Caring for a jealous elderly mum

Hi, My mum came to live across the road from us four years ago now. We lived over 100 miles away from her and my dad and her sister had died a few years previously, I have no siblings, and she felt she would be much happier near us and her grandchildren. The thing is she had quite a good social life, she had friends she met every day for coffee and belonged to a few groups, so I was unsure it was a good move, but she was adamant.

As soon as mum moved in her bungalow she announced that she wasn’t going to get involved with people like she did where she lived before and even told her friend, when we took her back for a visit, that she didn’t need any new friends as she had me. That is the way things have stayed. The bus stops at the end of her drive, it stops outside the doctors and the town shops, but she can’t go on her own! So I work in the mornings and take her out every afternoon, otherwise she would just sit there looking out of the window, staring at our house. Mum has her evening meal with us every day and we take her out for lunch on Sundays. She is very well for 91, although of course everything is done at a snail’s pace.

The problem is she appears to be jealous, both of my husband of 43 years and our great grandchildren. Neither of them seem to be able to do anything right. She comes from the “children should be seen and not heard” generation. My husband and I live our lives around mum and I feel guilty whenever we do anything without her, which isn’t very often. Mum even goes away on holiday with us but was so grumpy last year, that I don’t think we will be going again.

I know people on here have much worse problems than us, at least mum isn’t living with us. It’s just sometimes it gets a bit overwhelming. We are due to retire in a couple of years and had so many plans, but now I can see it all being about mum.

Thank you for the chance to vent.

STOP running around her so much!
You need to make yourselves less available. The very elderly, i.e. over 85’s have rapidly increasing needs, and just can’t see how much people do for them. Not selfish, but self obsessed.
What is her financial situation? Does she own her home? Have over £23,000 in savings? (Yes/No). Do you have Power of Attorney? Does she pay you for anything you do for her?
Retirement will bring new opportunities, if you control mum, in fact it’s time for your husband to step in and say “we won’t be able to do … as we need to do…”.
She can get a taxi to appointments!
The only power she has over you is the power you let her have. The more you give the more she will take from you.

Regrettably the more you do for your Mum the more she will expect. Naturally you don’t want confrontation so perhaps you could draw up a little timetable of when you see her and include her.

After all it is her choice to give up on all her friends. Does she have any hobbies or interests ? Some Churches have coffee mornings or outings for the elderly so is this something you could suggest.

Are any of her grandchild able to spend time with her .?

I do hope you can find the strength to say no occasionally .

Be subtle, you don’t have to use the word “No”, just avoid doing what she wants. i.e. “I’m busy, can’t do it, would you like me to order a taxi?”

Hmm, well, of course with hindsight (sigh!) you made your first mistake not in letting her move close to you, but in becoming her on-call ‘slave’ in the first place!!! You ‘should’ (sigh) have set rules and boundaries right from the start.

But, you didn’t, and sometimes tyranny ‘slides over us’ and we don’t realise we are ‘slaves’ until it’s ‘too late’ and our ‘slave-owner’ has got the whip hand over us.

But, as BB says, her ‘power’ is only what YOU let it be. In reality she is an elderly woman with NO actual control over you! (This isn’t true for some members here - one HAS to be her mum’s slave or she will be homeless when the mother dies…horrific!)

Start ‘withdrawing’ but ‘little by little’ so she doesn’t quite realise this is part of an overall strategy of rec-laiming your own life.

For example - she eats with you every night. OK, so you start telling her, ‘Hubby and me have now joined a new club for tiddlywinks every Thursday so we can’t have you over that day. I’ll set up up microwavable meal for you to heat up when you want it, or nip over and make your supper earlier for you’ (or whatever.)

That’s ‘Thursday’ out of the way. Then, after a week or two, you find another reason why ‘that day of the week’ she can’t come to you.

Of course she’ll kick off, but who cares? You have to ‘immunise’ yourself against her displeasure and disapproval. Or ‘pity’ (as she might well play the ‘I’m a sad lonely woman of 91 and you are abandoning me cruelly’…this is just a PLOY)(absolutely true about the ‘self-focus’ of the very elderly - they cease to have any compunction about anyone else at all - they are, as you say, jealous - and it’s jealousy of your YOUTH, that YOUR life is still ‘younger’ than theirs’…but they have HAD their life…)

Think of it as a ‘weaning’ process…little by little by little. You will have agreed with your hubby WHAT you ARE prepared to do for her, and it’s a question then of ‘arriving’ at that state, by gradually ‘backing away’.

Blame your husband if it’s easier!

" So I work in the mornings and take her out every afternoon, otherwise she would just sit there looking out of the window, staring at our house"

That’s her problem, not yours. She CHOSE not to have a social life. Now she can be stuck without one, and so what? Who cares - her choice, her problem. NOT YOURS.

Tell her you’re going back to work on certain afternoons - say you need the money, doesn’t matter what. You DON’T owe her the truth.

Stay cheerful and ‘vague’ about why things are changing. Smile and ‘do nothing’. Don’t argue with her and above all don’t justify your action - she will try and argue you out of it, and try and make you feel guilty. NOT YOUR PROBLEM.

If she’s pretty well for her age she could live for years. And you MUST have your own retirement.

