Understanding the dynamics of a hostile parent.

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Tonight I stopped to get carry-out after a long medical and dash-around day. An elderly woman, perhaps in her late 80's, was standing at the counter staring at a milk shake that had been spilled on the floor. A younger woman, perhaps in her mid to late 60's or 70's, was getting napkins to clean up the mess.

The older woman was saying something about the cleanup, as I think she felt she should be doing it. So I tried to console her by telling her the staff would clean it up and not to worry about. She suddenly became very friendly, smiling, cheerful, and asked me my name, trying to start a conversation. I responded until my order was taken.

She left then, and the next thing I knew was hollering out "I'm not going to fall!" There was more shouting, then the 2 women and a man began to leave, with the man yelling "I'm not going to take you out any more!"

Suddenly I thought of all the posters who write about their parents who change moods instantaneously, who are nice to other people but hostile to their caregivers, and I had an actual glimpse into what you face.

It was a sad situation; each of the 3 seemed stressed in one way or another, but the older one was angry, really angry, apparently at her daughter. Yet she was so sweet to me. It was almost as if she was trying to redeem her anger by showing she could be kind.

3 Comments

Those poor people. Life in hades.
Sometimes I wonder if people know the signal behaviors that mean mom or dad need a cognitive assessment and perhaps more intervention in their lives to be safe, clean, and well. I don't think so. Other family & the doctor chalks it up to "old age" and that's the end of it.

We politely say "mom's a pistol" or "she sure is feisty today". And are surprised when those behaviors recur or get worse.

There isn't anybody around who can pull you aside to say "that hot & cold running niceness your mom has is called Showtiming. It's a coping mechanism because your mom is scared of what's happening to her. It's not normal old age."
Well written...good point...the anger seems to erupt when they are embarrassed by something they did, but make a scene to deflect what happen and blame it on someone else, usually the caregiver or family member. So sad when this becomes a norm for them.
I think one of the difficulties is discerning the difference between just obstinate or contrary behavior vs. true cognitive decline.

And given that sometimes I can't think clearly and get mixed up, I immediately wonder if I have dementia!

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