Life Advice



Mean Mother Needs My Help

Annie Lane on

Dear Annie: My mom probably has narcissism and borderline personality disorders but has never been diagnosed. She is extremely difficult to deal with, and everyone knows this. She believes she is super special, has very high standards and has been catered to by everyone. Her children have taken different paths in dealing with her: One has rigid boundaries and rarely deals with issues that arise. I am forever trying to help my mom; I have suffered greatly but have also gotten help and developed some boundaries so that she bothers me less than she did previously.

Neither of us live near our mom, and no one else related to her lives nearby. She lives alone and has been OK for a long time. She does have friends, all of whom are older. Now Mom seems to have dementia and is also sick. She needs help but rejects it. She remains impossible to deal with and impossible to please; her doctor just dismissed her for her abusive ways.

So now she has what appear to be personality disorders with dementia and illness on top; meaning, she is confused and mixed up but also very angry, nasty and mean. She has rejected anxiety or depression medication and all forms of therapy. She demands to be in control and seems to be competent. I feel an obligation to get her help, but I can't handle her, and, for my own mental and physical health, can't let her control me or send me off the edge.

I'm going out to help her but am scared because I know her behavior, and attitude, are terrible. It seems like one remaining option is to go to court to get control and do what's best for her. She can't really do anything for herself; she never really did before either. I would appreciate your thoughts, please.

What I ask myself is, why was I dealt this hand? -- Problem with Elderly Mom


Dear Problem: While the Disney fantasy of a fairy godmother would be ideal, most moms will never live up to those unrealistic expectations. It does sound like you were dealt a particularly challenging hand with a mom like yours. The good news is that you are an adult now who survived this type of mother, and as an adult, you have a choice on how you want to have your relationship be with her. Set clear boundaries, and call her on it if she steps over them.

In the meanwhile, the best advice I can give you for your upcoming visit is to say the serenity prayer each time your mom puts you down. "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."


"How Can I Forgive My Cheating Partner?" is out now! Annie Lane's second anthology -- featuring favorite columns on marriage, infidelity, communication and reconciliation -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to




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