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When your parents become your children

I find myself in a peculiar place these days. My parents are like dealing with two 5-year olds. Until about 15 years ago my relationship with my mother was one of the best of anyone I know. We have always been friends and I knew my mother loved me and would take care of me. I have always been able to talk to her about anything, no matter how personal or off the wall. And that was true for most of my life, but not for many years now. My Dad and I have always had a very loving relationship and I could also talk to him about anything and that is still pretty much the case. But things are very different now.

When my grandmother, her mother, died it was if she then had nowhere to put all her anger from being abused as a child. She controlled it fairly well as long as she was active and able to travel and we didn’t notice much difference. But then a medication that was supposed to help her glaucoma not only didn’t do that, but the steroid attacked her spine. When the vertebrae in Mom’s back began to collapse and she had to go on heavy pain meds, things just got much worse. It is understandable that anyone would be distressed and unhappy. As the years went by, the realization set in that she wouldn’t be able to travel anymore for a variety of health issues and that was a huge blow. She was quickly loosing the sight in one eye and her hearing got so bad she had to have a Cochlear implant. Dad didn’t want her to be in pain so he freely gave her the pain med and she eventually became addicted. None of us really thought it mattered as we didn’t think she would live much longer anyway. Her personality began to change and she started getting extremely jealous and even angrier. Slowly she stopped eating and was losing way too much weight and after a month of being mostly in bed ended up in hospital. Doctors told us she would not live. During the hospital stay a hurricane came to the east coast of Florida and all patients were taken to the basement for safety. While there on the gurney, in pain because she had to lie on her back, she began to hallucinate and I believe this was the true break with reality. Since that day she has demanded that she never be left alone for even 5 minutes and that my dad be her only care-giver. He must be at her beck and call 24/7, literally. She was moved to a nursing home, supposedly to die, but nobody was aware of her will power. After about 6 months she was the picture of health and went home. But her anger increased and she became more demanding. She shopped for the same clothes over and over, accused every care giver or cleaner who came into the house of stealing, although we always found everything. It didn’t matter who we tried to get to help them, mom found some reason to have dad fire them. She was deathly afraid a woman was going to take dad away from her. She was home about 6 months when she was once again addicted to the pain meds, got sick and ended up in a nursing home again. Dad’s health was beginning to fail and the stress of her demands was taking its toll. He admitted to social services that he couldn’t take care of her and we expected that she would live out the rest of her life in that facility. Wrong again! She checked herself out after 6 months. My sister was the medical proxy during these stays and mom had decided that Janiene was the one forcing her to stay instead of dad wanting her there. It’s not that he didn’t want her home; just that he knew he wasn’t capable anymore. And the anger and jealousy got much worse. She began spending 2 hours every night at bedtime telling dad all the ways he had abused her and even tried to convince him that he had abused Janiene and I. Definitely not true! We tried repeatedly to bring in helpers for dad, but she never let them stay more than a week or so. She accused all of stealing and much more. We finally did find one woman they would tolerate, but ultimately she is the one who actually did steal from them—mom’s pain meds. Things went on like this for 4 years, mom losing weight, dad in and out of emergency for one thing or another. Eventually, we found a young couple to move into the house. She worked at a nursing home so it seemed perfect. Mom immediately began to attack her verbally about everything she did.

