Fall and Winter hypochondria may be back.

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Oy, it seems to be setting in again. For the last two years, my mother has been coming down with illnesses in the colder months. This past two weeks she has had a pain in her hip and leg that sounds like it is sciatic pain. It wouldn't surprise me, because she sits all day long in a recliner. We've been to a doctor and had tests and x-rays that showed no problem. But she is getting sicker by the day, wrapping in blankets and taking her temperature to show how sick she is. Her doctor told her she needed to stay as active as possible, but my mother says she hurts too bad to move. She wants to go to the hospital almost every day. She is sure it is a blood clot or cancer.

I'm always left not knowing what to do. She has cried wolf so much that I don't know when to listen anymore. I've spent more time in doctors' offices than many doctors have, it seems. Today I fussed at her and told her the doctor said to keep moving, that I was afraid if she just kept sitting there that she soon wouldn't be able to walk at all, which would mean she wouldn't be able to stay home anymore. I wouldn't be able to care for her at home if she couldn't walk.

She got up and moved a while, but returned to her sick mode late in the evening. She talks about her pain nonstop. I do worry that there might be something and I don't want to ignore, but we have spent so much time on the hypochondria doctor merry-go-round in the last four years that I just can't do it anymore. Her doctor ordered PT for her, but I can't get her to go. I told her there was only one person who could help her, and that was herself. She is the only person who can make her get up and do something.

It seems like everything should be so easy. I don't know why it has to be so hard. My mother has diabetes and dementia. The rest has just been make believe so far.


I get it. My husband is a bit of a hypochondriac. He will be in the 3rd or 4th week of a cold, gradually getting better, with some residual coughing, and he'll decide that he needs to see the doctor. When the cold is new and severe, he tells the world how intolerable it is, swearing every time he has to blow his nose!

We went to the ER, and to 2 doctor's appointments for stomach pain related to constipation. I was pretty sure that he just needed to load up on Metamucil, but was afraid to ignore it, in case it was something else. It did go away completely.

Can you give her a Tylenol for pain that is really a calcium tablet? Or maybe a real tylenol, to see if that stops the pain and the complaints? If the pain gets better with Tylenol, maybe it really is pain. Probably not cancer, but still pain. Can you promise to call the doctor "in a few days?" Or will she remember that perfectly? What about music? Does anything work to distract her?

"It seems like everything should be so easy?" Really? I just read this great young adult novel called "The Fault in Our Stars" about a girl with cancer where they point out that "the world is not a wish-granting factory." Sorry, dear JB, it is never easy for long. But the book is very good, so get it and read it and make your mother read it, and you'll both live happily ever after. (Hugs.)

Do you think that Mom could possibly have Seasonal Affective Disorder, and the depression is masquerading as pain? Just a thought ...
I don't know, Jeanne. The mental problems are so deep and so many that I can't wade through them. When she goes to the doctor, things are not so bad and she is light and dismissive of her discomforts. It changes when she gets back home. If I were a psychologist, I would say she has a dependent personality, so she wants me to do things to fix what is wrong, but doesn't want to participate in the fixing.
Oh, no! I just discovered that I have learned helplessness in this situation. I am thinking about the mice that get foot shocks that they can't escape until finally they give up and just bear the zaps. Crazy me to put up with it.
Not that this is the whole answer, but if she's quite immobile/hard to get out of the house she is able to qualify for home physical therapy (VNA or other agency) so they can come to her. Might help, worth a try. Always good to have a fresh set of eyes in there too!
Thanks, everyone. Today I scheduled her for some PT. Her sessions don't start until next week. I'll be taking her. It will be good to get out of the house to do things. I also introduced the idea of assisted living tonight after she talked about having the floors fixed (delusions) again. I mentioned two places where she knows people and told her we could sell the house. This shows how desperate I am to get my life back, since the house is willed to me. I told her she didn't seem very happy here, so it might help to move where she would have people around. She said no, no, that this was her home. The seed is planted, however, so maybe she'll think on it.
JessieBelle- I was wondering, is this a Fall and Winter pattern for your mum? Does it only happen in the Fall and Winter and then when Spring arrives she is better again until Fall? If so, I would say this is more psychological and I agree with Jeanne about the possibility of Seasonal Affective Disorder. They now have light bulbs that are more reflective of daylight than nightlight, perhaps you could try them?!
It could be, macada. I turned on lights today, opened doors and blinds fully and let the sun shine in. There is another thing that happens when the temperature drops. She starts saying it's too cold to go outside, so she stops going for walks or sitting in the swing. She cuts herself off from her one friend. So she is getting less light, less exercise, and less social interaction. All of this might feed in.

We have a white light lamp. It could be worth a try.

I just thought about how much of our time can be spent trying to make someone happy who is determined not to be. I have to admit that I am to the "enough already" point. I am having to come up for oxygen.
I am dealing with the exact same thing with my mum, she get's depressed every fall. I have found that now as her live-in-caregiver I just have to go about doing my duties and try really hard not to let her mood affect me. As long as I know that I am giving her good care, I cannot control her mood. You can't control what your mum does not want to do. So.. just try and relax and go with the flow, I'm going to try it to, I think it might make life easier for you :-)
Are you in a part of the country where the reduced daylight hours are even more noticeable? I know it gets dark earlier everywhere after DST ends, but the further north you go, the earlier it seems to get dark. If she does have SAD, or even just prefers the DST part of the year, this could contribute to her feeling down. I've known people who benefit from the lamp intended for treating SAD.

I think there is also value to what you said about opening up curtains (and windows when appropriate), especially on sunny days. Even if it's cold outside, just having a lot of light coming in can improve a person's mood. I have bought my mom a lot of back patio stuff, like glow-in-the-dark things, glass balls that look gorgeous in the day time, ceramic animals, and the metal spinny things with shapes like a sun or a fairy that you hang up. She gets a big kick out of looking at the patio (as do I), even when it's too hot or cold to go out there. If your mom is the kind to respond to the 'prettyification' of the immediate outside area, that might be worth trying. Even cheap trinkets you can stick in a planter can be cheerful.

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