Sunday, February 7, 2010

Drawing The Line In the Sand With My Parents

Sorry for the extended absence. I've been dealing with family issues. I am just very angry and frustrated right now. The day that I've always dreaded is upon me.

My father, who suffers from dementia, recently crashed and totaled his car. The good news: he only caused property damage and didn't kill or injure anyone. He's a bit bruised and scratched, but relatively unhurt.

The bad news: My parents still owe $7,000 on the car and it's totaled. Additionally, I'm worried that the insurance company will deny the claim based upon the fact that his physical impairments were never disclosed. I'm also concerned that Medicare won't cover all or some of his hospital stay.

Although my parents won't admit it, they are looking for a bail-out from my sister and me. And I'm not just talking about a financial bail-out. During this ordeal, my mother expected my sister, who now lives in a neighboring city (approx. 45 minutes away), to serve as her personal chauffeur, since she refuses to rent a car to drive herself around. My sister, as a result, has had to spend entire weekends and time off of work to deal with my parents' affairs, including, dealing with doctors, insurance company, the impound lot, etc.

When my sister and I asked my mother why she would allow my father to drive in his condition, she said he looked forward to driving on the weekends. He would have fought her attempts to prevent him from driving. She said he was beyond her control.

As you can expect, my mother does not take to my sister and my questioning her very kindly. She is very defensive and mired in self-pity. She refuses to take any responsibility for any of her failures, her lack of initiative, her lack of motivation, etc. A prime example of one of my mother's failure includes her refusal to learn to speak or write English fluently although she's lived in this country for 40 years. She blames this failure on her "sacrifice" for her family. She also blames her parents for "forcing" her to marry a "loser" like my dad. (I just find it difficult to believe that if she totally despised my father back then as she claims, she would have had two children with the man. But I digress.)

My mother complained of my father's lack of self-reliance. When I pointed our her hypocrisy, her emotions ran the gamut of anger, self-pity, defeatist and accusatory. Some of the things she said included:
  • "Oh, now I see you and your sister just want your dad and me dead!"
  • "Fine! I won't EVER ask you or your sister for help!" (I rolled my eyes with this one.)
  • "I've done NOTHING wrong in my life to deserve this!"
  • "I've sacrificed EVERYTHING for you girls and this is how you treat me!"
  • "I've done EVERYTHING to not burden you girls, and there's NOTHING more I can do."
  • "Don't you see that being a burden to you girls is tearing me apart?"
  • "I just pray for death everyday!"
After significant soul-searching, I've decided I am not going to enable them or bail them out. I told my mother that no one is happy with this situation. If she's unhappy knowing that she's a burden upon her children, how does she think my sister and I feel? There's no point in pretending the inevitable won't happen. Complaining, blaming and wallowing in self-pity is completely unhelpful. I told her that her defeatist attitude is pissing me off as well.

My sister and I agreed that we are going to make our father voluntarily relinquish his driver's license. He will no longer be allowed to drive. Hopefully, with this accident, my father will agree without a fuss.

My mother now claims she is "too scared" to drive. My parents live in the desert, which means that during the summer, it would be very difficult for them to get around without a car. I told my mother, "If you choose not to drive, that's your decision. But you shouldn't expect my sister to chauffeur you around." (Of course, my mother took offense to this.)

In the event that my parents' auto insurance denies their claim, my sister and I agreed that we will not pay off their car loan or any judgment from the property damage. My parents will need to file for bankruptcy and have their credit cards taken away.

I am also considering exercising my power of attorney and taking control of my parents' finances. For once, perhaps, my sister and I can force them to live within their means.

I'll be traveling back-and-forth to my parents' and I will be taking a break while my sister and I sort through my parents' affairs.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.


444 said...

Sorry to hear about all these difficulties, Shtinky. I wish I knew some way to help or had some good advice for you.

jpkittie said...

I am so sorry for your problems lately - I am though happy to hear that you & your sister agree with how things should be delt with... Atleast you guys are on the same page...

I hope everything turns out positive in this situation - I am thinking of you & your family

traineeinvestor said...

Sounds unpleasant but if you (and your sister) do not draw a line somewhere you will (most likely) still be dealing with the problem years into the future.

