Update on mom in assisted living. I had a hard time convincing my mom to go to assisted living. She was diagnosed with dementia 2 years ago and she couldn't stay alone anymore. I work, have a family she kept wanting them to leave. In March, she went to assisted living. I go twice a week and at first called her every night. I now only call three times a week because she is so negative I cannot take it anymore. When I go to do her hair, she constantly complains. She complains how I do her hair, about the place, about the people, about everything. She keeps asking me "could you live here?" Actually yes. It is brand new, wonderful people and great food. I worn out with the negativity. I have explained to her about her complaints, but she says I am "fussing" at her. Not true, just need some peace. Is it normal for a dementia patient be so negative? I do not want to go visit or call her. It would be so easy to just stop. I am an only child and feel obligated to help her. I feel so much better knowing she is safe and well cared for. She will not bathe or change her pajamas. She doesn't want to get her clothes on. She just wants to complain. She tells me she doesn't eat there, but they tell me different. Her memory isn;t so much the issue, it is her personality change, her inability to care for herself, and her reasoning skills are gone. Oh my, you cannot reason with her at all. When she truly believes something..well, she will say.."well, you are always right and want to argue with me." I want to walk away and enjoy my life without her in it, but I feel guilty for even thinking such a thing. Is all this normal?
I don't think you can stop it, but you can adjust your attitude and expectations. Be rested and in a good frame of mind when you visit and call. Bring a treat, picnic, etc when you visit and do something fun by getting her away for a walk, sitting out on the porch, a drive, etc. the change of scenery will do her good and give you a chance to talk about other things vs her new home and situation.
Avoid disagreeing about the AL or convincing her otherwise. ITS okay to acknowledge her feelings and telling her it hurts you and makes YOU feel bad to know she is unhappy...but you can't change things. It's also okay to set boundaries and limit your visits and calls. When she gets negative, simply cut the conversation or visit short.
Remember, you aren't responsible for her happiness.
I'm still waiting for the moment when my mother will finally (at long last) go into AL. And I know, from our lifelong troubled relationship, that my visits will become less and less. They already are, the truth is, it's helped me tremendously, and hasn't hurt her at all.
If I wanted or felt compelled to do her hair, I would tell her no more complaining and she has to say something nice at the end or I will not do it anymore. Remind of her the rules when you are doing it if she needs it.
I would also tell her that I can't take her negativity - it is too wearing on you and that you love her, you have a husband/family/house to care for and need your energy. Lessen your calls and visits if she is not responsive. It is OK to see her/talk to her once a week. I bet that's still more than most people do.
I would talk to her doctor about getting her on anti-depressants. Many times complaints and negativity are a result of depression, and getting old is difficult.
I would ask the facility your mom is in to have a pastor or counselor to come talk to your mom. And a psychiatrist. Seriously. Having that outsider/third party person come do active listening and guided response (I won't call it correction) can really help. And if the talking doesn't work, then there are some really great meds in this day & age.
Change of any type - even something we would think is insignificant - to a demetia patient is monumental. They no longer have the reasoning skills to self soothe or put it in perspective. So, to some individuals, every change is the end of the world forever and they get stuck in that spot. Please know the behaviors you are seeing are not of your making or your responsibility. It's brain change.
Also be prepared that you are going to see more of this kind of thing. Just expect it. If it improves through time, counseling, or meds, then HOORAY. If not, you know what it's coming from. From a self-care standpoint for you, this is going to sound mean, but I don't intend it that way. To run this marathon, you're going to have to save your energy for things that matter. Your daughter, yourself. This means you have to make yourself stop spending so much emotional effort on mom because that is not a situation that will improve by your tears. It takes time to learn how to detach with love, but it can be done. Practice, practice, practice. It's a hurricane bunker in the raging storm.
All you can do is validate what she says/sympathize: No mom, this isn't how any of us thought it would turn out. I'm as surprised as you are.
I try to (pointlessly) turn the conversation with my mom: You look better than you have in 25 years. The diet you hate and this environment is clearly doing you some good. You could barely get out of bed and up & down out of a chair when you came up here, and now you can go like the dickens with your walker.
With my mom though, she is chronically embittered and has always purposefully sought the negative in life. She has never been capable of positive thinking. Doesn't stop me from trying though.
You can say things like: I wish I could make things like they used to be! I would if I could.
You can move her around the facility, to look at the pictures, down a hall, see what's over here, over there, etc. I think sitting still one on one with each other, is sometimes a recipe for a terrible visit.
