Also struggling with Mum


I am joining because I am struggling with my Mum. She’s 82, and has had lymphedema all her adult life, but in the past few years it has really compromised her mobility. I am 46, and have three young primary school age children, and work 4 days per week as a secondary teacher. My husband is a full time NHS scientist, with a very stressful job.

My Mum always been a codependent person - I only figured that out recently. She relied on my Dad, but he died 21 years ago. Since then she has relied on her now 89 yr old cousin, and me. For all that time, we have encouraged her to downsize and move nearer to us, to have a better quality of life. She has refused, and has chosen to stay 35 miles away, isolated, with no friends, and 8 cats.

Mum went into hospital recently as she lost the ability to walk and got stuck in bed at home. Now she is in a NHS hub bed in a care home, awaiting assessment to see what she needs to be safe at home.

She is really struggling with low mood, but refusing all medication. She has always been a poor communicator, to the extent that to make sure she asks the right things of professionals, I have had to write her notes, make her scripts and coach her how to talk to people.

She tends to be very polite and stoical to staff, but tell me a different story. Being around that is like stepping into an emotional vortex.

Really she wants me to come and do everything for her, which simply isn’t possible. For example, she was a keen and prize winning gardener, but she can no longer manage her steep sloping garden. I have offered to pay for a gardener for the past two years, and she has refused.

She has also wanted to decorate a room for me and her grandchildren to stay in so we can visit over night. She hasn’t done it, though my eldest is 11 years old. She thinks she is now going to do this, or get me to do it. We have offered in the past, but she has refused, as we will get rid of things.

Her home is semi-hoarded. I find it stressful to be there.

I know now she will need extra support at home. I don’t know which assessments I need to make sure she gets, I think it might be a Continuous Healthcare Assessment, but is that different from social care / what a Council might provide?

I feel very keenly the need to prioritise my children and my own family. I am for the first time in my life, realising that I need to have boundaries with her. Unfortunately I grew up with her doing everything for her own mother, so that’s what she wants from me. The difference is that we lived in the same village, I am an only child, and my Mum didn’t work outside our home.

At the moment, everything I do is wrong. I drove 60 miles to pick things up for her, but am in trouble for getting the wrong clothes, though she would not give me a list, or tell me where things were. I bought her all her favourite magazines, but she hates them as they have pictures of nice things in them.

I feel like I need to protect my own mental health, whilst making sure she gets what she needs. There’s just me, and no other family close by.

Thanks for reading. I hope I can learn how to navigate this situation with compassion and love.

Hello & welcome Alison

Yes, you certainly have a lot on your plate. There are lots of ways Mum can have help without you doing it all. Although Mum has to except the help. I know this will be hard to read but you have develop into enabling Mum. You are not unique in this respect many of us get to this position. However, you done all you can and as I read your post. Feel what every you do will not please your Mum. We need arm armfuls of resilience being carers

compassion and love

is very difficult when we are constantly criticised. If Mum became really unable with support from care agencies to live in her current home. There would be a care plan to move her to a care home. Yes, Mum can still refuse to leave her home - that is her choice. It’s also you choice to live your own life. If Mum were at home a needs assessment would be carried out.
A similar one should happen in the care home. You need to be there and state what every Mum in your view appears to embellish how she can care for herself. You need to be precise on how she id unable to met that need.

coach her how to talk to people

You need to stop enabling as there could be some mental health issues. That may get missed or go undiagnosed.

refusing all medication

Depending on what it is lack of the correct medication can have many negative mental/physical effects. This needs to be addressed .
You are overwhelmed right now but believe me things can change.

Sadly, you need to accept that however much you do, it will never be good enough for mum, because she hasn’t got enough going on in her own life and is inventing jobs to fill it, which all involve other people doing things for her that she wishes she could do herself. I could write a book on this subject!!!

You can’t change mum but you can change yourself, with some counselling to help you. It was a huge help to me.

First of all, set your priorities.
Your kids and your work come first. Your kids have a right to have a happy healthy mum. Your own mum is making this almost impossible, by the sound of it. There is no reason why mum cannot live independently from you, unless she is so ill she needs full time care?

Imagine what would happen if you lived in Australia.
You couldn’t do anything. Mum would have no option but to have carers or nursing home.

It’s a bit like tennis.
Mum thinks of something she wants - but is is a NEED?
She wants new clothes. She can order them online.
No tablet? Then she can buy one.
Doesn’t know how to use it?
Then she can have someone show her how to do it - a volunteer, NOT YOU!

Most of all counselling taught me not to feel guilty about what I couldn’t do.
Feel PROUD of what you can.

Your role is NOT that of hands on carer.
Try to think of it as a management role, keeping an eye on others doing the work, not doing it yourself.

As a teacher, you have lots of skills to fall back on.
It’s just so much more difficult when it’s mum!

Don’t be afraid to say that if she doesn’t want the pills then it’s entirely her choice.
If she ends up in residential care, she only has herself to blame.

Won’t talk to people? That’s her choice.
She can’t complain if they make decisions in her best interest without talking to her.

Thanks - I am very concerned about her seeming confused and forgetting things too. It’s happened for a while, saying she had never seen our wedding photos, forgetting seeing Downton Abbey with me, and recently saying she hadn’t had attention in hospital.

The communication thing is so bad that when I tried to teach her the 1-10 scale to describe pain, at Christmas, she said, "don’t know ", “God knows” and “heaven knows”.

I feed all these difficulties through to professionals when I get to speak to them, but it’s tricky if she appears one way, then tells me something different.

It’s time to start a diary of things like this.
You are right to be worried, those involved with her care, especially planning her future care, should be taking this seriously, and investigating further.

When having conversations try and have another person with you. Older people get over looked by non family members and friends. As you need to be with a person sometimes quite a while. Before you notice things may not be quite right. Others can unconsciously put an odd word out of context and behaviour as old age or even eccentric behaviour.

There is no definitive test for dementia but G.P’s usually use the Six Item Cognitive Impairment Test. Given the medication isn’t currently under control and not knowing Mum’s medical history. If this could be a possibility but as mentioned should be sorted sooner than later.