She was Harsh and Cruel, Now She is Dependent

My parents were harsh, controlling, and often violently cruel when I lived in their home. I worked very hard to get away from them, finally escaping when I was 16. My three siblings stayed behind and tried to please our parents-- an impossible task. I put myself through university, graduate school and law school, had a professional career, married in my mid-30s and had children as I approached 40.


I was very happy in middle age. My husband and I lived overseas for 20 years, on the other side of the world from my family. I carefully re-established a sort of epistolary relationship with my parents, who remained hostile, verbally abusive, and just plain rude to me on the rare occasions that I saw them in person.

Now my husband and I have retired to a very small house in an isolated mountain community. Our children are grown, we are old, and my health is quite poor.

My father died a year and a half ago and my mother immediately sold her house and its contents and moved in with one of her adult grandsons and his wife and child. This arrangement lasted four months until the man's wife could no longer stand my mother's criticism.

Then, my married brother stepped in and opened his house to my mother. My younger sister and I both tried to interest my brother in checking out assisted living options, but he refused because Mother announced she would "rather die" than move into assisted living, although at that time she had never seen a facility.

After six months of living with her, my brother and his wife shipped my 86-year-old mother across the country to my younger sister's house, where she visited for 4 weeks. Now she is at my house, where she has been for a month, with two more months to go. I tried to refuse to take her in; I do not even like her, much less love her. But my younger siblings announced that it is now "my turn" to care for our mother, and my husband, a very kindly man, said she would be no trouble.

She is lots of trouble, and I have been forced into a kind of physical intimacy I find horrifying. She can't bathe without help and I hate-- absolutely hate-- seeing her naked or touching her. Her occasional bowel and urinary incontinence disgusts me. She clings to me or my husband to walk from bed to chair, disdaining her cane or walker. She is obviously in the early stages of some kind of dementia, endlessly asking the same question or making the same observation over and over again. The greed, selfishness, dishonesty, and sheer egoism that were her hallmarks as a younger woman are still outstanding facets of her character.

I told my brother that I am not going to repeat this visit next summer and he became enraged, informing me that my selfishness was "unacceptable." I have done quite a bit of reading on the subject of caring for elders, and all seem predicated on the idea that one has a moral obligation to care for one's parents, although perhaps not to deliver this care personally. I can understand such an obligation when one's parents were kind, supportive, self-sacrificing. But what does one owe to people who were actively cruel, abusive, etc. etc.?

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RE: Forgive and Let Live. You will Only ever Have one Mum.
by: Politically Incorrect

RE: Forgive and Let Live. You will Only ever Have one Mum.

OMG, the Song "Your So Vain" Comes to mind for several reasons:

Why so mean spirited; you are not one of those elderly ladies who abused the hell out of her kids and now believes she deserves to be treated like a queen are you?

I am guessing you have no idea what it is to care 24/7 for a parent who abused you. What it is like to lose your freedom, scholarship, career, chance to have children of your own, financial stability all to care of a fire breathing dragon.

Oh, your sex life, nothing gets you in the mood like nasty disgusting old lady diapers and a pot full of s--- to clean and dump.

What kind of Narcissistic #*%# puts their well being so far above that of the child as to ask their child to give up everything that makes them, them, destroy all of their relationships, give up their financial well being and rob them of motherhood. Thank GOD there is only one Mother you will ever have.

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A first for me.
by: Hope2bOKsomeday

Reading these comments is very sadly reassuring. It doesn't make me content to have essentially turned my back on my parents. The reality is that I might have killed myself if I were to continue being their rag-doll and handmaiden.

They are both long gone now. I don't regret letting them go. It's just sad though. They never cared about all the ways I did what they wanted, trying so hard all the time.

My purpose in their life was to be kicked around and ridiculed. They broke the original me apart. Still trying to recover from their abuse, and I'll just leave it at that. They did break my heart. What else could I do but let them go?

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Don't be bullied
by: Anonymous

First of all - no one - and I mean NO ONE, unless they have had a similar relationship with a parent, is going to understand or even condone you not caring for her in her old age.

