How to handle my 94-year-old Mum who is aggressive, demanding etc.

Started by

Mum is widowed, ex country girl lives independently in a retirement village, 95% blind, feeble but in generally satisfactory health.

As her 70 year old son, I am her ONLY carer other than Blue Care who look after her medication three times daily and prepare meals for her.

As a consequence of her 24/7 demands on me, never ending criticism of my apparent failings as a son, I am now on medication for severe depression and she has pretty well wrecked the last ten years of my family life. She refuses to listen to anything I suggest to her or want to do to make things easier for her and every time we get together or on the phone a screaming crying argument results.

She is as viscious and cruel as a person can be, telling me she is going to see my doctor and have me committed as there is "something wrong with me", tells me about all the other oldies whose children do so much for their parents and not a single day goes past when she isn't making me feel like something lower than what you would find on the bottom of your shoe!

But she is my Mum and I do love her but she has driven everyone away from her due her understandable frustration with being basically blind and inability to look after herself.

Her doctor says she is way way past looking after herself but her self but as she has a little ten year old dog that yis the only thing that matters in her life (ahead of me even) she refuses to move as there are no care facilities who will take in pets with the level of care she requires.

She often calls me five to seven times a day, always wanting me to do something, help her introduce crazy schemes into her unit and always demanding, demanding ............. And then breaks down and starts saying she is going to kill herself as I don't love her or understand her anymore!

My not-great health is never any concern to her and though I suffer 24/7 chronic pain myself, she never has the slightest amount of sympathy for me, always me, me, me!

I have literally given up my retirement life trying to look after her and now my own married life is far from happy as a consequence. She has had local ministers, care groups, doctors and everybody possible trying to tell her she must move for the good of not only herself but for me also!

We have no relatives who will share her care and she and my wife have never got on from day one. It I so bad we have had dialed recognition installed on our phone so we can not answer it when she calls, and that is sad!

Mum is as tough, cold and uncaring as it is possible for a woman to be and whist I can appreciate her situation in life, I am now seriously considering selling up my wonderful home nearby and moving well away from her!

I am lost, done, finished and no idea who t go to for help as there is moody no can get through to her and make her understand. She has a zero short termd memory that makes everything worse but no sign of Dimentia or Alzeimers disease.

Life for me isn't worth going on as I battle with depression and pain every day as I have for the last twenty three years and I myself am now looking towards the day when I fall off my perch!

What a life eh?

11 Comments

I am not sure I have any answers, but I am dealing with similar situation with my 90-year old mother although mine is still living in her own place. I don't know why, but it seems that the caregiver who is doing the most and is always there is the one that gets treated the worst. This is more common than you realize. You do need to assure that your mother is safe and reasonably comfortable, but you do not need to risk your own health and family to attain this. Can you stop accepting calls . . . at least no more than one a day and when she starts ranting at you or insulting, say calmly "I don't deserve this treatment" and then leave or hang-up. I have had some mild success with this. It helps for a little while. They don't want you to leave them although it's hard to believe that some times. The guilt can be overwhelming, but you cannot sacrifice your own health to keep her happy. I find talking with others who have experienced similar situations to be a tremendous help. Good luck.
Re-read what grammymyself wrote, at least a couple more times. Commit to memory: "I don't deserve this treatment. Good bye." Practice saying it.

You say, "she has pretty well wrecked the last ten years of my family life." I'm sorry, I don't believe that. She doesn't have that power unless you have given her that power. Your choices and your actions have directed the nature of your family life. At age 60, now 70, "My mother said I had to do this," just doesn't cut it as an excuse. Why would you put your mother's unreasonable demands ahead of your wife?

She says she is going to kill herself? Report that immediately to the adult protection services. That is one place you can go to for help.

But the help that is most needed, or needed first, is help for yourself. Are you seeing a counselor for your depression? Do you belong to a caregivers' support group? Have you and your wife considered family counseling?

It doesn't sound like you want to keep on like this for another four or five or six years. But your mother is not going to change -- or only change for the worse. So if you want things to be different, you are the one who is going to have to do the changing.

This will be hard. You are going to have to fight lots of built-in guilt buttons. (Guess who installed those, by the way.) Frankly, I don't think you can do it alone. If you could, you would have done it 10 years ago. But if you really want to change the quality of your life and your marriage, you can do it with help. Get help.

And repeat as necessary, "I don't deserve this treatment."



Thank you so much Grammy for your understanding advices .........

I have been there dun that with Mum, even to the stage of not seeing her for a week or more, just makes it worse!

The most difficult aspect is the roller coaster ride we are both on! It goes from shrieking, sobbing, lying on the bed wishing she was dead to being posssibly the most cheerful old lady the next day you could imagine.

I have walked away from her soooooo many times threatening nev to come back again but of course always, she is after all my Mum.

