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Hi everyone,
My mother has been living with my husband and me since late December 08.  Originally it was just for the winter as her house is very old and expensive to heat.  In March she learned that some pipes had broken and her home was severely water damaged.  She did not have insurance on it (long story) and refused to turn off the water when she left in December.  Since that time I have discovered how very small our house is. 
My Mother has always relied on me.  She was divorced in '78, lost her mother in '89, lost my brother in '90 ... I got married in '05.  These are all losses she has never dealth with.  As time has gone on she is increasingly depressed.  I am a therapist and have tried to get her to see someone but she refuses.  She was diagnosed with COPD a year and a half ago.  She only told me 4 months ago when I found an inhaler in her room while vacuuming. She is in the severe stages, but is not yet on oxygen.  I anticipate she will be in another year.
I am now an only child.  She has no siblings or parents of her own.  My husband and I (and I alone, before he came along) have been trying for years to get her to sell her 270 year old house or maintain it.  We have spent many a visit to her home, only to spend that time cleaning it.  She has become a packrat/hoarder.  Due to the flooding, I recently went with her to clean out the garbage.  We filled a 20 yard dumpster with wet items and general trash.  She has yet to acknowlege this is a problem. 
At this point, I can't continue to have her living in my house.  It's hurting my marriage due to her entitlement and expectations.  She and I get in fights if I try to tell her to do something.  If I wait for her to initiate things, she never does.  I am also concerned about her memory.
Then there's my guilt.  I am literally all she has.  She has pushed away friends.  She has not made new ones.  She has no interests or activities.  She thinks AL, retirement communities and senior centers are beneath her.  She spends way too much time putting on a show for everyone else to even know who she really is.  She refuses to let anyone know she is depressed, including her doctor.  When I addressed it once, letting her know I could not be her therapist or fix it for her, but I was concerned she was suicidal ~ she told me flat out, "fine, I won't tell you any more"  and since that day, she would answer my phone calls or greet me with a forced happiness.  Once she makes a statement or point, she will stick to it for life.  Like when she cut off my "Aunt"  (Not actually related, but close enough)  Since that day, they have not spoken.  I can't bear to think of that happening to me, so I dance around her.  I try to make her happy.  I know full well I will miss her tremendously when she is gone.  She was my rock for most of my life. Now I have no idea where that person has gone.
In the relativey recent past it was easy to sort of ignore her manipulation.  She lived four states away and I could ignore it in her absence.  Now she is living with us and her home needs to be leveled or significantly repaired (=/- $200,000 which none of us has)  I have gotten her to the point where she will likely rent.  Originally she wanted to buy.
Meanwhile,she does the grocery shopping and laundry at my house.  I am grateful for that, but am so frustrated, angry, upset and burnt!!!  She won't allow me to help her, then cliams no one helps her, then does nothing. 
There's more.  I just don't feel like getting into it.  I have several close friends who are my supports.  I am so fortunate to have them!   But I don't feel like it's enough right now.  I will be suing all of my vacation time in order to get her house cleaned out.  We have another week planned this month and then there will need to be at least one more.
Does anyonehave any words of wisdome or suggestions?  I feel like moving to New Zealand and leaving it all behind..... but guilt won't let me.
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  Welcome,  You're not alone.

When I first found this place, I was drowning, and the people here, as well as therapy have thrown me a much needed life preservers.  My psychiatrist says I don't need her anymore.  So there's hope.

 >> I try to make her happy. <<  You can't make her happy.  You can't live an others life for them.  Do the best you can to provide for her; but she's her own person.  She's choosing to be miserable, nothing you say or do will change her, she's got to do it herself.  It's hard and it hurts.

When you find what happened to your rock, look around and tell me if yo see mine there too. 

Your house, your rules; set boundaries, no pack-ratting in your house.  I was trained by two very skilled pack-rats, and it's hard - but I'm learning to unclutter my life. 

Part of throwing out the clutter is throwing out the guilt.  These are my feelings, I'm entitled to them.  My house, and my rules.  Set boundaries for yourself and her.  Make clear lines, I will not cross X and I WILL NOT let her cross Y.    Probably the best clutter out of your house is her attitude.  If she's willing to rent, move her out ASAP  (like I'm one to talk on this matter - but things are moving forward on the hardship house; permits are being reviewed). 

Save Guilt for when you know you're doing wrong, but go ahead and do it, and some one gets hurt.  I think too often we say guilt when we question our actions of self preservation.   If I had to hurt an attacker to save my own life, would I feel guilty?  If I have to hurt my mother to save myself . . . . ? 

