Where's the dignity?

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My mother has many, many health issues. And she is not ashamed (nor should she be) of any of them. Most recently she had a pubic catheter placed as her bladder is prolapsed and she can never completely empty her bladder-resulting in constant UTIs. This has been a blessing and the catheter doesn't seem to bother her at all HOWEVER, she insists on wearing the urine collection bag OUTSIDE of her clothing. It's designed to fit tidily under her clothes and not be on display, but the other day I went there with my daughter who is visiting from Texas with her 2 small children, the older child (4-1/2) was horrified and ran away. We had a family party the next night and Mother stayed in her wheelchair the whole night, with the bag draped well within view of everyone. She keeps her diabetic supplies right out on the kitchen counter and all the used "sharps" in clear plastic orange juice bottles for all the world to see. I have bought her numerous red plastic Hazardous waste containers ( when I get them for my hubby) and offer to pick them up and take them for disposal--but she doesn't like them...all her medications are on display, too, although she counts out each days meds on a weekly basis and there's no need to display them like fine china. Her place is already kind of a hoarded mess...we do the best we can, and we've all accustomed ourselves to the meds being out (no small children EVER go into her apt) but the urine bag is the last straw. She's pretty theatrical, so it's all done with an eye single to getting attention. And it does. Mostly, it makes the grandkids not want to visit her with the great grands. It's pretty off putting to the rest of us too.
It's one thing if I just show up, unannounced and see her, it's entirely different when she KNOWS we're coming to see her and she chooses to have that bag prominently hanging off her housecoat. My daughter was grossed out and we left pretty quickly. I'd warned her about it, but she didn't believe me.
I think Mother can live just as she wants....yet she says she wants to see the grandkids and the greats...BUT they are all a little frightened by her. I've tried to have a little chat with her about retaining some dignity, she does not have dementia, so I KNOW she's hearing me. I don't know what to do...maybe just leave her be? She goes to the local Sr community center a couple of times a week. I have to wonder how she "dresses" for them. Or if this is all for "us". The kids she WANTS in her life on a weekly basis are the ones she almost never sees. It's my brother and me, and we're both very aware of her issues. I try to ask my sibs to pay more attention to her, see her more often and their responses are always "Well, she has my number, she can call". Anybody else out there have this going on with their parents/partners? I just see this as a cry for attention more than anything, but it's weird and kind of disgusting. However, better than the wet depends she'd bag up and leave in the hall for "someone" to toss. Her place smells better..maybe I should just be glad for that. And no more UTis that made her so sick.


At 85 she is not likely to change her behavior. What did she say when the 4 yr old ran away from her? Does she care at all that she was scaring her or that her home is not safe for children?
And yes, the phone does work both ways, if she never bothers to call then I understand why they have gotten tired of calling her. Reminds me of someone I know, always playing the poor me card and trying to get everyone's pity, but not doing even the simplest things to help herself.
She didn't bat an eye when the 4 yo ran from her. The 2 yo has no idea who she even is. My DAUGHTER was the one who was repulsed. I warned her, but she said she needed to say hi to Mother while she was in town. It was a very short visit, and not likely to be repeated.
No, Mother is not "evolved" enough to care that she offends people, by choice or by mistake. She does indeed love the pity parties. My hubby made a comment after that visit. He said "I've known your mom for 40+ years and I have NEVER seen her when she does not have a neck brace, arm sling, crutches, stitches or is just recovering from some surgical procedure." After thinking about it, he was right! The wheelchair (when she can, and is supposed to walk as much as possible) is rapidly taking over the walker. I think she will be bed bound within 6 months. She is very weak and does no exercise. I guess I am just wishing she could have some sense of dignity--daddy was cathed the last few months of his life, and he was always sure that the bag was tucked under a blanket or something. Mom wears that thing like the medal of honor.
I think I was just feeling very frustrated today. She likes the idea of the grandkids (the youngest of whom is 18) and the IDEA of the greats (28 and counting) but she doesn't want to actually see them.
If I remember correctly, your mother is the one who's had numerous surgeries and wanted another one just recently? If I'm correct, I recall also that she seemed to want the surgeries, and in my interpretation, kind of "wore them like a badge of honor."

Perhaps it's the same with the catheter bag, something like "look what I'm going through now!"

If this is the situation, I don't think her "need to shock" is going to change unless the underlying and causative elements are addressed. And I suspect that whatever makes her want the surgeries and the shock value is deep seated and of long duration.

I'm wondering if you can turn the situation around to make it a learning experience? After all, bodily functions are something we all deal with in one way or another and even though they don't need to be broadcast or displayed openly, they are a fact of life.

Perhaps you could turn her displays into a medical knowledge session for the children.

If there's anything else you can think of that might take the zeal out of her excitement and normalize the situation, that might work as well.

I think the issue is taking away the shock value she seems to enjoy.
Take her picture.
LOL Sendme2help thats funny!

No offense but that was funny.

