Things were going so well for two months with my MIL, til today. WTH!

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I haven't written in awhile because things were actually going quite well the last couple of months with my MIL (who lives alone across the street from us, 82 years old, narcissistic disorder). We've been getting along, she's been satisfied with her paid helpers, and we came up with a system where she calls my cell phone every morning when she wakes up. She expects me not to answer, but if I don't get the call, I call her on my first break at work to make sure she is okay. It was working great for me. Well today, she told me she would not be calling me anymore because we aren't available and refuse to help her (not new complaints, but she hasn't complained in awhile). Again, she says she will have her dear friends (people she pays) take care of her because "they will drop everything at a moment's notice and help me with whatever I need." I had emailed her just yesterday to let her know that the whole family has that awful virus going around and we didn't want her to get it so we would see her later in the week if we could. So today, the wheels fell off the wagon. She read me the riot act and all of those same terrible feelings came up inside of me. I chewed off all my fingernails. I picked at myself. I was upset the entire day and still am. I cannot understand why I let her get to me like this. My husband (her only child) told me once again to let it go and let her go. I did tell her today that was her decision and her choice to not make the daily morning phone calls. What is strange is she kept fixating on saying that I say she "screams." I don't know what she is talking about. She couldn't give me an answer either, but repeated it at least six times and said she would "lose her mind" if anyone said she screams again. I pointed out that she was shouting at me at that moment, but she said she was not. I feel so guilty and bad. She needs help. I think she has or is getting dementia. I have kept a written log over the last several months tracking this, but don't know how to have this discussion. I don't want to deal with her accusing me of betrayal (again). She is very paranoid and accusatory about all sorts of things. These people who are in her life are getting paid by her to help her and I don't know if they are taking advantage of her or not (my paranoia). In her eyes, they are angels and we are lower than dirt. I know many of you have had this same problem and I have read your stories and it helps me to know I am not alone, but here I am again beating myself up. I work with the elderly and disabled for a living now and feel it even more irresponsible of me at this point to turn my back on her but the abuse affects me so much that it isn't healthy. I've been making excuses for her the last couple of years telling myself that she can't help it. It doesn't seem to matter if I am nice as can be or if I stick up for myself and call her out on the carpet. I've called her doctor and he won't do a thing about any of it unless what I say is shared with her, which I think will be counterproductive because she will focus on me betraying her and not the problem of her failing mind. It feels hopeless. It feels good to vent. Thanks for listening.

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I would be very tempted to say, "MIL, I am not one of your children. What I do for you, I do out of love. If you want me to stop, I will, and then you can try to get your son (your husband) to do these things for you. Your choice, but I will not be treated badly for trying to help you. Now, do you want my help or not?"
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Hi JeanneGibbs - I love hearing from you. 92; wow. I shudder to think she might live to be 92 also. I emailed her a minute ago, just simple, asking her to rethink calling my cell every morning to let me know she is up. I hope she will reconsider for her own sake. I have to let her make that choice. She tested me 3 times by not calling in the last several weeks and I called her and she was fine. Once she didn't answer and my daughter and I went over there and found her just fine. The system was working. I am worried that this is another sign of dementia (or could be the victim thing I suppose) as it seems she is disregarding her safety.
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ohjeezleweez, my mother (now 92) was like your mother, a loving and unselfish person. Sometimes us daughters thought she maybe should stick up for herself a little better. I can't imagine anyone ever calling her self-centered.

And now she has dementia.

She moved in with my very generous sister two months ago. I will be giving Sis a little respite by having Mom at my house one weekend a month. The first visit was this past weekend. Sis and I compared notes. We both noticed how self-centered she is!! My sister mentioned how hurt she was when she told Mom she was going to the doctor but her husband would be home, and then said, "Hi, I'm home from the doctor appointment," and the only response was "Is it time for my snack?" In the past Mom would have asked if anything was wrong, and then also asked how the appointment went. Sis sharing this with me brought back memories of very similar feelings I had when my husband got dementia and also no longer inquired about my day or why I was going to the doctor or if the box of tissues I was carrying around meant I was sick. I noticed the same thing with my mother even in the brief weekend we had together, but it did not upset me nearly as much as it did my sister, because I've already been through it once.

Apparently dementia turns even loving, unselfish people into people who worry so much about themselves they often don't have energy to worry about others. I cannot imagine what it must be like when a basically self-centered, selfish person gets dementia!

Unlike you and your husband, both my sister and I have memories of our mother's kindness to see us through. My heart truly goes out to you, ohjeezleweez.
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Thank you vstefans. I really needed to vent and it felt good. You are right on target saying "She is punishing you for being ill and taking a break - makes no sense, except to someone who can imagine that other people cannot have any problems that might keep THEM from being top and only priority." That made me feel good because I know it is true. I had a hysterectomy a few months ago and she acted even worse when I was down then. I am really trying to be the bigger person here. I have my own mother who needs help to who is very loving and unselfish. I need to put more of my attention there. My husband has taken his mother's abuse his entire life and seems to be void of any feelings for her anymore. I don't blame him, but I also don't think that is right. It is a sad situation. Funny, I was looking through old emails and copies of letters and I wrote her clear back in 1998 that if she didn't start treating us better she would end up alone in her old age and here we are.
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And, forgot to mention, I actually did get third -party help from someone at the facility who explained to my mom that her yelling hurt my feelings and I'd only been trying to help - she actually said she was sorry, but she was just so worried about everything...that was rare, and welcome.
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Go to the doctor with her if you possibly can, and go ahead and share the concerns openly. You are probably right about the dementia. She could have had a nightmare and have it confused with reality, or could have mis-heard something, or just mixed you up with whoever DID complain about her screaming. It's no use biting your nails off and being afraid of her anger or emnity when you have done nothing to earn it. You know better, but she has a forceful personality even now and knows how to push those buttons, that's only normal. She is punishing you for being ill and taking a break - makes no sense, except to someone who can imagine that other people cannot have any problems that might keep THEM from being top and only priority. You may not be able to change that, but a third party explaining how it was good of you to keep her from getting that virus might mean something. I know because I just about lost it when I got yelled at by Mom after my absolutely best effort at a time when I was swamped with the other demands of my life wasn't good enough for her because of some weird unwritten rule she had in her head that made no sense...you apparently should never bring someone something they need (new shoes) in front of other people. Why, that was nearly as bad as carrying a box of Kleenex though the foyer to bring to her! I remember it like yesterday...
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