I am a retired international airline pilot so like to think I have some sort of a brain left but no matter what I suggest to help her out, I am stupid, can't understand, don't care for her, selfish, cruel and on and on and on! I can spend huge amounts of time trying to clean up h her unit where the retched little dog has peed and pooed eveywhere, food scraps all over the floor, mounds of unclean linen ...... Your name it and I have to look aftter it and/or her!

I can never recall her ever worrying over my failing health or the natural problems of aging. I am seventy almost but she thinks I am still young and fit and have the time to heed to her every beck and call! I am wrong in everything, she is right in everything!

Having zero support from another single living person just to take the pressure off of me would be oh so wonderful. Mum has outl iced everybody else, rellies, fiends, neighbours and nobody wants to be in a unit that stinks of dog pee, old food etc. the Blur Care girls are great but with only six hours a weeks to make three visits evey week day for tablets, a few meals etc there is simply nobody else to help me out - I am so helpless my own doctor is concerned about my suicidal tendencies! I never would but just the prospect of not having Mum around makes me feel so guilty ..........

She refuses to mix with other ladies in the village and being almost totally blind I can see why she gets embarrassed wit eatin in front of them all.

The poor old dear spends all day in front of a new TV I bought her, just listening to it, with her dog on her lap, no friends to visit, no one to talk to her so when I gets her down, I am the one who cops all the bitterness, frustration and anger she builds up!

Her doctor Tells me there is nothing he can do for her as her mental facilities are still reasonably OK and she can't be forced to leave her home!

I have tried and tried to find other people in similar circumstances to just sound out ideas but to date have had no such luck!

When I finally croak, I am not going to be terribly concerned abou it. Think I must be the first guy to have his Mother kill him in such a fashion.



If your Mom has short term memory loss, then she's got a problem with dementia or something similar. My mom has been kinda mean to me and I got to where I dreaded hearing her wake up as as soon as her eyes open, so does her mouth and it's not good things she says. She never appreciates me.

I do know she's got dementia about last stage but if I die from a heart attack or stroke, I'd be no good to her. I put her in a nursing home and don't feel guilty at all about it. I realize when she was in her right mind she always said she appreciated the fact I'd take care of her in her old age etc. - but about a year ago after she broke her hip, her dementia got 75% worse and it's been hell ever since.

it's sad to see her cry for her Mommy and I tell her I'll take her home next day over and over to calm her down and she'd just hollow at me and many times keep me up all night. YES AT TIMES I SCREAMED AT HER ALSO - but I'm only human - I just hope the workers in the nursing home treat her good, I SURE COULD NOT GET A SMILE FROM HER at all. I love her and I miss her - BUT NOT THAT BODY that has the "dementia devil" inside - MY MOTHER LEFT IT A LONG TIME AGO..

I have chronic pain too and for years she knew it and helped me and appreciated me - but dementia makes these folks generally narocistic and it's all about them AND THEY CAN'T HELP IT - I forgive her and I hope somehow in her mind the thought comes through that she knows I did all I could do.

Good luck to you.
HGU, it sounds like you are like I was as a parent. I would try something and if it didn't work right away I'd switch to something else. It doesn't work that way. You have to make your limits without expectations of how it effects her. You need to shut her out when she goes over the line. She won't change you have to. You can still be there for her without being her punching bag. Just decide what actions are acceptible and cut off communication when it gets to that point. Honoring your parent doesn't mean taking all the abuse they have to give out. You wouldn't expect a child to take her abuse would you. You would immediately take the child out of her reach and protect them. You have to do the same thing for yourself. You are being abused and it must stop and you are the only one that has the power. Talking will not stop it. You have to make the boundaries. You are none of the things she says you are. You are a loving man with a wife that wants you to be safe. Don't let mom's words do any more harm. Please keep us informed of your progress.
Thanks again guys for the sensible and not so sensible advice, the latter being very minimal!
True! I have let I develop into a situation that is way out of and and trying to tidy up the mess is very, very difficult!
The lack of ANY family members to provide assistance is a major drawback, like they are all dead! Mum has outlived them at 94! Any second or third removed relatives are well aged themselves and are busy taking care of themselves let alone a Mum like mine. She has driven away any friends in the village as few of them want to see a dog drinking out of coffee cups (that they may use one day), see dreadful untidiness and pieces of food everywhere and the place smelling of dog pee!

And yes, I have undergone ten visits with a Psychologist re the issues and my wife's refusal to help and that got nowhere unfortunately.

Of course the answer, as suggested, is simple! Just walk away! Problem solved!

Purely my fault it has reached this stage and over the last few weeks I have made a huge effort to avoid conflict, arguments, anything that causes friction but she won't give up easily! Hounds me day and night and I cannot go on ignoring her forever. Sadly, my wife is in herself very cruel and hard towards her - that's women and mother in laws for you eh? - so I now try to eave my wife out of visits etc and that just makes it worse for me!

