Help needed - my mother is old before her time

Please help!

I am 28 and my mother has just turned 60. My father died when I was very young and so my mum bought up all four children by herself. She was a superhero and we had a fantastic upbringing. About 4 years ago my grandfather got Ill (he was 90)… he was only unwell for about 3 months before passing away. Before he died my mum was his main carer and since he has died my mum has rapidly deteriorated into an old woman, and I am finding it very hard to cope.

She pretends that she is unable to read or write and if she has anything admin based to do for example renewing her car insurance, she will pretend that she’s unable to do it. She acts as if she is unable to use her phone or the internet, although she uses it for social media no problem when it comes to anything of any meaning or responsibility she will revert to asking someone else to do it for her. She will often call companies such as the electricity board for help and then pretend she can’t hear them and pass the phone over.

She does not like socialising and speaks I’ll of everyone that tries to make any effort with her - she has a friend who asks to meet her for coffee however my mother has convinced herself that her friend is a) a cocaine addict (unfounded) and b) in love with her (unfounded). However if we go out for lunch or anything she will strike up conversation with any table nearby and seems to find it funny to tell everyone our situation (particularly after a few drinks).

We have a family dog who we all adore and my mum spends lots of her time walking her - the dog is now 7 years old and my mum is acting as if the dog is geriatric too, if the dog has a slight injury my mother will start saying she has arthritis - it’s never the case.

She has been suffering pain in her ankle, diagnosed 6 months ago by the doctor as plantar fascitis, a curable injury. The doctoe suggested she does exercises to repair her foot which she refused to do, she said she felt the doctor was fobbing her off and not taking her seriously - we ended up spending £250 to go to a private doctor who said exactly the same, she is only just now starting the exercises after almost a year of crippling pain and surprise surprise it is now recovering. At one point when she was suffering she started crying saying she thought I was going to put her into a care home… because she had a sore ankle.

Her finances are in a total mess but she refuses to take any responsibility for them. I am fortunate to be well paid and I often treat her to nights out or concerts and holidays. She has never worked but lives off pension payouts and life insurance from my father. These now hardly see her through the month - she lives an extravagant lifestyle and smokes and drinks despite not being able to afford it. When I try and talk to her about it she feels victimised that she doesn’t have the money and seems to refuse to understand that everyone else works to afford their lifestyles. She has a huge 4 bedroom house inherited from my father, she is obsessed with moving to the coast which I cannot encourage as she is such a burden to me already living 30 miles away I don’t know how I would cope if she lived any further away. She feels therefore that I am trapping her in this big house that she can’t afford to upkeep, but I feel I am stuck between a rock and a hard place. She will not even get on a train to visit these seaside towns she says she is moving to but rather she Google’s them and then tells everyone she is moving there…

I am finding it suffocating and terrifying to think that I will need to be there for her for another 30/40 years. I’m desperate for some advice! I have tried to encourage her to join social groups, speak to a financial advisor, stop smoking and drinking, start exercising but she takes absolutely no advice at all.


This is why we need breaks. Even if it is for 10 minutes to take a shower, drink something or read a book. Can you afford a care home or not? Have you asked a social worker to do a needs assessment yet? You might find this helpful to read. Therapy might help?

Are there any activities near you for her to do? What are her hobbies?

Make it clear that if she does not listen to you, she can go to live in a care home. Could she find a job? Regarding the finances say that if she does not sort them out then no more trips out with you. Does she have her own bank account? Get her to talk with a financial advisor. You need a break from her nonsense. Refer her to a detox service as well. What about joining a community gym? Many leisure centers run exercise classes for people. Or you can always get her to start swimming. There are lots of options for fitness.

Have you tried to speak to a GP about your Mother? She sounds a bit delusional, regarding" a) a cocaine addict (unfounded) and b) in love with her (unfounded)". Has grief triggered a decline or mental illness? Sorry, to put it quite so bluntly.

I’m not a specialist, but I have a mother who for decades has refused to be accountable for herself. I wonder if your Mother needs a mental health assessment?
Clearly, drinking could lead her to say all sorts of nonsense and perhaps she just needs to quit.

Her behaviour is very worrying. I’d suggest asking her if you would like her to manage them for her?

I know, I know, you don’t really want to do this, but isn’t the reality even worse?

As you say, she is getting old before her time, and if she gives you Power of Attorney, then it will be so much easier than sorting out an increasingly bigger mess.

it could be the beginning of dementia I’m afraid, she needs to see a doctor. I would suggest you write to her GP with details of what she is currently doing, and what she used to be like. It is the CHANGE in personality which is most concerning.

How long ago did grandad die? Has she had any counselling, if not, would she consider it?

Hi Beth,
I am no expert, have no experience or training but wanted to share some thoughts with you.
I wonder if the root of all this is that your Mum, having brought you and your siblings up on her own, and then had her dad to care for, suddenly found herself (in her own mind) un-needed and unwanted? Rattling around in a big house and feeling lonely? Is the ‘pretending to be useless’ because she feels useless or thinks others see her as useless perhaps? (I am NOT saying you treat her as such, Just it may be how she feels).
The best outcome would have been if she could have been determined to build herself an active and fulfilled new life but perhaps the combination of grief, alcohol and whatever else, started/exacerbated some MH problems?
Mum probably needs specialist help to get off this roller coaster of ‘cutting off her nose’ as the old saying goes. To find some purpose in life again. I have no idea how you’d go about finding such help. Others on here will have a better idea. You perhaps ought to have the full medical picture in order to find the best way to proceed.
I personally think that threatening a ‘Home’ would be rather like sending a naughty child to bed as a punishment and then wondering why they don’t want to go at bed time. IF you need to arrange for Mum to go into a Home in the future it would be better if she didn’t see it as a threat?
I do agree with BB that you should indeed look after her finances before she gets in a really bad mess as that will affect you too.
I also agree with you that you cannot be responsible for her for years. She is young yet but you have your life to live and she should be a part of it, not the whole.
Perhaps there is some assisted living or similar within your easy reach which would give her company and contacts if she can’t stand the present house?
I hope you find a way to manage and find a happier life for you and your Mum.