How to support mom without losing myself

Hi Brooke –

I am writing about my mom and how to support her in the way she needs while still making sure my needs are being met.
My mom is physically disabled with advanced arthritis and fibromyalgia. My dad died about 18 months ago and since then, me and my partner of 18 yrs have become her primary caregivers. I stay overnight with her 2 nights a week for company and I only live 3 miles away so we are at her house daily. She pays my partner a salary to take care of her and my grandfather which as you can imagine has been a challenge with boundaries and balancing roles between employee and family. She is fairly independent in her daily needs except for small assistance when she showers, medication management and driving anywhere she needs to go. The emotional support is more extensive since she lives alone (well, with two amazing dogs – 1 emailed you a while back a picture of them sleeping next to my laptop with your coaching call). She’s an introvert and kind of a self-inflicted hermit. She enjoys being alone but only to a point and she’s scared of the world. She watches CNN on a loop all day and I’m pretty convinced she thinks she’s gonna die all the time. She lives from her primitive brain and takes very few risks. If I bring up anything I want to do that may be at all risky, she starts in on how horrible an idea that is. I have come to realize that I need to remember that her world is very small and if something happened to me, her world would be crushed. For example, I was asked to be in a wedding in Cancun and she offered me $10,000 not to go because she saw on the news that no one should be flying right now. She’s willing to go to this length to keep me safe and out of harm’s way.

So, I struggle with my thoughts about this because I want to travel and see the world but I also know that her life would be over if I was gone (I know this is a thought – but this is often what she tells me). I have trouble getting out of my comfort zone and I can feel myself not trying new things because I don’t want to upset her. She literally sits in her house all day buffering with food, computer games, and sleep.

Unintentional Model
C – Mom
T – I am missing out on life
F – resentful, feel like my life is passing me by
A – don’t travel, stay close to home
R – wait until she dies to live authentically

Intentional Model
T – My mom needs me now and I will support her while still taking care of my own needs
F – Neutral
A – Take small trips so I’m not away for long, set boundaries
R – Mildly satisfied but still wishing I could do more.

These models are tough for me because I have made accommodations by taking weekend trips away instead of a 2 week cruise. I feel like it can get complicated as well because she provides financial support to us for the caregiving and I often feel very obligated. A recent example is I told her I couldn’t take her to see my grandpa at his Assisted Living this past weekend because I just needed a weekend to myself. She understood but then made sure to tell my grandpa that we “locked her up and won’t take her anywhere”. Granted, she was kidding but it just annoyed me.

I can’t seem to clear my head about this. I don’t know if I should be doing things anyway, even though they bring her such misery and fear and it’s unlikely she will work on her thoughts. Or if I should keep doing what I’m doing for the next 10 years, biding my time until she’s gone. My gut tells me that we need to come up with some back up plans for when we are on vacation and just do things even if they make her uncomfortable. I have such a hard time knowing she would be sitting and worrying for a week while we are gone. HELP!

Jennifer R.