How do I deal with my mothers constant non-stop complaining?

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My mother has always been a "complainer" and wears her heart on her sleeve. Every ache, pain and disappointment has been articulated throughout her lifetime. Since she has truly become more frail and has a range of medical issues, the complaining is non-stop, 24/7. From morning to night I hear a litany of complaints that start with her neck, back, stomach - virtually every part of her body and bodily function. She is on dialysis and most certainly has some serious issues and I don't expect her to suffer silently. But the constant complaints have left me depressed, weary and, often quite angry with her. When we are with others, she behaves quite differently and, in fact, at a recent family gathering, I was told by several people how "well" she appeared to be doing! When it is the two of us, as it often is, the complaints do not stop, nor do the grunts, groans and moans. I have tried to speak to her about this but she tells me that she is old and sick and "entitled" to complain. I have seen people with terminal diagnoses with a more positive and pleasant attitude. I know she is not going to change at 85 years old but how can I cope with this continual barrage of misery? She sees a psychiatrist regularly and is on anti-depressants. She refuses to consider an outside caregiver or assisted living. I feel abused and defeated....and dread old age because of what I hear all day.


Janet I feel your pain. I am married to a man who is 75, had 4 TIA's in 2003, and has always been a rather negative person. Well at least after we got married. He also can put on a great presentation when in public, being a natural salesman. I am now in search of how to get some type of care for him as I can no longer do it. We had a huge fight a while ago and he threatened me. Well that was the last straw so now I am trying to figure out what the next step is for living seperatly. I can only imagine what it must be like for you as your's is a parent. I will share that I had to go on anti-depressents / anti- anxiety to be able to deal with him and the rest of the world as I am the sole financial support and have been laid off for 2.5 yrs. I am so glad I found this site and your comments. Thanks for sharing
I wonder if your mother's psychiatrist would have some tips for you in how to cope with her complaining, Unless your mother has given permission I'm sure that he or she would not talk about your mother, but perhaps could talk in general terms about how to protect your own well-being in the face of constant negativity.

Your mother may be "entitled" to complain, but you are not "obligated" to listen to it constantly.

I hope you can work something out soon.
thanks for your post Janet... I work for a lady that does the same thing and do not have to be with her 24/7, I do not know how you have kept your sanity... and my lady has health issues too, for those things I have nothing but compassion, but when I hear how nice she is to her friends, to health workers, and then how she talks to me..... I want to walk out the door... my primary task is taking care of her husband with Alz., but she had decided she has a maid also, I did not sign on to clean the house, pick up and keep things clean and neat yes, and today I simply disengaged with her after she snapped my head off.. I am a very outspoken person, and it took everything I had to walk in the other room... and her constant complaints wear on me..... I have even talked with her about getting another caregiver, sometimes people just don't click, but oh no, she is very happy with me... well, I'm sure she is.... I stay professional regardless of how many times I hear her fussing and whining about something......
I don't have any suggestions as I am trying to figure out some ways to deal with this myself.... at least we both know we are not alone..... that has to count for something... if I come up with any MIRACLES I'll let you know.... hugs to you
Thank you for the great responses! I actually did speak to her psychiatrist (together with her) a few weeks ago when she was really verbally abusive to me. He told her in no uncertain terms that she could not do that and it was unacceptable. He said she was lucky to have a daughter who cared for her and that many people on dialysis do not have nearly the same support she has. Since that time she has not been as demonstrably angry with me, so perhaps it's a good idea to speak with him again the next time I take her there. I actually do not think she is aware of how wearing it is for her to complain out loud all day - not only for me but for herself as well.
My Mom is a complainer too. She is a healthy 81 year old but if you ask her how she is you hear the laundry list of complaints. If you tell her should see a doctor for this or that, she will turn it around to "why do you care." Talk about frustrating. So I am trying another approach. For instance yesterday she started complaining about being lonely and missing my Dad. She could hardly get along with my Dad, so I had a hard time listening to that. But I presented her options. She could come stay with me in Florida for the winter (she hasn't been to my house in 12 years), she could be around my brother more (he is too busy), she could call or visit her relatives (they have to call her, she is old), she could go out to lunch with her neighbor when she asks (she doesn't like her). You get the drift. So I tell her that is your options. She claims she wants to go to Assisted Living but just "not yet". The thing is I can hang up the phone, you need some distance from your Mom. Maybe Assisted Living if possible. Or a Senior Day Care.J ust anything to get away from her for a while.
Since my Dad moved in with us - he wants to constantly complain about my teen-age son.

One night, early on, he started in. I put up my hand in the 'talk to the hand' position and just said ~ I don't want to hear it.

That was very helpful. Now when he talks about my son - it's still not positive (though he never does it when my son is around) . . but it's like he wants it to be he and I against my son. NO WAY will that ever happen. Just the ever-so-slight criticisms.

It's to the point that I don't even like to share the good things about my son with him. I don't know if it's his dementia - but he can only see his imperfections and nothing good. Last night, he started in with that my son seems' unhappy' and I cut him off with an 'I can't and won't criticize him for that". And that ended that conversation.

It really has driven a wedge between my father and I. Because I hate to tell his narcissistic self - if I have to chose - it will be my son EVERY TIME. And if he can find nothing good to say about my son - then we will have no conversations about him - at all.

They used to be so close - but living together - one self-absorbed teen-ager and one self-absorbed old guy (with creeping dementia). . . . was a recipe for disaster.
I know exactly what you mean. This is also part of my mom's "complaining" nature.....she criticizes everyone and everything. I think part of it is her nature because this is nothing new, but when it comes to her own kids and grandkids it gets to be too much. I do believe part of it is a desire to be useful in our lives and our kids' lives. I know my mom thinks no one truly listens to what she has to say - but she doesn't realize it is simply because we are overly saturated with her complaints and comments about everything. I suppose we could give them each a few minutes each day to say how they feel about our kids so they don't feel that their opinions don't matter at all and maybe explain that it is the ongoing complaints and criticisms that are hard to absorb, because I think we agree that they may have something valid to say - it's more about how they say it and how often!
Senior Day Care or Assisted Living would be a dream! And she would love it. But won't entertain the idea at this point. I love your descriptions, Madge 1! That is my mother to a tee!!!!!!!!!!!
My mother has a separate room that she stays in. I have to go through the garage to get to her room. I carry her food, etc. over to her several times a day and visit with her. Most of the time, she wants to lay in her bed. When she is up and happens to start complaining, I just say that I have to go wash the dishes or do the laundry and just leave the room. I also do this when she starts saying that someone stole her pearls, her cane, her shoes, her "whatever". I basically can't stand it and I just say I have some work to do. If there is some way you can just disengage and try not to have conversations with her. For goodness sake, we do everything for these parents of ours and now we have to be their therapist too? NO THANK YOU PLEASE. Get an ipod and listen to some of your favorite music if you don't want to listen. It is not being disrespectful, it is self preservation! Just like our teenagers do with us!
It sounds like your mom is less negative now that you spoke to her psychiastrist. It seems that your mom has had a life long habit of complaining. When our parents age it seems that their basic personality becomes more pronounced. She is capable of better behavior when others are present therefore she can do better, it is a choice. She may want attention from you but doesn't realize she is alienating you. With my mom, some days I never know what her mood will be and it can change from minute to minute, hour to hour. When dementia sets in, not sure if your mom has a component of this, the part of the brain that normally inhibits doesn't work like it used to so they tend to not inhibit when they should. Hopefully, when we get old we are happily demented. Hope progress continues in a happy direction.

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