Elderly Mom's aches and pains.


I care for my Mom (who is 85) and she lives in her own home (my Dad passed 6 years ago). My 64-year old brother lives with her (basically "keeping an eye" on her and providing companionship). He doesn't really have a lot of common sense -- she still does his laundry! I don't think he really would think of things a daughter thinks of (like proactively seeing that she eats right, getting her a cup of tea, anticipating her needs, etc. She does not have Alzheimers or any other form of dementia. She just old and getting a little confused -- like beginning to tell me something, then forgetting what she wanted to say. Stuff like that. It's heartbreaking but I try to be patient with her.

I take her to her doctor appts and she never wants to tell me (between doctor appts) what's going on with her. Her gait is very unsteady and she tells me she walks down the basement stairs BACKWARDS because she feels more steady doing it that way as she holds onto both railings. It's unbelievable!!! Of course, I get upset and tell her she shouldn't be doing that as she could fall. However, my warning falls on deaf ears. When she does fall, she makes my brother promise not to tell me so I don't get upset with her. She goes up and down the basement stairs because, again, she stills does the laundry --- she refuses to show my brother "how" to do it (meaning how SHE likes it done) and is convinced he "can't" do it. HE won't insist on doing it (or learning how to do it HER way) and he's always done what she tells him to do (or NOT do). Bottom line --- that mother/son dynamic will never change.

But here's my current situation -- she (of course) didn't want to tell me that her neck hurts. I will be taking her to her primary care doctor and I do go in with her when she sees him. I will make sure she/I mention the neck pain. She also has a pain in her shoulder/elbow (which was diagnosed as a rotator cuff tear). I think her neck pain is a result of her falling asleep while sitting on the couch and her head falling foward or to the side and then she gets a "crink" in her neck when she awakens. She dozes off a lot while watching TV (understandably --- she's 85!!).

She is not on any medications (other than a thyroid pill daily and oxybutynin for bladder spasms/leakage). I know this medication (the oxybutynin) causes mental fog and confusion/unsteadiness in the elderly, but she refuses to stop taking it. If it were me, I'd personally rather wear several pads and pee my pants before I'd tolerate the confusion/mental fog. She tried once to give up this medication but she said she hated wetting her pants all the time. Her decision -- her choice.

Her primary care physician is reluctant (and I agree) to give an elderly person narcotic medication for pain. She's previously taken ibuprofen and tylenol (on separate occasions) but it doesn't help her shoulder/elbow pain (and why would it -- she has a rotator cuff tear). Nothing will help a rotator cuff tear (I know because I've had that surgery) except surgery and that is out of the question at her age. At this point, only high doses of pain medication will midigate this pain but her doctor (and I) know that these forms of narcotics will only make her more confused, doped up and unsteady when she walks.

I guess I'm just venting here. I want to help my Mom be pain free but I know it's a losing battle. She's aging and she's fully aware that life (aches and pains-wise) is not going to get better. My sister is no help whatsoever. She lives closer to our Mom that I do, yet she rarely (and I mean RARELY) every goes over to see/visit her. Doesn't even call her (and yes, I've discussed this with my sister many times -- that Mom would just like a visit now and then). It's just sad. I wish she would be more involved but I know there's nothing I can do about it.

I'm trying to exercise and eat healthy and take care of myself. Hopefully, when I'm my Mom's age (if I'm so blessed to still be around) I won't be so dependent on my children. I'm trying to be there for her but it's so frustrating. Sorry to vent. Sigh.

This discussion has been closed for comment. Start a New Discussion.
Find Care & Housing


GardenArtist, my Dad taught me well.... as a child I always found what Dad was doing around the house a whole lot more interesting that what Mom was doing.... Dad was always inventing something from parts. I think every child, male or female, needs to learn home and car repair, that is if one parents knows it him/herself. That reminds me of the old 1990's show "Red Green" which was a parody on home improvement do-it-yourself projects, where duct tape ruled :)

Flyer: "Guess I am lucky, my significant other does his own laundry and can identify every appliance in the kitchen and how they work. My next step is to teach him how to open the tool box and learn what each tool is used for :P"

LOVE IT!!! The Nicole Curtis phenomenon reigns!

help2day, oh my gosh, your Mom and your brother reminds me of my Mom and my Dad when it comes to household chores. Just in the past couple of years I noticed my Mom trying to teach Dad how to use the washer and dryer and to help her in the kitchen.... she should have done that 50 years ago when Dad could follow directions better. My parents have their washer/dryer off of the kitchen, but Mom still takes the semi-wet clothes down to the basement to hang on the clothes lines instead of running them all through the dryer completely. Old habits are hard to break.

