My Mother has no compassion for anyone but herself.

Started by

I don't have a question. I'm just dumfounded by my mother again. My husbands 54 year old sister died of a heart attack on Saturday and 4 days later my mother who lives with us scott free, still has not looked at my husband ( nor her daughter who just lost a friend and sister for 30 years ) and said Im sorry for your loss, or Im sorry about your sister. NOTHING except about HER heart attack and how hard it is to lose a son ( my brother died almost 30 years ago ) and how hard it is to put her short hair into a ponytail. My heart is CRUSHED and I need a mother and shes NOT there yet she lives under our roof .Im beyond disgusted that she hasn't looked at the man who has taken care of her for almost 2 years ( been in her life for 30 years ) and said Im so sorry about your sister or SOMETHING. But shes now number 5 on that waiting list for her apartment and this kind of stuff is why Im not looking back when we drop her at her new place. A person can only take so much and Im way past that point. I just don't understand how a mother of 6 ends up without a drop of compassion in her body. what in the world causes some people to not be capable of caring about anyone but themselves not even their own children ?????


You say your mom suffers from age related decline. Is that all that is going on with her? The reason I ask is that often dementia can cause people to behave in odd ways. To rule this out, I might have her checked by her doctor to see if she has some illness, infection or medication interaction.

Even before memory is lost, odd behaviors are common with dementia. So, I might wonder if that is it in the beginning. My loved one was much that way, though she has always been rather selfish. She had no concern for anyone else. All she thought about was herself and how she was feeling and what she wanted. She was even rude about it. But, it was dementia on top of her Aspeger's, as it turns out. More dementia though. Before that she showed some level of concern.

Has your mom always been uncaring? Maybe that is part of her personality. Some people who seem to be uncaring have reasons behind it. Sometimes Asperger's can cause a person to seem aloof or uninvolved. It's a form of autism. They struggle to relate with others and emotions. I'd read about it and see if that could be the cause. Autism was not easily diagnosed many years ago. I think that Aspergers was even more difficult to diagnose, because the person was able to function. They just had some odd quirks. Read descriptions and see if the signs jump out at you. My cousin has every single symptom of Aspergers, yet she was never diagnosed to my knowledge.

There are also personality disorders that can cause uncaring. Narcissism, sociopathy, and other things could be causing it .

There could be some other kind of disability that is undiagnosed. And I also think that how a child is raised can influence how they care about others. Some parents are so overindulgent with their child that they create a monster. They give all the to the child and require NOTHING from the child. It often results in a selfish person who has no empathy and no desire to comfort others. I don't know of anything that can done about that once a person reaches adulthood.

There are just some of my theories. I'd be interested to see others.
No this is how she has always been. I spent 49 years making excuses for her behavior. Its taken all these years to admit to myself that its not right and that I really don't have a real mother. I don't know why I let the things she does ( or doesn't do ) get to me. I don't know why I thought she might be different this time. Its just sad.
You say she's always been this way, I'm glad you are finally realizing there is nothing you have done to make her this way, so logically there is nothing you can do to change her. Some part of her is broken, has always been. I think possibly her telling about her own heart attack and her own grief is probably her way of acknowledging your SIL's death and sharing that she understands pain and loss, albeit a very convoluted, self focused way.
If she has always been this way AND she's losing executive function (which this sounds like), you are in for a double whammy. The old saw about "as people age, they become more themselves" is quite true. But there's also a tipping point, where the "same old sh*t on steroids" is actually a symptom of a new issue. Those of us who are the closest are sometimes poor judges of what is "just her" and what is a whole new defect in the wiring. Speaking from experience here. Good luck and godspeed.
This link contains the symptoms I described above. Lack of empathy is a major symptom.

Sometimes the hardest part about caregiving is accepting what the norm has become, and the fact that it's not particularly a considerate attitude.

I'm not being callous, but if your mother has been this way for years, she's not going to change now. So the best thing to do is acknowledge it, and resolve that it's not going to hurt you. Don't expect the compassion that won't be there.

If she's unable to be sympathetic, that might hurt her in the long run, as compassion is one of the characteristics that makes us more sensitive in our interactions with others, as well as to help in understanding human nature.

Perhaps you could shift your concept of her to feel sorry for her in that she lacks this basic human element, which could enhance her own life by helping her to bond with others.
I understand completely, golflady. My mother's only reaction to the news that my sister (her daughter) had been diagnosed with colon cancer was to announce that she (my mother) needed to have a colonoscopy since it is something that runs in families. Not a word of compassion or support for my sister, who was terrified and forced to go through a long series of difficult, invasion tests and surgeries.

Some people are just like that. It's really hard to take care of that kind of person, though, because you're always thinking "Why am I showing you all this care when you have so little care for anybody else?" At least, I'm always thinking that!
Golflady if she's always been that way she will never change. My mother was the same way all her life, not giving a damn about anyone else, everything was about her, her looks, possessions, wants and demands, along with being mean, manipulative and spiteful, trampling anyone who dared cross her path. At the end of her life she had no friends and I'm the only family.

Her treatment of me and my poor father was deplorable. His heart gave out 16 years ago and I swear she put him in an early grave. I've been afraid of her all my life.

She passed away in a NH a few weeks ago and I felt nothing but relief. I've come to the conclusion that she was mentally ill her whole life and I can close the door and move on. Sadly these toxic people will never change and all you can do is distance yourself from them as much as possible.
My mother will do the same thing. It's not that she is a mean person, but the older she becomes, the more she focuses on herself. She can say insensitive things without any awareness. I believe that when many people get old their world becomes smaller and smaller, until soon they see only themselves. It happens a lot. So if they hear of someone having trouble, they relate it to the same trouble they've had.

If someone has been self-centered their entire life, they will most likely not become generous of spirit when they are older. I agree with what Carla said about it being hard to care for a self-centered person. No matter how kind we try to be, there is always the thought about why should we do something for someone who never did anything for others. Maybe we do it so we don't become that person?? I don't know the answer to this one.
I try to find the good in my quagmire of elder care. It's hard. Mom is a control freak who fixates on joyless tasks. She wipes the kitchen counter better than everyone else; documents her expenses better than everyone else; stocks up on Kleenex better than everyone else. Ad nauseum. From sunrise to sunset. Back when mom had more spark, she'd twist any casual conversation into an opportunity to declare that she "has to do everything." Then she'd use that same mouth to reject every offer of help -- because so-and-so might not do it her way. The brag-plaining became mom's identity. She lacked the perspective to consider how this comes across to others. It never crossed mom's mind that my stepfather wanted a companion, not a scold. The disconnect wore him down and strained their marriage. My point (and I do have one) is that I can lean that way, too -- if I let myself. So I make a concerted effort not to. I KNOW that the "me, myself & I" schtick is alienating and unproductive.....yet I occasionally slip into the soundtrack of my childhood. Since I've had ringside seats to the unraveling of my mother's life (and been told stories that people wouldn't share when my stepfather was still alive), I am a 1000% more committed to not being a pointless know-it-all. My sig other is a great guy with a big heart. So what if he puts too much onion in the scrambled eggs and loses his reading glasses once a week? I'm not perfect, either. Let's just enjoy each other while we have each other.

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