Weekend From Hell With Mommy Dearest

Mother issues don’t fade. They become exaggerated no matter how much therapy you’ve had.

Even if you’re married to a therapist.

This weekend, I had a total and complete parental Caretaking breakdown.

At the end of it, I sat sobbing in my car. My sister rescued me–for that I am grateful.

Monthly trips for 5 years finally caught up with me. This was the worst weekend since my dad died.

I need a break.


For months, Mom has been talking about cleaning the kitchen table in her apartment. It’s a pigsty with thousands of tiny little pieces of paper all over it. Most of the mail comes to me, so I am no longer worried about losing bills and mail.

We did, however, find a piece of mail about her County ADA transportation that came January 11. She needs to renew by next week, and given the time it takes for a personal interview and doctors to sign it, she will miss the deadline. For the third time, I called them and told them to send to my address.

First, she had me return two items by mail that she didn’t remember ordering. It reminded me of how much I hated returning expired grocery items as a kid, and the looks I’d get from the mean women in the Italian deli. “You tella you mother that I a no return things.”

I finally found an app that cancels each catalog you take a picture of. I took 25 in all.

Cleaning the table was a disaster. Every piece of paper is like ripping a piece of gold from her. The tears flow and it’s like taking a part of her life that she used to have. No help matter how much I do I get Greif and tears. One of the things we found on her kitchen table was my sister’s 30th surprise party invitation. I suggested it was time to get ride of it. “I guess memories don’t mean anything to you,” she said.

I lose a chunk of my life and a chunk of my heart every time I come down and still can’t believe she’s the one I’m left. I lost it in the nurses station and they couldn’t believe it. “You’re the one who’s always smiling; your sister the one that always looks unhappy.” I give my mother everything I have.

She has lost so much that every piece of paper now has meaning. She cannot function like that, however.

I finally came to the realization that because my dad did everything from bill paying to opening mail, She didn’t do what I have taken on. Dad did. She doesn’t get it. It’s always been done FOR her. She has no idea the hours on the phone with providers, insurance companies, why lost pieces of paper are important. To her, it will be handled, without worrying about who’s handling it and what’s involved.

The last day, we argued because she needed to see every piece of paper, every envelope I discarded. She got up to walk away and fell backwards. Although fine, we were both stunned and I left.

“I can’t be here right now. I’ll be back, but I don’t know when,” I said, heading off to the airport.

If those were my last words with her, I will be at peace with that. I have done absolutely everything that I can. I’ve given up parts of my life; I’ve given up time.

Every page, every catalog, every piece of paper, every envelope: “What is it?” “Why are you throwing it out?” “Are you making sure that they can’t see my name and address?” “You can’t just throw it out without telling me.” “These are my things.”

The paranoia and perhaps a bit of dementia are getting worse. I say dementia because she can’t remember anything short term. Friday, she asked me 8 times who we were having dinner with.

Back to the table: It was old menus, old doctors receipts, old appointment cards, thousands and thousands and thousands of pieces of paper. She still has each condolence card she was sent for my dad. I found birthday cards to me and my husband, both with checks in them. Our birthdays were in January and April.

I am so angry that this is what I’m left with. This is my responsibility. She was supposed to be dead in her 50s.

Me to Mom: “Your furniture, your children, your memories, those are your things.
This stuff on the table is crap.” That went over well.

The paranoia has deepened: After the obligatory and dreaded 3-hour trip to Walgreen’s: “I better put away my feminine wipes before I leave the room otherwise they will disappear and someone will take them.”

Someday, I will be the proud owner of 5,783 lipsticks. This weekend, we acquired 3 more.
Someday, I will make a drag queen VERY Happy.

“Yes mom, everyone is clamoring for your feminine wipes. There’s a line down the hall.”

Every interaction is confrontation. She’s too difficult to be around. I will need to make these weekends less frequent and change them up, taking more time for myself and seeing her for shorter periods of time.

There’s a fine line between self care and selfish.

She’s abusive

I’ve been walking on eggshells my entire life. I can’t do it anymore. My father taught me to do it, but I’m done with it. They only way I can be is direct, and she just can’t deal with that.

Every phone call she tells me that you can’t find something that’s on the table–how she must get to the table. This was my last attempt. She will live like a slob, and I will burn everything when I burn her. I will just need a bigger urn.

I can’t be there for awhile. I’ll be back but I don’t know when. I just can’t be around her for a bit.

P.S.–I’m taking bets on where the my grandfather’s “lost” wedding ring will turn up.

~ by Butch on July 2, 2014.

5 Responses to “Weekend From Hell With Mommy Dearest”

  1. Butch,

    It sounds to me as if you just hit the crash and burn stage. Who wouldn’t after five years of monthly trips? As I said on p. 32 of “What to Do about Mama?:

    “Our expectations were too high. Caregivers are giving people who often try to maintain a sense of control. Caregiving is fraught with a lack of control over both the situations that occur and the people involved. Our expectations of others were unrealistic; our expectations of ourselves were self-defeating.”

    And on page 192: “Don’t set your bar too high in comparison to the standards of other involved parties. Set boundary lines and stick to them. Taking on too much commitment and making too much sacrifice breeds resentment.”

    Does this sound like you? (Rhetorical question. Yes it does.)

    You’re spending a boatload of time and money. It’s time to start looking at other options for your mother’s care. You can use your resources to help provide that care.

    A caregiver who is not good to themselves is not good for anybody.


  2. Why Older People are at Risk of Hoarding Disorder

    Dr. Linda Rhodes | Special to PennLive By Dr. Linda Rhodes | Special to PennLive
    on July 10, 2014 at 8:00 AM, updated July 11, 2014 at 6:35 AM

    Hi Butch,

    I thought you might be interested in the article by Linda Rhodes that appeared in today’s edition (7-13-14) of the Patriot News in Harrisburg, PA. Some of the statements Linda Rhodes made sounded like remarks in your “Mommy Dearest” post. I hope you find it interesting and helpful.