If you're not sure, but it's the best you can do; and it gets thrown back at you, no guilt - you did what you thought best, at the time. 

That's my ramblings.  I'm sure you'll get a lot of good (better) advice from others.
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You are among friends- we know *ALL* about it!

Please keep writing we want to hear from you!

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Thanks MarieA!  It really hepls to know others are out there.  I know the guilt is my own issue.  Would you believe Mom bought me a fridge magnet once that says, "My Mother was a travel agent for guilt trips."  ture story.  At least I come by it honestly.
I am trying to keep my boundaries.  Rather, I am trying to develop them.  I just don't want to take my Mother's dignity from her by doing everything for her. 
Your reply brought tears to my eyes, like so many things do today.  I am hoping this means I am moving on from Anger to Sadness in this aging parent process.  I am tired of anger. 
Thank you!
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Cristin, I feel so bad for you. It sounds like you are really overwhelmed and near the breaking point. Search the posts around here and draw strength from them. That's what I do and it does make me feel better to know that there are others that have gone through similar or much worse things than I have and survived. It is very depressing to feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel or that all of you waking hours are devoted to thinking about, running for, or making plans for our parents. I am an only child and everything is in my lap with my mom. I struggle with knowing what the right thing to do is and the attitude that people think that I should have and the reality of the resentment and the wish for freedom that I have. It's a struggle. I'm sorry you have to do all the preparation for cleaning and working on your mom's house. I have a similar situation. Please take care of yourself.
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Never Get Away

Your rock will crush you with her weight the way mine has if you continue on the path which you are on.

To repeat YOU can not make her happy, you are not responsible for her happiness. The only expectation you should have for yourself in regard to her is to consider her basic physical needs. That doesn't necessarily mean you supply them with your own two hands.

Forgive me if I sound like a supplement pusher, but I guess that what I may be-your mother could be deficient in B12 encourage her to take B12 sublingually, it may be a cheap solution to a difficult problem.

 Also consider the mineral lithium orotate which has helped my very difficult mother with her moods. Remeron was one of the few drugs I think helped my mother. You could look in to this as a possibility.

 Make sure mom isn't dehydrated, which can mimic dementia. Suggest that she leave out 8 pennies in the morning to represent 8/8 oz. glasses of water and every time she drinks a glass, put the penny in a container.  This is a visual reminder and when I used this with my parents they realized very quickly they were not drinking enough liquids.

You might casually give her some literature about minimal living. Some people are swayed strongly by the printed word.

I'm sorry that she is stealing your vacation I know how awful that is, I have lost most of my extra time due to the poor choices my mother has made.

Once your mother is in her apartment find someone to help her clean and find out if there is a senior shuttle to take her shopping. Don't you do too much or you will disable her the way I did catering to my mother.

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You are all so right.  I am torn between knowing I can't do it all and wishing I didn't have to and....wanting to. 
It means so much to hear from all of you.  Already, today, I feel less sick to my stomach, less heavy with responsibility, less burdened. 
'Never Get away', you made some really good points.  As per the dehydration, she's always been pretty good about that.  Typically has a glass of water with her.  She is also on a diuretic, so tends to retain water.
I have read one and a half books on downsizing.  It all makes sense to me and motivates me to clean my own space.  I am now beginning to read, "Rightsizing your Life" by Ciji Ware.  Maybe this one will be the one I think she can handle and follow.  I want it to be the right one that I give her.  Kind of feel like it's a one shot chance. 
Laura, we are soul sisters in our only child-ness.  It is such a heavy load at times.  Thanks for understanding and sharing with me.  More to come soon, don't you worry!!
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billie jo

welcome christin, you only children do have a heavy load. it is time to make an appointment with a rental agency. have your mom make a list of features she NEEDS in an apartment, ask her when would be the best time for her to look and have some showings set up. and tell her she has to choose between no more showings than 10, otherwise she will drag you and the agent around the world and back and not make up her mind. then make a date for moving. ask her to also start making a list of the things she will NEED there, only what will fit in the area. make sure non of the places have a lot of stairs as she will be able to be on her own longer with fewer obsticles. also look for something that has easily accessible transportation. i don't know if she drives anymore but it sounds like she does. if and when the time comes you will want her to have access to transportation so you do not become IT. senior busses come right to the door with an appointment, at least here they do. they are not always very prompt, but they are better than nothing. start looking at making the move while there are still positives in your relationship. good luck. keep talking to us. glad you are here.

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Hi there Cristin and a very warm welcome to you. 

