It is frustrating dealing with mom's irrationality. She's always been this way to some extent, it just seems to be getting worse. Doc has not yet weighed in on dementia but I see it.
Every little thing has to be a certain way in her world. It may be part of that being the only way she can process. And things are very extreme. For instance, small example, but she moves my water glass on the table, even though it is well within where it should be, because she is sure I am somehow going to dump it all over and she will have to "replace her furniture." EVen if it's just water. I'm quite sure at this late I've figured out how to have a catastrophe-free meal. Yet every night, she moves the glass.
There are many examples far more irrational than that, but I don't want to put down any details that might identify her. She has a great deal of anxiety about what should be normal things. When you try to present her with a fact or show her that what she is saying is not plausible, she gets very angry and then accuses me of forcing her blood pressure to raise and 'making her sick.' (Those physical changes actually do happen with her so I try not to agitate her). She tries to control every detail of everything and is constantly coming into my room to talk about the kitchen sponge, this or that. She's not really that controlling by nature so much as I think it shakes up her world when things are shifting and changing.

She has been having some things that I believe are hallucinations, I sometimes hear her talking to herself in the bathroom, and challenging anything with reality just makes her furious. And goes nowhere.

But where that leaves me is basically as a surrogate husband - I've settled into the 'yes dear's". I rarely get anywhere trying to challenge her. I find myself stuffing down anger with cake and ice cream and sometimes going to bed with adrenaline in m system. I've tried not to let my anger show but it either stuffs back down or comes out passive-aggressively. I sometimes end up going to bed with adrenaline in my system. Rational conversation only goes so far because it's the little irrationalities that drive me up the wall. The big things we can generally handle.
This is getting very unhealthy on my end, and I often have the urge to break something just to let it out - but I don't. Although I did bang my bed with a pillow last week.
When I can afford to , it will be best for us both for me to get my own place unless there is a medical reason to do otherwise. FOr now, this is what it is.

Suggestions on handling anger and cortisol? Thank you

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She probably has some degree of dementia. With my mom, I just go along to get along.

"Maggie! You hurt my arm!!!" (No, I barely grazed it, but she wasn't expecting it.) "Oh, mom, I'm sorry. I'll be more careful."

"Maggie! That glass is going to fall off the table!"
"Okay, let's move it."

"Maggie! My Depends are wet!" (No, they're not.)
"Okay, mom, let's change them.

"Maggie! You left me in bed all morning!" (It's 6 AM.)
"I'll try to get up earlier tomorrow." (No, I won't actually. Ha!)

"Maggie! There's someone breaking into the neighbor's house!" (It's the UPS man walking up the steps.)
"Really? Okay, let's see what he does, and I'll call the police."

In other words, whatever she says? I agree with. She's not in her right mind after all. Trying to reason with someone who has dementia and is convinced of their own reality is a waste of breath. Smile a little smile to glad it's not you...wink at visitors...and give yourself a big hug and pat on the back.

Such is the life of a caregiver.
Helpful Answer (17)

First of all, Im sorry your going through all this and this sounds so familiar. I went through a similar scenario when my father left I was left to be the punching bag or the "husband" for my mother. It didn't help I look much like my biological father.i The controlling factor was running rampid, many times I too went to bed feeling like I was going crazy with that full adrenaline. Im sorry your going through this. What I did was getting involved in an outside activity, volunteering at church, feeding the homeless, cooking and fundraising for a homeless crowd, Im not going to lie it was hard to come home to a yelling controlling bitter mother with hypertension. I had to do other things like join a support group for other women. The best thing I think helped me was join a womens group, a support group and womens prayer team. Being around other strong women is truly empowering and will help you get your life back in perspective. Realizing that you are truly beautiful for who you are and being around women that truly accept you and love and care for your will help you brush off the irrationality coming from your mother. I had to realize that my mother doesn't know how to love me even if she tried but I had to love her anyways. That was hard everytime she ridiculed me or tried to control me but I had to focus on the truth that she doesn't love me as I deserve it because she doesn't love her self either.
Helpful Answer (8)

Was your mom ever diagnosed with OCD or an anxiety disorder? The fixation on the water glass and the possibility of you being murdered if you venture out to the grocery store after dark seems like the kind of catastrophizing typical of someone suffering from free-floating anxiety.

