Ask Dr. Tim: I moved in with my 88-year-old mother…she needed help.

Ask Dr. Tim: I moved in with my 88-year-old mother…she needed help.


As a 60-year-old woman I moved in with my now 88-year-old mother several years ago. Aging, she needed help. Since I was newly out of a divorce and a job, I decided to give it a try. My own children live in another State so I would be focused on mom. Of course there were concerns on my part. My teen years were fraught with parent-teen conflicts. What a horrible time. When I moved-out in my 20’s things went pretty well in our relationship. Of course we were no longer living together, either. After my dad died about 15 years ago, mom began a slow but steady decline downwards. She became depressed and her self-care began to lag. So I moved in to help.

Currently I am very frustrated in the situation. It has worsened now that she has finally given up her driver’s license. I have to take her everywhere. She has become increasingly more demanding and whinny. Mom talks non-stop without really saying anything, and has literally begun to screech when frustrated. I am beginning to look for a cliff to jump off (figuratively). Any ideas?



Dear Suzanne,

Congratulations, you are officially part of the “sandwich generation”: those who are helping both their children (typically adults) and elderly parents. The sandwich folk who are wedged right in the middle of the two generations have unique challenges. Just about the time their children are out of the chaos of adolescent, the sandwiches are called upon to help with the ailing parents. What a challenging position to be in. Without a doubt you have the potential for stress on both sides of you.

The issue of expectations are particularly challenging while you are in the sandwich. As you already know with your children, having too high or too low of expectations can derail children. The same is true with our elderly parents. Obviously they are not going to perform as they did while in their prime. Some parents age like a fine wine, but others seem more to resemble vinegar. One challenge is to have respect for them, as we set boundaries (i.e., no longer safe to drive). Of course the more “buy-in” you get from them the easier it will be for both of you.

In my practice, I often hear regret from the sandwiches after their parents die. They wish they could have had more patience and enjoyed their parents more, rather than trying to control them and the situation. Even with all the stress and struggles it will bode us well to remember…they will soon be gone (for better or worse).

Dr. Tim

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  1. Sandra Sellers:

    This is so true. I regretted that I was cold to my Dad after he was gone. I never knew that I would feel that way. After 11 yrs of taking care of him. He never requested anything. He loved me going to church with him. I took him to La Sierra Church. I never said anything to anyone about not being a believer. But people saw the chip on my shoulder and would say that they would pray for me.

    Let them. Any bit helps. Now with my elderly husband who is two years older than my Dad, I know he will be gone someday. I am short with him sometimes. He needs me because he is blind. I wanted to be that help.
    My experience with my Dad gives me more patience. Thanks