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Published March 03, 2012, 11:30 PM

Bursack: Daughter doesn’t trust mom with Dad’s care

Dear Carol: My mother and I don’t get along. She is manipulative and often nasty to me, so I’ve had to distance myself from the chaos. I keep intending to walk away completely, but I can’t do that because I want to help take care of my dad, or at least spend time with him.

By: Carol Bradley Bursack, INFORUM

Dear Carol: My mother and I don’t get along. She is manipulative and often nasty to me, so I’ve had to distance myself from the chaos.

I keep intending to walk away completely, but I can’t do that because I want to help take care of my dad, or at least spend time with him. He has Alzheimer’s and doesn’t even know who I am, but I don’t entirely trust my mother with him. I’m not sure he’s being cared for properly. If I ask questions about his care, or just day-to-day issues, she thinks I’m criticizing her and emotions escalate. If I try and turn away, I get the martyr routine. I remind myself that it’s not about us, it’s about my dad, but its hard. Any advice? – Monica

Dear Monica: This is a tough, emotional situation and, unfortunately, not uncommon. My first thoughts are about your dad. If you have serious concerns about abuse or neglect, you need to call Social Services and ask them to do a welfare check.

If your concerns are not that serious, you will have to make choices. Trying to detach from your mother’s manipulation does require setting some personal boundaries. You’ll need to learn not to fall for your mom’s martyr routine or any other manipulations if you want to stay close to your dad.

Your mom may feel threatened when you try to help with care. Try to give the way you approach your mother some thought. Past hurts involving your relationship are likely still interfering with your relationship today. Are there any instances you can think of where you could apologize to her? I realize that this may seem unfair, and that some people have personality disorders that make it nearly impossible to get along with them, but occasionally reaching out in a non-threatening way can help people unite over a common objective.

Is it possible for you to get some counseling to help you vent your feelings and learn how to handle your issues with your mother so you can help care for your dad? Do you belong to a spiritual organization? A leader there may be able to help you. If you belong to a church, they may have trained Stephen Ministers who can listen to you and give you encouragement.

You are trying to do the right thing. A trained third party may be able to help you learn how to detach compassionately from your mother’s manipulations. You may also learn more productive ways to approach your mother.

Acquiring these tools could help you tread this delicate area and make it easier for you to help your dad. Good luck.

Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a website supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached at carol@mindingourelders.com.

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