They will tell you to forgive her, it's the right thing, etc. Coming from a hateful, neglectful and cruel mother, I can tell you this is not true.

Unless you live in a state where you are legally required to care for her (if she is "poor" by state standards), you cannot be bullied by your siblings. And what is this that she "refuses" a home?

You (or your sibling) signs her up and places in a special home. This is your choice, not hers. My mom says that, too - that she will commit suicide if I ever put her in a home. However, it's a moot point since we cannot afford that at this time.

My mom didn't even so much as pick me up a box of fruit cups when I was in chemo. No one owes cruel people anything.

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Forgive and Let Live. You will Only ever Have one Mum.
by: Anonymous

Yes your mum made a mistake.

But treat her kindly, and at the end of the day she still gave birth to you and still deserves your kindness, because at the end of the day, if you dont give a toss about your mother, then no one else is.

Just because she was a mean heart-ed women when she was younger, does not give you the green light to treat her like a bastard at a family reunion. She made a mistake, turn the other cheek and treat her kindly.

Perhaps when we are all old and grey, and perhaps just as rude our selves, someone will take pity on us.

No one is perfect. Not even our parents, but as sons and daughters, we should look past the defects of our parents and fulfill a moral obligation, as we would expect our own children to look after us in this life once we are of a similar disposition to your mum.

I know it ain't easy, but a good deed towards your mother, even though she may not appreciate it, is food for your soul.

Don't judge her on her past mistakes in her old age. Soon she will be answering to a higher court then your judgement for her ill deeds to you and your siblings.

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I Hear You!
by: Third Sister

Wow, can I relate to this! However, I'm in almost the opposite position. My mom had 7 kids.

Most are more or less estranged from her - none have the kind of relationship with her where they would welcome her to live with them. I'm the only one with a decent relationship with Mom - therefore I'm the appointed caregiver.

I'm willing to help her out, but I don't have such a close relationship with her that I'm willing to put my life on hold for a dozen years to care for her 24/7. I'm torn between resenting my siblings for not wanting to help, and understanding that they just don't feel any real connection or obligation to Mom.

Actually, I resent my Mom for alienating my siblings, which is the core of the problem. And I resent her for not providing for her own old age. She retired early, even though her health was good, saved nothing even when extra money came to her through inheritances, etc. and has made no effort to keep herself well through diet, exercise, etc.

I love her, and she's not abusive to me (at least not in adulthood), but I'm angry at being put in this position and I want my own life.

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No Moral Obligation
by: Anonymous

You have NO moral obligation to this woman. No one is morally obliged to submit to emotionally or physically damaging behaviour, or to permit emotional/physical damage to their spouses and/or children.

You are not obliged to submit to your brother's bullying, either. If he wants your mother kept at home, he can keep her at his home. Just say "No" and keep saying "No", and if he drops her off and drives away, put her in your car, drive her to his house, drop her off and drive away.

He will complain bitterly of your selfishness and irresponsibility and heartlessness, etc., etc., he may shout and threaten everything from a lawsuit to never speaking to you again. It's all a performance intended to guilt you into doing the caretaking he doesn't want to do, but doesn't want to admit that he doesn't want to do.

No matter what he says, stand firm. Do not let him bully you into ruining your life for a person who long ago forfeited any claim on you by her behaviour.

The people who tell you what you ought to do mean "this is what I want you to do so I don't have to do it myself". And if anyone drags religion into it, tell them that your mother is reaping what she sowed, and the commandment to honour your parents does not obligate you to tolerate abusive behaviour or engage in self-destructive behaviour.

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Deja Vu
by: Anonymous

I feel a sense of Deja Vu, having gone thru a similar situation. Kick her out. No two ways about it. You don't have to put up with this. You don't owe her.

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I Feel for You
by: Anonymous

I feel for you in your situation. My mother is 83 and I am the go to person because I live the closest and my brother who brags he has a lot of money, actually declaring "I have a lot of money!" doesn't do a thing or contribute a nickel. It is sickening.

My mother is a sweet person but I feel she deals in guilt or if I say something she doesn't like or disagree with her she will give subtle digs or comparisons to other children of her peers who "do so much". I resent that and I do things for her but she seems to not count that.

