How do I deal with terrible guilt, want to run away?

Hello everyone, I am new to being a carer, for my 82 year old mum since dad passed away in January, so almost a year now. I am collapsing with terrible guilt. My story is that mum never gave me any affection or interest as I grew up, dad was my only loving parent. I’m 55, no partner, no children, suffering terrible loneliness & grief losing dad. I promised him as he died that i’d look after mum. I’m ok to do that for her, but each day she is angry, moody, always makes negative comments/criticism of me and anything. She has no interest in doing anything, refuses to speak to the few people in the village that she knew, just potters around her bungalow, and gets in a furious & distressed rage if i gently suggest some social care visits…she adamantly will not let anyone into her home. She’s become an even nastier person than she was through my childhood…i fully understand she’s depressed, in shock at losing dad, in shock of suddenly realising her own future death (as i am too now). I live each day trying to be kind, patient, caring and tolerant to her own inner collapse. But i feel immense guilt - i want to run away, i dont want to care for her like this, i feel ashamed to say it. But she doesnt understand my hurt at her nasty behaviour, i tried explaining but she waves it off like i’m an idiot. It is quite frankly impossible to have a normal polite chat with her. She waved me off all my life. So my question is: how do i deal with my feelings of guilt about feeling trapped & wishing i could leave her to her self-created misery? I cant leave her, she’s like a fragile bird. My conscience would kill me, i want no regrets when she passes too. But i cant bear it any longer, i feel horrific guilt to say that i wish she would just die and free me. She’s my mother, an unloving neglectful one, but still my mother. How can i save myself from this nightmare😪

First things first. You need to request a needs assessment in order to start the whole process. You can call or email your local council to apply etc tomorrow morning. I always recommend making brief summary notes. Make the most of your needs assessment. It is your only chance to discuss everything.
Best wishes. A social worker will typically come out to your home to conduct the entire assessment face to face. Be very honest too. Stay focused. Use a notepad for note taking.

Mum refuses to let anyone come, she gets very angry when i suggested that a few times. I cant force it on her

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Hi Kiki
I can see you are in a very difficult emotional situation.
May I suggest you go to your own GP and explain exactly how it is?
Another alternative is to telephone the Samaritans. They will listen and may have practical advice.
You are not obligated to care for your mother. I know you don’t see it like that but it is true. You are grieving yourself for your dad and probably greiving for what could have been.
Don’t feel quilty for your thoughts. They are understandable and only thoughts. They hurt no one, only yourself if you let them

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Well in that case look at other options. One option is a care home. You can always meet a social worker at the pub or library in order to discuss her needs safely. Make brief summary notes. Good luck. You are in my prayers.

Hi Kiki,
you shouldn’t feel guilty about how you feel! Firstly, you are grieving the loss of your Dad too and secondly you are only human and I think anyone else caring for someone who is nasty day in day out, would feel the same.

I just want to plant a seed of thought - you promised your Dad that you would look after your Mum - looking after someone comes in many guises and that might be that you plug away at getting outside care in … she isn’t the first older person to refuse care from anyone except family.

I agree with Pet, it’s worth talking to your GP. You could also contact the Carers Uk helpline to talk things through Get in touch with us | Carers UK

I also suggest your read: The Selfish Pig’s Guide To Caring by Hugh Marriott which will help with survival tips when caring and hopefully do away with that guilt you talk about.

I think your feelings are totally normal and of course, you are still grieving for your father. I think you should go and see your GP and get your feelings on file and see if they can offer any help. Often people of your mother’s age are their own worst enemy. I would also see if there is a local Carers Group - they may have a telephone befriending service if you are not able to get to the local meetings. They are very good at helping you navigate your way round the care system if and when you need to. Also most of the befrienders have been Carers themselves so do understand. My husband is 83 so I could relate to a lot of your post. I suppose the bottom line is you have to take care of yourself before you are able to care for anyone else. I do feel for you as it is hard to care for someone who is pleasant and co-operative but far far more difficult to care for someone who is not. My husband is non medically compliant so I totally get where you are coming from. Also keep posting - it is a lovely group and very non judgemental and we will make suggestions as and when we can.

