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Sacrificing Myself for My Parent


Hi, I’m Dr. Laura Schlessinger, welcoming you to our YouTube channel and our really serious question from Marisol: 

“My 76-year-old mother has been in a nursing home for 2 years.  Ever since that time, I’ve visited her on average 5 days a week, for about an hour each visit. [And, of course there’s the traveling time.]  I’m beginning to wear down from this schedule, as I have a husband, a son who heads to college this year, 3 dogs that need attention, and a home to maintain.  [How about your own mental well-being?] 

My mother doesn’t seem to appreciate my visits, as she barks orders at me, demanding I take care of things for her, and she’s rude about it, rarely saying “please” or “thank you.”  She has Type 2 diabetes [that must mean she’s overweight], mild kidney disease and occasional bed sores, so there’s nothing here that’s terminal and this situation could continue for years.  She could improve her quality of life if she was more compliant with the prescribed physical therapy and if she participated in activities sponsored by the facility.

I feel bad that she’s in a long-term care facility for the rest of her life, but I also resent having to visit, since I believe she’s not helping herself, and she neglected her health in the past. [Hence the Type 2 diabetes.]  Some friends can’t believe I spend that much time at the nursing home, and their comments leave me feeling conflicted.  I don’t want to turn my back on my mother, but I also want to have a life that isn’t spent resenting her.

I don’t even know any more how often I should visit.  How can I honor my mother by spending an appropriate amount of time with her and still have the life I want to have?”

Here’s how I feel about these things…I mean I’m 66 and I’ve dealt philosophically in my mind, even when I was younger, about how when we get older what we do to our children’s lives.  And I’ve made it very clear to my grown son that he is not supposed to sacrifice his life for me, especially when he’s married and has kids – that’s his primary responsibility. 

It’s my responsibility to do the best I can with what I’ve got, at whatever age and to make my health maximized so I work out, I eat well, I usually sleep well and all this kind of stuff, trying to be very healthy about things.  It’s my responsibility – it’s your mother’s responsibility.  I have my own hobbies, activities and work.  She has the opportunity to have that and is rejecting it.  To become a parasite on your child because you’re unwilling to do the things you’re morally obligated to do for yourself is wrong. 

My advice: come once a week for an hour and every day call for 5 minutes.  Get a timer like you use to make the eggs [makes winding motion with hand], sit it there [places imaginary cooking timer in front of herself], “Hi mom, how are you doing?”  She’ll bitch, she’ll complain, she’ll moan, she’ll groan, she’ll annoy you, she’ll insult you, and then you say, “I love you mom.  I’ll call you tomorrow.” And then you hang up. 

She has a moral responsibility.  Her life would be a lot better off if she took that responsibility for her health and her social life and her intellectual ability to still have growth.  Until we’re dead, we can still grow.  It sounds like your mother’s always been this personality.  I can understand why you feel guilt. [Makes suction and grabbing motion in air and makes a loud sound while breathing in.]  I’d like to absolve you of the guilt.  Once a week you visit for an hour and the rest of the time you call for 5 minutes.  Ok?  Ok.

I’m Dr. Laura Schlessinger.  Until next time, here on our YouTube channel.




Tags: Adult Child-Parent, Family/Relationships - Adult Child/Parent, Health, Personal Responsibility, Relationships
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