My 88-year-old mother has a habit of laughing at me and calling me a PITA every time I express concerns about her or my Dad. They are both in decline, living in an independent living facility, but as a stroke survivor who has lost almost all of his spoken and written language Dad is much, much more obviously compromised than Mom. Still, I'm not imagining things. Their situation is getting worse. Friday, Dad fell for the 3rd time in about 6 months. The previous 2 times, the hospital said dehydration was the cause, & released him to my mother's care immediately. I understand that dehydration is common among elders, and they sometimes need to be pushed a little bit to drink extra. Dad hasn't been drinking enough & Mom keeps ignoring it and not pushing for him to drink more. She will not allow any other caregivers into their apartment at the facility, even though she complains constantly of what amounts to serious caregiver burnout. Anyway, every time I call or visit, I think very carefully about how to approach my Mom in the most supportive, and compassionate way possible about any concerns I have, because my 16-year-old son is a high-support autistic, & I know what quality caregiving requires.

Here is an example of the kind of input I'd gladly provide, but must be extremely careful about even thinking about bringing up. Dad, my son and I are all on the autism spectrum, I know intuitively as most autistics do that many of our meltdowns are due to or exacerbated by exhaustion, hunger & thirst that autistics of ALL ages (not just elders) have trouble recognizing. Our bodies do not communicate signs of hunger, thirst and exhaustion to our brains efficiently. Many of us have found our own work-arounds, but our family members often don't realize what is going on because they get their information from clinicians and researchers who are about fifteen years behind #ActualAutistics. It is for this kind of reason I am a community advisory committee member for one of the most important annual autism science conferences in the world. In the past eight years, more & more of autistics have been attending and to our immense gratification, more & more researchers have traveled from dismissing us completely, to listening with skepticism, to seeking us out (including me) for input. Last year, a researcher of great renown sought me out for feedback on some preliminary comments he made at a press conference before he gave the formal keynote. He immediately incorporated my comments into that keynote. Along with the support of my wonderful husband and son, this type of experience is how I have regained some of the self-esteem my upbringing damaged.

I get that no one is perfect, and I love Mom. She is intelligent, creative and I think generally does her best to show love as well as talk about it in caring for Dad (when she's not snapping at him to speak even though he can't.) But she's different with me. Last night, when I carefully asked her to please check in with her own doctor about a persistent cough she's had for over 2 weeks (She's ignored symptoms like this for the past 2 winters and ended up getting diagnosed with pneumonia) she ordered me to stop worrying and bugging her. Then she laughed at me. Then she called me a Pain in the A** for the millionth time. Something inside of me broke; I could feel it.

Hours later past bedtime, I suddenly started sobbing. I've had crying jags on & off ever since. She hurt my feelings. Worse yet, she seems to find it funny that she hurts my feelings. I get that some aspects of so-called normal human behavior elude me, b/c I'm autistic. But I also know callousness & rudeness when I see it. Mom may have very little self-control these days, but whether she can't or won't control herself, she's still hurting me & that's not OK with me. I've once or twice tried to bring in other people who care about her to talk to her, but don't want to keep putting good people in the middle.

Thank you for listening.

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Aikyo, I’m so sorry you’re going through this and have to deal with your Dads decline and your Moms cruel comments. She’s the real PITA! I’m thinking that your Dad may be too much for her to be responsible for in Independent Living. I would make sure the social worker at the rehab knows how your Mom treats him and cannot keep him safe. Perhaps he needs a higher level of care. Now would be a good time to address that while you have more eyes on him.

When my mom hurts my feelings and I tell her so, she says I'm too sensitive and need to "toughen up and take it", as if it's normal to belittle other people. Similar to your mom's dismissal of your feelings, I think. What you find out for your own understanding of autism is wonderful work, but probably way too complicated for your mom to follow and therefore change her behavior. I guess we can just know in our own minds and hearts what is going on with ourselves and them, feel the hurt they cause, and go on. You seem to know how to handle it all.

