Does my 80-year-old mother have dementia if she constantly criticizes her family?

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She is so negative...and won't listen. She thinks no one loves her, but it's hard to listen to the negative talking. And, telling her she is doing this won't do any good because she is never wrong. I feel sorry for her and want her to be happy, but I don't want to listen to her complain. My dad is taking care of her (she also has spinal disease and can hardly walk), but she stays mad at him, too. I call her every day, and many conversations are about how badly my dad is treating her, or that I'm an uncaring daughter.Sometimes, the conversations are fairly normal. She also cries very easily and has said some strange things, from time to time. I know she needs to take a dementia test, but telling her she might have it will send her through the roof. What do you think?

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How long has this been going on? Might she have a physical problem such as a uti? A general checkup, without mentioning dementia or other mental problems as the reason, would be a good idea. How often does she see a doctor for her spinal disease (or any other purpose)? Letting the doctor know ahead of time about these changes in her behavior might result in a referral to a general checkup and evaluation.

Has she always been the kind of person who is never wrong, or is this new behavior for her?

About the upsetting phone calls -- what would happen if you only participated in the "fairly normal" ones? Continue to call her every day. If she starts in on the uncaring daughter theme, say "I'm so sorry you see it that way, Mom. I love you very much. This call seems to be upsetting you and it is certainly upsetting me, so I'm going to end it for now. I'll call you later and see if we can have a pleasant conversation then. Good bye, Mom." or when she berates your dad, "Mom, you know that I love both you and Dad. I don't think it is appropriate for me to listen your complaints about each other. Let's change the subject, or end this call and I'll call later to talk about something else." The problem with this approach is that if she is truly losing her ability to reason she may not be able to "learn" from each terminated call. But it would at least remove you from the direct line of fire. If you try this, let us know if anything changes.

What about your long-suffering caregiver dad? Do you talk to him daily? Have you discussed Mom's behavior with him? Does he see it or is he in denial?

Daisy, I am truly sorry for the pain your family is in. I hope you can get medical attention for your mother and some up with some approach that will lessen the stress for you.

Daisy, as Jeanne had asked - is this new behaviour? or the same old thing. I have always had similar problems with my mother; the constant negativity, constant complaining, always sick with something and basically making my poor father's life miserable.

In my case; I called less and less as it seemed the more frequently I called, she would go on and on about the same thing and it only added fuel to the fire. If she is suffering from depression; she will definitely need medication to balance her moods. My mother refused to take the meds she was given as she is just so stubborn. She takes them now that she is in a nursing home; but when living with my father before he passed away; she would not and my father said there is something wrong with her - I would call basically to talk to my father as he needed to vent. Mother could and is verbally abusive, but medication now truly helps.

Jeanne gave great advice about what to say to your mother. But, if she is anything like my mother, she is never wrong and if you cross her she hangs up on me and I also get the bad daughter stuff too. I don't call frequently as there is no point - my mother is a "dweller" and I don't want to be on the receiving end anymore of her negativity. It serves no purpose.

And honestly, not talking to her every day made things better - in my case anyway. I hope for you, your mother is more receptive than mine. It truly is sad and my heart goes out to you. Believe me, I feel your pain. You are a wonderful daughter; but often, there is nothing we can do to make things right.

Blessings to you and will keep you in my prayers. Take care.

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