Can't argue with a dementia patient!

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Sigh. Yesterday got into it with Mom. It ruins my whole day, and of course ten minutes later, she forgets the whole thing. I took her to the doctor (clean bill of health - 101 yrs next month). I took her to lunch - the usual, she eats 1/2 of a child's burger and wraps the rest in a napkin, plays with the fries, drinks the chocolate milk (of course)

She is very very slow because she refuses to use a walker, only a cane, and is very unsteady. She is old, old old - and refuses the help she needs, won't accept her age - very stubborn. Over the years taking her to the grocery store meant she picks up ridiculous things and puts them in the basket, nothing she would eat. Then she would say she's tired and wants to go home, halfway up the first aisle. She can't work the little driving cart, refuses to get in a wheel chair, etc. I don't dare let go of her in the store in case she falls.

Big mistake on my part, I told her I would take her back to AL and then go shopping for her "snacks" (ensure, yogurt, cookies, milk, ice cream - all she WILL eat) She has no stove, only a microwave she doesn't know how to use. She can't even work the coffee pot any more. She said she was coming with me. I told her it would be easier for me to do it. She proceeded to tell me she needed a lot of groceries so she could cook her dinners in her room. Dumb me - I said Mom you don't cook in your room, you have no stove. "oh yes, I do". "what?" I say. "I heat up things. I need tv dinners (six years ago she might have but since then, in IL we would find them all, opened half cooked, not eaten in the garbage) So, on went the argument with her insisting she go with me. I had to pull to the side of the road to calm down. So I did the only thing I could do - took her back to AL, grabbed an aide and suggested that Mom needed dessert. Then I went shopping, sneaked into her room without her seeing me, filled the fridge, etc and left.
Feeling guilty, I know she longs for the old times when she could do all those things like shop (which was her only interest her whole life) and my heart breaks for her. But I chose the easier path - much better to disagree in the car and get AL to distract her than to have a fight with her in the grocery store about why she can't buy lamb chops and tv dinners. I'm sure she has forgotten the whole thing, but this will stay with me for days.


I'm so sorry Amy. You certainly did the best thing in the situation, but it doesn't make the guilt go away. I argued with MIL yesterday about whether she had or had not eaten lunch. I knew she hadn't, and don't know why I had to press her for an answer, my brain knew she would just lie to me *sigh* I'm going to blame it on lack of sleep - and just try to do better today ;)

Sometimes it helps me a little when an outsider (MIL's doctor, PT, or even the lady behind us in the store) recognizes that MIL is stubborn and giving me a hard time, says to me "you are doing a great job with her" and gives me a little smile of understanding. This is a hard job we have some days, and just a little encouragement helps get through the hard days so we make it to the next good one. Sending you some [[[hugs]]] and encouragement -- you ARE doing great, don't forget it!
Oh, I get so weary of the angry yelling thing my mother does to get her way. I know how you feel, AmyGrace. And it is definitely pointless to try to get any empathy at all. You did the right thing taking her home first. You knew that from experience. I don't even try to take my mother grocery shopping. I did it a few times when I first got here and discovered she didn't have good judgment and wouldn't listen to me that we already had 10 of something. It was too much of a battle.
Learning how not to argue with a parent with dementia - this is the hardest thing I'm am trying to learn! I try to reason with her, use specific situations...she replies like your mom does - "no I didnt" or "I can too" and to her that makes so - end of story! My mom knows how to push my buttons like no one else and actually seems to enjoy doing it. I take the bait almost every time.
Amy, It's OK you took the easy route. And true, don't argue with her about anything. She's not the same and it only frustrates you. I saw my mother try and argue insignificant points with my Dad at the end. I couldn't understand why she didn't just laugh it off and let him talk. I hope you can allow yourself a break, maybe this incident is evidence you need one. My mother is 83, healthy and active, other than she does forget some things and becomes anxious so she won't drive anymore. I still had to make boundaries for myself. I take her shopping once a week. I make sure her apartment is safe, and everything works. I call her a couple of times a week. I take her to any family event we have, of course, and to the Dr as well. That's all I can do and stay balanced myself. I have a husband, 4 grown children and 3 grandchildren and I work part time. I am trying to show my children how they should care for us as we age. I don't want them to feel guilty, I want them to enjoy their time with us. As they age, their personality traits become stronger. My Dad was the sweetest man alive until the moment he died, and intensive hospice care for him his last 2 months was not a burden to me. I wanted to be there. My mother is demanding and harsh, and will fight if I'm not careful, I have told her there will be no arguing. I have to care for her differently. I don't think we are obligated to be miserable as we care for our family. Hope you can find boundaries that work for you. Make a rule never to argue with her again. It can only make your time left with her more pleasant. Your happiness really matters, make it a priority. It can only add to the quality of your mothers life.
Amy I think your mom is one luck lady to have you but at what point will the field trips end? Is it really worth the hassles and at age 101 how much does mom get out of this? I don't mean to be critical at all, but I read lots of comments on the forum about these outings with elders and I can't imagine putting myself through this.
Windyridge it wasn't a field trip. It was a trip to the doctor to have the wax cleaned out of her ears because she (again) couldn't hear. She missed lunch at the facility so I treated her to a Wendy's hamburger on the way back to AL. Driving her home I said I would pick up some snacks, which is when she started in about shopping. I haven't taken her anywhere in 8 months except to doctors and hearing aid place. That's about all I can handle, having to talk at the top of my lungs to her and repeating everything twice in the car (even though she has new hearing aids that work perfectly.) She is too old and doesn't have the stamina or understanding for even visits to family things. We did not even tell her when my nephew got married. She thinks she can do everything she did 20 years ago, and we know from experience she just ruins it for others by wanting to go home, not being able to hear, not understanding what is going on and being generally restless. She is much better off in her safe little environment in AL.
Thanks for the clarification. I know how difficult it is when I visit my Mom and take her to all the docs and try to do a little shopping. She's 84, pretty good mentally but poor mobility and stamina. She likes getting out occasionally but when she gets home from even the simplest outings she's exhausted.
You are all so wise. It is wonderful to be able to share the sadness, guilt, worry, with others who are going through the same, and who understand and care. Thank you!
Mom is so impossible. She won't shower, lies that she does, fights AL when they try to help her. Yesterday she smelled like poo, so I know she is not clean again. They try so hard at AL to work with her.