At least you live in the same country as your parents - I'm an 11 hour flight away from mine.

Abigail said...

Eesh, that whole post made my head want to implode. So I can only imagine how you must feel being in it!

I think you may want to hold off on taking over the finances unless something gets botched with the bankruptcy. You already have enough issues and anger and resentment swirling around between you and your mom. No need to make it any worse than it already is. It seems like you'd just be giving her more ammunition.

It sounds like your mom is very passive aggressive. That is one of the most difficult things to deal with. You can dismiss a bully, but guilt nags at you even when you know better.

Just know: You're right. I can't believe she is even trying to justify letting a man with dementia drive.

I'm glad you and your sister are putting down boundaries. Now you both just have to practice firm responses to the flow of guilt that will probably issue forth from your mom. (At least, based on the stuff she's already said.) They don't always react well to it, but it often does bring them up short. That is, if she says she prays for death, you say, "Mom, I love you. My sister loves you. We don't want you to die. But we cannot keep bailing you out of situations like this because nothing changes. If anything, the problems get worse." If she says, "Fine I'll never ask for anything again!" you can say, "Well, first, realistically speaking that's just not plausible. And I'm happy to help you, when I can and when it's in your best interest. I've helped you in the past because I love you. But the help I've given clearly isn't doing more than putting a bandaid on the situation. I'm sorry if this hurts you, but I'm looking out for all of our best interests. I will help you however I can -- so long as it's a healthy option for both of us. If that's not enough for you, then I'm sorry and know that I love you."

It's really hard to do but it's completely worth the moment or two of silence where you can picture their mouth working soundlessly, unsure what to say. (Then it starts back in again. But you have to savor the little things...)

Sallie's Niece said...

I'm so sorry you're going through all this now. I wish you luck in working things out the best way for you and your family.

Rikki said...

I'm sorry your issues with both your mother and father are coming to a head. You are lucky to have your sister there to be your ally and sounding board.

Best of luck. My kind thoughts are with you!


Emily said...

Hi, sorry about the unfortunate situation... and I agree with your plan not to enable your parents who are not making rational decisions. All you can do is be kind but firm. Best of luck,

paranoidasteroid said...

Ugh, I wish I had some good advice fr this situation It sounds like you're doing OK with taking a firm stand with your mom, and I definitely think you should continue to do so!

chitownreader said...

I feel your pain as my family has put me in a similar situation and loves to remind me "after all I have done for you" and my fave "I left my country to come to the US so you could have a better life... blah blah blah..." It can be so discouraging! But have no fear. You will make the right decision for you and they will live with it! Stay strong and don't let them derail all the financial progress you have made!

Ms. MoneyChat said...

Wow. I'm sorry to hear about the accident but I gotta tell you, I think you and your sister are handling things very well. I've heard about that weird transistion in life where the parents become the children and the children become the parents.

Moneyapolis said...

Wow, thanks for sharing. Your experience actually made me feel a lot better because my own mom says a lot of the same things (especially the "I don't want to be a burden line," when every choice she's made in her life will ensure that she most definitely WILL be a burden!). You're not in it alone and it sounds as if you and your sister are taking all the right steps. Good luck and hang in there!

Money Funk said...

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Sorry to hear, Shtinkykat. :(
I know that my mom's financially irresponsibilities will soon be a burden in the years to come.

I'll send some well wishes your way.

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Revanche said...

Shtinky, you have my utmost empathy. Looks like you and I vented on the same day about much the same thing, though my mom's condition is further enough along that she's already had several car accidents despite being denied the right to drive.

My parents may not pull the guilt trip so often (though Mom often pulls the "I wish I were dead because you'd be better off without me as a burden" line), but their torture of choice is hiding essentials from me. /headdesk/

Best of luck as you sort through their affairs and figure out what the best (possible) solutions will be. If I can be of any assistance, I'd be more than happy to help.

Bouncing Back said...

Ugh,I feel your pain. I have a mother who just expects me to bail her out (and I have in the past). She won't take responsibility for her own actions. In fact, my mother's favorite old threat was "I'll kill myself so you can pay my bills."

I know how hard this must be for you.