First of all, many thanks to all of you for your thoughtful responses. I am feeling a bit better since I posted that. I’ve decided, first of all, that since my Dad was not released directly to my Mom, and is instead in a physical rehab facility, he’s much safer for the moment than he was. I’ll have the opportunity to talk to the staff there in Mom’s absence, so I can make requests about what they tell my Mom he needs going forward. I will be forthright with them.
Mom may or may be in the early stages of dementia; I’m not qualified to assess that, and she won’t get an assessment herself. Although often loving and kind, she has also always had this dimissive, defensive, impatient side to her. It may be getting worse now for all kinds of reasons, stress, age without dementia, age with dementia; I’m not sure even someone with actual expertise in geriatric psychology could figure out exactly how the threads intertwine

Some if you have said I need a break. I agree completely. What’s a bit pathetic about my situation is that I’m actually ON a break. Here’s something I wrote elsewhere on this site earlier this month:

“A breaking point came for me about two weeks ago. I hurt my back in January, and had taking it easy for about a week to recover. I thought I was well, but then I returned to my sometimes frantic routine too early and I started having pain again. Demands on my time kept mounting; The pain kept worsening, and I kept ignoring everything, because I really didn’t want to admit to myself how in. I had become physically. I I felt embarrassed for needing help myself, and scared that a doctor would tell me I couldn’t help all the people who relied on me. 

Then my husband who has started succeeding in all kinds of comedy performances kept asking me to come see him perform multiple times a week, Since I’ve been encouraging him, he couldn’t understand why I didn’t seem enthusiastic finally asked me if I was afraid for some reason that I wouldn’t have the reaction he wanted me to. I had been telling him that I hadn’t been feeling very well, but he was so excited about what he was doing what I kept trying to tell him seem to fly right over his head. So finally I had to say very firmly, “I am in pain all the time and it’s getting worse. “ He asked me to see the doctor, so I did.

I knew my weight was up, but was was Surprised to learn that my blood pressure, which has always been on the very low side, was suddenly high. She put me on all kinds of global restrictions that are a big change for me, but if I was to get back to full functioning, I need to follow them. So now under her orders I’m Spending a lot of time at physical therapy, eating vegan, not doing much housework, not driving or even riding in cars for long distances, etc. That means no visits to my parents until I get the all-clear from my own PT and doctor.

I’m doing better. So far I’ve lost 2 pounds in two weeks, I have much, much less pain, and have cut way down on social obligations. Most of the people I care about have been very understanding, which is a great blessing. Although my son doesn’t have much spoken language, he understands everything. I’m pretty sure he knows something is going on with me. Yesterday he brought me a big cup of water and said ‘Drink it, please.’”

So I have support & understanding from my doctor, husband & son, which is a blessing. Right now I’m framing my relationship with Mom like this: We’re having a rough patch and neither of us are up to more than exchanging information in a civil way. Neither of us can deal with serious confrontations with one another. I will save all serious sharing for medical professionals treating my Dad. If, after his stint in physical rehab, Mom hires someone to help with caring for Dad, great, I’ll talk to that person. If not, then I’ll probably need to talk to the facility. about how to best handle her. But as my Mom wisely says, “That is Next Week’s (or maybe next month’s) problem.

Reading this broke my heart. I too have had uncontrollable crying jags. Then I get mad. Then I cry and so on.

So, take a break. You need it. I am terrible at taking care of myself and taking breaks but reading your post it is clear to me you need a break.

This is why I joined this community. We need a place to vent, learn, breath and take advice. My advice is take some time for yourself even if for only an hour.

My MIL laughs at me too. I get offended and angry, come in my room and cry. It is disrespectful and no matter what her reason it feels terrible.

I've often wondered if my MIL's laughter is more of a nervous reaction. Either way I hate it and it makes me feel terrible.

I'm sorry this is happening.

Just ((((((hugs)))))))).

Call the facility and ask that they keep an eye on your dad as you need to take a break for a few weeks.

Give yourself some time away from the abuse.

If Mom will not accept your good intentions and goes so far as laughing at you and calling you names, it may be time to back away. If your attempts to help result in nothing but verbal abuse, there is no reason to continue. Arrange a meeting with the facility’s social services department. Share that in your opinion your mother is not caring for your father as he needs to be. If he cannot speak and she is yelling at him, that is abuse as well. If she is not providing him with fluids to the point he is becoming so weak he’s repeatedly falling...again, abuse. Mom may actually be in the beginning stages of dementia. In any case you need to share this with the powers that be at the facility. If you don’t, and something serious happens, you’ll never forgive yourself.

Hi, I totally understand you as I am caring for both my parents as well. My mom is good just very ill and my dad has never said thank you or a good word to me or my mom always bickering and he is immobile so l have to do everything from changing him to bathing shaving etc....I am with them most of the day around 9 hours and it is also taking a toll on me. Let’s hang in there and do the best we can with no regrets.❤️

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