The doctor told her she needs a walker she is so unsteady, she argued. I talked to her, she argued. A few hours ago I received a call from AL - she had stood up, lost her balance and fallen and they sent her off to the hospital because she hit her head. Neither my sister nor I can go, we both have night dept perception problems and can't drive after dark. The hospital said she is ok so they probably sent her back to AL by now. AL told my sister "she usually refuses to go to the hospital" meaning she falls all the time. In IL, she would fall and would not allow them to tell us. (In IL they have the legal responsibility to respect the resident's wishes as it is "assumed" they are mentis compas.
Sigh, I am so tired of this. Every time the phone rings I wonder if this will be the fall that either cripples her or kills her. For some reason she lives a charmed life and dozens of falls and the worst she has had was some bumps and bruises and a cut on her head. Sighhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh............
My 85 y/o mother is in the beginning stages of dementia and I deal with the arguing thing all the time. Her Dr. will not address the dementia, other than to tell me that she indeed does have it. He will not tell her or help me with any other type of diagnosis. I had to petition DMV myself to have her tested because he would not step in. But because she is not aware of her limitations, she wants to be very negative, argumentative and passive-aggressive in most situations. Then 10 minutes later she is not even aware that I was upset, or seems not to care. Mom broke her hip in May and has since moved in with my husband and me. Now, I just don't know if I can do this. I am an only child and work full-time. So far, she is okay to be alone all day but just dealing with the verbal battling is driving me crazy and I'm beginning to be resentful of her living with us. She constantly tells me how to do things, she speaks so softly most of the time that I cannot hear her and have to repeatedly tell her to speak louder, sometimes 2 or 3 times before I can hear her. I find myself angry and tired all of the time because everything is a struggle with her or a verbal altercation even though I try not to rise to the bait. Like AmyGrace said so well...Sighhhhhhhh!
Gigi: As awkward as it may feel, start shopping for skilled care for your mother. Now. (Not saying you need to do the deed ASAP. Just saying you need to know your options. If/when/how you act on your knowledge is a whole different journey.) Seek info from your local agency on aging. Take tours. Ask a lot of questions. Educate yourself about private-pay vs Medicaid, spend-down and MERF. Don't wait til you're in a crisis to learn that Facility #1 does not accept dementia patients, Facility #2 has an 11-month waiting list and Facility #3 is 40 miles away. The sad fact is: Mom's hip might get better, but her dementia will only get worse. "OK to be alone" will expire. You will only know this after the fact. Hopefully the "tell" will be something tame. Like maybe one day you'll come home from work to find that mom scrubbed the kitchen floor with your favorite lipstick and watered the houseplants with laundry detergent. Or....maybe you'll come home from work and be greeted by $10,000 worth of water damage because mom started to run a bath and then promptly forgot about it for 6 hours. Or how about a kitchen fire? [Shudder.] Your heart is in the right place. But it all goes to crap if mom is in a setting that does not address her escalating needs. You also need to ask yourself if living with a dementia patient properly addresses YOUR needs. You need a full night's sleep every night, so you can perform at work. You need to relax after work. You need to preserve your own physical and mental health. You also need to be a true companion to your husband. That's a tall order when you're constantly strung out and your home -- which was once your haven -- has been transformed into a dementia triage unit. Your mother's decline is heartbreaking. And it will happen whether you allow it to ruin your health, sanity, career and marriage -- or not. Be honest with yourself and have a frank talk with your husband. Whatever you decide, make the decision together.

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