My mom mourns a reality she never had. She misses her house, which was a pile of cr_p. She never took care of it, it had holes in the siding, the roof leaked, there were critters, the well water was so sulphurous it corroded the water heater, the dishwasher, the sinks, the toilet, & shower stall. It was flithy, smelly, dark, and dirty. She misses a house that existed 15 years or more ago, that was new, bright, and clean right when she moved in. (It didn't stay that way long though). She misses being able to do things she never would do when she could. She refused - quite angrily - any invitations with church or the senior group to go on trips or see sights. She hated visitors. She stayed on self-imposed house arrest for almost 2 decades, eventually turned into a real shut-in, and is now complaining about how nobody takes her anywhere and she's stuck in prison. Whatever mom. Complaining is her native form of communication.
Guilt is pointless. You are doing all the right things for your mom and you have nothing to feel guilty for. You are going to have to train yourself not to let those toxic thoughts of regret, remorse, grief over lost opportunity, etc to rob you of your resilience and joy. It is work though, but it's absolutely imperative.
Choose happiness. It will take you far and it isn't forbidden.
Family secrets - I got so tired of putting up a front and keeping the family secret that all was well and we were a happy family. This also relates to communicating and not getting the response you hoped for. I have shared with several cousins, and it seems they just do not want to hear it. I got one snappy reply, one very delayed response which side stepped the issues but let me know they did not want to deal with it, and one non response, though this cousin had said more than once, we know you are going through a hard time with your mother. So batting zero there – very little family support. It is complicated by the sister who puts up a wonderful front when she wants to visit someone, and then, according to my nephew, goes home and bad mouths them all. My nephew is the only one who has been supportive – he knows his mother, and therefore understands his grandmother. I am happy for that support. I did once have some support from a relative in Norway who knows mother well, and also from a cousin in England when I laid things out after other sicced him on me. I think they are both dead now. Her siblings were supportive as they knew her, but they are all dead now.
I once found an excellent web page which had biblical bases for dealing with abusive parent. We are not required to put up with abuse. If fact we should protect ourselves from it.
Young adult days and phone calls and messages, and fears that I was doing heaven knows what. So embarrassing to come back to one’s room and find a bunch of messages to “Call your mother” pasted on the wall going up the stairs and then have people ask what the emergency was. “Nothing”. Mother always instinctively seemed to like the boyfriends who turned not to be good for me and disliked the ones who were good for me.
We have to learn to set boundaries, to not second guess or over think things (hard one for me). To readjust our self-images – too fat, not smart enough, too smart, not well dressed, can’t get along with people (because I would not put up with her sh*t) and so on. We need to unlearn the lies.
I have felt alone most of my life and that I had to deal with things by myself – which I did as a child. There was no help. I find it hard to accept help at times – but more feel I have to give it. Getting better at that.
Tirades - mother ranted on and one and on and on and seemed to gather energy from it. The rest of us would be wrung out and she was on a high. It was such cr*p.
Being two people - I always said that my mother and my sister did not know me. They constructed me to be who they needed me to be - the scapegoat, the black sheep, the fall guy. They even decided what kind of clothing and jewellery I could and could not wear, and what type of man I would end up with. I would figuratively shake my head in wonderment. They really do not know me -and I guess, don't want to. Their loss. I would say that my mother has a better idea of who I am than my sister has. I know they have talked about me behind my back ad nauseam and bad mouthed me. Whatever.
Yesterday was my birthday and, for the first time, I had no communication from my sis or my mother. It was awesome and liberating. YAY!!!!!! I am looking forward to a good year and one with more mental and emotional space. Oh, how I long for that. They “left me alone”!!! That they did on my birthday was the best gift. Loo, if you look at sites for children of parents with personality disorders and/or narcissism I think you will find it. We find ways of withdrawing from the abuse even as children.
I am slowly decreasing contact with mother. The crazy phone calls last year were awful and I cannot have that again. She does not have a private phone in hospital but will when she is moved to her new facility. If she is still on the meds, she will not call as often or at least not be as crazy. Once a week is enough. The staff can let me know if there is a problem.
Pats on the back for everyone for dealing with these nightmares and surviving intact.. The support here is great. Have a good day and do something good for you!
You don’t have the power to change her behavior but you can certainly change your reaction to it.
You can also break cycles. Don’t copy any of her personality traits.
If she isn’t willing to change her pessimistic behavior she will become lonely because most people will avoid her.
People like this are extremely difficult to be around. They will drain all of your energy.
i hope things improve soon.
try to really find solutions, so your life can blossom.
try not to later think:
“i didn’t do X, Y, Z in life, because of person A. and person B prevented me from doing W. and…”
all these people you admire (whether actors, athletes, singers…)…whatever your taste is, in who you admire…
they went for it!
(some of them succeeded because they’re extremely selfish, just focusing on their own goals for hours and hours…ignoring everyone else in their way) (i’m not advocating to become an extremely selfish person)
and of course there are many factors why someone succeeds. and everyone defines “success” in their own way.
my point is,
go for it! go for your life!
find ways to be kind to others AND yourself.
plan your life/future, so that your elderly parent doesn’t, even unintentionally, plan/decide your future.