I know! I know! I have to get tuffer and stand my ground more, lat down the rules and boundaries ......... Oh how easy it sounds! But when your wn Mum throws herself on her bed, sobbing and begging to die you have to be a pretty callous person to say bye mum, see you tomorrow and just walk away!

Although suggested above I am mainly the problem, I can assure you I have been to support groups, her doctors, Blue Care and many others but you will find getting help along these lines is just not that simple.

I can't force her to participate in these group outings - she is too frail - and do I have to poison her dog who is the crux of the hole problem! The mutt is her whole life and nothing but nothing will change that situation I,e, love me love my dog!

Yer all right in lst suggestions but I haven't even started to list what I have been through to remedy the problem that as stated above will get worse. As she ages and her thinking processes deteriorate further, everything will get worse and what then?

Do I just walk away from her and see her die a sad, lonely and hurt old lady or do I keep chopping off my arms and legs trying to help her, she cannot see the damage or hurt she spreadsBaround her. The highly experienced people from Blue Care tell me it is the most COMMON of all issues with widowed elderly people who believe the world owes them a living and use the nearest siblings to vent their anger and frustrations on.

Trust me, until you have been up close and personal with one of them you have no concept of the hurt and misery they can generate!

Thanks again everybody!
Ah, my dear!

I am so sorry for what you and your Mom are going through!

First things first. Depending on where you live, your Mom being 95% blind and with short term memory should be grounds for you to be able to have power of Attorney to make her medical and housing decisions.

Is this something that is already defined/in effect? If so, the Doctor does not need to sign off on what you decide needs to be done, though they need to sign off on the power of Attorney if paperwork not yet handled.

Next thing is to have Nurse, Doctor and/or Lawyer meet with you and your Mom, during which time you would ask the Doctor or Lawyer inform your Mom (let them do the talking as she may have a tantram if you present her options, even while other party is there,) and ask her to make a decision there and then on a change in her housing and care to a nursing facility and giving up her dog, or having a live-in care giver after scheduling a housecleaning service to have a clean base for her home environment, and designated doggie bowls - inform her that Caregiver to be engaged will need to meet a Pet-friendly criteria, and will be there to help with her hygiene, home upkeep, cooking and help with pet care - in other words her personal care, and household management; and this is the only alternative to not being moved to a care home.

This will allow you to have her cared for, while separating your personal and family life from her. Caregiver can call you for emergencies only. You will need to check on caregivers who apply for position to be sure they have dealt with difficult clients and know how to diffuse or let tantrums run their course without it phasing them.

Try this for a while and let us know how it goes. If worse comes to worst, or finances do not allow for, you may need to just move her to a care home and make arrangements for her dog with another family.

You must take care of yourself and your family as well, and given what you describe, things are not going to change in her behavior or demands, so you must make the difficult choices for her.

It will be very hard on you and her as you do so, but I promise you she will adjust. You are allowed to care for yourself and own family too, my dear.

Keep us posted, all the very best!


PS:

I noted short term memory as you indicated she calls you several times a day, and this is usually because they are unsure of things, or cannot remember and keep calling you several times, and cover by bring up other issues or having a fit, instead of telling you they are afraid because they have began to notice their lack of control when they cannot remember things or are unsure where they are (probably the only familiar thing is her dog, and is why she is adamant about not being separated, as may be the only thing that is familiar to her at times, besides loving it) and feel more alone than ever, and you are the only one she knows to reach out to, though she ends up doing it in the wrong way.

Next time you spend an extended amount of time with her, keep a close tab to confirm if she has short term memory issues. Elders will typically be at their best when with their adult kids to show they are Okay on their own, but if you spend long periods of time, they cannot keep it up, and you will begin to see the lapses. Tell us if you are able to determine this.
Thank you for your interest and helpful advices Caprica, u r obviously a caring and experienced Carer yourself.

I fear I may have muddied the waters little insofar as inferring Mum is unable to look after herself mentally and physically so will try to clarify .......


Were you to visit and sit with her for a few hours, you would be confronted with a lovely, polite and well mannered old lady who is more than capable of holding up her end of quite a sensible conversation. Talk about things she is similar and content with and you will wondering what I am babbling on about!

The Docor has cleared her of any signs of Dimntia or Alzheimer's and just has zero short term memory. I can say something to h and withing a few seconds she has completely forgotten what we talked about.

The problem from my aspect is that from the moment we make contact with by phone or when I visit her is tha she immediately attacks me re my failings as a son who doesn't understand her, does not wish to help herin any way, criticizes her over everything she does, says she is always wrong, won't help her like "other sons and daughters do" and is co stanly putting her down.

