Mentally Unstable: 72 Year Old Mother - Opinions & Experiences Welcome & Wanted.

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It’s a very long, complex story, but in the lengthiest nutshell ever: She’s an alcoholic who’s been sober for 2+ years (we think). Every couple of years she has a “crazy” period that then subsides and she acts normal again. She’s been married 54 years to my Dad who has his own memory issues. It has been several months since my Brother and our spouses have seen or talked with them, but we used to be in close contact. We have all reached our limit with her long history of mean, erratic, narcissistic, attention-getting behavior. She claims that she’s exhausted from care giving (she’s talking about making simple meals for my Dad, or giving him a pre-made deli sandwich) and that she needs help. She demands that we drive her to a doctor’s office that is ten minutes away, because she claims that my Dad can’t drive safely. We do not live nearby and all work full-time, so our side of the story is that she is over exaggerating. Medical issues are “her thing” and she’s got a long history and myriad of supposed illnesses which she uses to get our attention. This year, she called 911 nine times in five days and nothing was wrong with her. My Brother is a paramedic who knows when something is wrong or not - - there was nothing wrong with her and he was getting called at 4am over her non-emergencies. Her doctor of several years severed their relationship because she demanded that he sit on the floor, told him that she was 72 years old and knew more than him, and then put her hand over his mouth to shut him up. We’ve been in contact with that doctor and even went to a family appointment with her. He suggested that he’s done everything that he can for her physically and thought that she needed to see someone for her emotional health. She agreed on the day, but then reneged a day or two later. At that meeting, her patient file was literally about 8-inches thick from all of her supposed problems. When she’s not focused on her health issues, she’s focused on my Dad’s declining memory. She self-diagnosed him with Alzheimer’s and told us he had three years to live. Then a year later she claimed he didn’t have dementia after all. If he goes to the post office and doesn’t come back when she thinks he should be back, she calls the police. When she was in the hospital, my Dad went home and forgot to call her, so she had the city police look for him and go to their house. They knocked on the door and he was there. She’s very paranoid, erratic, impulsive and makes up stories. She lives in a senior living complex and claimed for years that her neighbor was a hooker – literally. This year she decided that the neighbor wasn’t hooking anymore and now they’re friends. She loves to sit around and tell us all about what a horrible childhood she had and that her Dad abused her sexually (another long, complicated, probably untrue, story). She berates and talks negatively about our Dad as if he’s not in the room, but he’s sitting right next to her. She goes through periods where she will send us dozens of e-mails in the middle of the night that are anxiety-based (such as she claims she can’t find a key) and she needs URGENT help - - telling us to get over to her house RIGHT AWAY. Up until now, she has refused to see a psychiatrist; however, yesterday she sent us all an e-mail that said she had seen a psychiatrist that day and he said she has no mental illness, that her behavior was due to illnesses that are now under control - and he recommended the entire family get counseling. So now she thinks that she’s done what we asked her to do and that our relationship should pick up where it left off. If she refuses to get help, or thinks she’s gotten all the help she needs, I don’t know how, or even whether to, have a relationship with her. I guess the bottom line for me is that I feel guilty because I’m not “helping her” and I worry that someone is going to take advantage of them financially or otherwise. On the other hand, I feel that I’ve done all I can do for a person in her mental state and that we should just let time take its course. My Brother is DONE and wants nothing to do with her.

4 Comments

Hi, teabird. I'm another member of the nutty parent club. Mine is also an attention-seeking hypochondriac. Mine has never called the police, but she loves to visit the doctors. I had a post on "Serial Symptoms" about her a couple of days ago. If your mother is like mine, she is hard to deal with, because she is always right. And even if she is wrong it is because you made her that way. I don't envy your dad at all. In fact, I don't envy me at all.

Isn't it great to have places like this to vent? Vent away, gf!
Yikes! You and your brother have a big challenge, for sure!

I'll address a few bits and pieces.

If your dad has dementia, he should not be driving, even 10 minutes away. But your mother does not exactly have a sterling track record for her observational skills, does she? So, what exactly is dad's health status? I think that is an issue that should get high priority from you and your brother. What kind of "caregiving" does he really need? What are his limitations, if any? Should he be driving? Handling the finances? Be left alone for periods of time? Without taking Mother's word for anything, I'd focus on Dad.

I assume that your mother does not drive. In the event that your father shouldn't, what are the viable transportation options for them? Does the senior living association offer any kind of transportation services? Does the county or community offer some kind of MediCab service for people in your parents' situation? What about simply calling cabs? I know that people hate the expense of cabs, but if no one in the household is driving, what will giving up the car save each year in insurance and maintenance? I'll bet that would go a long way toward paying cab service to a clinic 10 minutes away! In other words, I don't think that any of the four of you should be personally responsible for transportation, but I think it is a reasonable task to help your parents solve this need.

Personally, I don't believe your mother's email about the visit to a psychiatrist. But why not take advantage of the opportunity to get family counselling? You and your brother (and spouses, if they like) deserve support and guidance. Mother and Father could benefit from some objective professional input. If she is willing for the "the entire family get counselling," including, of course, her, I'd say go for it! And that could help you with the if/how to maintain a relationship question.

It sounds like Mom may be subject to panic attacks. (One of the reasons I don't believe her email about the psychiatrist. If she went, she did not report all of the issues in her life.) Panic/anxiety attacks are treatable. If she were getting treatment then you could all learn how best to support her. For example you could remind her of her breathing exercises if she contacts you in a panic in the middle of the night. But if it is an unacknowledged mental health problem, then nobody really knows how to deal with it.

Good luck!
BTW, mine makes up things her doctor tells her that goes along with what she wants to do. She'll even make things up if I was in the same room, then she'll tell me that I'm the one who didn't hear right. We ought to have a club for nutty parents.
JessieBelle: Yes, this is so nice to be able to know that I’m not alone in the crazy boat.
I’ve never used a forum like this before and I literally feel so much better; thanks 
I read your post from a couple of days ago and it sounds so familiar. It sounds like you live with your Mom which has got to be VERY challenging.

Jeannegibbs: My Mom drives just locally and my Dad isn’t driving anymore. Hiring a cab or driver is not a problem or concern. A couple of years ago, my Dad had some comprehensive tests with a neurologist and everything came out as typical aging. Their previous doctor told my Brother and me that he believed that my Dad’s mental issues have to do with living in that complex relationship with her. But it probably couldn’t hurt to find out more about his condition and needs. It’ll be a challenge because he’s very passive and quiet - - she does ALL the talking for both of them. In January I asked them how the bill paying, etc. is going and they said that they both paid the bills. My Brother actually looked at their bills/check book and he said everything looked fine.
I think the family counseling suggestion of hers is more manipulation. She mentioned a specific psychologist that was supposedly recommended. That psychologist has history with my Mom that we don’t feel was positive (My Mom went under the drug Sodium Amytol 20 years ago because that psychologist thought my Mom had been sexually abused in the 1940s.) Honestly, I don’t have any desire to go to family counseling at this point in my life …
My Mom does have panic attacks and so does my Sister-In-Law. So my Sister-In-Law helped talk my Mom off a ledge by working with the breathing, etc., but she refuses to be treated for anything and it’s just a rinse-and-repeat cycle. Plus, when my Mom calls up my Sister-In-Law and claims that she’s an elder abuser, it really doesn’t motivate anyone to help her.

JessieBelle & Jeannegibbs: Thank you for your kind and insightful input; appreciate it.

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