NeverKnew Asked February 2013

How can I tell what mom really wants or needs when any 'real' conversations make her angry?


It's been a while since posted about mom. Things haven't changed much, except by me who, by avoiding conversations, or comments, about what's going on with her has managed find a little of the "old" mom again.

I learned that keeping calm, and standing my ground by saying such things (in a calm manner) like "you don't have the right to get angry with ME, just because you don't remember something". I've also told her that I will no longer be intimidated by her anger and disatisfaction of me and my "Type A" personality. I've also, very calmly and with precise timing, been able to tell her, in so many words, that I really don't want to hear about her physical ailments, or inability to do even some of the simplest of housekeeping tasks, when she thinks that sitting at her computer all day, in her pajamas (usually) until 2 or 3 in the afternoon, chainsmoking and playing games.

These changes came after a loud and angry argument about her contributing to at least some of the chores of the house. This isn't only for the help it would provide me, but a way too, to get her involved in something, ANYTHING besides sitting at her computer all day. She doesn't even eat well anymore due mostly to her lack of any ambition at all. This argument came down to me telling her that if that was how she wanted to live, that she should find another place to live that way.

It is SO hard to watch her, at 73, shorten her life so much and become more and more reclusive. About the only thing she seems to like to do, is shop. If she has money, she shops. She is usually good at paying bills, but in the last few months there has been a couple that she's admitted she forgot to pay. (One of them a utility bill that sent a notification to our landlord). She has a decent income with social security and a school pension, but she is constantly broke due to the over use of her credit cards.

Basically, her judgement skills are deteriorating, and quickly. Today when I asked if she was willing to help out around the house at all... I got the same angry response, "I will do what I want to do when I 'freakin' want to do it and if you don't like it, do it yourself'. The lower part of the house stinks some days, from the excess cigarette smoke, and she refuses at ALL to do anything with the floors... since, according to her, I have more pets than her and there's no reason to clean it since they (the pets) will just make it dirty again. Even her cleaning skills have deteriorated (simple things like washing dishes). Worse yet, she's remembering things that she thinks SHE did, that she didn't, hasn't done, in some time, but because I've done it, she is adament that is was her (to the point of being angry if I say anything different).

The thing is, she CAN do things, IF she wants to. She complains about her stamina, and getting SO tired when she does anything, but yet she gets angry when I suggest she pace herself, and try doing a little something everyday so that she can regain these months and months of doing next to nothing.

Now we're back at the, "I'm still looking for a place of my own" but she can't. She can't afford any more than what she pays living with me and, having given her things to me when she opted to leave our shared home before to go to another state and marry a man she met online, she doesn't have much furniture, and no appliances. (forgive me for saying that, under the circumstances, I'm not willing to give her back everything that she legally, and in writing, gave to me, when she left the first time).

I know I'm just venting here, again. But it hurt badly last week when my 51st birthday came and went and I didn't even get a card. When I mentioned the disappointment (again in a calm and respectful manner) I got "Well I forgot when I was at the store last week, and I didn't go anywhere today"... I was in school most of the day and all evening... I'm sorry, it seems like such a small thing, but there was no card (which has always been highlight of my birthday, the cards I would get from her). I wound up buying my own birthday cake and sharing it ith my classmates... bringing the leftovers home.

I'm lost. I really don't think she can afford anything more than her 400/mo expense that she pays now (certainly not one that willl let her have her cats or chain smoke at the computer all day long). I also am afraid that if she's living completely on her own, she'll shut down even more.

I've found myself doubting myself more and more about how I'm supposed to help her... and I struggle SO much with being able to just 'let go' and wait until she's physically and mentally, completely unable to care for herself. In short, I feel like the worst daughter on earth right now...

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jeannegibbs Mar 2013
NeverKnew, thank you for that additional information. You clearly know more than you want to know about depression. And you have tried all the appropriate ways to help someone who has depression. Good for you! As you know, a nudge from someone can be a great help toward getting depression treated.

Don't give up faith. You CAN make things better, for people who want them to be better and who will cooperate. I'll sure you will have many "failures" in your career where these conditions are not in place, but the many successes will more than make up for those. You aren't going to be able to save every youth who needs saving, but you can make a huge difference in some lives. Well worth studying for!

I have a close friend whose husband developed depression several years after they were married. My friend is patient and sympathetic regarding mental problems. Like you, she tried all the recommended ways to get him to take action. She tried for a couple of years or more. Finally she concluded that she could not save him from himself and she needed to save herself. She divorced him. She didn't divorce him because he had depression -- she knew he couldn't help that and it was a disease. She wouldn't divorce someone for having arthritis or diabetes. She divorced him because he would take no responsibility for trying to manage the disease in any way. She went on with her life, and is very happy in her career and in a new relationship. Oddly enough her ex-husband did better, too. He had to get a job to support himself, he responded to their grandchildren when they reached out to him, and he participated in a community program. I would not say he was a happy person, but a lot happier than when he was married and totally dependent on my friend.

