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How can I control my sanity when everything my elderly mother does is getting under my skin?

Asked by  |  Jan 28, 2010

Everything my mother does is getting under my skin and I'm having a lot of trouble maintaining my sanity. She turned 91 yesterday. She had a pacemaker put in about a month ago, but she is still in atrial fibrillation so is on a lot of BP meds. She fights about many things, the whole giving up of independence issue. I try to ignore a lot, and I do try and lift her spirits, but when she refuses to take her pills and then something bad happens, then I'm the one who has to pick up the pieces, so I told her that if she was going to continue to stay in our house, she had to take her pills. She has a tissue fetish and everywhere in the house are bits and pieces of used tissue, she stuffs it up her sleeves, in her underwear, in her purse, in her pockets, in her bed, on the floor, it's everywhere; it gives me the creeps. I have politely asked her to try and empty her pockets and sleeves and underwear before I do her wash so I don't have to encounter it.

I realize that this sounds petty, it's just the build up of things, her attitude which is often demanding, she has trouble ever saying please, she just barks out orders. She is very vain about her appearance and even though she can hardly stand she will spend two hours on her face routine before she goes to bed. Which I'm sure is why she still looks so good at 91.

I love her but I am losing patience and tolerance. My husband says I just need to detach. Each day I get up, I ask God for more strength, love and tolerance, and humility. I am blessed with a good home; and when I think about Haiti and what is going on there, I get disgusted with myself.


Carol Bradley Bursack, Jan 28, 2010

Over the span of two decades, author, columnist, consultant and speaker Carol Bradley Bursack cared for a neighbor and six elderly family members. Her experiences inspired her to pen, "Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories," a portable support group book for caregivers.


You are in a difficult situation and are trying very hard to cope with it. I'm glad you have perspective, but you shouldn't downplay your own feelings. Your husband is right - detaching from it is the thing to do. Easier said than done, which is why support groups help. Even CoDa (which is a codependency group) may help, simply because we are all a bit codependent, but they can give you tools to help you detach with love. Obviously, support groups like this one, here and in person if there is one in your area, are good. You can share stories and blow off steam.

You also need to get breaks. The tissue thing could be OCD, so maybe her doctor can help with that, or at least help you understand that this could be one thing she can't help.

Good luck. You sound like a wonderful person. You do need a breather. And have your husband cloned!



Give a Hug

Feb 4, 2010

Yes, detachment, even though you may feel guilty about it, helps. I prayed every day before I went into my parent's house. (I know it is much harder having them live with you.) I played a game with myself---in my thoughts calling them "Mr. Harold and Mrs. Ethel", not their names. As if they were unrelated people, so it really did not matter as much if they were verbally abusive. I tried most of the time just to overlook their highly opinionated views, only partly listening and thinking of something pleasant. I sometimes wore bright colors or funny themed socks, ect. just to lighten my own mood. Hope this helps.



Give a Hug

Sep 11, 2010

I can totally relate! The only thing that kept me sane was my weird sense of humor. I would share "home stories" with co-workers and friends and they would start chuckling at the things that most aggravated me, then I would start laughing, too. The laughter may have been a bit on the hysterical side. Anyway, after the elderly in-laws moved on, I wrote all of our stories down and published a book, Slightly Dented Halos. Cathartic experience!!



Give a Hug

Jan 26, 2011

Mom passed on December 29th, 2010. She would have been 92 today. So no more tissue issues, and fortunately I'm starting to be able to remember all her younger days and her independent positive spirit! To those of you still dealing with the day to day aging issues, hang in there, give yourself breaks, get walks, and also some latitude to know that as long as you are trying your best that's the best you can do. We are not perfect. And I'm sure my mom appreciated all I did for her, that gives me comfort, too.



Give a Hug

Feb 11, 2011

My grandmother must be one of those foreign spies...she was awakened by a word one day. Her mission is to steal all american paper products and hoarde them for herself. She must destroy all trace of paper that she herself has used so that her paper cannot be reused. It won't sink to the bottom of the bowl unless it is shredded no matter what was wiped with it.

She has her pockets stuffed with so much paper she looks like a cartoon. She is very serious with her reasoning for drying her tissues that she blew her nose on the pictures on the table next to her. Hey, she isn't suffering from Dementia....clearly I am or I wouldn't be so careless with my tissue.

