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January 26, 2009
When Mom Wants to Break Up Your Relationship

January 5, 2009
When the Inevitable Moving Day Comes for Mom and Dad

December 15, 2008
Running Ragged in Caregiving Runaround

December 1, 2008
Getting a Handle on Your Own Stress

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Posted: September 22, 2008

Practical Caregiving

When You Can?t Stand the Person You Care For-- It Happens

Anger and frustration brewed through caregiving for a parent who you either can’t stand (yes, that’s what I said), or one who has lost the ability to think and remember, will try your patience and determination. No question about it. 

So the following questions from Karen in North Carolina and Cindy in Oregon will come into perspective, with that acknowledgement and understanding. These questions are among the latest to be pulled from my e-mailbag at


Dear Jean:

I have been the sole caregiver for my mother for the past 1 ½ years. I want to get out of this role. My mother was happy living in Virginia in an independent living facility. My brother insisted that we move her here with my husband and me. Like fools, we did. My mother is a hypochondriac, and ends up in the hospital quite often.

Mother didn’t take good care of me and my brother when we were little, and she drove my father to an early grave. My father was our protector from her. She drank and was an abusive alcoholic.

My mother made me her power of attorney and added my name to her bank accounts. She will be broke after this hospital stay. She does have several physical problems, but none of them are going to kill her right now.

She doesn’t take care of herself or her apartment. She’s going back there when she is discharged from the hospital. I can run over and clean her apartment, but by the next day it is a dirty mess. Food sits out in every room, and she won’t pick it up for days.

What can I do to get out of this situation? I hate her.

Karen T., Raleigh, North Carolina

Dear Karen:

First of all, you don’t have to be in the situation you are in. You must feel an obligation to see that she gets the best care possible, but that does not mean you have to do it all yourself. There is a way out so your mother can still get decent care.

When someone puts you down for their power of attorney, you do not have to accept it. Since you probably have already done a few things using it, you need to check with an attorney about the laws in your state to see if doing things for her implies that you accepted the power of attorney. There are attorneys who specialize in laws regarding the elderly. If you can’t find one in the phone book, go to the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Inc. at Click on “Public,” then click on “Locate an Elder Law Attorney.”

Also call the US Administration on Aging at 1-800-677-1116. They’re open Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM (Eastern). They will give you the office in your state to call for assistance. Ask what is available to help your mother. Be sure to ask about anything else that might help you.

Once you are removed from the responsibility of taking care of your mother, you and your family will be better. Don’t feel guilty. You are doing everything you can to get her the care she needs. You and your family must come first.


Dear Jean:

My mother is in a nursing home, recovering from a broken hip. She is so confused because she has been diagnosed with dementia.

She calls, wanting to go home. She is upset and crying and someone else has to make the call and then give the phone to her. She also asks where my dad is. He died several years ago and she remarried. And my step-dad died five years ago -- she does not remember my step-dad. She gets upset when I tell her that Dad died and she remarried. She calls me a liar and all sorts of things. She says I am not her daughter because her daughter would never tell her stories like that.

What can I tell her to keep her from getting so upset?

Cindy G., Portland, Oregon


Dear Cindy:

Since she has dementia that has progressed as far as it has, you don't need to be honest with her at this point. Play along with what she knows, like you would a small child. Work with what she knows as truth. Don’t try to straighten her out. When she asks for your dad, make up something that will avoid the real situation. Tell her he can't come to see her right now. Tell her he will come as soon as he can. Then give her a photo of him around the time she remembers him, or something else that will help her calm down.


Telling her he died many years ago will just upset her. Make up excuses to calm her down. Tell her she can call you any time and you will visit her. The important thing is to help her calm down. Don’t forget to tell her you love her.

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