I am the caregiver to my elderly mother and have been for a long time. She has health issues (though not dementia) and sees all her doctors regularly and they manage her. She has always been a very negative person and has been actively dying from the time I was a little kid. Yet had very little compassion at any time in my life when I was sick from something. In fact, she resented such ailments that kids get like a cold or whatnot and would be vicious and resentful if I needed care or needed to see the doctor.

I very rarely get to enjoy any kind of social and recreational activity outside of the house (we live together). It sure seems like any time I'm looking forward to doing something and getting out for a day she develops some health crisis or another that either causes me to miss out entirely, or ruins it for me because I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't. Either I can miss out entirely, or have everyone chastise me for going and leaving her behind. I have been looking forward to going somewhere tomorrow for the day. These plans have been made for nearly two weeks. The new health crisis started around that time. Yet, it was put on hold for her own birthday where she was fine and enjoyed the day. She saw one of her doctors yesterday about it and he doesn't think it's anything serious and thinks there's no need to sit up in the ER for a whole day. How do I handle this kind of situation? I need some advice. It's hard to know what's real and in need of medical care and what's just an act to get attention or if it's spite. Need advice. I rely on the people in this group because there's no one else who understands these kinds of situations unless they've lived it themselves.

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BurntCaregiver, I think the very first thing you need to deal with is your co-dependency with her. Your profile states, "I have always been employed as a homecare caregiver and am also one to my aging parent (not by my choice). It is exhausting and miserable much of the time. I can only compare caring for a naturally negative person who gets worse with age to a dementor from one of the Harry Potter movies..."

Not by your own choice?

Yes, it is your choice. You may be choosing to avoid conflict with her by doing what she wants rather than what you know is the alternative: her "beaching" at you and guilting you non-stop for not doing her bidding. Or you are knuckling under to pressure from other family members to be her caregiver. It doesn't matter what they want or what she wants. Your mom is not a hypochondriac, she's a manipulator (based on the info you yourself provided). And so is anyone else pressuring you to do this miserable thing for a miserable person. FYI you are not responsible for her happiness. She is.

What you need are boundaries to protect yourself -- because it is apparent that she and others do not care how this indentured service is affecting you. So...what you do depends on what you are willing to risk. Demanding your life back (if you ever had one in the first place) may mean that other "players" in this drama will be made very unhappy because you made their lives less convenient. Can you live with that fall-out? Remember that it may only be a temporary reaction. You may be able to have your cake and eat it too if you erect boundaries that are clear and you are willing to defend them. It may help you quite a bit to talk to an objective therapist to know where to begin.

You may want to consider moving out or having your mother pay for another in-home agency caregiver to give you a 3-day break or 4 hours every day to add some healthy separation. She can't manipulate you unless you allow it. You can't be forced to provide her care. You are the captain of your own destiny. Don't let others steer your ship...they won't care if it crashes on the rocks and rots. Being strong will force them to respect you, and that's what you really need. I sincerely wish you all the best as you sort through what will really be the healthiest choices for your best life lived the way YOU want it!
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Isthisrealyreal Aug 2020
Great advice geaton.

I would like to say that people manipulating another to do their bidding will never come to respect that person for standing up for themselves. They are not able to respect anything and more than likely they will blow a gasket and stay angry and overtly hurtful for many years. I think it is best to prepare our hearts for a complete loss of any relationship when we decide to put a stop to being a doormat and stand up.

Unfortunately any "show" of respect is just another manipulation tactic to get their target back in line.
You should stop telling your Mom about your plans ahead of time. Arrange to have someone to keep her company while you are out. Maybe someone in the medical field who can really assess her complaints. You are going to get burnt out and resentful of her and the situation and that can have serious health consequences for you or worse. There's a reason why people are told to put their oxygen mask on 1st. Reassure her that you love her. She maybe scared or she maybe selfish either way you're 1st priority needs to be you. Good luck!
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Isthisrealyreal Aug 2020
I think that ship has sailed Amy, her screen name is burntcaregiver. Tells me she is not only burned out but fried to a crisp with dealing with her difficult mthr.
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You know, growing up with a very mentally unstable and difficult mother, the ONLY thing I EVER wanted in my life was to get OUT of her house, and to never, ever have her come live in MY house. Once was more than enough.

