Impossible situation

Hi, I am a woman in my mid fifties and my parents are mid to late seventies. A year ago, father asked me to leave my job to work for them as a carer/housekeeper. I refused as i love my job and have never got on with my father as he is narcissistic and can be very verbally abusive. He has always been like this. Also they do not need care as they are fully independent. Since I refused, my relationship with my parents has almost totally broken down. Father is now demanding that I guarantee to give 24/7 care personally when the time comes. When I point out they may never need care or try to reason with him, I get a torrent of belittling verbal abuse. If I try to stand up to him, he gets even worse. What can I do? Has anyone else found theirselves in this situation?

Do you live with your parents?

Hi, no, I live with my husband.

It’s horrendous to deal with people like this- they do not listen to other people, as their opinion is, to them, the only one that matters and must therefore be the ‘right one’.

However, I assume you want some sort of relationship with both of your parents, so I’d suggest the following:

State that, at the present time, your employment needs your full attention (whether that be for financial reasons, work deadline-related reasons or something along those lines). Go on to state that, IF the time should ever arise that either parent requires care, you will be ‘as available to them as possible’. This particular phrasing will enable you to be as involved as you want to be and might placate your father for the time-being. This also means that, if the time should ever arise, you haven’t lied about how much you can be there, but it means you can still carry on prioritising the other important things in your life at that particular time (i.e. you might have your own health/care needs to consider by the time either of your parents require any sort of care).

Do not let your father bully you by getting you to discuss the matter further. Once you have stated the above, leave the conversation at that. I’d even go as far as to state to him, out loud, ‘I have said I will be as available as possible when or if you require care in the future. As that time has not arrived yet, I don’t want to discuss this any further’.

If your father does persist in saying that either parent requires care now, state to him that you will arrange a social services assessment to determine the level of care currently required and see what reaction you get from him.
If he shows willingness for this, I’d proceed down this route (if only to get a formal confirmation that neither parent has any care needs so that you can ‘prove’ this to your father). If he recoils at the idea, state that you can’t arrange any care for them or provide any care for them until their needs have been defined.

Do not let yourself be bullied by anyone. If the situation escalates or voices become raised, walk away. Come back at a later time and try again. If the situation escalates again, walk away again. He will soon learn that you will not tolerate his belittling behaviour and should then amend the way he talks to you accordingly. If he doesn’t, I’d suggest leaving the situation altogether, if you can (i.e. if you don’t live with your parents).

You don’t say whether your mother is similar in her behaviour or not (I’m guessing not). If you were to cut ties with your father, would your mother still be able to/want to stay in touch with you?

I’m glad that you live in your own home with your husband.
You need to make it clear that your first duty is to your husband, because of your marriage vows. If necessary, get your husband to tell your dad to stop bullying you, sometimes it’s better “man to man”.

Also, get your phone out whenever he starts bullying you, and record him. Why is he so concerned for the future?
Did he look after his dad?
Does mum ever stand up to him?
Does he have a progressive illness?

You could also say “I can’t afford to give up work”. Use identical phrases all the time.

Thanks for your comments. Mother just listens to the abuse but doesn’t defend me which causes further grief. I don’t think he’s physically ill. Suspect he’s worried about having to be her carer, but don’t really know.

Is mum ill then?
Usually it’s the man who dies first!
Does he have over £46,000? If yes, then he will have to pay Social Services towards their care, if not, then Social Services will pay some or all of the cost.
Do you think he is declining mentally?

Hi Brenda,
You are going to have to ‘stick to your guns’. First of all make sure hubby is completely aware of how you feel and is willing to stand up to dad. Spouses tend to bury their feelings when their partners wish to look after parents and don’t like to interfere. Dad should respect your husband’s opinion. A husband has more ‘clout’ than a dad.
Secondly stand on the platform that no-one HAS to look after another adult, whatever the relationship. There is NO legal requirement.
Thirdly, do not take the verbal abuse. Walk away-every time. If he won’t discuss his concerns, don’t argue, don’t try to reason, just exit.
Fourthly, can you get Mum on her own and talk to her about what’s happening? Maybe she is getting scared of Dad? Is there a possibility that he is not just being ‘usual dad’, but perhaps is beginning to suffer from some kind of dementia? He certainly seems as if he has a ‘bee in his bonnet’. Why?
Lastly, do NOT cave in. Do NOT promise anything. The most you should offer is to be their ‘Care manager’ when the time comes. Never promise ‘no care home’. Never promise ‘I will look after you’. Not because you don’t want to but because the future might hold scenarios you didn’t expect.
Be strong.

Thanks for your comments. You have given me lots to think about.

Lots of support here for you. Feel free to ask anything you like.