Dealing with Abusive Parents as They Age

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Dealing with Abusive Parents as They Age

Postby Hedgie » November 8th, 2016, 8:47 am

Her: Paternal grandmother who adopted me, undiagnosed BPD, mid-80s, crapton of health problems.
Me: Adopted granddaughter, diagnosed bipolar II, one sister, one biological father.

Be prepared for a complete word-barf:

Adoptive Grand-Mom has always had health problems. Before I stopped drinking the "Mom is Super Awesome and I Owe Her Everything" kool-aid, I jumped whenever she had an emergency. My sister and I took care of her through breast cancer, lung cancer, surgery for a broken femur, another surgery to repair the repair because she didn't follow doctor's orders. Now I'm dealing with my first post-Kool-Aid health issue with her.

Over the course of the past year her health has gone down hill fast. Tired, dizzy, no appetite, drastic weight loss, heart and kidney problems, etc. etc. etc. For a year I hear "Oh I'm so SO weak" or "I just have no energy!" Then she called me because she got her SUV-sized walker stuck in the goddamn bathroom doorway and just couldn't get it out. A day later she called me, barely audible, "I... *mumble mumble* ... *mumble* ... out of bed." She could not get out of bed because she was too weak. I go over to her house, try to lift her out of bed and it's just fucking DEAD WEIGHT. Like, I would assume that most people would try even a little to help get up, but not her. Just 100% limp. I had to call in my husband and it took both of us to lift a woman who weighs about 120 pounds out of bed. And take her to the bathroom. And get her into her living room chair. And make her breakfast. And take her dog for a walk. She perked right the fuck up after that.

Yeah, some of this would be normal-ish if you had an elderly relative. But she isn't normal. She LOVES this attention. When she got sick in the past she would milk it for all the attention she could. She would tell the check-out person at the store. "It's so hard for me to do X,Y,Z — I just had breast cancer/lung cancer surgery/total knee replacement surgery." Loves it—until she gets tired of it. Then she turns into an 86 year old child. She doesn't care if X treatment will make her feel better; if she doesn't want to do it, she won't do it.

Case in point: This latest, and most serious, health crisis. She has almost complete kidney failure, heart failure, anemia, low potassium, low magnesium, and a kidney doctor who couldn't find his ass with both hands and GPS. Eventually we figured out the beginnings of a treatment plan for her, something that could get her back to feeling better. Part of that involved an appetite stimulant since some of the meds she's on can kill the appetite.

Good, great, awesome. Except she decided two days ago, before I could even pick up the prescription, that she doesn't want to take the appetite stimulant. Because it's $80 (fair enough), and because she "eats plenty already." Which devolved into a long discussion about what she actually eats. My husband and I were bringing her food each week that was kidney-disease friendly. She ate some of the groceries then went back to high sodium food because "it tastes good." She wasn't supposed to be driving, but she drove herself to the store and bought herself whatever she wanted.

My sister, who is supposed to be in this with me, hasn't responded to my messages. My biological father has done nothing, a this is HIS mother. I'm not in a stage in my life where I should be dealing with this alone but here I am. Taking care of the one person that I want to be furthest from.

I do because part of me is coming from a place of (probably misguided) kindness. I can't walk away from someone who can't get out of the damn bed. But I feel her throwing out her tentacles again and trying to draw me in.

There's a balance to this, right? When cutting off all communication isn't really an option at this point?
Mom always said I was grumpy.
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Re: Dealing with Abusive Parents as They Age

Postby AtomicCowgirl » November 8th, 2016, 12:47 pm

Hey, Hedgie --
I'm sorry, what a shitty situation.

I'm also an adoptee. I am curious if you struggle with codependent behaviors? I know I have for most of my life, and still have to work on setting boundaries and not try to take care of everyone and solve all of their problems. If this is an issue for you, I might suggest Melody Beattie's Codependent No More as a place to start, if it is not, my apologies. I am pretty certain that the codependency issues my alcoholic/angry adoptive father and codependent/enabling adoptive mother gifted me with were helped along greatly by that good old adoptee feeling of rejection and not being good enough for anyone to want to keep. Attending codependency groups, doing therapy, and reading a lot of good material has been greatly beneficial for me in that regard.

I can relate as well to your situation, except for me it was my dad who always needed to have attention and whose health declined, although the largest burden of that fell on my mother. I did have to help her quite a bit as his mobility declined and his dementia worsened. I told him more than once - seriously - that if anything happened to mom and she passed away first that he would have to be in a skilled nursing facility as would not be able or willing to be his full time nurse.

Is it possible for you to advise grandma other members of your family that you will not be able to be responsible for her care and that you are happy to contact social services for her if she needs a referral? Please don't let her become your personal responsibility. She sounds like she simply delights and getting everyone spinning like tops around her and then sitting back and enjoying the bloodbath. You deserve better than that, and enabling her behaviors will just make you feel bad.
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Re: Dealing with Abusive Parents as They Age

Postby Hedgie » November 21st, 2016, 1:56 pm

Hey Atomic Cowgirl! Sorry for the delayed response—I'm still trying to figure out how the board works (which is hilarious considering I work with online/web platforms all day :) ).

On codependency: OH GOD YES. I totally get what you mean on that. The first time my therapist mentioned the word boundaries, I actually said "What's that?" She had to explain the concept to me; even then it's taken a few years for the whole idea to sink in. Maybe it's an adoptee thing or just a dysfunctional family thing, but I had/have this deep need to be indispensable or needed. If I am, then they can't get rid of me. I haven't read Codependent No More—I will definitely check that out.