    Q: Recently, I read about the woman in Perry County whose skeletal remains were found in her trailer. Turns out she was a hoarder and I’m worried that my mom is going down the same path. Any suggestions?

    A: The case you’re talking about concerns 75-year old Joan L. Hinds of Newport who had been reported missing and was last seen in February. She had become reclusive and refused police entry into her home months earlier.

    Of course, there’s plenty of second-guessing: couldn’t neighbors and family find a way to “look in” on the woman whether she liked it or not? Couldn’t the police or other government agencies just force their way in? And the one question that belies all the inquiries; why would anybody ever want to live like this?

    As evidenced by all the debris enshrining her remains, Ms. Hinds suffered from what is now termed a psychiatric condition – hoarding disorder. Reality TV shows like A&E’s “Hoarders” and a slew of new books on the topic has brought this complex condition out of the woodwork. In a study by Johns Hopkins University, scientists estimate that one in twenty people fit the criteria of compulsive hoarding.

    Hoarding disorder is characterized by the inability to discard possessions that result in so much clutter that the individual’s living environment is no longer functional. For example, a kitchen is so over run with bags, dishes, paper plates, boxes, old food, and “stuff” that the hoarder can no longer use the sink, stove or refrigerator to prepare meals. Homes consumed with clutter and debris often become safety hazards, especially for the elderly, who are prone to fall and fractures. It also poses a fire risk, not just for those who live in the cluttered conditions, but those whose properties adjoin it.

    Coupled with the unrelenting need to accumulate things is the inability to discard anything. Part of this is due to the person’s attachment to each and every item. It may be linked to a fond memory or a person or place, or the belief that they’ll use the piece later and so they need to save it. A hoarder may view her possessions as part of herself, believing that she’s losing a piece of her life if she gives it away. No wonder getting rid of even one piece of clutter can be overwhelming for a person with hoarding disorder. It’s all the more exacerbated by findings that show most hoarders lacking the ability to categorize, organize or make decisions.

    What makes this all the more challenging is what psychologists Randy Frost and Gail Steketee, co-authors of Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things refer to as “clutter blindness.” Steketee reports that when she shows pictures of a hoarder’s clutter taken at their home that they often look shocked at what they see. “It’s like somebody else’s home that they’re looking at in the photograph because to them that’s not what it looks like when they walk in the house.” She has found, however, that when she enters her client’s home, they become acutely aware of their surroundings and often become ashamed as they begin to see the clutter.

    The Mayo Clinic offers a list of “Signs and Symptoms of Hoarding Disorder” that may help you assess whether or not your mom is going down the same path as Ms. Hinds:
    •Persistent inability to part with any possession, regardless of its value.
    •Excessive attachment to possessions, including discomfort letting others touch or borrow them or exhibit distress at the idea of letting an item go.
    •Cluttered living spaces, making areas of the home unusable for the intended purpose, (e.g. can’t cook in the kitchen or bathe in the bathroom).
    •Keeping stacks of newspapers, magazines or junk mail.
    •Letting food or trash build up to unusually excessive, unsanitary levels.
    •Acquiring unneeded or seemingly useless items, such as trash or napkins from a restaurant.
    •Difficulty managing daily activities because of procrastination and trouble making decisions.
    •Moving items from one pile to another, without discarding anything.
    •Difficulty organizing items, sometimes losing important items in the clutter.
    •Shame or embarrassment.
    •Not allowing any one to come into their home, limited or no social interactions.

    Though signs of hoarding behavior often appears earlier in life, it is more common in older adults than younger adults. Living alone, inheriting property of deceased loved ones, lack of space, depression, dementia and lifelong personality disorders – all place older people at greater risk.

    None of this is surprising to Wilmarie Gonzalez, Director of the Bureau of Advocacy at the Pennsylvania Department of Aging who oversees the states protective services and ombudsman program.

    “Last year, we received 18,500 calls to our elder abuse hotline and 42.3 percent were reports of self-neglect — hoarding cases being among them. Part of it’s generational, as a good number are from the Depression Era and they fear they should save everything just in case they need it later.”

    But Gonzalez and her colleagues investigating elder abuse find that self-neglect cases are among the toughest to handle. She reports that, “In some cases, all we can do is explain to the person the consequences and risks they face as a result of their poor choices. As adults, they have a right to make decisions, and sometimes that involves making mistakes.”

    Not until an individual poses a clear harm to themselves or others can forceful interventions be made by law enforcement.

    Experts say that the first step in addressing hoarding behavior is understanding what it is and I hope this week’s column gives you some insight as to the nature of the disorder. In a later column, I’ll share steps that family members, friends and neighbors can take to help someone with a hoarding disorder and resources available to assist.

    In the meantime, if you believe an individual is at risk of self-neglect that places him or her in harm’s way – or the hoarding places others at risk, you can contact the statewide Protective Services Hotline operated by the Pennsylvania Department of Aging at 800-490-8505. Hours are 24/7 and all calls are anonymous. They’ll contact the local Area Agency on Aging to assess the situation.

    Dr. Linda Rhodes is a former Secretary of Aging and Author of “The Essential Guide to Caring for Aging Parents.” She can be reached at RhodesCaregiving@gmail.com.

  3. […] for the Caregiver thecaregivergigdotme The Memories Project Mom  & Dad Care Weekend From Hell With Mommy Dearest The Selfish Caregiver ON TURNING YOUR WORST MOMENT INTO YOUR […]

  4. I used excerpts from your post in my post today. Check it out: The Evolution of Caregiving http://bgmatthewsblog.wordpress.com/

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