Losing a partner is NO EXCUSE for mum’s behaviour! When I was 54 I found my 58 year old husband dead in bed. Our youngest son was brain damaged at birth, mum was very disabled, and I was recovering from major life changing cancer surgery. My sons and I are very proud of the fact that we have never had an argument in all the years that followed. Mum in and out of hospital before she died in 2015, brother dying of pancreatic cancer in Uruguay, leaving us with 2 over full homes to empty in 2 years!!! Do you live with mum? When did you last have a week’s holiday? This is not a flippant question, but a very serious one. I suspect you are burned out, having been expected to do too much for too long? Frankly, mum sounds vile. You do NOT have to care for her, you have a right to choose not to. She may take the attitude that she doesn’t want anyone in the house, that’s her choice, but you also have a right to choose to not do ANYTHING for her at all. If she doesn’t treat you properly, why are you staying? Again, not a flippant question. When I was on the verge of a breakdown, I had counselling, it was hugely helpful. Mine is paid for as part of my Carers Needs Assessment from Social Services. However, the most important question of them all is “Does mum own her property, or rent it”? I’ll explain more later.

Hi Kiki. I know how you feel. I have a Mum who I look after, a sister and a brother. Mum is kind though unlike yours who sounds like a bit of a nightmare.

My family are exactly the same, they won’t accept any outside help, no forms, no assessments, no nothing. According to them, they are all fine!

The GP will help but I don’t think you will be referred to any services straight away. When I went, I was told it would take 3 to 6 months but I was able to access counselling immediately through work. This was just before COVID happened and that derailed everything.

If you do ever pack your bags and run, please make a detour to Yorkshire and take me with you. I often want to go missing to get away from it all but long COVID has made me so tired. I get to the end of the street and have to have a rest.

Keep posting on here. I used the forum on Carers Forum as a bit of a diary to rant and vent when things got too much. There were some lovely people on there who always had time for me. Good luck!

Hi Kiki. I’ve randomly returned to the forum after about three years - and yours was the first post I read. Your story is so similar to mine (of a few years ago) that I felt compelled to respond. Just about everything you wrote I can relate to…

The first thing I would say is that children of any age (you say you’re 55, I’m 49) seek approval, love and affection from their parents. For some bizarre reason, the more ‘rejected’ you feel as a child (even as a fully fledged adult with bucket fulls of life experience yourself) - the more love you seek, and the more guilt you feel when you’re the carer of an elderly ambivalent parent. It’s a weird feeling - but I was just like you.

I also promised my late dad that I would continue to look after mum (I was much closer to dad). But, her general lifelong sense of ambivalence towards me took a frankly evil turn due to dementia. I was no longer the son who did their shopping and cleaning and cared for dad etc… but I became (in her eyes) a thief, an unwelcome presence in what was once the family home, and - at times - a target of hatred. And yet I carried on… wanting to do the best - seeking approval that deep down I knew would never come. I became exhausted, I retreated into a shell, I couldn’t bear seeing friends, I lost interest at work, put on weight, became depressed, etc…

I’ll fast forward a couple of years… then one day, when I was really low (as in feeling incredibly at the end of my tether) I had a lightbulb moment. It suddenly dawned on me that I was the better person, and whatever total bitch-like behaviour my mum could unleash on me, it couldn’t harm me anymore. I simply got to the point where I recognised that if I carried on trying to ‘seek approval’ then I would end up seriously ill myself - or dead. I knew my dad wouldn’t want this for me. Mum went into care. It doesn’t mean I don’t love her - just that I deservedly put myself first.

Nearly four years later and I am a different person. I have found a new zest for life, my friends mean more to me than ever, work is more enjoyable and I have met the absolute love of my life who fills my heart with joy every day.

