Mum won't accept limitations/help.

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Hi, I'm new here.

I currently care for my partner of 16 years who is severely limited in what he can do due to severe social phobia and depression, I am his appointee and fill out forms for him, speak on his behalf at appointments and on the phone, arrange GP appointments, ensure he takes his medication, gets ready if we have to go to the doctor and other similar things. I am happy to do this for him to avoid stressing him out and making his mental health worse. But that's not why I'm posting here today, I just wanted to give a little background information on what I already do. :)

The problem I'm having is with my mum, who is 66 and other than osteoarthritis in the neck diagnosed almost 10 years ago, has no diagnosed health problems because for whatever reason, she refuses to go to the doctor. She has had obvious symptoms of either severe IBS or Coeliac disease (which I also have but I am currently awaiting a diagnosis) for around 5-10 years and will not get this checked out.

Almost a month ago, she was in the garden and thinks she might have hurt her ankle, but didn't think anything of it. Since then, it has swollen and since gone down and she's been supporting it with a cushion when sitting, applying bags of ice and occasionally using an ibuprofen gel. She's better when she's sat or laid down as the weight is off of it. Walking hurts, standing still even more so. She has taken to using a walking stick to getting around, but I suspect this is because we already had one lying around the house. I ask her if she still feels it helps every time she tries to go out without it, then insist she takes it with her when she admits it helps "a little". She won't take painkillers, not even a single paracetamol. I have to see her wincing in pain all of the time and using coping mechanisms, like taking off her shoe on the affected foot and standing there barefoot until the pain subsides. I have to see her hobbling about but refusing any help. She works two days a week, which she reduced because she was unable to work her previous amount of hours. She doesn't use the stick at work, I feel she feels she will be ostracised for it, which is of course illegal, but yeah.

I've noticed many places now offer rentals of both wheelchairs and mobility scooters and upon realising that sitting down takes the pain away, I have tried to convince her she is entitled to use of these mobility devices (I even called the places to confirm this), but she just tells me to leave it alone and to stop bothering her and if she decides she wants this help, she will ask for it. She says the same thing when I tell her to go to the doctors. I have offered to book the appointment for her, but she refuses. I have offered to do her shopping for her, she refuses.

She says she does not judge people in wheelchairs and mobility scooters, but feels she is not "disabled" so doesn't deserve one herself. She keeps trying to do things herself and hurting herself in the process.

My mum is very proud and fiercely independent. Before I offered this help, she had none. My dad is extremely self-centred and is currently complaining she's not keeping the house tidy and is "always sat down". He has zero empathy at all. If I try to tidy up instead, my mum shouts that I'm organising things wrongly and to leave it alone. I don't know what else to do, I'm sick with worry about the pain she is in. I can't force her to get help, but I feel someone needs to do something soon. I'm very empathetic and am frequently tearful after yet another failed attempt to convince her she deserves help. :(

Can anyone relate, or advise me on this issue please? I really needed to get this off my chest to people that would understand.

Thanks so much for your time. :)
You can borrow wheel chairs from the Red Cross
Thanks for replying Colin, but she won't use one. I've found numerous places that rent them to customers but she won't hear of it. I think she thinks it will make her less independent or weak or something, yet she claims she doesn't think that of other people in wheelchairs. :/
Hello Bunny and welcome to the forum.

It is possible that your Mum has just badly sprained her ankle (they can take a while to recover) but also she may have done something to her Achilles tendon or even broken a small bone in her foot. She's doing the right things if it's 'just' a sprain (ice, resting it etc - a compression bandage would also help) but if it's either of the latter then she will need medical attention.

It does sound as though your Mum has some kind of fear of being labelled 'disabled' but unfortunately if someone has full mental capacity then there isn't anything you can do to 'force' them to see a Doctor except to keep trying to persuade them. I can only suggest that you point out that once the problem has been recognised and treated then she would be able to return to her normal activities that much sooner.
Thanks Susie, I forgot to mention she is using a tubular bandage which she says helps a bit. I bought her an ankle support but she says that made it worse.

I agree with you about how she's likely got a fear of being labelled disabled. I have told her about how she will not be as limited if she gets the foot treated at the doctor and she acknowledged it with a "Oh yeah, I know" rather than shouting at me to drop it, so that's a start I hope. Otherwise, I hope it's just a sprain but most people need some degree of help eventually.

Personally, if I felt pain when standing or walking, then I'd be open to renting a wheelchair or mobility scooter. If it helps a person to mobilise and get around, that's what it's there for in my opinion. This obsession with labels is outright causing her pain, she believes in them so strongly.
Bunny, if your mum was 6, and not 66, you might be able to help her. But she's 66. She won't accept your help.

