My 94-year-old mother complains and whines about her ailments but won’t do anything about it. How can I get her to go to the doctor when she believes she is going to be dead soon?

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Mom had a partial colonoscopy about 4 years ago and has complained about it ever since, claiming the operation messed up her digestion (she is subject to almost chronic diarrhia). She has some trouble swallowing, I would like her to go to an ENT also, and she is way overdue for the dentist. She refuses to go, convinced she is going to be dead soon. I have been hearing that for the last 7 years... I really can't pick her up bodily and take her even if I make the appointment (tried that once, didn't work, she is stubborn as a mule and twice as cantankerous). How can I get her to go?

Answers 1 to 10 of 36
Pretty much I don't think you can make her. On the dentist, my dental office calls and reminds when when I'm due. My eye doctor sends an annual letter. Reminders are common. You might suggest to the dental office that the receptionist call Mom and suggest she is due for a checkup and they have openings next month, what day of the week would she prefer, etc. She might take a reminder better if it doesn't come from you. Or she might slam the phone down. Who knows? Might be worth a shot.

Did you inherit some stubborn genes? Everytime she complains about her digestion, say "That sounds bad. I'll make an appointment with Dr. Smith for you." If she complains about her swallowing, say "That sounds bad. I'll make an appointment with Dr. Jones for you." Do you think that if every time she complained about an ailment you replied pleasantly but persistently with an offer to make an appointment she would either stop complaining so frequently or would relent and see a doctor? Either one would be an improvement for you, wouldn't it?

In many ways there is role reversal when children care for an elderly parent. But a parent can insist that a nine-year-old must see the dentist. You can't really force an elder who still is competent to make her own decisions to comply with that kind of request.

I suppose you do have some ultimate bargaining power if you want to exert it. What does she need from you? "I'll take you to your hairdresser if you also let me take you to the dentist. No dentist, no hairdresser." But that kind of power struggle might just be too ugly for the benefits.

I guess she is entitled to neglect her own care if she wants to, but then she should stop expecting you to listen to all the moaning.

Just curious -- how do you deal with all the moaning and complaining now? I think that would wear very thin very fast!
DT, I am currently reading a book about relating to people. One of the suggestions is that when you would like something from someone, in your case that your mother take the different actions you are suggesting, you don't focus on why you want them to do it. Think about what it is that she REALLY wants more than anything. How will these actions benefit her, and meet her WANTS. If you spend some time thinking about her wants and needs you may find a way to match that up with the actions you are suggesting.

Just an idea, good luck. My thoughts are with you and your mother.
Good point, Nicole. DT, if you think of something like that that would motivate your mother, let us know how that works out.

I've just been thinking of a few years back when Mom was in a TCU after hospitalization for a fall. A test that they did for other purposes revealed an ovarian growth of some kind. This wasn't within the scope of what she was being treated for and they advised her to make an appointment for followup. They gave her name to the specialty clinic and a week or so after she was home that clinic called to set up the appointment. No thank you, she did not want an appointment.

I took her to her next appointment with her geriatrician. The doctor said she saw the recommendation for followup but not results. Did she make the appointment? No, Ma said. I'm not going to. It isn't bothering me and if there is something wrong I don't want to know about it. The doctor said she totally respected Ma's right to make that decision, but she was obligated to make sure she understood that if she did have cancer it could be treated, and if she didn't have treatment it could be serious or fatal. My mother said, "I would refuse chemo. So what is the point of worrying about it? I have lived a good long life. If this is my time, I won't fight it." The doctor asked me if I was OK with that. I said that I was OK with Ma making her own decision, and that I was comfortable she knew what she was deciding.

Mother has MCI now and a case could be made for taking over some of that kind of decision-making. But knowing her beliefs and attitudes I would still respect her right to refuse treatments or to refuse tests.

DT, I think that your situation is a little different. Your mother complains, and there might be solutions that would give her a greater quality of life. I can fully understand why you would want to presuade her to try to find solutions to her complaints. But ultimately, it really is her decision, isn't it?
jeannegibbbs - It is hard to deal with the almost constant whining and complaining, but as I know you have read on another blog, my mom has Zero imagination - I once asked her why she complains so much, her answer was that if she did not complain she would not know what to say! So, as the old saying goes, That which is, is. That which is not, is not, is it not? Or, as Yoda says, there is no try, there is do or not do. Not much I can do to change her at this point, so you can't please everyone so you got to please yourself (Ricky Nelson - I am really feeling all of the cliche's tonight...) I can't get away to enjoy myself, so I must be satisfied and make the best of making myself an individual. Nichole - Yes, I get the wisdom in what you say but as her ailments are about all mom has, she clings to them hard. She is narcissisic, so the feelings of others mean little to her. She has no real belief system or base, no conception of an after life, you need an imagination for that, so to quote another old song (ad nauseum) she is tired of livin' but feared of diein'. I just cope and do not take it personally. At least she boasts to the doctors, nurses, lab techs, and anyone else that I am taking good care of her - that is a kind of payment and gratification in itself.
Well, hugs to you DT.And why can't you get away to enjoy yourself? (You've probably explained this elsewhere. Please humor a newbie.) As well as having no imagination, does she not have any money to pay for some respite?