During all these years mom was spending money like it was free, demanding that dad continue to drive even though he started to have passing-out episodes from stress, and refusing to let go of any control over him. That’s the main issue—not being in control of everything, mostly dad. She will not accept that she and dad spent all of their savings in 4 years. Some purchases were necessary, but most not and she began to shop only in high end stores and only the most expensive of whatever they were buying. She insisted that they go out every day and shopping became her entertainment. The drugs were affecting her memory so much that she would shop, put the bags on the floor and forget that she had bought anything and go shopping again. Towels, bedspreads, silverware, pots and pans, small appliances, clothing, underwear all bought over and over again. And let’s not forget diamonds. Along with addiction, dementia and depression had set in big-time. The mood swings were vicious for my dad. If something upset her she kept him up many times all night listening to her tirade. We could see dad going downhill rapidly. We thought Sarah would be the answer, but mom saw her as the enemy when she tried to get her to not shop every day or to eat healthy foods. The situation went downhill very fast and all mom did was complain about how much she hated Sarah. When Sarah became pregnant we knew that this was a temporary situation at best and began looking for assisted living. It was obvious that mom was never going to allow anyone to take care of them so this was the only answer. I had everything set up, but mom had enough time to realize that that would be the ultimate loss of power and started saying that they really did like Sarah and they would be all right with her caring for them. So I cancelled the apartment in assisted living knowing full well that it wouldn’t last—and it didn’t.

Mind you, my dad was no angel during all this. He was basically brainwashed and decided the only way to deal with mom was to do whatever she said. He told us often, “Whatever she wants, just say yes.” Mom kept him up most nights so he slept all day long whenever they were at home. He sided with her on most things just so he wouldn’t get into trouble. We all understood why, but it didn’t help the situation. All we wanted was someone to care for them so they would both stay healthy.

Several months went by with mom and dad continuing to complain about everything Sarah did. I decided to bide my time and wait until just before the baby was to be born to try assisted living again. I had already had several meltdowns while visiting and they were very ugly. Jerry and Janiene were getting calls 3-4 times a week and relaying the events to me. We were all being stressed to the max. I went home to visit again and immediately dad started in about Sarah. I became angry and we argued. He knew that things could not go on as they were and asked to be taken to see the assisted living. We got things moving forward and actually had them moved in by the end of my trip. No one expected them to adjust immediately. This is a huge change for people of their age. But we were all so relieved to have it done and to know that they would get 3 good meals a day and their medications dispensed regularly. They can go out every day to someplace different on the facility van if they want. You would think things would slowly but surely calm down, but oh, no mom won’t let that happen.

The staff at the facility tells us that they are actually doing fine, but they won’t tell us that, of course. Dad would be happy if mom would, but she has finally realized the finality of this and that she is definitely losing control and continues to make us all miserable with her demands and complaints. And she has a plan: after over 4 years in a wheelchair she decided to use the walker again. Great, better for her. And now she is walking on her own with her arm on dad’s. That’s great that’s she’s getting stronger. But I know that she thinks if she gets stronger they can move out. She cares nothing for my dad’s health and how her actions impact him. She wants them to live alone with him bearing the entire burden. She wants what she wants and doesn’t care about anyone else. But this cannot happen. The house is being sold and their stuff has been cleaned out. I think she is psychotic, has dementia, and narcissism. She only cares about herself. She thinks Jerry and I are rich so she wouldn’t stay mad at us for very long—until now. Last month when I visited, I got very angry on the last day and said some things that I know made mom very mad so I don’t know how she will be with me from now on. She wants to control the finances, but won’t accept that there are no finances to manage with the expense of the facility. Jerry and I are supplementing the expense and they think that’s only fair since we “stuck” them in there.

Will the insanity ever end? It doesn’t seem like it. I fear that only my mother’s death will bring us any peace. She is disappointed, depressed, angry, vindictive, and selfish. I started saying several years ago that my mother is gone. Some other personality is occupying her body. I mourn for the mother I have lost. And she is pushing us out of her life one by one. I pray for her and that I don’t lose my dad before he gets some peace. We know we cannot “make her happy”, but can only try to keep to keep them safe for as long as they continue to live. And I meditate and pray daily for the strength to visit every 3-4 months. We are all exhausted, angry, depressed and guilt-ridden by the whole situation. It is not what we wanted for our parents but is the best we can do. We know that with her attitude none of us could have her in our homes. She is a 24/7/365 energy drain demanding to be the center of attention at all times. None of us has that kind of patience or energy. Having her with me would tear apart my marriage.

So, that’s where we are now. I don’t know what the future will bring. It is just too sad that my mother will live out the rest of her life a bitter, angry woman.

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