If I mention to her that the mutt has pooed five or six times behind the lounge chair she erupts violently and accuses me of lying to her to get her upset. It is definitely a her and me issue as she gets on well with most everybody else, I seem to be be the hair trigger for her and understandably I am the ONLY ONE she has to moan, groan, complain to and take out her frustrations on!

Of course the Blue Care girls are not going to say anything that might upset her (it IS their policy), they never tell her what a deplorable state the unit is in or suggest some of her plans are just plain out stoopid! e.g. She (me) recently decided to convert the outdoor potion into a Moroccan room that is simply not possibly. I tried as well as I could, even had my less than helpful wife try to advise her the same but when that failed she abused me unmercifully for days on end over how I wanted to kill her with boredom, loneliness and refusal to help.

Emotional blackmail is her forte! She has accused me of falsifying my Dads Will, changing her Will and "moving around her limited monies so she will never know what she has in her accounts, almost zero as I also support her financially when needed, new fridges, TV's, radios, eye operations etc. yet never a word of thanks in appreciation, I am just never good enough!

What is killing me is the selfish and gimme gimme attitude she has and her own health and well being is all that matters. She would crawl over my dead body, literally, to feed the dog!

There a NO grounds whatsoever for moving her to a higher care establishment - supported by her GP and eye Specialist - and my Lawyer confirms this also!

In short she has become a hurtful, cold, hard and uncaring old lady who onl has one whipping post in town and that is me! And yes, it is solely m fault as I do love her a any son does and my conscience invariabl destroys all my plans of backing away from her ans trying to make some space between us. She is desperately lonely and though I have tried to enlist the many wonderful oganizations who help the elderly and disabled, she refuses to cooperate and there is to way to force her into going on bus trips, outings at the Village, meeting with other ladies her own age or even having afternoon or morning teas with the neighbours.

It breaks my heart when she tells me to get ou of her house as she is going to kill herself, wants to die, wished her long her deceased husband was alive as he would help her out - that he never did, tuff old guy he was!

I try to organize days out for a drive with her but invariably she backs out at the last minute and then down the track will invariably carry on how I nevtake her anywhere or do anything for her. Point is that no matter what I do it is always wrong, never in her interests and planned so she cannot enjoy it due anything she can think of on the day.

I am not explaining this well at all am I!

Just rambling but my most desperate is to find some helpful, experienced people who understand just what is going on with her. I have had several chats with her GP but understandably he says there is nothing that he can do as she deliberately holds back on any medical problems she has (not many other than being almost blind and dry feeble) as she fears he will "move her to a home".

My own nerves and emotions are completely shot and I have officially had an emotional besldown and fighting back as well as I can single handed, something my own Doc is very upset about! He says I is not possible for me to carry Mum as an extra load when I am such a basket case myself ............ Oh how so true!

Run out of ideas guys but two things, firstly apologies for my rambling herein as it is emotionally written nd consequently lacks continuity and maybe even logic, just heartbreakingly desperate I is!

And also, it is just not all that easy getting the sort of help needed! The old girl even rang Blue Care and "reported me" for not helping her enough and believe it or not she did such a great job they in turn called me and asked if I was aware of my responsibilities in looking after an old, frail and impossible to handle blind lady!

But you are all right, I just have to back off and revert tof tuff luv no matter how bitter she becomes over it!

I really appreciate you GUIs advising me, good or bad is fine, that is wha I miss, someone(s) to talk to over the escalating problems nd drams that will invariably worsen as time passes.

I did come across a website recently wherein a volunteer ground had members who specialized in popping into the old ladies - and men I guess - just to AKL to them, read to them, go for a drive etc. but I have lost the website and cannot find it for the love of me.

I thank you thank you all sooooooo very much!
Ah, well - if they cannot document enough for her to be placed in a care home, that is a sticking point.

I am not sure what area you are in, but you should be able to get a social worker to visit her on several occasions and for them to document for Doctor living conditions, etc.

If nothing else, you should still have POA and be able to may be at least put her resources and not yours if possible, towards a cleaning services to maintain home. Maybe check on Pet sitting services who will do poop-scooping work on a regular schedule, as the dog soiling the living space does not register with her. May be social worker or Doctor can impress upon her that if she is going to remain in her own living space with her dog, this is not optional.

Let us know what happens - for sure, a good thing for you to be able to vent with us. Try and make some "Me" time for yourself and do some things you enjoy to help yourself decompress as well. I typically read, listen to music, watch movies or go for long drives, while listening to my favorite music. Always refreshes my mind and spirit.

You have done a lot for her, and you are making an effort to do whatever more you can, even as you feel unappreciated and are put down by her. Don't forget though, you have still been there for her. Good on you!

Unfortunately we human beings seem to always lash out to those close/related to us, even if we may act differently with other people, some of us learn to not do it, some of us never do.

Chin up!

Keep the conversation going (or start a new one)

Please enter your Comment

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support