Based on my own experience, I would say there is no point in seeking parental approval from a mum who is at best ambivalent, and at worst an utter bitch to you. Recognise that your dad would want you to be happy - and that (probably) he’d be horrified to see the behaviour of your mum and would (if he was a decent human being) give you full ‘approval’ to live your life and be happy. This might not be a popular thing to say on here - but stop fighting the tide. You are 55. Live your life. Your mum has had her chance.

For context, I spent six years being a carer. My mum made me so unhappy that I seriously considered some quite dark stuff. Don’t allow yourself to go there :slight_smile:


I agree totally with what you have written.

Hi Kiki,

I feel just like you sometimes although my mum was a very good mum growing up. My mum has gotten a bit nastier since she became disabled and made me become her carer. She technically gave me the option and didn’t force me to but I felt as if I had no choice at the time because I was 20, still living with her in her house with no job/career or family so as far as she was concerned I don’t contribute in any other way or have a separate life of my own so I’m the perfect candidate for being her carer.
Like yours she refuses to have any carers in. We had a social services woman and a care needs assessment done after she came home from hospital after her massive heart attack in 2015 when I was 24. They were useless. The social worker gave me a couple of boxes of donated food. that was nice. but she told me I had to get my own life and suggested putting mum in day care whilst i go and do activities at some knitting club. My mum was furious and moaned at me about “why didn’t you speak up and say you can’t just dump me off in a care home whilst you go out and have a life? you’re my carer!” She said nothing in front of the social worker but keeps bringing that up every so often after the even.
If I Complain about wanting some sort of life of my own mum often would say “if you want a life of your own you have to stop being my carer” if I say ok she would say “well if you want to stop being my carer you have to move out. You can either be my carer or have a life of your own, but you can’t have both”. I say rubbish. I could do both if she wasn’t so stubborn. But she won’t go into day care, a care home, or have other carers, professional carers in her home! She’s become a private person since all our family abandoned us. My dad used to visit every week but now only for birthdays and christmas. He would do odd jobs and favours if asked. He never asks me how I’m coping at being my mum’s sole carer, doing it all by myself.
I saw my cousin recently and he asked how me and my mum are but he never asked how I am doing being her only carer or if we need help.
For some reason I’m too much of a wuss to speak up and say “why have you not bothered with us since mum’s heart attack or asked if we need help???”

Anyway, like you I often think about that the only way I’m going to get my own life and freedom is when she dies and I don’t want that. I’d never wish for her to die for just like her depending on me I kinda depend on her too.
After I told people my story on here a lot of them have agreed my mum is abusive and coercive controlling but she has her moments of being such a loving, generous, helpful mum that I just can’t believe she is abusive. Yes she’s pretty much made me her slave and often does yell and get quite nasty but that’s just because she’s frustrated that she went from being a very active, hard working and self sufficient person to being frail and disabled. She went from doing everything for me to my doing everything for her. She often reminds me that I pretty much owe her seen as how she raised me and supported and did everything for me into my 20s until she no longer could do as much.
She still tried to help where she can. But she doesn’t give me the help I really need which is bringing in a carer.

She’s now caught my illness which I’ve had before and after christmas and she can barely breathe along with her pain so now I have to do even more than usual.

I’m not far off the same situation. I gave up work Jan last year to care 24/7 for grumpy parent who started then with dementia and couldn’t walk anymore.

No children or partner myself. Just here 24/7, spent 11 months sleeping on floor next to her.

I have to remain positive for my own piece of mind, I’m not becoming the grump she is. She’s 91. A huge pinch of salt and walk away when needed.

Do not feel guilty, you are doing your very best and it’s only you doing it!

I’m happy to chat anytime

Claire, that is NOT acceptable. If that is the only way she is safe, you need to talk to Social Services. No one should be expected to sacrifice their own life. In this day and age if anyone else was expected to sleep on the floor for 11 months the press would have a field day!!
Have you asked yourself why you are subjecting yourself to this?
Does mum own or rent her home?
Claiming all the benefits she is entitled to?