Since I first posted, I left the ball in Mom's court. I told her that she is an adult and she is free to do whatever she wants. I can't make her do anything and I'm not going to. She's called me about twice since then. Once was to specifically tell me that my sister and her husband were going to be at her house of Thanksgiving. Not that I was invited, but just to let me know. Good to know, Mom! My sister is free to be the good child for a while. :D
Mom always said I was grumpy.
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Re: Dealing with Abusive Parents as They Age

Postby oak » November 21st, 2016, 7:00 pm

Hi!

May I suggest something?

I encourage you to call 211 (if you're in America). Tell them what you told us.

At any rate, good luck!
"Work is love made visible." -Kahlil Gibran

"We gotta make a decision: leave tonight or live and die this way." -Tracy Chapman
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Re: Dealing with Abusive Parents as They Age

Postby AtomicCowgirl » November 22nd, 2016, 2:08 pm

Since I first posted, I left the ball in Mom's court. I told her that she is an adult and she is free to do whatever she wants. I can't make her do anything and I'm not going to. She's called me about twice since then. Once was to specifically tell me that my sister and her husband were going to be at her house of Thanksgiving. Not that I was invited, but just to let me know.


Some people just can't handle boundaries gracefully. GOOD FOR YOU, THOUGH! That was major!!
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Re: Dealing with Abusive Parents as They Age

Postby Hedgie » December 4th, 2016, 7:50 am

Mom is back in the hospital today. My sister sent me a txt message to let me know. Mom's legs are so swollen she couldn't get out of bed and in the ER her oxygen levels were going crazy. It's probably the same problems as before.

I know that I am supposed to be upset, get in the car, come right to the hospital. But if I sit with this feeling, I realize that:

1. I don't care.
2. I don't feel much of anything actually.

I feel guilty because there is an old voice in my head that says "You don't want to deal with this because you're lazy and selfish." That voice sounds just like Mom, of course.

I'm really struggling with reconciling this. She abused me. She caused so many issues that I am dealing with today. But still, we love these people because they were the only source we had as kids and we cling to whatever little bit of love we get. Or maybe it's me wanting that so much that I take whatever I can get. It is hard for me to let go of the idea that I somehow owe her. That I am being the lazy, selfish, willful child again.
Mom always said I was grumpy.
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Re: Dealing with Abusive Parents as They Age

Postby AtomicCowgirl » December 4th, 2016, 8:36 am

I know you know that voice in your head comes from a place of hurt and trauma. You are NOT lazy. You are NOT selfish. Willful? Possibly, but I guess I don't consider that to be a negative trait!

Your mom has chosen her path. Its OK if you don't go see her. Its OK if you do. You get to make the choice. Visiting her doesn't make you more of a good person than you already are, because you are ALREADY a good person. Not visiting her doesn't make you a bad person. Taking care of yourself/honoring yourself are not the traits of a bad person.

Internet hugs to you.
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Re: Dealing with Abusive Parents as They Age

Postby oak » December 4th, 2016, 4:56 pm

Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy.

Sage advice, perhaps, for this situation, from Michael Stipe.

Hang in there. Trust your inner voice, the kind one.
"Work is love made visible." -Kahlil Gibran

"We gotta make a decision: leave tonight or live and die this way." -Tracy Chapman
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Re: Dealing with Abusive Parents as They Age

Postby Hedgie » December 8th, 2016, 7:51 am

Thank you both for the good advice and support. :) I'm learning more and more that it's okay to feel this way. I think it was on one of the podcast episodes I listened to recently that Paul mentioned something about the process of coming to terms with what happens to us. There's the deep depression, the place where you never think you're going to get out of, then there's this stage of neither here nor there. Like you hit this place where you aren't quite ready to move forward, but you know you don't want to move back. It's okay to feel this.

So...
Yesterday's Mom Highlight

Scene: Hedgie has planned to pick up her mother at the hospital after work. She calls Mom before leaving just to make sure everything is still good to go, only to discover she left her cell in the car. She calls Mom on the landline at work instead.

MOM: I've been trying to get in touch without all day! I must have called ten or twelve times!
ME: Yeah, I'm sorry about that. I forgot my phone in the car and didn't notice until now.
MOM: I wanted to tell you I can't go home today [goes on to talk about actual legit health issue; adult conversation ensues].
MOM: I just tried and tried to call so you wouldn't waste a trip. I figured you just didn't answer your cell at work during the day.
ME: Mom, you could have called me at my work number.
MOM: Oh, I don't have that number on my cell phone with me.
ME: Oh, sorry, I didn't realize!

*four hours later*
*no joke*
*really it was four hours later*

ME: WAIT A MINUTE! :o Mom calls my work number all the time from her cell! She could have called me at work instead of getting worked up! DAMMIT! OUTFOXED AGAIN!

I really couldn't be annoyed because 1. It's Mom and I'm so not surprised this happened, and 2. It was pretty damn funny that it took me four hours to remember that.
Mom always said I was grumpy.
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Re: Dealing with Abusive Parents as They Age

Postby oak » December 8th, 2016, 6:27 pm

I am glad you can very this difficult situation with a bit of humor.

You're going to make it. Hang in there! Be sure to take care of yourself.
"Work is love made visible." -Kahlil Gibran

"We gotta make a decision: leave tonight or live and die this way." -Tracy Chapman
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