Anyways I find with people who want attention all the time ignoring them just doesn't seem to do the trick. They always find other ways of getting what they want. Sadly people like that ultimately will drive everyone away.

Maybe you should get her a camera phone. She could snap pictures of herself all day and send them to you. Then you wouldn't have to endure the visits. I don't mean to be glib but attention seekers don't usually change.

I have a sister like that. She always has to up your problem. Its tiring.
Midkid, I wish that someone would do some psychological studies on the elderly. They are an interesting group. Some of the things I've noticed with my own 88-yo mother with dementia is that she has stopped caring what I think about her. She cares only how I relate to her, e.g. doing what she wants me to and being nice to her. She will dress up and put on the dog when others are coming around, but even then she draws attention to what ails her. It is what she knows about and thinks about, so I guess she thinks everyone else will also be interested. For example, she has a rash on the back of her hands (mostly self-induced) that she puts calamine lotion on. Then she holds out her hands to people and says, "I have poison ivy." (She hasn't been outside in months.) then she talks about how poison ivy is growing on the sides of the house (It isn't) and how she caught it when she went outside to do things (huh?). I just hold my tongue and look as the listener's eyes glaze over and they say something trivial back to her, like "Well, I guess you'll have to stay away from it." I admire how nice they are. So she scored a point -- attention from a factitious rash with white calamine on it that makes her hands look like warmed over death.

I hope they don't think that I really let poison ivy grow all around the house. (Roll eyes.) Why she needs this type of attention, I don't know. I think a lot has to do with sitting in the house thinking about something on their body until a mole hill becomes a mountain. Then it occupies their mind in a big way, so they want to go to the doctor and tell other people about it. I bet elders who have a more active life don't do this.

Articles in scientific magazines always seem to concentrate on children and working adults. Psychologists are missing an interesting segment of the population -- old people. Those of us who are close to them can always predict what they do, but Lord only knows WHY they do it.
BTW, I think young children in general are terrified of very old people if they haven't been around her much. My 3-yo grand-niece was so afraid of my mother when she came to visit. She would NOT sit on my mother's lap for a picture. She would have rather been beat than to be anywhere near her. It was like she thought she was a monster. My grand-niece had never been around really old people.
Jessie when my mother was in the hospital dying my brother and sister in law kept trotting their 14 year old daughter and 11 year old son to see her. Granted thats not real young but we all knew my Mom was going to die any day and bringing them once to say good bye I can see. But to keep bringing them over and over. I didn't get the point.

My 11 yr. old nephew looked like a deer in the headlights every time. He didn't even want to look at his grandma. I understand wanting to teach your kids about death and so on but one visit would of sufficed IMO.
Midkid58, I don't think your mother is looking for dignity, do you? And she's not likely to change.

The young parents could use this as a teachable moment. Medical devices of all kinds can be a little scary-looking but they are wonderful for helping people who have something wrong with their bodies. And insulin pump, an oxygen tank, even a catheter bag are nothing to be frightened of or ashamed of. They are just part of life for some people. (But if the young parents haven't accepted that themselves yet, it would be a hard lesson to teach.)

Your mother's blatant display of her devices regardless if they make some people uncomfortable will no doubt keep some people away. That is a consequence of her choices. You need not try to overcome that or solve it for her. It is what it is and if she has fewer visitors because of it, so be it.

It sounds like overall this is a good thing. Less chance of UTI and no smelly disposables. Enjoy the benefits, and don't try to solve the problems Mom creates herself.
Thanks all, for the kind and "funny" advice. I know Mother is not going to change, At 85--she's just who she is. I'm only 59 but I see myself set in my ways too--the difference it, my kids constantly call me out on my "crap" and since there are 5 of them and one of me--sometimes I am like.."Guys, SERIOUSLY, I'm doing the best I can"....so maybe mother feels that way too. Altho only 2 of us are actively involved with her care (and this summer, I am only BARELY involved).....she's either unaware that she is a tad frightening to the littles or she doesn't care. Honestly, she loves to play the adoring grandma and ggma, but she does not want to actually have to interact with the kiddoes. That's fine. We've talked, as sibs. We are just going to keep the smaller kids away. I cannot explain a catheter to a 4 yo. The other gkids will not see her again until Christmas and by then, maybe we can get mom to tuck that urine bag out of sight. By then I imagine she will be 100% wheelchair bound and we can control that situation a little better when she isn't walking around.
I'm not taking any pictures of her lately--she sees herself sometimes in a mirror and is shocked by how old she looks. It's been a terrible year for her, and she's not likely to look "better" in her life. So sad, really her own mother (whom she wanted to emulate) went to the beauty parlor and nail salon weekly until the fall that finally took her life. Only in the NH the last 2 weeks of her life did my grandma look "old". She had ramrod straight posture, attitude and sass. Til the age of 95.
And yep, I'll take the urine collector bag any day of the week over the bag of wet depends and the smell of her apt. Truly, getting old is NOT for sissies!

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