I am really impressed that you can avoid taking it personally.
DT maybe your mom must wants to complain without you trying to fix her problems. I know that when I have a serious pain that drives me crazy, I will eventually have it fixed, whatever the 'it' is because, let's face it... it's a pain. Maybe some people just want to complain for complaining sake.
You might approach it from the standpoint that she may complain enough to other people, that other people might start thinking you are neglecting her and then take action which may result in her being moved somewhere else where someone else might be taking care of her. Having had morning, noon, and night sickness with my pregnancy and a lot of digestion stuff after my recent gallbladder removal...I can relate to being upset with putting up with digestion issues. Yikes!

If you can get the New Testament on tape she might feel comforted after listening to the book of John. Just a thought. I like John 14.

I hope that the doctors can provide any care that will ease her discomfort. Maybe it might work better if you call the doctor and have the doctor call her to check up on her. I'm very surprised they can't get that diarrhea under control.

I go through the same kind of things with my mom and my live in relative. It makes me nuts.

jeannegibbs - It is a ligitimate question. Actually, wrapped up in the entire disillusionment of moving back here is that I had hoped to sort of form a nucleus to re-establish a relationship with my nephews, nieces, great nep's and niec's too. it was just one of those things mom sort of misrepresented to me living far away in Cal. When I spoke to her on the phone she would often mention that so-and-so had taken her shopping, or helped her with something. I have 3 nieces and a sister in law in town (my brother died some time ago) and 3 nephews in the midwest though two are a full day's drive away in other states, my sister too, in Northern Michigan and has since died herself, but still, closer than California. It turned out (trimming a long story) that my sister in law and nieces had not changed that much - they are all airheads with little on their minds but their tanning parlor, makeup, and hair. Once I got back here, we saw them about once a year when they paid their obligatory visit at Christmas to grndma (and got their present) or when they dropped another kid (present again) whom we rarely saw after. I guess they decided they could just leave it all up to me. Even when I had my own knee surgery, I had to beg them to come and help while I was sort of laid up. I was getting around pretty well after about two weeks, and then they did not come around anymore - they will not take on any responsability for grandma. My nephews are another story - I was very disappointed to find out there had been an astrangement and they rarely spoke to each other anyway, even if we could get them together (there is another story of their family dynamics which I will not go into here, my mom and dad did not make very good role models for parents evidently). I have as much in common with the people in my town as I did before I moved to California (meaning, very little) and have not really had the time to make any true friends to rely on (several aquaintences, but in true tight-a.. conservative midwestern ways, not very outgoing, at least I do not see any). So, in a long answer to your question, no, there is no one I can rely on to take on any responsability. We have a Help-At-Home girl provided through medicare after mom had a serious fall (she has to be watched a lot, and wear one of those pendnants), and Tina has been a godsend more to me than to mom, she is a wonderful worker and serves to relieve me for a couple hours to go grocery shopping, whatever, but we only get her a couple hours a day 4 days a week. Mom's ailments and pains are not all imaginary though possibly and probably magnified, having what I feel is a low tolerance for pain (hence the whining and complaining - for attention, often and obviously). We really can't afford to hire anyone to tend to her personal needs if I am not here - if I did maybe I could get away for a vacation but if I paid for help, I could not afford to go away on any kind of vacation, you get the picture. At some future time when I do not have mom with me, I will probably have to sell the house (if I can find a buyer in this lousy real estate market) because mom provides a good share toward the expenses, and we live quite simply. At least mom has (and pays for) a good supplimental insurance so at least medical bills are at a minimum. We have explored social resources about as much as we can. So no, I feel pretty much trapped, or at least in captivity. What is the name of that old book - "Why Does the Caged Bird Sing?"
naheaton - I think it is a big dose of both - she loves to draw attention to herself, but her pains and chronic diarriha are real enough too. Wisdom, I have found, often lies diredtly in the middle.
addiewrain - Fortunately for me, mom is at least very vocal to doctors, nurses, and whomever that I take very good care of her. I have been worried from time to time because she bruises very easily, even when an IV is inserted, but I know I have her doctor on my side. As for the other, I have mentioned that mom has no imagination at all. To believe in a religious dogma of any kind, you must have the imagination to see it. She has no religious leanings, whatever she may have had she is still bitter about from when her favorite brother was killed in WWII, and whether it is just the hurt or the imagination thing, she is really negative about getting "preached to". Thank you for the suggestion, though. I am quite sure she is more comfortable with the more familiar, which is the pain, if that makes any sense.

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