My Mom has the very same neck pain as she does the same thing, falls asleep in a chair and her chin goes down to her chest.... ouch, my neck hurts just thinking about it. She's had physically therapy years ago, but it still bothers her.

Guess I am lucky, my significant other does his own laundry and can identify every appliance in the kitchen and how they work. My next step is to teach him how to open the tool box and learn what each tool is used for :P

My Dad has been experimenting with eating less gluten as he read it can less arthritic pain..... it's been about 3 weeks and he is noticing a difference.

GardenArtist, thanks for the idea about eating celery.... we will have to eat more of it.... spreading on peanut butter or cream cheese.... be interesting to see if it will help my S/O's back pain.

Gardenartist has given you all sorts of good advice, so just two quick additions. Are you sure she can't have the rotator cuff surgery? I was certain that my mom, 90, post stroke with a broken hip would never survive that surgery but they were able to do it under a local anesthetic. Also, the idea of a small washer dryer on the main floor of the house might be worth every penny if it keeps your mom safe and happy.

Sorry, hit the button before I was finished.

I suspect your father was the sort who believed men were masters of the universe, omnipotent, etc., etc., so he ruled the roost and your mother accepted if as that was the prevailing belief at the time they grew up and married. Those ingrained beliefs aren't going to change, unfortunately.

I see that in my own family, but I do fight it, generally unsuccessfully. Still, I don't give up.

You can also buy or make hot pads filled with rice and a few herbs. I have some that have cinammon in them as well as other natural fragrances; the aroma is heavenly and is part of the therapy since it induces relaxation.

If she does have trouble holding them on, you can add velcro straps.

I don't have a suggestion for applying muscle salve unless she has a grabber or reacher and can put some on a pad on the grabber and apply it, but it that would be an awkward process.

As to your brother, it seems he's been enabled to be nonparticipating (sometimes read as lazy) so he's likely not going to change now, which is a pity since he's right there to help out. And it seems as though his behavior is learned behavior, from father to son. Dad treated Mom that way; son grows up thinking that's the way to deal with women.

I used to buy flowers for my mother as well; it really perked up her day. I think the simple act of someone thinking about her while she was living a challenged life was a major comfort to her.

Thanks for the insight, GardenArtist. I appreciate your support and answer. Yes, your right. My Mom is very set in her ways (and I'm afraid that trait has been handed down to me! --- haha). Although, I've been trying really hard to let go and live and let live, so to speak. With my family members (and my husband's family --- which is another whole lengthy story in itself), I've got to learn to let it be.

Yes, my Mom uses a warming patch (Thermacare brand) on her arm/shoulder which she said helps. I can't imagine it staying warm all day but she believes it helps, so I'm happy for her. I've gotten her Bengay, Icy Hot, etc. but it requires someone other than her (my brother, you think???) to apply it for her because she can't reach around. She is a little thing (barely 5 feet talk and quite frail). I live a ways away from her, work and am not always able to get there everyday. You would think my brother would intuitively know that our mother is suffering since he LIVES there 24/7 but he's just clueless.

Also, I think my mother doesn't always say what's hurting her to him. But, geez, do you think he could ASK her! Yowza! He was, at one point bringing the laundry up from the basement, but I think everytime she asked him, he would bellyache about getting up and going down in the basement, that she finally quit asking. Isn't that awful?

I stopped in and brought her flowers yesterday just "because" and she cried when she saw them. I know it made her happy, although she cries at the drop of a hat now.

I forgot to mention that my Mom has 2 hearing aids so talking to her in a normal conversational voice is a challenge. You either have to repeat yourself many times or basically talk very loud to the point of yelling to get her to hear you. I try to get her to look at my face when I speak with her as she can sort of compensate by reading my lips while I speak, so she then gets what I'm saying most of the time.