Grandma will fight you if you try to take her tissue or reason with her about it. She must sleep with 2 tissues under her pillow.

I have sat with her too long today. I have to go now so I can use paper and throw it away.



Give a Hug

Jan 29, 2010

I thought it was a great relief when mom finally agreed to move in with me & my family. Since I lived 200 miles away,my siblings werent doing much to help her. That was 5 years ago . I think I added 5yrs on to her life and took 5 yrs off of mine. Mom has high blood pressure. She doesnt want to take any new meds. She says shes allergic to the medicine. Well she not, we've done testing its more like panic attacks. Her doc. told her she will more likely have a stroke if she keeps doing what shes doing.
I find her more playing games for attention which I never thought in million years she would do. When I left the house panic attack. which will make bp go up. The otherday she said my husbands alarm clock went off for 2 hours. I unpluged it. She said the music was so loud. I told her we would take it up with her doc. at her next visit. Well that stopped that.



Give a Hug

Sep 11, 2010

I can relate completely to what you're saying. I'm divorced and have been living with my 89 year old widowed mother for 3 years. She has dementia and I swear she's trying to take me there as well! I'm an only child, and I work from home, and I have to get away on weekends or the things she says will actually start making sense. I also get the game-playing.....we live in a 55+ condo community and I listen to some of the other elders me, they ALL do it and take great delight in it. I think it's a way for them to retain some level of control. Mom's doctor told me a couple years ago to come to grips with the fact that, in Mom's mind, nothing I do or say will ever be right, so I'd better get used to being wrong. That's a tough thing to live with, but at least it grounds me and helps me shrug off the comments and weirdness. I still lose my patience, I still get angry, and I still feel guilty about that.....but I think that, if you deal with and/or live with dementia behavior on a daily basis, you need to recognize your limitations.

Your heart is in the right place, you're doing the best you can for your entire family, and sometimes you just need to smile and walk away.....your mom will probably not remember any confrontations, anyway!



Give a Hug

Jan 29, 2010

Hang in there, when things get alittle overwhelming take a deep breath, pull yourself up, brush yourself off, and start over. When Im sitting in the doc. office waiting I take little pieces of time for myself Sitting in silence-might be time for myself. In my car I might take the senic route. What I'm trying to say is.. you are in control of how you feel about things. Try not to get bogged down by the what ifs. I know this sounds a little off but maybe she knows the tissue thing drives you crazy. At 91 god bless her she doesnt have alot of things to control.



Give a Hug

Feb 6, 2010

Ahhh....the tissue/USED tp thing. Mom was beginning that when I intervened. Now we take it out of her shoes, from under her pillows and from between her sheets (the amount of laundry we have to do is everybody else here), drawers, our stuff, you name it.

I was told that it is hoarding behavior and my mom had huge hoarding behavior with all the useless stuff she packratted over the years. Nightmare. Still cleaning it out.

Mom goes through a lot of tissue because she's a drooler. You have to be careful when you're doing up her shirt because she can nail you. Can make you urpy before the second cup of coffee.

Mom holds the tissue/paper towel/tp in her hand and when the drool runs down her chin, wipes it off with her hand/back of her hand/heel of her hand and if that it not gross enough, she never fails to look at it and it is clear that she is amazed that she drools. Sometimes she wants to show you. The kicker is that instead of wiping her hands on the tissue, she will wipe her hands on her pants/shirt/chair/tablecloth.

She does this every 5 minutes. Seriously.

We use pretty sheets on her big, comfortable chair so we deal with it and keep it all clean, but omg.

I used to pop up and try to get her to wipe her face but my back hurts. If you hand her a tissue while she's doing the drool thing she blows her nose.

The TP thing here is important because of the germs. It takes a lof of attention because mom hides TP used for the bathroom. omg2

What gets under our skins here is being grossed out all the time.

We love mom and take good care of her and I know she really doesn't want to be 'out of control', but you guys are right, it doesn't matter, it just makes you nuts.

I was thinking about using a fishing pole with a sponge attached to it so I could dab her chin but not get up.




Give a Hug

Feb 6, 2010

Bobbie that's a good one, coupled with a complete diver suit on to change those diapers, we're in business!


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