My grandmother passed away this week and had been in the hospital for 5 days, stroke, spent days at hospital and mother took nights.  Sister went on vacation. Grandmother passes and now I’m helping my mother with funeral, apartment, etc…. mother tells me she now wants to take my sister on a trip around the world, short little vacations, and rent an RV so she, my sister and my sister’s husband can travel down the pacific coast hwy. Always knew my mother didn’t love me, just put up with me.  She calls my sister her precious angel and me her worker bee. Says she’s sorry it’s that way but that’s the way it is.  My husband and I take my mom on trips, take care of her, cook for her, help her around her house, etc… she’s 72 and has some major health issues. My sister lives an hour away, I live 30 minutes away so logically I’m the one who is doing the care giving. My sister comes in to town a few times a year and my mom buys her whatever she wants, worries about her, does for her…. is it bad for me to feel slighted when my mother talks about wanting to do all these things for my sister and not even mention me or anything my husband and I have done for her? We feel like it’s time for us to sell our house and land and move out of state like we’ve wanted to do for years, but have put off due to her health situation. Now I feel totally unappreciated and just don’t think I can be the one to do everything anymore. I’m just tired of being her doormat. 

A: I’m sorry about the loss of your grandmother and that you have carried the burden of helping out alone. If you don’t feel like you can be the one doing everything anymore, then stop! Most times in life, people will take as much as you give. You have to be the one to stop giving, not the other way around. And in all my clinical (and personal) experience, I have rarely seen family members pitch in equally when it comes to helping out aging parents.

Whether your mother is truly taking advantage of your kindness, or if it’s your perception, you do not have to be a doormat any longer. I’m sure she loves you even if she treats you and your sister differently. However, if you and your husband have dreams of selling your house and moving, there is no better time than the present. Your sister will either have to step up, your mother may have to move to be closer to one of you, or all of you as a family can come up with another plan for your mother, such as home care or assisted living.

Many communities have care giver support groups that you may find very helpful. Look for them at churches, hospitals, nursing homes or senior centers. Your local Area Agency on Aging may also have resources for your mother such as Meals on Wheels or transportation to medical appointments, which will help you transition out of being your mother’s primary support.

In the meantime, it sounds like you and your husband could benefit from a vacation yourselves. Go enjoy your life!

All the best,

Dr. Holly Counts