I think you need to re-visit why you feel the need to have your mother live in your home, and why you feel you have no other choice in the matter. There are ALWAYS choices in life, just as Geaton so eloquently stated in her wonderful comment to you.

Ask yourself why your mother's happiness is more important than yours? Why is her life more valuable than yours? Because that is how you are treating this situation; as if SHE has more value than YOU. As human beings, both of you have equal value, yet you are sacrificing your entire life for her. And she's manipulating the hell out of you in the process, not really being sick at all, just creating drama for the fun of it, at YOUR expense.

Fix the situation before YOU wind up with a REAL illness as a result of HER toxic behavior. Look into Assisted Living or Independent Living apartments for her. You've done enough; you can't do any more or else the rest of your life will be ruined while she lives to be 100. That's what women like this DO: they live to be 100 while we wither away and dry up like prunes. Because they suck the life and the joy right out of us, leaving nothing but a shell. Who wants that? Nobody. Who deserves that? Nobody. Certainly not you!

Don't feel the need to martyr yourself for someone who's manipulating you. She can easily and comfortably live elsewhere and you can still have limited contact with her, on YOUR terms. An Assisted Living Facility can now deal with her 'chronic illnesses', which they are experts at doing.

Best of luck! I know how hard all this truly IS.
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What she does is working for her. You make plans and she makes plans to keep you home. Don't tell her next time when you decide to go somewhere. Arrange for someone to be there ahead of time.

Allow yourself enough time to get ready, let's say an hour, and tell her at that time. Hey, so and so called and invited me to go to XX with them. I called (caregiver) and she agreed to come and stay with you for the afternoon. Then leave the room get ready, and go.

Evidently you've been around her long enough to know what is a hypochondriac episode and what is a real illness. Make your decision based on that.
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Dear "BurntCaregiver,"

I agree with what all the others have been saying. As soon as I read your situation, "narcissist" hit me right between the eyes and like "Dianed58" suggested, you need to do some research on the traits of a narcissist.

Lack of empathy is one of the biggest and when you mentioned whenever you were sick as a kid, no less, she was resentful and had very little compassion especially when you needed care or needed to see the doctor. A narcissist does not want to take care of someone who is sick. You were taking away her "me, me, me" time. My question to you is - you say she is a hypochondriac. Does she go to the doctor every time she says something is wrong? If she does, does the doctor say "yes, she has x,y,z" for most everything or does the doctor more often than not say he can't find anything to substantiate her so-called illnesses? If it's the latter, that my dear is pure manipulation. She knows you like a book - you are her puppet. Sadly, you have lost your very life and personhood to that fact. And yes, it is a damned if you do and damned if you don't situation in other words a no-win situation for you. She wins all the time and that's part of the narcissistic "game." They must control, win, manipulate to get everything they want - it's their "agenda" at all times. Are you the only one that can be her caregiver? Can she go into an Independent or Assisted Living Community?

Also, when you said she's been actively dying since you were a kid - oh my, so so many red flags here. I do agree with you about not knowing what is a true medical need or just a fictitious illness just to get attention - that proves to me she has honed her skill with great expertise. You have been taken advantage of you whole life and I suspect you are a kind, caring person - those are the types they love to seek out as their target. They always have a primary target but, along life's highway they have many, many of them.

The other red flag was she wants to rob you of any joy - things you look forward to. These people seek to destroy - they don't want you to be happy, successful, have fun, be independent, have a mind or thoughts of your own. Their goal is to make you non-functional if possible, to wear you down and keep you there so you will be dependent on them for your own life. I'm sorry to say she doesn't have health issues, she has mental issues. We only have one life to live and it goes by very quickly the older we get. How much more of your life are you willing to lose? Please don't think I'm being hard on you - I feel extremely bad for what you have been going through as well as continuing to go through. I just want you to really "see" what is going on because you can't change what you're doing or not doing if you don't see it for what it is.

