Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Son Tired of Elderly Mom's Blame Game

DEAR HARRIETTE: My relationship with my mother is not good. She is much older now, but she has not lost her stubbornness. I have always been a respectful son, and I help her out whenever she needs me. However, she tends to turn on me. Most recently, she accused me of breaking something in her home and told the whole family that I am responsible for it, when this is not the case. I explained this to my mother, but once she has her mind made up, there is no convincing her otherwise. I want to pull back from this toxic relationship, but I feel this isn't the best option as my mother is older and life is short. What should I do? -- Role Reversal

DEAR ROLE REVERSAL: You are finding yourself in a situation that many grown children of aging parents experience. You now are becoming more of a caretaker than a child. With that often come myriad challenges. You have to be able to weather your mother’s stubbornness and do your best not to let her behavior get under your skin.

Talk to your family members and let them know about some of the behaviors that your mother has been exhibiting, including this new form of blame. Tell them what you have been doing to support her and how she has been reacting. Let them know that this is stressful at times, and you need their support. Most important is for them to know that you are caring for your mother, not hurting her or her things.

Stay calm around your mother. Focus on the positive. Ignore her when she blames you for things you didn’t do. Attempt to get her to focus on something else.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My sister feels excluded from our family. She has her own place now quite a distance away. Simple things like going to see a movie without her will make her upset. While I can understand this, I feel that it is not always feasible to try and plan everyday activities with her when we don’t live near each other. When we go out, it is often a spur-of-the-moment decision, and with our distance, it would not make sense to invite her. How can I get my sister to see we are not purposely leaving her out? -- Disconnected

DEAR DISCONNECTED: Assure your sister of how much you and your family love her and that you miss having her around all the time. Remind her that she is the one who moved away from home -- not all of you. Be direct and tell her that you are sorry, but it is not possible or practical for you to invite her to every activity that you and your other family members do together. She lost that privilege when she moved. This may be hard for her at first, but she has to accept responsibility for her choices. Let her know that you enjoy spending time with her whenever she comes home, but you cannot revolve your family interactions around her schedule. Next time she gets perturbed because she was not part of an experience, ignore her reaction.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)