Should we continue trying to help my mother or give up?

4 answers | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
Nicky asked...

HELP!!!! My brother and I are desperate, our mother is going further and further downhill and we have no idea how to get her out. Our dad left over 11 yrs ago and she had everyone feeling sorry for her. It was almost as if she enjoyed it  Now she constantly feels sorry for herself but will not do a thing to help herself. She is overweight, wont clean up after herself , and has a million health and financial problems. If it wasn't for my brother living with her, I'm afraid she would not get out of bed in the mornings. The dishes and rubbish would pile up and she would disapear into her own state of pity. We have tried everything but nothing helps. She's so over weight that she's on a breathing machine. However, she still stashes sweets by her bed and has a stash of coke and junk food which she denies having. We have tried yelling,encouraging, and even joining her for walks but she refuses. I have just returned home from overseas where it was easier to deal with as i could switch off to it but it's so hard to see her like this. My brother wants to go to Australia but is terrified to leave her. But it's as if she thrives on being like this. Should we just accept her like this and give up???????

Expert Answers

As Founder and Director of Circles of Care, Ann Cason provides caregiving, consulting, and training services to individuals and public and private organizations involved in eldercare. She is the author of Circles of Care: How to Set Up Quality Home Care for Our Elders.

I hear your cry for help and feel the kindness of you and your brother. 

Never give up on another human being. But sometimes you have to change your approach.  You may have to accept her situation.  Since your mother is such a powerful individual, you will  need some help.

I feel that Alanon is an organization which could be of help to you and your brother. Orginally created to help the families of alcoholics, it  could also help with this type of problem. There is no cost. You and your brother could both attend meetings to learn more about patterns of communication within families and how you and your brother are also affected.

Also, I assume that since your mother has a breathing machine, that she has medical help.  Could you and your brother get an appointment with her doctor? Let him know the full extent of her trouble and ask if there is a way to evaluate for depression. If that is the diagnosis, could he treat it or would it be better to see a mental health professional?  

The suffering of being overweight at any age is sometimes an intractable problem. As with cigarette smoking and alcohol abuse, it takes firm committment for treatment.   

You and your brother will need support to go on with your own lives with a spirit of loving kindness for your mother. 

  • Hire someone to clean for your mother.  Her environment is very important to her even though she is too collapsed in spirit to deal with it.  
  • Pay special attention to your own diet and exercise.  Pay extra attention to your own clothing as well as hair, skin and nails.  Treat yourself well.
  • Try to find one  feature of your mother, that does not depend on weight, to care for.   Manicure her nails or make sure that her eyebrows are shapely.
  • Try to have, with your mother, one meal with family or friends every month or so, either at home or at a restaurant.
  • Try to find one activity that your mother likes apart from self pity.  Support that if you can.  
  • Finally, and foremost, realize that you cannot fix your mother's life. You can love her, support her, and never give up on wishing her the best, but it is your life that you must lead.


Community Answers

Frena answered...

you absolutely can't change your mother until -- and not even then -- you can change yourselves. i get that this is completely overwhelming and frightening for you, which may also be the way your mother has felt about her life for a long time now.

clearly you care and clearly you are as stuck as your mother (excuse me for saying that and it isn't meant unkindly). so do what she can't. call in expert help. if your mother is either on medicaid or old enough, you can contact your local senior services and ask for a social worker to be sent out to assess her. otherwise, contact mental health professionals.

you guys can't do what she needs right now. which may well be rehab time in a nursing rehabilitation until where they will monitor her diet, get her into a physiotherapy regime and get psychiatric help and whatever else is needed for her multiple illness conditions.

she is, i guess, seriously depressed and i guarantee she doesn't enjoy it. she's stuck and sinking faster all the time.

you guys also need to get into therapy if you can afford it or al-anon if not because that is where you'll learn to break your own dysfunctional stuff.

or contact NAMI, the National Association for Families of the Mentally Ill, because your Mom IS mentally ill (and addicted to mood elevators in the form of sugar). NAMI have local meetings all over the country and you will learn there also how not to be stymied, stuck and tyrannized by someone else's illness.

while i certainly appreciate some of Ann Cason's expert comment, i don't think manicuring nails and a meal in a restaurant at all meets the needs of this woman.

she's seriously health-compromised and i love that you care about her but, right now, you're on the Titanic wondering if maybe swimming lessons would help.

Many blessings.

Ca-claire answered...

Take care of yourself first, then focus just on the positives that your Mother has - she is alive. If she is so overweight, clear out her junk food stash, and start keeping only healthy foods in the house. If she gets more junk food, just keep throwing it out - refrain from pointing it out to her, just throw it away.

Set as good of an example as you can, make sure she gets fresh air (short walk, or sit outside) for a 30 minute time period a day, and go from there.

Best Wishes!

Eleclyt answered...

Your mother is starving. She should be put on one-a-day vitamins for 2-3 months. Cut the pills in half for better results.

When she's hungry, she reaches for a quick fix. This routine needs to stop! You might be able to get "Meals On Wheels" for her, but that is not nearly enough.

I've developed a life change diet for myself and my 91 yo mother. I use a Mid-priced ($100)food processor. I use the processor to puree' raw veggies, fresh spinach (frozen thawed OK), and high end lettuces and low fat meats (inc. fish).

She also needs mother nature's vitamin D. You may not be able to get walking exercise, but surely you can get her outside, .

Ask her doctor about depression meds and possible dementia.

I think Al-Anon is a good idea