And thank goodness you won’t take her on holiday again. You can play the ‘age’ card to her. ‘Mum, it’s not kind to lug you around with us at your age’. OR simplyt tell her you’re going somewhere this year that your husband has always ‘longed’ to go that is highly unsuitable for a 91 y/old. Hill walking in the Pyrannees, or whatever. Doesn’t matter. Lie through your teeth if you want.

You could tel her that’s why you have to go back to working full time if you want! To earn the money for the fab holiday!

PLEASE keep reminding yourself that she has HAD her life YOU have not. That is why wasting yours on hers now is NOT FAIR. Keep reminding HER of that as well if necessary! What was she doing when she was your age? Was she her own mum’s ‘slave’ like you are???,

Don’t put things off “until mum’s gone”.
My husband died at 58, mum at 87 10 years after my OH. So we never had any retirement caring free!

Thanks so much everybody. I know you all make sense. I felt so sorry for her when she first moved here, she seemed in shock and did too much for her and this is the result. The mistake too was moving her that close so she can see everything we do. I’m sure I wouldn’t feel so guilty if I couldn’t see her all the time. She won’t even watch tv in the day, just watches us and the neighbours! I must start turning a blind eye for our sakes.

Karen, that is MUM’S CHOICE.
Let her get on with it, don’t interfere, don’t try to persuade her to do something different.

She probably ENJOYS looking out of the window! My MIL used to spend quite some time looking out of the window of her first floor flat down into the street below. There was ‘stuff going on’ and it was entertaining for her. So it could be the same for your mum as well. And as BB says, if she gets bored she can go and watch daytime telly instead. Or, of course, she could socialise instead, the way she used to.

There’s no reason she couldn’t get a taxi to activities for the elderly, if these were set up for her.

As BB also says, you CANNOT put your own lives on hold while you wait for her to die…because that is the ‘grim reality’ of shaping your entire life around her. You are ‘waiting for her to die’. Not only is that likely to be a long wait - like BB, my husband also died in his fifties, and his MIL has only just died…she outlived him by years and years… - but it’s also likely to only foster your poor relationship with her.

If you spent less time with her and on her you could actually ENJOY spending the time you did choose to be with her! It’s because she has ‘eaten your life’ that you resent her so much, and totally understandably so!

If she wants to be bored, let her be. And remember, too, thjat as we age we do less and less anyway. A day that seems dead boring to us can be ‘normal’ to them and NOT boring. Think if you had to spend every evening out at the pub or clubbing, like the ‘youngsters’ do! They think we’re ‘boring and bored’ because we veg in front of the telly, but actually we’re perfectly happy doing so!

As for trunign a blind ey - I would take that literally. Install venetian blinds on any front facing windows so you can tilt them to let in light, but not have your mum opposite see in!

We’re not suggesting you cut your mum out of your life completely, but to ‘share’ her life with your own. Sit down with your husband and work what you would be happy enough to let her have of your life, and then, as I towards that goal, little by little.

Another tactic is to see your mum less often ‘routinely’ but that when you do see her and spend time with her, you are doing something ‘special’ with her. Why not start thinking up, or even better, talking with her, as to ‘special’ things she might like to do. If’s fit enough to come on holiday with you, she’s fit enough to have ‘big days out’. How about taking her to National Trust poperties, or gardens (not in winter!), or even maybe big shopping malls (does she like the theatre perhaps?). Remember most of these places have wheelchairs on offer (or buy a portable one, or get from St John Ambulence)(that’s what I did for my MIL), and that makes them very accessible for the elderly.

You could even, if you wanted, since you are not taking her on holiday with you all again, in having a short break away with her ‘somewhere nice’ (York, Bath, whatever!) - lots of good-deal mid-week breaks available on the Internet - eg, Travel Zoo, etc etc, staying in comfortable hotels (how about a country hotel break??).

The idea is that she is less part of your ‘everyday routine’ (eating with you every evening, seeing you every day) and more ‘red letter’. She may lose some of you for ‘everyday’ but gain you for ‘more special times’…

(As for being grumpy, well, you can’t stop that - so just humour her - if you aren’t living in each other’s pockets as you are now, you won’t be so ‘exposed’ to it.)

By the way, if you worry about her being ‘on her own’ when you have your family holiday, why not start looking at places for her to go while you are away.

Care homes have a poor reputation, but the good ones are truly lovely! The second one my MIL was in was like a country hotel for OAPs! Great food, communal eating (or they could eat in their very nice rooms with lovely views down to the sea), and entertainment in the afternoon.

If she knows she is only there for a week or so while you are away, it is ‘her’ holiday as well.

And if she is still independent you may even find places that specialise in ‘comfortable resorts’ for the elderly, outwith any ‘care home’ environment.

You CANNOT be ‘tied to her’ - remember, she is only getting older, and you could be facing a time when she is MUCH frailer than she is now, both physically and, worst of all, mentally. My MIL was totally fine and independent until she was 89 - then dementia set in and she spent the last five years of her life in a care home completely. So, in a way, if your mum is good ‘now’ mentally, make the most of that!

Thanks very much for all your sensible advice Jenny and some really good ideas to consider. I was getting to the stage where I couldn’t see the wood for the trees. We have actually taken the first step and put blinds at the bedroom window. The stepping back will be more difficult, but needs to be done. Thanks again.

Hi Karen
Stepping back somewhat isn’t stepping away forever. It’s just getting your life back in balance and getting Mums more balanced too.

Or you could move, not far but out of sight at least :smiley:

Stepping back somewhat isn’t stepping away forever

Precisely -