You can go to the Mayo Clinic's website and look up their information on narcissism and for other doctor-type resources on you tube, Dr. Les Carter (Surviving Narcissism) who has a 40-year background working with narcissists as a Psychotherapist is a great place to start as well as Dr. Ramani Durvasula. I have so, so many others I've been watching since 2016 but I thought the ones who were doctors would be a better place for you to begin.

I sure hope you can find a way to handle this very complicated as well as high-drama situation with your mother. You will be in my thoughts and prayers - that God will open your eyes and give you wisdom to know what needs to be done. I hope you will give us an update!

Just one more thing - if they truly are diagnosed with NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder, they can't, won't and don't want to change as they don't think there is anything wrong with them. They are so cunning, they often fool professional therapists. What is actually needed is a therapist who is well-trained in narcissistic abuse and even a few can slip by them if they are really good.
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earlybird Aug 2020
Well said, NobodyGetsIt.
If she is seeing her doctors and they are managing her health issues does she NEED a caregiver? (NEEDS and WANTS are 2 different things)
If she can manage on her own maybe looking into an Assisted Living or Group Home might be good for her. She would have others that would be there to support her during her "crisis" times.
If AL or a Group Home would not work out then I suggest that you hire a Caregiver that will come in 2 or 3 times a week and during those times you can plan on going out. If some "event" comes up the caregiver can handle it.
this gives you a MUCH needed break.
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Above advice is all good. The ol' "put your oxygen mask on first" advice applies here. If you don't take care of yourself, you will be no good to mom.

Ask yourself what would you do with day or a week without caregiving duties. Arrange some planned respite - for a day or a week. Then go through with it.

Also educate yourself on "narcissistic mothers". There are some great YouTube videos.
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You should go out for the day and have some fun. Her doctor said she was ok.
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NobodyGetsIt Aug 2020
Dear "earlybird,"

I agree "BurntCaregiver" should do just that after being reassured by her mom's doctor that she was "ok."

I think she is in "chains" so to speak which is very hard to break free of and that's what's holding her back from doing what we think would be a "simple and normal" thing to do - that would be freedom and she is most definitely not feeling like she's free. It's as if there is a "force" that is keeping her bound to being with her mom 24/7, 365 days a year.
Get your time off. Put her in respite care. Things should be more clear for you when you return.
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in 2017 up until my wife had a major stroke, she insisted that she had to go to the ER over 65 times. Of those 65 times she was admitted 1 time for observation and discharged 2 days later with no findings of ill health.

That same year I insisted that she needed to go to a Dr or ER 3 times. Each of the 3 times she was admitted for at least a week when serious health issues were found. The last being the major stroke.

After spending about 2 !/2 years out of the past 3 in SNF for rehab or LTC she is now home again. After being sent to SNF for rehab 3 different times after being discharged from the hospital and with me no longer going to the ER with her. She has only asked to go 1 time. She was taken by rescue and when the hospital called me to come get her I told them to call for transport to bring her home. This added another 3 hours wait time for her.( Please note: I notified the ER of her impending arrival and that she would need transport when she was released and they failed to pass the info on to the care manager)

Is this cruel? No more so than me stopping everything in my life to go sit in the ER for no less then 5 hours each visit.

I am 66 Y/O and her primary caretaker. She is narcissistic, bi-polar, and a few other mental health issues so it is aa thankless job. However, when we married 36 years ago it was til death do us part and I take that seriously. We do love each other but this is no fun.

I guess what I am saying to you is that you allow your mother to interrupt your life as she sees fit. Tell her if she doesn't trust you health advice,( you should know by now what is real and what is not) that after the next ER visit she will be sent to rehab so that she will have "professional" care around the clock until they determine whether or not she is constantly on the edge of dying.

Trust your knowledge of your mother's health.
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