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My mom needs 24/7 care but lately she's become extremely manipulative and demanding. I don't want her to suffer but I'm overwhelmed. What can I do?

 

Question: I've been my mother's primary in-home caregiver for the last 2.5 years. She requires 24/7 hour care for many health issues. Lately, she's become extremely manipulative by moaning and crying out at night, having me running to her side continually. Her cries are disturbing to me and I want to help her, but at times she cries as if in pain because she wants me to get her nail file, or she's too hot and wants me to take her covers off (when she is perfectly capable herself). What can I do? I left my career and life for her (huge decision that I walked into with eyes wide open). I love my mother. I don't want her to suffer, but she's making me suffer beyond my wildest imaginings.

Dr. Amy:  I'm not sure if you have already tried to talk with your mom about your situation. I've met many people who have all these feelings, but keep them to themselves. It certainly sounds like it's time for a chat. Pick a time when your mom is at her best. Likewise, choose a time when you are well rested and not too stressed. That way you can be your most calm and compassionate self. The goals of your conversation are to: 

  • Discover if there is an underlying medical or emotional issue causing mom's behaviour,
  • Reassure mom that you love her and are committed to caring for her,
  • Help her understand the impact of her actions on your wellbeing, and
  • Establish agreements about when she should call for help.   

You might say something like, "Mom, I love you, and want to be able to take care of you. But I find I am not getting enough sleep. I wonder if, together, we can come up with a system for the night time hours so that you get help when you need it, and I get a good night's sleep." I hope that, through conversation, you can come up with agreements about when she should call you and when she can help herself or wait until morning.     

You may want to talk with your doctor, to see if there might be something medical at play. If mom is suffering from dementia, or anxiety, this could be contributing to her behaviour.   

If mom's pattern of behaviour continues after you have had this conversation a few times, you may need to come up with other strategies, including other forms of care.

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