What if We are Creating in our Elders, the Crazy Behavior We Write About?

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What if our elders aren't all crazy. Could it be being treated like children by their children causes them to act out? I am laughing after having read a letter to my mother from my grandmother that said just that. Perhaps we should just listen

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This has turned into a marvelous discussion!

We all must try hard not to treat our parents like children. I believe that deeply, and I feel many elders act out when they feel they are treated that way. That's why I don't like terms like "parenting our parents," even though it often seems like that is what we do. This “self-talk” can send us into “crazy making behavior.” So, it’s good that was brought up.

But - and many of you have made this wonderfully clear - many people were raised by abusive, addicted parents, and this has made the complicated caregiving relationship even harder. All caregivers who are doing what they feel is best for their care receivers are heroes, but to me, those of you who are doing the best you can with such difficult backgrounds are amazing beyond belief. Many people, under those circumstances, can't do it all and have to turn their parents over to a court appointed guardian. That is okay, too. If they can't handle it, it's understandable.

But you who are doing what you are under such difficult conditions are exceptional. You won't be perfect, as none of us do this perfectly. But you are something special.

When I think back on all seven of my elders, there are many things I'd do better. But there are many things I'd do better if I could go back as a mother. Yet, for everyone I've cared for - elders and children - I did the best I could at the time. That's what you all are doing. You are doing the best you can with the circumstances you’ve been given.

Hugs to you all. I'm honored to "know" you.

Dear t, it is refreshing to read your post, which brings balance to this sensitive issue. It is difficult to assume a Cargiving role for a parents, and you show a willingness to be sensitive to this with your parents, while remaining alert to the danger of having it swing too far in the wrong direction. Perhaps that was the intent of this thread? It's something we all need to be sensitive to, and unfortunately, perhaps a real possibility at times. Thanks for reminding us. I count you as one of those hero angel Caregivers.

And God bless the ones who can do it with a positive, joy-filled attitude. You, too, are heroes! Please pray for the rest of those who struggle greatly, while trying to provide care under less than ideal circumstances. They need your support.

I was a bit put off by this thread, at first, a feeling somewhat defensive. (Guess that's from growing up under very negative circumstances.) But by God's grace, I can now care for my parents differently, with a forgiving approach, not a revengeful one, despite the past. This takes tremendous strength beyond ourselves, at times. Thanks for the reminder that we don't want to add to a parent's demise, under the weight they may sometimes carry, becoming dependent and declining physically or cognitively. What a sensitive line this is. For those of you who do it with joy, what an example you are to the rest of us who struggle. Thanks for the reminder to be sensitive to, and respectful of our elders.
I also think this is interesting. As part time helper of my mother (my father has dementia and Parkinsons) I've been trying my best not to fall into the role of bossy older daughter with her. It may be too late for my father, but I recognise the risk of driving my bright, capable mother into infantilism by taking control, or into craziness by denying who I am and just taking orders. It's been quite hard to walk the line, I'm sorry to say. I suppose because I am affected by the situation too, and have my own issues.

Still, it's hard to step back into a parental relationship when it's been toxic in the past. It's hard to let the past go, in fact. I was talking to someone whose mother had always been an unpleasant drunk, but whose dementia has made her forget she likes alchohol. She has turned into a sweet and charming old lady, but some of the family, understandably, find this change very hard to handle.

Perhaps that's what dementia sometimes allows: a wiping of the slate.

Anyway, apart from organic causes, I sometimes think that if I was my father and had been struggling with Parkinson's and depression in front of the television for 20 years I'd be rolling around on floors and peeing into laundry baskets too, by now.

Otehrwise, I know people of people who've had dementia and been happy about it. My friend's great aunt used to wake in her care home every morning convinced that she had just checked into the Ritz. And I heard that my old next-door neighbour went into a care home, and forgot totally who her family were, but apparently enjoyed herself thoroughly. But she was always a positive and optimistic sort of person.
Are you kidding?

My mom still blames me for her abusive behavior, that she inflicted on my sister and me as children. Now we blame the victim? My mom is irrational. That's my fault? Or I cause it? Hard to believe. I didn't make her hit my Dad, or scream at him, or starve the poor man inflicted with Alzheimer's. I didn't make her lie to him, or to her Physicians. Which part did I cause?

When she goes to the bank to learn about her assets, and their value, and the amount in their accounts, and asks to have them explain to her about a CD. 15 minutes later she asks, "What's a CD?" Uh, didn't we just explain it to you?

I could give you so many examples. Mom would love to point the finger at her husband, her children, the neighbor, her school principal, the parents of the school children she taught. It's always someone else's fault. Never taking personal responsibility. It wasn't her addictions, unrealistic expectations, or paranoia... So, no. We don't create it. We, as children can cause heartache. But don't ever buy into the lie that we are to blame. At least, not in my family.
I actually was reading an article about the subject, not speaking about specific people. I think we can all be "crazymakers" like my grandmother says if the circumstances are right. I am looking to share thoughts on the subject with others who might be asking the same question. I am feeling quite reflective these last days of summer and hope to have a group discussion who think like me. I used to think when I was a teenager that my mom went out of her way to make me crazy, now as a mom I get it.

I am deeply sorry for anyone who feels they have an actual crazy parent, this question might not have set too well but was not personal. No doubt young crazy people become old crazy people and credit is due to anyone dealing with that.
Dear Annlidiot, that was sweet of you to clarify, and offer condolences. I think I see your perspective, from a mother/daughter point of view, especially involving teenagers. Why is it that parents struggle with their children at times, and visa versa? Hmmmmmm...age old question. Thank you for your sensitivity to those struggling with less than ideal situations. I guess those who only have "normal" struggles can count their blessings. Keep being reflective, because it is a great subject, and nice to think about these things, and bounce ideas back and forth. I hope you find a group of like-minded individuals that's a good fit for you. Thank you for your humble reply. You are a gracious lady.
Thank you secretsister, and everyone; it is really a sensitive line. But an interesting and helpful topic!
I'm actually a bit surprised at the immediate reaction to my question. I know that everyone has their own reasons for reading the posts on this board but I can't help but wonder at the comments about this being such a sensitive subject, it was after a general question.

I was hoping that one of the experts listed on the board would reply to my question and perhaps shed some light on how to walk the fine line between caring for a parent without projecting old baggage from the past. Normal or not, it is something I and my friends wrestle with.

I understand that some who are perhaps isolated and rely on this board more than others. My comments are not directed at them, nor do I wish to intrude on how they choose to find enjoyment and support. I think there is room for all of us at the inn, and I wish them peace.
While I was caring for my mother for two weeks I had to remind myself she was an adult and what right did I have telling her it was time to eat and did try to ask if she was ready to eat and not to foll her plate but to put small portions on a serving plate and let her help herself and to keep pudding in the fridge in case that is all she wanted to eat some-it was very different than caring for my husband and had to learn as I went along it was a hard role to learn.
Even among mentally healthy families there appears to be some sort of role reversal that takes place at the point when a parent's health begins to deteriorate. Mom begins to forget important things like taking medicine or keeping doctor appointments. At first, Daughter gently reminds mom about these things. After the fifth event, daughter gets a little more forceful in her reminders and mom gets a little more feisty in resisting. Depending on the temperament of each, the ultimate result may be ugly. And it is not too different from the frustration a good parent faces in dealing with a wayward teenager. So my answer to the question posed is NO we are not creating the crazy behavior we are writing about. It is just a fact of life. However, if our family interaction was dysfunctional from the beginning, than the crazy behavior was already there. Our writing about it is only the result of self reflection and our desire for a better yesterday.

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