Unfortunately, my brother is not as patient and he yells at her all the time and gets very frustrated and sort of mean. I understand his frustration and have told him so but I've also told him to really become cognizant of his yelling at her. When they're out in public (I've had the teller at our local bank tell me), he gets frustrated and yells at her to the point where it's embarassing (for everyone around them). I think it borders on verbal abuse. I mean, he doesn't call her stupid or anything but his tone is dismissive and it's just demeaning. I've called him on his behavior but it goes in one ear and out the other. The teller tells me she make sure she is especially kind and patient with her (my mother can get confused easily and be quite slow).

My father (now deceased) was the same as my brother. He would constantly yell at my mother as his normal conversational voice and would get extremely frustrated and angry at her that she couldn't hear him. Geez!!! I would also call my father on his behavior and he would just dismiss my comments. I really feel bad for my Mom but this is how she chooses to live. She insists she can do for herself (the laundry, writing out her checks, etc.) I do insist, however, that my brother pay for a cleaning service every 2 weeks to come in and wash the floors, vacuum, etc. -- they don't do laundry -- as he lives there and he won't do those things. I could never convince my mother to have someone come in and do the laundry -- she wants to do it. She's stubborn. She's a little thing but she always "ruled the roost" so to speak and now that she's finding she's losing some physical abilities and also getting mentally confused, I think it scares her. Also, when I do come over to visit, I do a lot of little things for her and give her attention (which my brother and sister don't) and do things she wants done that she stopped asking my brother to do because he whines about it. So, I can never really have a "let's sit and have a cup of tea" visit because she has a list of things she wants done and it's not that they're difficult things to do, but just the fact that my brother LIVES THERE and should be doing these things but won't --- if he does, it's always with whining and begrudgingly. He's a big baby (my parents made him one) and now I'm the one left doing everything (by the way, I'm the baby of the family at 55 yrs old -- my sister is 60).

I go to church on Sunday and pray to God that I can be more compassionate but I, too, get frustrated. It's hard -- I feel so guilty.

We moved mom's washer and dryer upstairs, to a spare bedroom. I don't suppose your brother is a handy sort and could do that for her??

It may be, however, that your mother needs to do the laundry to believe that she still can, and still is able to do things a mother would normally do (for a child). So she may be getting some mental benefit from it.

Maybe a compromise would be for brother to do the laundry then bring it upstairs for Mom to fold and put away.

I've had a torn rotator cuff and elected to have PT instead of surgery. PT has always been my first go-to choice. The tear wasn't completely healed, probably because I was moving at the time so there was repeated stress on the injury. But based on my what doctor told me, not everyone needs to have rotator cuff surgery for healing. Just sharing my expereince...

However, to me she's ONLY 85; my father had hip surgery at age 93 and 94, although it was a more necessary surgery because otherwise he would not be able to walk normally again, if he could walk at all.

If her cardiac and other physicians agree that surgery is too risky, then I wouldn't consider it.

Has she had any PT at all for her rotator cuff injury? Have you used any muscle lotions, heating/cooling pads?

As to the neck pain, I'm wondering if she has seen an orthopaedic doctor? If not, it might be a consideration.

This might not be a solution for your mother but I've found celery to be an excellent source for a variety of ailments - arthritis, hydration, and pain. It contains COX-2 inhibitors and a compound similar to NSAIDs. It would require eating a lot of celery though. Still, it's much better than narcotics.

Meditation, music, and pet therapy are also alternatives to narcotics, not on the same level but on a more global level as refocusing agents. Perhaps she could even do some chair yoga, with very mild movements. The concentration takes the mind off the pain.

Art therapy is another option. These activities don't remove the pain, but they refocus the mind so that the pain isn't the higher priority.

However, if your mother insists on taking care of your brother as if he were still a child, going up and down the stairs and presumably lugging up laundry, there are going to be some muscular discomforts.

I'm wondering if you could somehow manage to get an aide to take care of the laundry. That would at least eliminate the possibility of falling down the stairs. But your mother seems like a woman who is very determined and set in her ways, and it's hard to change, especially when your brother isn't doing the laundry himself.

This discussion has been closed for comment. Start a New Discussion.