Frustration with Mom's dementia/memory.

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I'm trying to convince mother (86 yrs old with NO short term memory) to move in with me (I'm 58) closer to my son/family, which is about 20 miles away from her current home. I rent a small home right across from my family/grandchildren. She doesn't want to move and I don't want to move into her home. Obviously she doesn't realize how bad her memory is...one day she is calling crying about how lonely she is and wants to move in with me (so I found a place that fits her need which isn't too far away from my son). Today after I found this nice little place for us, she did nothing but come up with all the reasons I should move in with her. She repeats herself about everything 10 times within 10 minutes...seriously. It is so frustrating to keep answering the same question over and over and over....I'm not sure how long I'll stay sane living with her but it's the right thing to do. How in the world do people handle that kind of repetition from their parent???? If I do get her to agree to move, I just need advice on how to stay sane deaing with it....thanks!

8 Comments

Frankly, I don't think having your mother move in with you is necessarily the right thing to do.

You are correct that dealing with a person who has dementia is very frustrating and demanding and crazy-making. (It can also be rewarding and satisfying in certain circumstances.) If you are going nuts just dealing with her on the phone, how on earth do you think you'll stay sane living with her?

I assume you know that dementia moves in only one direction ... it gets worse. Most people with dementia quickly reach a point where they cannot live alone. It sounds like your mother is at that point. Sometimes the best solution is to live with a family member. Sometimes -- but far fewer times than this solution is attempted.

Mom is lonely. Can you devote 24/7 to entertaining her? Because that is pretty much what it would take to satisfy her. She can't remember that you just spent an hour playing cards with her, and she can't look forward to going out to dinner with you and your son's family tonight. She just wants attention Right Now. Not her fault, of course, but something that will get very wearing on you.

She would have company and frequent activities if she were in a care center. She'd have other adults to interact with. My mother has dementia, and is in a nursing home. She loves going to bingo (even though she often doesn't remember that she did an hour later), she loves getting her hair done right there. She is always excited when they bring in entertainment (especially the accordion player). Even though she is wheelchair-bound she has gone on some of the "field trips" to WalMart. And we kids come and visit her at her house. We can each be totally patient for a couple of hours at a time. We don't get frustrated. We can relax and be her loving daughters.

I suggest you start looking at appropriate care centers close to where you now live. Doing what is best for you when it is also best for your mother is NOT selfish.
My mother is extremely unsocial and I would like to at least make the effort to be with her before sending her to an assisted living facility, against her will. I would feel more guilty for not even trying. I'm sure a lot of caregivers deal with the repetition issue and have ideas on how they deal with it.
You don't actually have to answer all the questions all the time, verbally... sometimes there is some other way to reassure or distract besides having to just say the same thing over and over that does not satisfy and is not even remembered. Sorry you are going through this! You probalby feel guilty as I did when I made certain decisions that my mom could not longer make for herself, but you need to do the best thing for her and for you, even if she verbalizes a lot about something else that would not work. She has a lot of anxiety because of all the changes she can't even make sense of, and anything that increases her trust that you care about her will help her a little, but with that much dementia and anxiety it is going to be hard to communicate that especially verbally.
My grandma will be repetitive at times and sometimes I choose to answer her but other times I'll choose to distract her. She loves looking at pictures so sometimes when she's having a really bad moment where she repeats herself a lot, I'll grab a photo album and let her flip the pictures and look at them. She especially loves to look at my niece and nephew since they are still little. Sometimes just a distraction will help stop the questions.

Another thing I do sometimes is change the topic. If my grandma has a doctor's appointment that day or even had one the day before, she won't remember but will focus on this doctor's appointment for a few days. Every few minutes she'll ask when the doctor's appointment is and when I repeat myself she'll reply, "I just can't get my mind wrapped around that." It can get frustrating but what I'll do is totally change the topic or turn on a movie so she's focused on something other than the doctor's appointment. I have to admit I have noticed the tv works less and less as I think she's having trouble remembering what is going on to even enjoy the show or movie. But point is distraction is your friend with this thing. If she's worried about something making her not think about it helps or at least it works in my situation.
From what you describe, SherylBeth, your mother is in a moderate stage of dementia and does need someone with her. People with dementia can do unsafe things, such as forget an eye of the stove is on, and have trouble with medication management. They are also easy prey for telemarketers, fundraisers, and others. Sometimes it is easy to figure out what to do. It is the solution that makes the most sense. Other times it is more difficult because of finances or personalities involved.