You have to accept that she won't accept your help!

I know it's infuriating, but there it is. She's a grown woman, even if she is acting incredibly stupidly (at the very least).

I think you just have to 'give in'. I mean, what else is there? It's her responsibility, her life, her pain, her problem.

I know it's frustrating for grown up children when their parents insist on 'knowing best' but remember, to her you're just a kiddie, and therefore to be ignored if you say things she doesn't agree with.

People are incredibly 'irrational' about infirmity. My SIL needed a hip replacement at least five years ago. She wouldn't countenance it, refused it, got angry when we all said 'everyone, including the doctor, says you need a hip replacement!'. She accepted physio (but never did the exercises she was supposed to do between appointments) and thought 'It will get better on its own.'

It's not surprising that there is an old saying 'Against stupidity, the gods themselves rage in vain!'.

This is true. Which is why I say you can only back off and leave your mum to it. Anotehr friend of mine uses the phrase 'Ah, I hear the smell of burning martyr!'

And given that you say she's put up with a selfish, inconsiderate husband for years, that probably applies to your mum.#

You've got quite enough on your plate with your own 'in house invalid' alas - and maybe that needs exploring too maybe??? !!!! (Ever tried doing less for him??)

It does sound like you have been cast in the role of 'problem solver and helper'....everyone 'relies' on you. Good Old Bunny, she will sort it out. She can do it. She's good at looking after other people. It could be, you know, tht that is what you have been 'taught' makes you a 'good' person - if you can't help people (like you can't help your mum because of her own irrational and self-punishing obstinacy) then do you feel like a failure? (ie, you've been 'programmed' to feel you are failure???)

I genuinely think some counselling of your own might be a very sensible idea for you, to help you set boundaries about what you will and won't do (in fact, what you feel you SHOULD do for others!), and to distinguish between other people's 'needs' and what is actually only their 'wants'. In a way, it's great that your mum IS refusing your help now, because possibly that might help you revalue your own 'helping insintct' (I am NOT criticising you for being so helpful but if your identity and self-validation is bound up with being Helpful Bunny, then that isn't emotionally or psychologically helpful. In life, we give but we TAKE too - that is what makes an equal relationship, and if that is skewed, then it isn't healthy.....)

If you read around on this forum, especially in the Mental Health sections, you will see discussion of the difference in SUPPORTING someone (where the help they are given 'moves them forward to a better place') and merely ENABLING them (where the help they are given just lets them stay where they are). It's an essential difference to my mind.

You are entitled, just like everyone else to be 'selfish' in equal amounts with everyone else, and your life should not be 'dedicated' to helping others non-stop......

So, with all that in mind, I can't help thinking that maybe your mum refusing any help (and yes, that highlights hangups of her own - eg, burning martyr!), might be a sign that things 'have to change'.....and I'm wondering whether it is not entirely a co-incidence that your mother married a man who exploits her by his selfishness and self-centredness, and her daughter who has married a very very 'needy' man who is 'helpless' without her. Both of you, mum and daughter, seem to be spending your lives 'looking after others'. Is that fair? Is it right?

Apols if NONE of the above applies - remember, we only can go on what you tell us, and if there are loads of 'other factors' in here, that negate anything I've rabbited on about, or that I've misinterpreted the relationships, just hit the delete button on this post!

All the very, very best to you - I think you are pouring out your energies for others, but I don't think you should be so concerned about others exclusively. Who is concerned about YOU????

Kind regards, Jenny (remember, delete if my post just makes you hopping mad!)

PS - My SIL finally had one hip done last year, and was amazed at how easy it was, and how much better it is! Now she is in a queue for the other one to be done too. She could have had the whole thing over and done with five years ago, and have enjoyed a MUCH better quality of life for herself - and her husband! -if she'd just faced up to the truth that yes, a wearing-out hip does NOT get better on its own!! (Thing, is, though ,she herself was raised by a mother who said on should 'tough out the pain' and whose mantra was 'Doctors! What use are they?!'.......so maybe it's not surprising her daughter thought that she was not 'allowed' to be painfree by having an operation by doctors......................??????!!!!!!!) (Oh, parents, what they do to us, what they do to us!)
I can see both points of view, let her get on with it versus you must get it sorted. She's being so stupid, because she might develop complications that WOULD leave her really disabled for the rest of her life.
Maybe ask her if this is what she wants?!