I worry that she will get sick and become very grouchy and demanding like she did last summer when she needed surgery. I find my self thinking nasty things and then I feel bad for doing it because I know it isn't right. She isn't all that bad but I worry what is coming in the future and I need a better attitude or something.

She doesn't seem happy in her life and I just don't want to be the only person who is supposed to solve that. These are my thoughts and feelings, good or bad that is how I feel.

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This is Abuse!
by: Anonymous

I am horrified to hear what you are going through. Just because this woman gave birth to you doesn't entitle her to claim your care in her elder years. You say she wasn't caring of you, so why do you feel so indebted?

Are you trying to show you are better than her? That's not unusual, but it is a total waste of effort!

Are you worried about what your siblings think? Why? they don't seem that worried about you! Please, lose the guilt,,,, I suspect that you are only doing this through guilt?

Sometimes we can put our lives on hold for elderly parents who have loved, encouraged, nurtured and supported us, but this doesn't seem to apply in your case..... walk away, you are not selfish or cruel and don't allow anyone to say you are. You a life and a right to live it.

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Sympathize
by: Anonymous

I so sympathize with you. I too am living with my mother who I do not like not even sure I love her.

Every time I say something about how I am upset with her in my house I hear the same old thing. It is your mother you are suppose to take care of her. No one to vent to.

I stay in my room as not to see her, my house is not my home any longer.

Good Luck and Prayers to us both.

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My Grandmother was This Way....
by: Suzanne

My Grandmother was as your Mother. My husband, I and our 2 small girls lived only a town away from her. Her children and other relatives were states away. When she became more dependent it became my chore to care for her. No one would help and she would not pay for any care I did nor anyone else to care for her. She was cruel to my young girls and to us. She made her care difficult.

The one episode that scared me most is her checking herself out of the hospital and calling a friend to get her. I did not know where she was for 8 hours.They were out enjoying their day!!

We lost every penny we had saved the 2 of the 4 years I cared for her full time and could not work. She told me she would help us get into a larger home where she would live with us to make it easier. It never happened. I told my Mother and her siblings we were filing bankruptcy and I need to get back to work and my daughters needed me. They were angry, but my Mother came and got her and she went to live with my parents only 6 months and my uncle + aunt would do nothing to help. But my uncle and aunt accused me continually of not helping my grandmother, and of stealing her money. I had documented proof that this was not true and in fact my uncle was using her money. He would call and leave me scary messages on my phone that my daughters were home to hear!

My Mother took my Grandmother to her brother's home and said it was his turn after 6 months. My uncle then put her in a nursing home. He had her will changed where my Mother and I were never in it at all and every penny my Grandmother had went to him and the youngest sister. She had a lot of money! -The worst part of the story here is my Mother passed away suddenly only 4 months after this and my uncle took a check for $1000 made out to my mother and gave it to my father saying it was her inheritance. My Father could not even cash it! How horrible these people were.

Caring for my Grandmother for the total of 4 years is the only regret I have in my life. I took time and money away from my daughters and husband and gave it to an elderly, ill woman who was mean and cruel. I felt it was my obligation and I could not leave her unattended no matter how awful she was. I WAS WRONG! I needed to put my family first. I should have put my grandmother in a home where she would have gotten care, even if she did not want to go.

Please don't harm your family over your mother. I know it seems cruel of YOU and wrong....but it isn't. And it isn't being selfish.
Good luck.

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You Shouldn't be Forced into Taking Care of Anyone.
by: Anonymous

First of all, you have absolutely no obligation to be bullied by anyone of your siblings. You are under no legal obligation to take care of this woman whom you obviously have no emotional ties to.

If you have no reason to put up with her, or your brother's abusive bullying, tell them that you will not tolerate him subjecting you to this nonsense. Unless you stand to inherit a ton on money, which it doesn't sound like you do, let them know that your health does not permit you to take care of her. If you are not close to your siblings, this probably won't cause any guilt.

If you are close, then they should be able to understand how you feel. Apparently, no one can tolerate your mother for long. If all else fails, contact an attorney and see what your rights are.

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