, and it is affecting Sheila in a most detrimental way, to the point she has started taking tranquilizers. How can Sheila change things and stop this unhealthy spiral?


Dear Jean:

I'm taking care of my mother. She moved here from another state and lives in her own apartment. Mom demands that I drop everything and do what she wants. I have to take her to the doctor, grocery store, clean her house and anything else she wants. She calls and talks for a couple hours, even when I tell her I need to do something else. I spend most of the time, every day, doing something for her and spending time with her.

I have a friend whose mother lives in the same apartment complex my Mom, and her mother tells her how she and Mom get together with other people and play cards and do other things together. She says that Mom is having a great time. Mom says she doesn't know anyone and doesn't do anything.

My husband is terrific, but I'm having to neglect and my home business. I've been so stressed I've started taking tranquilizers. I don't know what to do.

Sheila C., Richmond, Virginia

Dear Sheila:

Life does get hectic when we try to make it possible for our parents to live independent lives longer. Based on what you've described, I don't see any way you can continue doing things the way you are. Things need to change drastically, and they need to change immediately.

First, sit down with your husband and come up with a plan of action. He is an important part of your life, and you need to include him in your planning.

You need to run your mother's caregiving similar to the way you probably run your home business. You need to decide how much time you actually need to spend helping your mother. The doctor appointments or any health emergencies will vary, but other things can be planned. It might be possible to go over to her place one or two afternoons a week to clean her apartment, take her to the store and do anything else she actually needs to do.

Try to plan a little extra time to meet her friends and have lunch together. Also, plan the time when you will work on your business. Don't accept phone calls from your mother during that time unless it is an emergency. You will need to decide what an emergency is. Decide how you will make sure she is taken care of when you go on vacation, or anything else that comes up in your lives.

Another thing you might want to do is purchase a headset for your telephone. That way your hands are free while you talk to your mother and you can do what you need to do. I've done that and it works very well.

The next thing you need to do is talk very clearly to your mother. Be gentle, but firm. You might also want to write down the hours and times you spend with her so she will be able to remember them and appreciate what you're doing. Post them on her refrigerator, or another place she can refer to.

Tell her that you love her and want to help her, but that some changes need to be made so you can continue helping her. Explain that you can't continue doing things the way you have been because it is affecting you in a detrimental way. If you need to emphasize your stress by telling her you have started taking tranquilizers, tell her. Try not to make her feel guilty, though.

Explain that you need to work on your business in order to keep it going and make money. It is important to you and your future. Also explain that your family needs you. You need time for spend with your husband and children (if you have them) and even time to clean your own home. I wouldn't say too much about spending time with your husband because that might make her jealous of him.

Explain that she needs to make friends and that she is capable of doing that. There are older people living in her apartment complex that she might enjoy. Don't mention that you already know she is doing that. Just pretend you don't know anything that she hasn't told you herself. (You don't want her to get the idea that you are spying on her. That would create an even larger problem.)

Tell her that you are cleaning her house and doing the things that she might have trouble doing. That leaves her free to enjoy life, and that is what you want her to do.

Explain the hours you are going to work and that you don't want any phone calls from her during the hours you are working, unless it is an emergency. Go over what an emergency is. Explain that an emergency is not a problem with someone in her favorite soap opera. Also, tell her that you will make sure someone checks on her when you are gone on vacation.

Now comes the hard part - implement the program. She will probably test you the same way a child tests their parents' rules, but stick to them. She might not be happy about them, but she will adjust and accept them.

Now, take an afternoon off for yourself occasionally. Go to a movie. Go to the park. Go shopping. Paint a picture. Do something you enjoy. You will find that your life will be much more relaxed, and you will enjoy your mother more. You might even be able to get off the tranquilizers!

I hope this plan works well for you and that your life improves dramatically. It has helped others. Good luck.

© 2004 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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