Dealing with a Difficult Parent

by Donna W
(Poplar Grove, Illinois)

My mom has recently become bedridden. I have been taking care of her for the past six years due to a stroke she had. She lived over an hour away and I was going to her home every weekend to do her laundry, cleaning, shopping and paying her bills. Finally after a year of doing this she agreed to move to a senior apartment complex in my area.

That was a big relief because I didn't have that long drive through horrible construction and weather. So for five years I was doing the same things but she was closer and it was so much easier to do. Well two months ago she ended up in the hospital for three days and when she came home she had oxygen and seemed to be weak.

Since then she has been going downhill. She now suddenly cannot walk and hardly eats anything, however she does manage to sit up in bed and have a cigarette. Oh man the cigarettes, what an ordeal that has been. She is not a polite smoker. She always thought it was her right to smoke and if you don't like it then walk away.

The only problem is she won't just let me walk away. She only wants me to care for her and she also wants me to be with her 27/7. I have temporarily quit work, I don't hardly see my family and unfortunately I am despising her for that and its killing me. I won't let her live in my house because she smokes.

I consider my mom to be selfish and not thinking of other people when it comes to smoking. If I get angry at her about it and say something she just replies with "you don't love me anymore". She is very good at trying to make someone feel guilty.

Well this time I replied back and said "you don't love me. Second hand smoke is not good for me yet you still do it anytime you want". I do understand that it is a horrible addiction for her much like an drug addict or alcoholic.

I just can't stand getting mad at her knowing she will not be here much longer and I will have guilt feelings when she is gone. PLEASE HELP!!!!!!!!

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My Mother Chain Smoked for 70 Years
by: Anonymous

My mom was hard on me, especially after dementia sank its claws into her brain. I despised her too before she died a couple of months ago. She ran me ragged and often seemed to be trying to start a fight. I was a sucker; sometimes I couldn't avoid it.

The reek of cigarette smoke got into all of my mother's belongings (and my clothes and hair when I was with her). I begged her to quit. Not only did she defend her habit by saying it was her only joy in life, she would never admit that it was a dangerous habit.

Then when she went to the hospital last spring, she finally had to quit. It was a smoke-free medical campus and the hospital certainly wasn't going to make an exception in her case.

I took her bathrobe home to wash and I had to run it through three cycles, each with two cups of vinegar and a scoop of OxyClean with another cup of liquid detergent to get the smell out of it.

I was also accused of not loving my mother, even though I worked as hard as I could to make sure she had not just what she needed, but the best care I could find for her so that her last months would pleasant, safe, and peopled with those who cared for and respected her. I believe I succeeded at that.

And Donna I was mad most of the time. I'd had so many obstacles thrown in my path while I tried to everything in place. Now, I realize that everyone grieves differently but I don't feel guilty. While she was alive I knew I was doing a good job but I too felt as if it wasn't enough.

That I was being selfish because I ran out of patience and endurance for the 10-12 phone calls I got per day, all while I was trying to do my job as writer, with deadlines and stories that had to make sense. Every time I'd hear that phone ring, I'd jump 10 feet. It would be the same whining complaints, the same angry complaints, again and again.

When my mom died in July, she went fast. I was certain I'd carry that resentment with me forever. I sometimes even imagined using it as a shield against the heartache and profound emptiness I expected to feel. Later. Later. But not then. And strangely enough, not now. Not yet. I'm not sure there'll ever be a "yet" for me.

I was just worn out by the time she went, and years of taking care of her and trying to read her mood swings and personality changes left me always wondering how bad things would get. I was just used up and burned out.

You're already doing the right thing, Donna, and anyone with even an inch of knowledge about caring for an elderly patient understands that the caregiver gets pulled to a strand so tight and so fine, we're ready to walk away. You're there now. Don't feel guilty. You've done the best job you could and you fulfilled your responsibility.

You'll be okay. Hang in there.

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