Elder Care - Rights and Responsibility

by Vicki
(Canada)

My 76-year-old mother is a widow who lives alone in a large home on a large piece of property. She has two daughters: the eldest with whom she has been totally estranged for a dozen years and who lives 4 hours away; and me. I live a five minute drive from her home.


My mother has been a life-long compulsive hoarder whose problem has escalated dramatically since she became widowed 5 years ago. When my sister and I left home as young adults, she filled her care giving need by taking her elderly aunt and father into her home (along with ALL of their personal belongings both big and small). After their death my father became ill and she was able to continue in her care giving role until he died. She's appeared depressed to me ever since.

Aside from whatever drives her hoarding behavior, she is not mentally impaired and is in reasonably good health aside from a knee condition that recurs from time to time.

The problem for me is that she is socially isolated (due to her hoarding and fear of having people into her home to discover her 'secret').

Coming from a small family, she has only a distant relationship with other relatives. As a result of this, she expects that I am to be her sole caregiver and 'enabler' of her choice to remain in a home that is unsafe for her (due to the hoard and a stairway she must navigate daily)and too large for her to maintain inside and out (she is technophobic and has no idea how to do outside maintenance -- that was my dad's domain}. She also has a fear of letting anyone else handle her finances and so she does it herself through a large number of institutions that I cannot get her to divulge to me in a list should I be forced to take over her bill payments etc. in a crisis.

She has a fear of her own death and will not make or discuss with me any arrangements in this regard.

I am already overwhelmed with the physical demands of looking after the maintenance of her too-big home. If she has a health crisis and I am also saddled with simultaneously providing personal care and financial management on top of this, I will end up dying before she does. I have told her so. She does not care. Her need for independence and concealment of her compulsive hoarding is more important to her.

I asked her if I am named as executor of her will and if I have been named in her health care and finance Powers of Attorney. She refused to divulge this to me. I arranged for my lawyer to contact hers to find this information out on my behalf and my mother would not give permission for her lawyer to divulge this to him. Our federal Privacy Laws support her choice. As a result, I told my mother that I would NOT accept these roles if I am named and recommended that she discuss other arrangements with her lawyer. I'm fairly certain she has not and will not because she has no one else she could possibly name besides me.

In order to preserve my physical and mental health, my ability to provide care for my own spouse and children, and to see to the maintenance of my own home and finances, I decided this past fall of '09 to walk away from my caregiver role.

I explained my position fully with my mother (including my concerns about her safety, addressing her hoarding, the impossibility of being everything to her all of the time to the detriment of my own life, etc.) I told her that I loved her but that her absolute resistance to "meeting me half way" by 1) getting help for overcoming her hoarding, 2) by getting rid of the hoard,3) by moving into a safe, one-story home (she is adamant about not wanting to be in a condo, apartment, or nursing home) and, 4) by consolidating her financial assets into one or two institutions under the management of qualified people, has created a problem that is bigger than I am.

I ended the conversation by telling her that my only two choices are: to walk away, or to report her to a local social service agency who will likely force her to do all of the above and will forever brand me (in her eyes) as an evil and disloyal daughter. I walked away and I haven't looked back.

The days and nights since I took this action have not all been easy, but I remain firm in the conviction that her RIGHT to remain independent in her own home comes with her RESPONSIBILITY to make it work without destroying any other person's life in the process.

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Elder Care - Well Done
by: Anonymous

What a lot you have been putting up with. My mother moved into my town 2 years ago and my life hasn't been my own since. She lived near my sister for 3 years that didn't work, moved near my brother and stayed there for 10 years but he didn't bother with her either. So she moved down here, two hours from my brother who I think really doesn't care, and 14 hours from my sister who cant take care of herself and drives my mother nuts.

I am the reliable responsible one, divorced, my own home still working, I am 63 now I thought I might be having a life of my own finally as my two youngest have moved away and are both doing very well. I miss them dreadfully as they have been all I have had for the last 23 years. I didn't count on a demanding argumentative picky whinging mother turning up. I am not making excuses for how I feel. When I needed my parents they were never there for me at all, never. My younger sister was the be all and end all. Still is. I have been through illness, misery, stress, depression and losing my third eldest son in a motor accident. Where was anyone, not here I can tell you.

Now I have to put up with someone I feel I don't really know, or want to know. She treats me like I am 10 years old, bullies orders tells me what I should and shouldn't do and on and on it goes. I hate the way things are and it is getting more so. She is 86 and there are so many appointments for this and that and I have to deal with all of them for her. Go here go there. I work 3 12 hour days and she is on the phone the next day wanting to know what I'm doing where I'm going, and of course she wants to come too. I sneak out on my own and then feel a bit lousy but have come up with "what you give you get back threefold" this seems to stop my feeling badly about what I do. I am not a happy boomer that's for sure

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Elder Care - Respect and Admiration
by: Anonymous

WOW! What a load you have had to bear. You have done the only thing you can. When she finally decides she can not do it alone, you may hear from her again OR NOT. Either way, you have done what you need to do for yourself. Horrah for you. I am sure that was difficult but it was necessary to preserve your own sanity. Best of Luck!

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