Hypochondria and sickness -- hard to know what I am dealing with anymore.

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My mother has been ill for as long as I can remember. The last 10 years have been particularly bad. When I was living in another state, she used to call and complain about various health problems. Since I've been here as her caregiver, it is non-relenting. She wants to go to the hospital so often. She makes 2-3 doctor appointments a week. They rarely find anything wrong with her that we don't already know about -- diabetes, bad back, and dementia. Recently she developed a bladder infection. It seems to be better, looking at her overt symptoms. But every day she wants to go to the ER. We have gone to several doctors. When I tell her we don't need to go to the ER, she gets mad and tells me that she'll be dead in the morning if we don't.

She seems to get better when people pay attention to her. At the same time, she shuns people. And I can't pay attention to her all the time. The health complaints, symptom checking, and need to go to the ER have become so persistent now that I admit I am totally burned out. The sympathy well is dry.

I told her this evening that we might need to check her into "rehab" to see if they can get her back on her feet. That made her angry. Really, I am at the end of my rope, barely hanging on.

Has anyone else been through this? I would love to hear how you handled it. I am concerned that I will miss it when she is really sick because she cries wolf so often.

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jeannegibbs, you always give such good advice. And you are very right in everything you said. As I was reading what you said, I knew that I do all of these things. I say no to the doctor. I say no to the ER. She thinks I am an absolute monster who doesn't care if she dies or not.

My mother has not been declared incompetent, so the medical POA is not in effect yet. Her doctor has not diagnosed her with Alz or any other disease causing dementia, though he prescribed Aricept for her. As I read what you wrote, I recognized that the telephone is a major problem for me. She will order things from the drugstore or call to make doctor appointments when I am not in the room. Last week she called 911 and before I knew what was happening, the ambulance was at the door. I told them that she had dementia and I didn't think she needed to go to the hospital. They were not sure, so took her to the ER.

Sometimes when the drugstore shows up with some OTC remedy, I tell them to take it back. That is embarrassing. It occurred to me when I was reading what you wrote that I need to talk to the doctor's office about making excuses not to be able to see her, such as the doctor will be unavailable for a week. (I cancelled two appointments this week. I knew she wouldn't remember them.)

Tonight she wanted to go to the ER. After going on about it for a little while, I told her to call my brother to see what he thought. Of course, he thought she should just not dwell on feeling bad. She was a bit put off, so said she would wait until tomorrow. I told her that she would have to go by herself if she went. My mother is a strong-willed woman in addition to lacking reasoning with the dementia. It is a constant battle.
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Do you have financial and medical power of attorney to act in your mother's behalf? If not, I would make that first priority. I would make it clear that without those authorities I would not continue caregiving. Seriously. Taking responsibility without having authority is setting the entire situation up for failure.

Your mother has dementia. Her judgement is impaired. Her normal inhibitions are no longer inhibiting her. This is not her fault and it is not your fault, but someone with authority must step in and make decisions on her behalf. I assume that someone should be you.

It is irresponible and a drain on our health care system, not to mention a waste of time and money, to use an emergency room for anything but a true emergency. You know that. Mother does not know that and probably, since she has dementia, cannot be convinced of it. Your judgment, not Mother's, must prevail in these situations.

Multiple weekly medical appointments is crazy. Well, sure, that is consistent with dementia -- all kinds of crazy things are "insisted" upon. Someone needs to make reasonable decisions for poor Mother's health care. She can't be relied on to do it for herself ... she has dementia!

I don't doubt that your taking charge will make Mother unhappy. Is she happy now? She tells you she will be dead by morning. She may even believe that. But you don't have dementia and you know better.

Caregiving someone with dementia means you must make decisions in their best interests, whether that makes them happy or not. A responsible caregiver can't let the dementia patient spend money beyond their means on anything that takes their fancy, or call the police or sherriff every time they misplace something, or make needless appointments with doctors. The reason this person needs a caregiver is that she can't take proper care of herself anymore.

I don't blame you for feeling burned out, out of sympathy, and at the end of your rope. My heart goes out to you. What a challenging task!
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BTW, my mother is 85 years old and on a lot of different medications already for diabetes, blood pressure, pain, and nerves. She is also taking a sulfa drug for the bladder infection.
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