Difficult mother, but love the dog

Hi everyone

I’ve seen quite a few posts on here started by people who feel they’ve been forced or are being forced into a caring situation with a narcissistic parent. My situation is similar. My mother lives a 5 mins walk from me. People think that makes things easier but it doesn’t. It means every day I have to explain to her what I’m doing and when I’m coming round, if I can pop to the shops to pick up anything she needs etc.

Ok, I don’t have to do all that stuff, I could refuse, but here’s the difficulty for me. My elderly dog lives with her. He’s the sweetest, most intelligent little dog and he deserves the rest of his life to run smoothly.

My mother is probably an alchoholic. She drinks at least one bottle of wine every night, she says to help her sleep. She doesn’t drink during the day, only after ten at night and she thinks that means she’s not got an alcohol problem.

Gradually she is doing less and less. She wakes up around mid day, sits and does crosswords until about 4pm. Then she’ll have ‘breakfast’ and take the dog out for a very short, 5 minute walk. Of course all that is unacceptable to me, especially as the dog has been ill. So, I’m self employed, so I’m going around there around 2pm, spending most of the day with her (taking the dog out for a reasonable walk) and finishing work in the evenings. On the days that I have to be out of town, the dog seems different the next day. Nothing major, just a bit put out that I’ve not been there (bored no doubt from just sitting with mum while she’s doing crosswords all day).

The dog recently had cancer and treatment, and mum actually overdosed him with antibiotics. It’s the first sign that she’s not fully with it. She’s always coped with any medicenes before but that’s because she puts them in his dinner. As he wasn’t eating, she was getting all confused and just assuming he could have the medicene all in one go late at night when he finally eats (and eats a second meal as well with more medicene in!). Luckily I managed to sort this situation out and the overdose wasn’t dangerous (I checked with a vet), but it’s been constant monitoring.

I’m finding things so frustrating because this has always been my mother’s personality, it’s not necessarily dementia beginning. She’s always been the same, always done the bare minimum, always waited for others to set the structure, to do the thinking, make the tea, etc. Even on days out when we were all younger, my mum would just walk behind me, following me, rather than beside me chatting and thinking for herself about where we were going.

She’s always been a very frustrating person to be around. When my dad was alive she was very abusive to him. He was a strong man but in the face of her screaming and verbal abuse, night after night, he just used to shut down and sit there, completely defeated, in the chair. Eventually he’d go up to bed and she’d shout up the stairs at him for hours, before finally shutting up, sitting there and biting her nails all night and climbing into bed around 5 am. My dad, no surprise died of a sudden heart attack in his sixties.

I’m exhausted. But I can’t stay away because of that lovely angel of a dog. I love this dog with all my heart and soul. If he wasn’t around I would still visit mum, still support her, but not everyday, she would have to find other things to do, or sit and do nothing. That said I want my dog to live forever and am looking into further cancer treatment to extend his life, which will cost a lot of money. Some might say that I should just have the dog come to my house but it’s not that easy, I’m in a flat and he’s old. He loves me but not my flat, lol. In a way he’s the same as mum, wants me there all the time, but the difference is, if it were just him, it would be a pleasure. If she went away with a friend or relative (she never would), I’d find it easy to be with the dog there, and would be able to work there. I just can’t with her there.

I’ve rambled enough. I think what I want to know is how to break this pattern but without the dog suffering. If I stay away even for one day, she is moaning and irritable the next day and while she would never hurt the dog, she might snap at him. It’s only a slight change in tone of voice but the dog knows. If I visit her everyday I feel I can keep her mood up enough that she won’t be irritable around the dog. She does love the dog, and she wouldn’t hit him or anything but she doesn’t seem to get that verbal stuff is equally unacceptable.

If the dog were younger I’d make use of the doggie day care that is available now, and also get him used to my own home and not allow mum to insist on having him with her every night. But he’s too old for changes like that. So instead I worry. If I could just get some support for her that would help. I’ve suggested that my cleaner (I’ve had a very bad back so had to get a cleaner for a short while) goes to her on alternate weeks, so that she has someone other than me visiting. But no. All I need is for other people to be visiting her, or for her to join a coffee morning once a week, or anything but require me all the time.

Thanks for listening and for any ideas that anyone might have.

Hi Savannah,

Welcome to the forum.

Only you can change this situation, you can either carry on as you are or make changes. It’s very common for the elderly to want no one else but a son/ daughter to support them, therefore you need to be wily or take the firm approach. E.g. A wily approach could be to employ a “dog walker,” initially to take your lovely old dog for a walk (but really to also have a chat with your Mum afterwards.) A firm approach would be to pick a day/ days when you tell your Mum you aren’t available and she needs to get her help elsewhere e.g a befriender/ paid carer etc one way to maybe force this to happen, was if she were to have insufficient wine in, for that evening …

Once you decide your tack, we can advice on funding etc if she is eligible.


Melly is right. Once you accept that the more you do, the more mum wants, you can very gradually make yourself less available.

Thanks. What I’m trying to say is that it would be easy to just leave her be and visit once a week, but because of the dog, and the dog being poorly and also fearing that she would be irritable with the dog if I didn’t visit, etc, that’s what’s pulling me there all the time. I can’t see any solution to this because I won’t and can’t leave the dog there knowing he’s unhappy. A dog walker is not me. The dog will want to see me ultimately, but yes it would be easier if mum had other things going on, mainly because that would put her in a good mood so that I would know she’s fine around the dog.

To try and be more practical, I suppose I’m looking for ideas of ways to get more people in her life…as she won’t go to any coffee mornings or anything.

She likes the chiropodist but says she doesn’t want to waste her money, so I could arrange for them to go around and also arrange for her shopping to arrive the same day. That would be stimulation for her and then I know she won’t be irritable with the dog.

I’ve also contacted her cousin who always used to call but because mum lost her number (and it was mum’s turn to call on many occasions), she hasn’t called. So hopefully now I’ve explained that she lost the number, she’ll call.

I have a cleaner that I mentioned. I could ask her to do mum’s place on alternate weeks. Mum is saying no to this idea, but I think I could push it by having the lady turn up at mum’s while I’m there for the first time.

My mum was a carer for her own mother up until two years ago. I was wondering if there was any kind of befriending or support for post-carers, as I suspect part of the issue is just that she feels lost without her mother, who she was always very close to, and the role that came with caring (and all the support she got, people coming each day to help, etc). If there was I’d get someone to call her, though she’s not good on the phone due to her hearing problems, maybe better on the mobile though.

On days when I work out of town I’ve told her to walk into town with the dog and visit her friends in the offices there. That has worked well and they’ve told her the days they are in, etc., but the dog is having medical treatment at the moment and I don’t think he should be walking into town.

A big part of all this is mum claims that she is happy to just sit there day in and day out doing crosswords. And I’d just leave her to it if the dog wasn’t there, but I don’t want her mood slipping downwards while he’s there. He deserves better than my mother in a bad mood. She’s been foul over the years. While she’d never physically hurt him, he knows if someone is in a bad mood and it’s not fair.