I have been living with my mother for five years. It has not been easy. I've heard the same stories the entire time. I can quote them word for word now. The only new stories I hear are the ones she makes up. Those I know are not true. She is best at making up stories when company is here. Yesterday when family was here for Christmas, she entertained them with a few that involved things I had done or problems with the house. I didn't correct her, but let them know that none of the things said were true. She was not lying. She just constructs new realities in her mind that become true after she says them.

Yesterday she asked my nephew and his fiancee when they were going to be married 3 or 4 times. They were great and just answered her each time. She has asked me a few times since then. I just answer her. These things are not a problem, since I know she isn't doing it to drive me crazy. Her brain is just not storing the information.

You have to ask yourself if you could handle this type of behavior or would it drive you nuts. I think that someone caring for a loved one with dementia has to be able to "tune out" and not take things to heart. It can be hard to do at the beginning, because there is still that part of you that wants your parent to be like they were. Over time that expectation vanishes and attention changes to keeping them as comfortable, safe, and content as possible.

I think that most of us will know what to do when the time comes. There are a lot of good facilities out there -- maybe some that house some friends of hers. If someone has adequate resources, they can pay to have caregivers come into the home. Most of us, however, are not so fortunate, so we have to choose either a facility (assisted living or nursing home) or family care.
You say, "I would like to at least make the effort to be with her before sending her to an assisted living facility." I really respect that. Give it a try! And keep in mind that there other options and if this isn't working out over a reasonable period of time, then you've tried and it is time to try something else.

How do you live with someone who has dementia and stay sane?

1) Learn all you can about dementia. If she has a specific diagnosis (like Alzheimer's or Vascular, etc.) focus mostly on that particular disease. It helps to know a little about what to expect.
2) Join a local support group for caregivers of persons with dementia, or better yet, of Mother's type of dementia, if there is one local.
3) Look for Teepa Snow videos on utube.
4) Find and read books about how to deal with persons who have dementia. My all-time favorite is "Loving Someone Who Has Dementia" by Paula Boss. There are other very helpful books written by professionals and also by caregivers.
5) Figure out what your goal is. It cannot be "to fix Mother" or "to make mother well." For me as I went on the ten-year journey with my husband's dementia it was "to enable him to have the best quality of life he can given the circumstances." Knowing what you are trying to do can be very helpful.
6) Let us be your online support group.

I'm assuming that you don't have a job. Is that correct?

As my mother's dementia got beyond the point she could live on her own even with lots of supportive services, my sister and brother-in-law took her in. They were both great caregivers and Mom had good quality of life there. She stayed for 14 months. Physical ailments required more care than they could provide. She has been in a nursing home now for nearly 10 months. We all consider her "unsocial" but she has absolutely blossomed there. And things she hated to have us do for her (hygiene matters, mostly) she willingly accepts from the "professionals." I'm glad that Mom and Sis had that year of special bonding, but, really Mom is thriving where she is now.


SherylBeth my mom is 95 and has no short-term memory, just like your mom. My mom is ok with her routines, i.e. she can make her own breakfast, heat up food in the microwave, reads the paper every day, works the crossword puzzle, but can't remember today that yesterday she was out-of-sorts and overslept and cried when I went to shower her. She can't remember that she asked me the same question (what do you hear from your cousin Martha?) a minute ago and three minutes ago and six minutes ago.

My mom lives a mile and a half from me in independent living, with a LOT of help from me. I bring her food and do her laundry and pay her bills and fix her meds and take out her garbage and on and on. But I do not live with her. It would drive me nuts. She keeps her apt. at 80 degrees and I'm sweating within a couple of minutes of getting there. And the repetition (which she can't help) would drive me round the bend.

My mom isn't very social either (she used to be more social), so she stays in her apt and reads and watches TV. If she wants to go down to check her mail, she can sit and watch people come and go where she lives. It's perfect for both of us. We have enough separation to keep me sane and enough closeness to keep her safe. She wears an emergency pendant if she should never fall down (supplied by the facility) and I have girls coming in 2X a day to give her medications (she can't remember to consistently do that).

So I'd caution you to consider getting your mom into a place where she can be around other people and you're not the center of her world. Because that's a lot of responsibility for one person to bear.
Thank you all so much for your insight and suggestions! It is so nice to have people to go to who understand these issues and do not judge!

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