I just had an idea on how you might deal with moving your mother out and you MUST MOVE HER OUT.  If I were in your situation, I'd tell my mother than my marriage is new and my husband and I need to be alone.  This marriage, this home only has room for the two of you right and your husband.  Your mother had her marriage.  This is your time now. 

Like several of the other here have said, your mother has made her choices about how she treats people and reacts to them.  My father was just like that and we too walked on eggshells around him trying to keep him happy because in our case, we owed him so much.  But after being on this site for about two years I learned that no matter how much our parents have done for us over the years, we are under no obligation to them to rob us of our emotional health or the serenity of our homes.  We can repay them by seeing to it that they live in a safe and comfortable dwelling or facility.  How they choose to react to that is their business.  We cannot make people happy particularly when they are determined to be miserable. 

So to reiterate, get your mother out of your home and do not allow her to dominate your life.  Your marriage, your husband should dominate your life.  If you feel any guilt, learn to live with it.  That is probably the most valuable lesson I learn from the good folks on this site.  Few situations are perfect.  If you can learn to accept that, you will feel so much relief. 

Let your mother know what you are willing to do for her while she is living elsewhere, and also let her know in no uncertain terms that your husband is your number one priority.  Do not allow her to manipulate you in any way.  Be kind, be clear, be firm, be consistent.  You know that change is uncomfortable for many people, particularly the elderly but if you are firm and consistent, she will learn to accept it and you will come to terms with your guilt and may even come to realize that you have no reason to feel guilty.

Keep coming back to share with us this journey of yours.  We've got your back!
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I know how you feel. You cannot do more than what you are doing. I am also an only child, recently married, and am caring for two elderly parents (one of which is in a long term rehab breathing with a ventilator due to COPD). I am struggling with guilt due to the inability to be with my mother at the rehab 24/7. I know it's unrealistic but I cannot help the way I feel. You sound like a great daughter and your mom is really lucky to have you. Take care of yourself and everything will fall into place. Good luck.

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Jane in MA
Unfortunately, you can't make your mother sell her house and move. So while you say you can't have her living there.. you may not be able to get her out to a safer, cleaner environment without her cooperation.

I think you just have to pull back and wait until the shoe drops.

That's what I had to do to finally get my mom out of her leaky, falling down house with no septic system.

It usually begins with an illness. It is usually an illness that sends them to the hospital and then to a rehab. And when they are there you begin working on them (after they have been out of the house and detached from their safety.. or what they perceive as safety). You start talking about a nice new safer apartment, one easy to take care of or even with maid service.. build up how convenient it would be for her and you two can just go out to lunch and have fun again).

In my mom's case. we talked her into assisted living. I still had to take her to all her doctor appts and run her business, and finances... but I knew she was safe, had three meals a days, made some friends and had some forms of entertainment. She actually grew to like it there and when ever she was hospitalized (chronic cellulitis) she always just wanted to go 'home' to the AL.

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The support I have gotten here is so tremendous.  Thank you all for your wishes, suggestions and comiserations.  I know that some days are better than others.  It's good to know I have a place to vent and learn. 
HOpefully I will be onto the next step with Mom in a few weeks.  We are headed to her house in a week to pack up what she plans to keep from the house.  This will be a struggle, I am sure.  She will want to bring more than she should.  UPon our return from there, we will look for a rental.  My husband has already found a place near by, one story, two bedrooms.... space for the dogs (probably Mom's most important possesions)  There are drawbacks to this place, like no dining room, but I believe she needs to see it.  I like the idea of limiting the number of places she can look at.  Nothing would be perfect and the search could go on forever, otherwise. 

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Show her 2 or 3 *horrible* places, then show her the one you want her to pick.   Instead of poo pooing the one you want her to pick she'll talk about how much better it is than the awful ones you took her to first!
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Oh Dear, that is shifty advice! I like it!
I have learned that the place we are looking at could be better than expected.  It is owned by my husbands boss.  The Boss has given free reign to update, paint and adjust anything we want in the house before Mom moves in.  This is great news as Mom can pick colors for the walls etc.  I am hoping this is something that will motivate her to keep it clean, organized and healthy.  Yah, that and a person to clean for her twice per month and we should be good to go!
I'm feeling a lot better about this move.  As a friend put it over the weekend, It will be a lot easier (read: less guilt) to move Mom out now than to wait a year or so when she is on oxygen. 
You folks have really helped clear my head and put things in perspective.
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Cristin, I'm glad things are looking better for you. Good luck to you and your mom.
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