I can understand your dilemma. My late mother and I had a difficult relationship, she was quite narcissistic, and saw it as my role to look after her. Unlike you though, I wasn’t single and lived a 100 miles away. Mum refused to move nearer us after my father’s death, and at that time, we couldn’t move because of work commitments, but I was there alternate weeks for years, and often more frequently for “invented crises”.
In my experience, it’s unlikely that your Mum will change and be the Mum you have always needed. Perhaps this sounds harsh, but this was my experience. Like you, I felt guilty as the only child, and my mother was a master of emotional manipulation. The only advice I can give you, is that you have to set boundaries about what you can do for her, and that doesn’t mean you have to do everything and be faced with verbal abuse. My mother also was against getting carers in, but we managed this with the help of her GP, as being contrary, she believed the doctor more than me. Have you considered counselling for yourself, in order to deal with the guilt you feel about Mum, as well as your own grief for your father. I eventually had to accept that my Mum wasn’t going to change, so I had to change my response to her which helped. Being a carer doesn’t mean that you have to do everything, and be verbally abused, sometimes it’s about coordinating care, and don’t feel guilty about preserving your own health and wellbeing in the process. Good luck.

Hi Kiki, please try not to feel guilty, you’ve been trying your best and it sounds harmful to both you and your Mum to just keep on as you are. Request a carer’s assessment for yourself urgently, and remember your promise to care for your Mum didn’t mean you can’t arrange for others to care for her professionally. She clearly isn’t satisfied with your best, and you can’t do any more than that, you are entitled to live your life your way. Best wishes and good luck for your future.


Hi Kiki, I think we all feel your pain so I hope it’s some comfort to know you are not the only one going through this. The guilty feelings are natural and we all have them. It’s hard not to have them because subconsciously we know they are at the end of their lives and we (all things being equal) are not. They know it too and this disguised resentment can come out as aggression or intolerant rudeness. She will also resent the fact that she has been your carer when you were young and able to ‘control you’, but now the relationship is reversed.

She knows she can still control you via manipulation of your guilty feelings and implied gratitude for bringing you up. But she also knows you could walk away. You need to use that. You need to gently but firmly stand up to her. Small things at first but get her used to the idea that she needs you more than you need her. Tell her that there’s only so much she can expect you to put up with or do to help her. Tell her firmly that if she continues to be rude, manipulative or aggressive you will walk out immediately and return later when she’s stopped being like that.

You don’t have to (and shouldn’t) be rude or aggressive yourself just firm and do exactly what you say you will do. Firm but understanding is the key. Remember that she is at the end part of her life. She has a lot of past to cling to and not a lot of future. She wants everything to be as it was before but she knows consciously or unconsciously that it isn’t and that not only are things going to get worse but it will end with her death. That’s quite a lot for her to take in and accept.

My 97 year old father-in-law has been in complete denial about this until very recently when his care needs have become pretty intense (severe mobility, failing eyesight, deafness and incontinence). Even now he struggles with it and every new development seems to crush his spirit a bit more. Fortunately he’s not rude or aggressive but he’s stubborn, wilful and takes ridiculously stupid/reckless decisions regarding his own safety and basic hygiene.

We’ve (my wife and me) had to tell him that we’re not nurses or professional carers and so he has a choice; we get some outside help or he has to go into a home. He has a Frailty Team (local GP surgery) assessment tomorrow and hopefully we’ll get some more advice/help but ultimately, like you, we can only do so much. So don’t feel guilty. Take charge. Don’t accept her being rude. Do what you have to in her best interest and leave it at that.

Two more things (sorry, I’m getting a lot off my chest here!); I’m in my 60s and we never had children because my wife really didn’t want any but I have lots of other people’s children (nephews, nieces, god children and dozens of close friends’ children) and I have been able to take an unbiased view of what their impact on people is. This has really surprised me but about a quarter of the mothers I know with grownup children have at some point confided in me (usually after a few glasses of wine!) that they wished they’d never had children. They would never tell their children this, of course, but you may find your mum feels the same way. It might explain some of her hostility to you.

