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My Mother in Law was always a rather self centered person, but she could be empathic and was always generous with money to a fault (I would have rather seen her generosity manifest itself in kindness and understanding, rather than handing over cash). At any rate, she is becoming increasingly more easy to fly off the handle. She generally is pleasant to me, but she never seems to tire of biting her son's (my husband's head off) for just about anything. He tries to do whatever she wants, and I think for a guy, he is REMARKABLY helpful and responsive. He has little patience with her more frivolous demands, but he does what he can. I support him and I have also bent over backwards to keep her happy. We were very lucky for years to not have her as our responsibility. She likes to think of herself as an independent person, but I think her husband, now deceased, did a LOT. And he did what she wanted ASAP. When he died, she went to live near her sister. I think she depended very heavily on her and her sister's husband. She bit their heads off quite a bit, too. So....sister dies, MIL becomes very frail and she goes off the rails that her son doesn't care about her. I spent months away from my home, helping her out which was mainly driving her to one dr appt after another and to the emergency room at least every two weeks for something or other - generally was a false alarm. OK...we offer to have her move out near us since she feels so abandoned by her immediate family. She very willingly moved into an independent living retirement community and we are very thankful for that, but she seems to have fallen back into being ill all the time with one ailment or another. She has had every test in the book, 5 or 6 times, and a multitude of doctors NEVER find cancer, which I feel would explain a lot of her complaints. She absolutley REFUSES any suggestion from the doctors that she may be depressed and has thrown away prescriptions to antidepressants and gone on and on for days about how SHE is NOT depressed. Ha! And, she seems to expect us to cater to her every desire.

The anger and abandonment issues make me think she is starting to lose her grip on reality. Maybe a lot of the anger is her reaction to anything that smacks of reminding her that maybe her mind isn't what it used to be. But...she is quite capable of balancing her check book, making dr appts and remembering them, taking her medications faithfully and she certainly remembers every slight that has ever happened to her....:-) So, my husband and I just think this is the real her. We just didn't really know her for the last 30 years. My husband doesn't like his mother. He said he always felt he was a disappointment to her. I didn't used to agree with him, but maybe he's right. She is repeating herself more. She doesnt seem to remember that she has told us the same things a few times already, but, heck, I do that myself. She is also incredibly self centered. She NEVER asks anything about us. She couldn't care less. I feel its a sign that she feels neglected by us so she is just going to act like she has no interest in our lives. She is also still incredibly vain and won't go to lunch or dinner where she lives if she thinks she cannot pull herself together that day to look like a million bucks for everyone. We are always amazed at just who does she think she is impressing??!! But,for an 80 year old, she can really look great, even if she is 30 pounds underweight.

Sorry for the long rant, but could this be the beginning of dementia or is this her true self at her worst because she is not feeling good and cannot do and go everywhere and be admired like she used to?

I've read a lot of great posts that sound very much like my MIL and dementia or not, we are just not going to argue with her anymore. She goes bananas if anyone so much as hints at treating her like she might be getting senile.

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Sue: Here's a thought. You mom now lives in an independent retirement community. She has spent years biting people's heads off. Maybe she's still doing the head biting thing and, as a result, doesn't have a lot of friends where she lives. Maybe her husband and sister gave her a pass on a lot of her behavior and now it's not happening. It sounds like she has always been demanding and going to the doctor all the time may be a substitute for attention.

I think Jeannegibbs gave you good advise on the antidepressant disguise and I agree that you are exceedingly kind in making excuses for her lack of kindness to you and especially your husband.

I'm would also agree that it is possible she is experiencing grief because she has lost people, peers and relatives, that understood her and stayed by her side. Now there is no one to indulge her to the extent that she wants to be indulged. If your MIL is unkind to people and can't relate to their sense of loss, then she may not get much out of a grief group. You would know more about that and if she would even consider going.

What would be ideal is a group counseling situation regarding grief and loss where the therapist also makes one on one appointments with the various participants. It may be too much to hope for, but it would give her a place to vent and the one on one might be good for her; maybe filling a need to be heard and focused on.

My mom was very difficult. Towards the end, she was abusing her pain meds and had some issues with her memory. She became very hurtful and defensive, but she could always be very hurtful and extremely defensive. Nevertheless, she could see that something was not right with her. I think it was the pain meds, but she was afraid it was her mind. That was something she fought to keep anyone from knowing and she was always on the attack. When she was dying in the hospital, she said something to me regarding her mind. I told her I thought it was her pain medications, but she said no and that it had been going on for a while. I still think it was the pain meds, but her reaction to the FEAR that it was her mind closed a lot of opportunities for support, comfort and understanding. So my suggestion would be not to bring up the memory thing to her. It just puts up so many defenses.

You sound like two very kind people. I'm sure you will do your best for her and consider all possibilities. You have clearly demonstrated that. Please stay in touch. Hugs and love to you both.
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I understand what you are going through. My mother died 8 months ago and my father has not been the same since. Sometimes I look at him and ask "who is that elderly man?" He has undergone some kind of personality change. He used to be so considerate and friendly. Now he is self-absorbed and negative. Like your MIL he gets slighted easily and starts saying the most unreasonable things. My BIL is a bereavement counsellor and he says that the grieving period can last for months and even years. His opinion is that my dad is still going through grief. His advice was to find a bereavement support group for my dad. But, My dad is the sort of person that thinks that all these support groups are silly. However, I have encouraged him to reconnect with some old friends who have also been recently widowed. This informal bereavement group has been helpful for my dad. He is able to talk to them about things he is unable to with us. It is not easy dealing with grieving, aging parents. I don't know if you MIL is going through grief, but it may be worthwhile checking into some grief support services. Take care.
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I was estranged from my father for several years. When I started to spend time with him & eventually care for him, I had the same questions. Has dad always been this way or is it the dementia? I still don't know. I just know who he is now, a sweet & funny man who repeats himself, gets agitated in the afternoon, loves cowboy music, can talk for 12 straight hours & has an affinity for butterscotch pudding.

Your MIL has lost her husband, her sister and your husband is all she has left. She could be angry & depressed because she's in a new environment & people are telling her she's senile. That's a lot to handle even without dementia. A suggestion would be to voice your concerns to her doctor.

It's a challenge to care for a parent when you have unresolved issues. I had to realize it was too late to talk to my dad about these things, that time had passed. But it was so, so hard to do. Doing your best is good enough. I know you are concerned. Good luck to you.
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Well, avoiding arguing with her sounds like a good first step.

Since she is seeing her doctor frequently it might be good for her doctor to know of your concerns. Unless she has signed a hippa waiver to allow the doctor to talk to you about her, you may not get any feedback, but the doctor can listen to you. I suggest a note or an email before her next appointment.

I wonder if a doctor would prescribe a drug for a "seratonin deficiency" or some other euphomism for antidepressants. For example, my mother's geriatrician prescribed Aricept as a "memory aid" rather than as a dementia medication.

You are kind to be thinking up excuses for MIL. She feels neglected so she pretends not to be interested in you. Maybe. Or maybe she is totally self-centered and she has no interest in you. In any case, you are VERY fortunate that you did not bring her into your home. She would feel even less independent there and I hate to think of how she would try to overcome that.

Keep an eye on her. So far it doesn't sound like she is a danger to herself or that she shouldn't be living independently. Visit her as often as it is comfortable, and keep to superficial topics that won't upset her. That sounds sad to me, but growing up feeling like a disappointment to your mother sounds sad, too. The relationship is what it is. Make the most of any aspects of it that can be mutually enjoyable.
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