How do I cope living with an aging parent?

Kay in glendale, ca asked...

How do I cope living with an aging parent? My mother is 85 years old, relatively healthy, and living with me. We used to have a very good relationship so I thought this would work out. Unfortunately, she gets mad at the drop of a hat, is judgmental of everything I do, just waits for me to shut up so she can talk, and never hears a thing I say. When I've tried to talk to her about this, she just blows up at me. She told me that she tried being nice once and it didn't work: "I have a temper and that's all there is to it!" she said. She also says she's glad to be at a point in life when she can do whatever she wants, without worrying about anyone else. I'm at a point where everything I do is clouded by concern about how she's going to react, and I can't even enjoy my own home anymore. I know there are other people who have similar problems with aging parents. Any suggestions, blogs or books to help me cope, before I get an ulcer?

Expert Answer

You're in a difficult situation, but don't wait until you develop an ulcer to do something about it. Your mother has no right to make you unhappy in your own home, and you need to let her know that her behavior is unacceptable.

In a quiet moment, sit down with your mother and in a nonconfrontational way, tell her how you feel. Explain to her that she's entitled to "have a temper" and to "do whatever she wants" in the privacy of her own home, but she is living with you now, and you insist on being treated with respect and civility. Use "I" statements, and try to remain calm, but don't let her bully you. It isn't pleasant to have someone blow-up at you, but if you can withstand the storm and continue to press your point, you may be able to get through to her.

If talking frankly with your mother doesn't work, then you should consider seeing a therapist or mediator together. You may also want to consult your mother's physician. If your mother's behavior is atypical for her, she could be depressed, or suffering from dementia or other health problems. If counseling doesn't work and her behavior isn't related to any problems that can be remedied, you should probably explore alternative living arrangement for your mother, because this one clearly isn't working out.