Dealing with My Mother's Dementia




My elderly mother has dementia.  It’s not bad enough that she doesn’t know her three daughters, of which I am the youngest, but she can’t or won’t understand why she needs a carer.  As a result she is very unpleasant to them and three have left after a very short time.  

My older sisters are ruling out putting her in a home. Instead they want to work out a rota where each of us take turns in caring for her.  My mother has never liked me, partly because she wanted a son.  It’s not my fault that I’m not male but she has always treated me badly.   I also have two small children while my sisters’s kids are teenagers and can more easily be left to their own devices.  All three of us work but my sisters are freelance, and can take time out, whereas I can’t.  Nor do I want to.  I can’t forgive her for making my childhood miserable and know that if I spend the day with her she will still manage to crush me.  I also would not want to bathe her and get her into bed.  On the other hand I know I will feel guilty being the only one who didn’t help out.  I’ve talked to my sisters, who sort of understand how awful she was to me, but got on with her reasonably well – she certainly liked them.  Instead they feel I should brush my past unhappiness away and get on with the job in hand. 

I would appreciate your advice.   


What a difficult situation you have with your mother, but do remember you can say ‘no’.  The fact is that, even if she was kind and loving, your young family and your job mean you are not in a position to offer the same amount of help as your sisters. It is rare in families that each adult child is able to offer equal amounts of time, so you should not feel guilty. Instead think about what you can do to help and be firm when you tell your sisters.    

They also may not yet fully realise the enormous effort needed to care full time for an elderly person. The fact that so many carers have left already should be a red flag to all of you.  As your mother’s dementia progresses it is highly likely that you will need to get more professional help.   

It is important, however, that the situation you face isn’t about how your mother  singled you out as the object of her disappointment and anger, and we advise you don’t bring that up in any discussion with your sisters.   

They had a very different experience growing up and may well not understand how deeply the hurt and your mother’s lack of love for you has penetrated and it will be difficult for them to understand your position. Instead deal with the circumstances you face in your own time and in your own way. Your young family need you and through them you will hopefully share the love and tenderness you longed for as a child.