You should not be alarmed or upset by this as it’s more common than you think and it’s definitely not your fault. In the past there was a lot of social pressure to have children which has now diminished. In many ways (if it’s true) it should be a relief because it should release you from a lot of the guilt. Having you was her choice not yours. You are your own person with your own life and your own future. We are not beholden to our parents, we chose to help them because we are good people - not because they are our parents!

Lastly - and this is a general comment for everyone - I think we all find ourselves wishing they were dead and we feel bad for thinking it. It’s a hugely taboo subject but I’ve found nearly everyone I’ve talked to who’s been in this situation has had the thought at some point. I don’t think it’s because we are bad people. I think it’s because we can imagine a future without them and all the effort and heartache we’re going through at the moment. It’s natural because we want our lives back. My wife and I haven’t been on holiday for six years. We’ve had only one weekend away from father-in-law in the last 18 months and even then we spent the whole time worrying about him. It’s perfectly natural to dream of a life free of all that.

We don’t wish him dead or to come to any harm but we do wish it was all over. I could say that it was for his sake as much as ours but that would be a lie. He does keep falling over and his future life prospects are awful to contemplate but the truth is he is now consuming our lives and we wish it wasn’t so. I suspect we’re not alone in that!

Best of luck!

And yet the government still tries to force us to care without any support for us as people with their own lives, dreams etc. It wouldn’t be so bad if we had the option of 6 weeks guaranteed time off each year - as my friend in Australia had when caring for her elderly mum. My friend had been a hospital Matron, as he mum had also been, but still it was really hard for her to be tied down most of the time. I have very good qualifications but could never do the work I wanted as there was no guaranteed respite for my son. I complained to the Ombudsman who said I should have it but the council were not wrong in not providing it?! Even residential care doesn’t mean I’m free, it’s still a constant battle to try and get him the care he really needs organised before I die. Even a GP letter hasn’t worked. We should all have a “right to retire” knowing our loved ones are well cared for.

I feel you, it winds me up so much. Us carers are doing an impossible task, yet we are always just told how ‘honorable’ and ‘rewarding’ it is to do the job. I don’t see any sense of reward, I see my mum struggle every single day and I get blamed for not doing enough to help her. I have no qualifications in this sort of thing whatsoever. If I had no qualifications for job, I would soon be dismissed. Yet, apparently it is okay to struggle if you are doing this job. Other people may find it rewarding, but caring is not the choice it is made out to be.

Other people may find it rewarding, however everyone’s needs should be taken into account. There is just too much stigma that we all chose to do this. Stigma also tells us that all carers are people above a certain age with grown up families that is not always true. Government red tape is quick to consider someone’s’ rights and capacity when it suits them, but where are the rights and capacity assessments for the carer. Most of us have conditions of our own, and if not mental health problems.

The news will also tell you that practically every service right now is demanding better rights and pay by striking, yet what about carers we cannot strike!

I wish someone would stand up for us.

