Dear Mary
My mother – THE PRINCESS!

Dear Mary,

Don’t get me wrong. I love my Mom, help her as much as I can, but she is driving me crazy.  She is 83 years old and has for the last 3 months stopped doing anything.  She won’t cook, clean, shop of even help with the dishes.  She just yells at me and says that she is tired of doing it all, and she deserves to be served and taken care of at this point in her life.  I do my best, but there is no pleasing her.  She is almost always in a bad mood and not thankful for my efforts.

I feel like I am being used.  I find myself yelling back at her, almost every time we speak.  What should I do?

Julie

Hi Julie:

Sounds like your plate is full.  As caregivers there are never enough hours in the day or hands to do all the things asked of us.

My first suggestion to you is to have a visit and chat with her doctor.  There may be some physical or mental issues that are causing her to act this way.  I say this only because I remember when my mother stopped cooking and taking care of her house.  At first I thought nothing of her new habits, but over time, I learned that she had forgotten how to do many tasks of day-to-day living.  She simple could not remember how to do them, yet they needed to be done, usually by me.

People often change their habits for a reason.  I suggest you open your mind to the idea that she is changing and you need to be prepared to adapt to her.

I also believe that there is very little value (if any) in getting mad at her.  Your yelling and arguing with her is only likely to make things worse.  You might want to try these two ideas.

  1.  Negotiate with her.  Write out a list of things that she wants / needs to have done for her.  Tell her that you cannot do them all, but will work with her on the top 5 things on the list.  Outline time frames and expectations with her in writing.  When things stray from this plan, you can go back and show her what you both agreed on and see how that goes.  My guess is that she will continue to not agree to the plan, but it is formal way to remind her of your deal.
  2. There are two words that I always used with my parents and mother-in-law as their health declined.  Those words are “GOOD IDEA”.  Just say those words back to your Mom when she says something that is odd, unfair or out of line.  It will totally defuse the situation.  She will feel glad that you are listening to her and trying to respect her ideas.  It does not mean that you have to follow her ideas, but at least give her a positive response.  I cannot count the number of times that I said “GOOD IDEA” to my parents and how it helped us move past an awkward, unhealthy moment.

Best of luck with your Mom

Mary

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