I think Parnelli is right. (Right for you and for Candy1216) It is time to step out of this situation. Give your mother some conditions that must be met, on a timeline, and if she is not willing to meet them, remove yourself from the caregiver role. I don't mean to stop loving her or to stop wishing her well, but stop trying to take responsibility for her life.

You have an important and exciting career to prepare for. Take you life back and do it!
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Parnelli Mar 2013
A wise advice columnist said that no one can take advantage of you without your permission. It's time for tough love. Give her a timetable of changes she needs to make, beginning with therapy, the final one "Moving Out". Tell her you will move her out if she doesn't comply. She pushes your buttons because you let her. Would you treat your children this way? Get your brother the truckdriver to e-mail her with his support for you. Get a backbone, let go of the guilt & take your life back. Good luck!
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NeverKnew Feb 2013
Thanks everyone for your encouragement and support, it means so much to me.

But, I feel I need to elaborate on a few things. First, I know my mom is depressed, and the most troubling thing about her, to me, is that she, admittedly, has NO faith, none, nada, in ANY thing. Add to that the fact that I have NO power to get her to see a doctor, not now. I did - a year and a half ago after she left her last husband and was so angry about getting the divorce over and done.

I've made the suggestions, for nearly 2 years, about getting involved more with people her age. She's a quilter, and even our landlady has made suggestions for a quilting group of ladies mom's age but it never panned out. I've suggested the senior center, even to the extent that since she was, by most standards, in such better health than most her age, she maybe could help them out a little, make friends, go to lunch... anything that would help get her out of herself.

When she did talk to a doctor and was dx'd with depression, he did put her on meds - prozac I think (but I can't be sure). And, she went to a local clinic for counseling, even I went once to talk to her therapist who offered to have both of us there, but it never happened. What I found out in my visit, is that they talked about next to nothing, of any importance. And after only about 2-3 months, she was ready to quit, the counseling, the drugs and everything - because she felt better.

I've been hospitalized for depression - decades ago, and have attempted suicide from it more than once (decades ago) so I know the signs, and I know the things that help get you out of it - for me it was getting out my own self, by helping others. I can't even really approach her about these things, and I have NO legal ability to get her any help either, and she knows it.

For as long as I can remember, my mother has never been good about talking about her feelings - she's the queen of "it's over and done and nothing good will come from talking about it now". Having come from a very rough upbringing and turbulant 20's, I am exactly the opposite. I learned the hard way that trying to keep everything bottled up landed me in bad relationships, addiction programs, jobless and sometimes even basically homeless... I've run th gammut on negative thoughts, low self esteem and depression. I think that's part of what tears me up about not being able to help her now...

My situation is such that I'm currently unemployed, due only to the fact that my employer passed away unexpectedly. But, I am getting a small amount of unemployment (due to a 10/hr job), and going to Certified Nursing Assistant and Medications Aide classes that are being paid for by Job Service just so I CAN get back to work. I'm also going to school online to complete my bachelor's in Sociology with a specialization in youth (I want to work with troubled kids), something I've been working toward for the last 3 years.

So in short, I'm already exhausted, trying to hang on to my faith that I can make things better, and I don't have the money to pay for a place for my mom (even when I was working full time, my mom's income was more than 500/mo more than mine).

It helps to come out here and vent and know that I'm not alone in my suffering and concern, but I guess I'm left to wait until it gets to a point that I have absolutely no choice to but to try and get my sister involved (she's usually the one who says "what do you want me to do about it"... mostly because she thinks she has enough stress in her life already). I have an older brother that sometimes can talk some sense into her, but he's a truckdriver and on the road most of the time and not always accessible.
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BarbaraT Feb 2013
It's really difficult to be the butt of your mom's anger and depression. I found that if we could lighten-up and find things to laugh about together we were much happier. I always liked to leave my mother with a smile on her face. Finding the humor in dark situations might help. Your mom is angry because she knows that she's losing her capability to be the person she was. But if you can remember the things that made her laugh, you might feel a lot better. Medication also helps. Think about talking with a doctor to find a mood elevator that relieves her depression. Barbara
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Candy1216 Feb 2013
I come to this forum often... for hope and support. Some days I would be lost without it. When I read your post today, neverknew, I cried my eyes out. Your mother is my mother. No one has ever articulated it so clearly. Like you, I am physically and emotionally exhausted. From the bottom of my heart, I know that I have tried everything, doesnt matter how big or how small, but literally EVERYTHING I can think of to help my mother improve her situation. I have read everything there is to read, gone to every specialist I can find, tried every traditional and non traditional method out there, but I have been unable to see even the smallest change. I am so tired.... I pray every day for the abilty to "let it go" and be content that I have done all I can... and wait for the PIVOTAL EVENT that is going to come. I am losing the battle and my mind.
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JessieBelle Feb 2013
NeverKnew, you have my sympathy. The things that stuck out most when you wrote is that your mother smokes a lot and doesn't do anything. Of course she is depressed. The thing about heavy smoking is that it steals oxygen from the body. Older heavy smokers tend to tire very quickly, very much like a car that is just running on vapors. Now, I don't know if she smokes too much and doesn't do anything because she is depressed, or if they directly contribute to her depression. Either way, it is a deadlock feedback loop that she has to get out of. I doubt that medication alone will be enough. She also needs to break the loop by modifying her behavior.

