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Posted: April 26, 2004

Practical Caregiving

Nasty and Stubborn Parents -- a Bad Brew

What's Gladys to do? It's hard enough to take care of our parents without the role completely swallowing up our lives. And making us a lightning rod for nasty remarks. Gladys' mother is causing Gladys great stress, and she says she is depressed. What can she do?

Meanwhile, Maria is concerned about her mother?s situation but isn't sure what to do. At age 95, her mother won't recognize she needs help and shouldn't be living alone. How to convince her?

These are some of the latest ordeals in my e-mailbag. Let's see what we?ve got and whether we can help.

Dear Jean:

My mother has Alzheimer's and moved in with me last September. I had to relocate her from another state. I love my mother but my life is falling apart, she is so negative and judgmental which is the opposite of what I am.

Her negativity and complaining about everything is horrible for me. I divorced a husband after 18 years of being verbally abused and now I have it with my mother. Sometimes I feel sorry for her instead of me. Now, does that make any sense?

I knew this decision was going to be hard, but I never expected it to consume my life like it does. I am totally depressed all the time. I can't talk to any one about it because I start crying and feel guilty about the way I feel.

Gladys, Nashville, Tennessee

Dear Gladys:

Your feelings of guilt are normal for a caregiver. Every family caregiver has them to some degree. We all want to be the perfect daughter and do everything for our mother, but we are human and cannot be perfect.

All our lives, we have wanted our mother's approval. The problem now is that you are becoming the mother (instead of a daughter) to your mother. It is very hard to face losing your mother. She is not the same person she used to be. Turning your life upside down to be her caregiver is something you don't want to do, but on the other hand you do want to take for her. It's a tough situation, without a doubt.

Even though you feel you can't talk to someone in person without drying, you should find a counselor to meet with. This is what they do, help people in your predicament. They are there to help you even when you cry. You simply must not let your depression get worse. You are a very important person, Gladys, and you need to take care of yourself -- for your sake and your mother?s. Please find someone to talk to. Soon!


Dear Jean:

Our mother has dementia. Only one of my sisters lives in the same town, and four of us live from two to three hours away. Our mother wants us around but won't admit she needs our help. She is 95 years old, lives alone but she should not be alone. She doesn't want to leave her house or that area. She will not let someone come in to do anything for her. It would be a huge help if she would. That way someone could make sure she is OK and has things to eat. Lately, she has been bothered by arthritis in her knee, and she does admit she has trouble getting around.

Maria, Shreveport, Louisiana

Dear Maria:

It sounds like your mother definitely needs help. Is there a good friend of neighbor you can ask to look in on your mother once or twice a day? You might even offer to pay them. A lot of friends will not accept cash, but you could give them a gift certificate or have someone clean their house once a month, or something else that would help them. That way you both would benefit.

Has your mother attended a church or does she belong to a volunteer organization of some sort? You might find someone to check on her through these groups.

The arthritis might be the opening you need to talk to her about getting help. Arthritis gets a person's attention -- I know from my own experience! Explain that if she fell and couldn't get up she might lay there for two or three days before someone found her. Explain that you don?t want anything like that to happen to her because she is very important to all of you and you all love her very much. She might blush and laugh, but then after she has thought about it she might agree.

It might take your talking to her another time or two, but if she is still mentally sharp and thinks about it she will probably agree. After all, she is 95 years old and I am sure she has thought about things like that happening in the past.

If you decide to hire a home health agency, you can use some of the same guidelines I give in my column, Finding the 'Right' Nursing Home. Make sure someone checks in unannounced fairly often.

Have you thought of the free or low-cost senior meals that can be delivered to her home? That way you would know she has food and someone would see that she is alright at least once a day five days a week. Check out her local Meals on Wheels program.

Also, what about you and your nearby sisters cooking and freezing meals for her?

The time may have come that you and your sisters will have to make a decision about your mother?s care -- even if she doesn't agree. You must consider her safety. It isn't an easy thing to do, but I know you wouldn't want her to have a serious problem and be without help for several hours or days. A lot of things could happen, and she would not be able to get help. You need to take action now.

© 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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Please send me your questions, comments and issues regarding the practical side of caregiving at ASKJEAN@caregivershome.com, and remember to take advantage of our professionals and experts in the Ask an Expert section of our website. You'll find it in the left column on our homepage.

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