In reply to…How do I deal with terrible guilt and want to run away…

Dealing with the guilt can be in part due to the promise you made to your father before his passing and witnessing your mother suffering.
Your father seemed a loving parent and played a significant, positive role in your upbringing and appeared to do his best for your mother.
Yet perhaps underneath it all, your mother was quietly dealing with some painful issues that could have been the reason for how she treated you.
Sadly. A combination of your father’s bereavement, her own deteriorating health and having to acknowledge her uncertain future are only going to encourage her angry behaviour.
Some of your mother’s anger could be due to feeling left behind when your father passed on as he was to her, the most significant companion throughout her life.
Understandably, you feel lonely and isolated. Having to care for someone who has never wanted a close, loving relationship must be unbearable at times.
The anger, bad moods, negative comments and criticism are possibly a reflection of her own anger towards life in general, rather than just at you.
Deep down. Your mother knows you could just leave her behind as well. Underneath it all, she may be experiencing some guilt because she will be aware of how she’s treated you in the past. Now she really does need your help, leading to her own personal conflict between accepting what help you can give and knowing how badly she treated you.
As with many long relationships, losing a loved one can take it’s toll on the surviving partner. The pain so devastating the surviving partner never recovers.
It’s difficult to know what to do in these circumstances. However. It is important to prioritise yourself. This is your life which is being seriously affected by your mother not willing to compromise.
Counselling can help you deal with the mixed emotions you are experiencing and will be a starting point for you to make some time for yourself.
Unfortunately. Your mother is choosing not to have any extra help (such as professional care) and it is her choice alone to make this decision.
You have your life to lead and although your mother needs help, this does not mean you have to give up your own life.
It’s your mother’s choice not to make the effort to improve her own lifestyle and although she doesn’t appear to respect your needs, your mother needs to accept it.
Your mother may understand your loneliness, isolation, guilt and that horrible frustration you experience much more than you think.
When you try to explain to your mother how hurtful it is to receive such nasty behaviour, she just waves her arm and dismisses you. You assume she doesn’t understand the hurt you feel.
It’s possible your mother uses the dismissal tactic as a way to tap into your deepest feelings, resulting in you wanting to persevere in trying to help her.
This progresses to keep you even closer because the more she dismisses you, the more you try to communicate with her, which in turn brings out your inner feelings.
One of which is that horrible feeling of guilt you experience. The guilt your mother knows will keep you close and feeling that need to be her carer.
This can be her way of encouraging you to feel even more guilty in order to stay and look after her.
Your mother is also creating a personal barrier around herself in order to avoid facing the hard reality of her situation.
Your mother may feel isolated due to not having a social life anymore, as your father may have always been at her side when attending parties, gatherings, events and going out always as a couple.
Your mother may be one of those people who don’t like going out or socialising alone - especially if someone has always been with her.
Even if your mother were to regularly socialise or go out anywhere without your father, she’ll always feel reassured that he’d be there for her.
Either way, your mother has still lost her partner’s companionship.
It’s somehow trying to find a way of encouraging your mother to open her mind to new social experiences and accepting some help.
At present, your mother appears very engrossed in her own anger and other negative feelings (especially after your father’s passing). This means she is totally rejecting any offer of help or friendship.
Someone who was possibly leading a very active in the past now faces not being able to do the things they had done before.
It may help to pacify your mother by taking her into the garden and trying some small conversation, such as talking about the weather and even just the garden.
There hopefully will be memories of happier times that your mother may share.
By talking about your father and the times they enjoyed together, your mother may perhaps start to relax and this could help soften her anger.
If possible, you could suggest for her to try and attend some social events in the village. This is going to depend on how she feels due to her frail state of health.
It could be a starting point to suggest a meal delivery service, also a volunteer driver service for lifts out to the shops - and that could even include something like a community centre visit as well.
If possible, it may be worthwhile to sit near your mother whilst looking at the family photo albums. This could arouse enough curiosity within your mother to perhaps ask questions or make some comments regarding the past.
Admittedly. This may need to be handled carefully, due to your mother’s issues being borne of possibly something much deeper.
However. Perhaps pointing out some the photos in which your mother seemed happiest may help her to talk about some of the past.
Above all. It’s important that you take care of yourself.
You made a promise to your father that you’ll take care of your mother. However. Your father has now passed away and you have your own life to lead.
The major issue that is causing you much distress is the guilt you experience at even the thought of not caring for your mother.
There’s nothing at all wrong in feeling trapped and wishing you could leave your mother to her own misery.
Although in poor health, much of your mother’s unhappiness comes from within her. This is now being inflicted upon you as a form of punishment.
The intense guilt, dealing with your conscience and not wanting lifelong regrets all come from witnessing your mother’s suffering and your own kindness not allowing you to abandon her.
However. It is not your role to take the place of your father and your mother needs to respect that.
What’s now important for you is to find some time for yourself. Preferably leaving the house for at least a small part of the day.
Unfortunately. Your mother has no choice but to accept she needs help and it’s her stubborn behaviour that is preventing this from happening.
As hard as it is… Whether your mother likes it or not… She’s going to need some extra assistance in order to keep her independence and be safe in her home.