I have the feeling that saying you should do this and that for her will just make you feel like jumping off a cliff. You already do so much. Is there any help that you can call in? The thing that comes first to my mind is how to get her away from so many cigarettes, so she can get some oxygen back. I'm not pushing for total quitting, just cutting back. If she could get involved with people who can't tolerate smoke and going places where she can't smoke, it would be a start. The nicotine lozenges may help her when she is on her expeditions out of the house. The lozenges will keep withdrawal away without stealing her oxygen.

I don't know if you can get your mother to do these things to get her up and out of the house. I am not anti-medication, but I feel that it needs to be paired with sunshine and activity if it is taken. In your mother's case it also needs to be paired with getting her oxygen back. Maybe she would agree to smoking 5-6 cigarettes a day OUTSIDE and using the lozenges in the house. That would be better for everyone and would get her out of the house.
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jeannegibbs Feb 2013
Your profile says that your mom has depression. How is it being treated? Does she take medication as prescribed? The behavior you describe is consistent with depression. If she is not compliant with her treatment plan, that needs to be addressed. If she is then the treatment plan needs to be adjusted because it obviously is not working.

Before I was treated for depression I would sit and stare at the wall. Maybe if I'd had a computer then I would have played games. But as it was it was too much effort to walk across the room to pick up a newly arrived magazine. This is not how I wanted to be. The chemical imbalance in my brain caused this apathy. Emotional volatility, anger, and forgetfulness can be part of depression.

The good news is that depression is treatable. Often it takes some tinkering with the exact med and dosage, and usually talk therapy is a good accompaniment. Depression is very hard to overcome without medical intervention.
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garza5 Feb 2013
Thank you so much for your post telling it like it is. I think I can't go on another day, but you make me realize that if you can, I can. My situation is less difficult than yours. My husband is at the point where he can't (sometimes won't) do anything to help me. I am handicapped and need a caretaker for myself but we are hanging on to our small farm as long as possible because he is an outside person. He can no longer drive or ride his horse; to go to some assisted living room or worse would be his final straw. He is, was, a very sweet man that I adore and who has taken care of me with a smile for about 15 years. I am determined to do everything possible to help him now. Most days that old sweet personality comes through, but there are other days when not so sweet, and I am not a saint. Not to offend you, but I couldn't put up with your mother for half a day, so if you can go on, I can. So the floor is dirty, the kitchen needs first aid and the bathroom is moribund -- so far we're above water. As long as I can drive and not get lost we can hang on. I am 80, my husband is 84. Thank you again for sharing your story with us.
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Chicago1954 Feb 2013
It would be worth it to me, to pay her rent for her to move somewhere else. She will either get by or she won't. But, you can't make her change.

You are right that smoking and her animals add to the problem. Some assisted living spots take pets, now. But, I bet that they have to be really well behaved.
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Jaye Feb 2013
I am my Mother's caregiver, however she does not live with me... I am thinking it may come to that soon however. She gets very nasty and angry with me and has yelled at me. Sadly this is not that unusual we have always had a somewhat difficult relationship. I am the middle daughter, I was VERY close to my Father who passed away 2 1/2 yrs ago. Mother does not reason well at all and she does not realize that she doesn't. I have had to put her on medication to calm her down, and also an antidepressant. She would NOT for 5 minutes take these meds if she knew what they were...I set up her meds and get her groceries and try to help her, however it is NOT easy. After Daddy died she just would not eat and was not functioning well AT all.... She is now living in a wonderful apartment in and indepedant senior living complex. She has folks to talk with if she wants to, they do exersises in the morning, movies and sing alongs in the evening. Lots of the folks play games and cards... They have one really nice meal provided for them in the dining room, they also have kitchens in their apartments. Maybe you should try to find a place like this for your MOM... take care and hang in there....
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