As for how to respond to her irrationality, that's a tough one. As a very rational person, my MIL's rampant irrationality drives me nuts. I don't live with her (Thank all that is holy) but she frequently comes out with gems that make no sense. Like this one:

"It's too bad that Cousin X died at only seventy-five. He fell from the barn rafters onto a cement floor when he was five, and hit his head. That's why he died so young."

I thought to myself, Cousin X lived SEVENTY YEARS after he fell on his head! The head injury didn't kill him! He lived about as long as was normal for white males of his generation, you aggravating woman!

What I said was, "That's too bad. I know you liked Cousin X."

In MIL's case, she's always been irrational, and age isn't improving her reasoning power any.

Just tuning out and going with it will save you a lot of stress. It might also help if you report some of her odder remarks here. I, for one, would love to hear about what's up with the kitchen sponge.
Helpful Answer (8)

Well, the sponge can't be used in the sink. Because the sink is apparenttly horribly dirty (Oprah said so). We must use a brush on the sink. The sponge can only be used on the counters, and for no dishes. I have a separate sponge for my teflon frying pan, can't share them. And we must use the brush for the dishes. It's actually worked out to be a decent system but the little elements of control around it are annoying. While they aren't bad suggestions per se, she gets very agitated if this is altered.
I don't think she's afraid I will get murdered every time I go to he store, but is convinced that no one goes out in the evening - "no one" - because it's just unsage to do so. That may be true in some places, but we live in a suburban retirment community where your demise is most likely to be caused by a rogue golf cart.
Helpful Answer (8)

"She tries to control every detail of everything" - that's likely the crux of the obsessive placement of things and control over you. She's trying, probably subconsciously,to create order in a mind which is deteriorating and confused from dementia.

I've written this before but I think it's a good analogy so I'll repost it. I took an Alzheimer's Assn. class on caregiving, and one of our group exercises was to imagine this scenario:

You're on the free way driving home in a (rainstorm)(blizzard). Traffic is slow, visibility is low, defrosters aren't working well and you have to keep clearing the windows. Driving conditions are terrible. You're stressed from the traffic and from inching along on the freeway.

The passenger next to you is talking constantly, not really saying anything but just chattering way. It's hard to concentrate.

Then you look in your rear view mirror and see a big truck coming at you (likely down an entrance ramp) and it doesn't appear as if it's going to stop. How do YOU feel? Terror? Panic?

The idea is that people suffering from dementia can feel this overwhelming sense of too much stimuli, and it becomes fearful and threatening. There's also a sense of loss of control.

But I can imagine how irritating it must be for you, especially with the need for socialization at unsocial hours.

I don't know of any good ways to deal with that other than try to have a social hour before she goes to bed and get it over with, but then her mind isn't really in control at specified times.

The anger is something I think most of us can understand. Cortisol stress is toxic, as you seem to know.

Sometimes you can defuse it by listening to music, doing exercises (but not enough to get you physically charged up, just enough to relax you). If you draw, play an instrument, journal, or even just read, try to do that before bedtime to counteract that stress.

I think what works for some doesn't work for everyone, but do try the soothing music first.

And yes, this forum needs to have an edit function for posting.
Helpful Answer (8)

Is she willing to help "set" the table? Can you place the glass and utensils or napkins on the table while you're preparing the plates of food? Encourage her to place the glass, utensils or napkins where she pleases. You'll be fine regardless of the positioning of the items. Her concept of disaster prevention has reached a low point. You know you are able to keep from having spills so it's OK if she thinks otherwise. Can you give her the freedom to place it where she wants? If it's not overly traumatic, can you change seating position/arrangement so that she can not reach the glass so easily? Try to agree with her on non-essential issues. It's not essential to you if the glass is on one side or the other, but it is to her. Being flexible does not make you a "yes man". Place the glass in a position that decreases her anxiety or confusion is just a more discreet method of your taking control of the situation. Seize the moment at which you can discretely take care of what needs to be taken care of. It will save you a lot of grief and guilt. You owe it to yourself. You deserve some peace within her chaotic world. Also - use Maggie's examples she noted in her comments above. When going to the store - devote some of your "travel" time to yourself. So take that walk, or even buy a magazine to keep in the car so you can go into a place, get a drink, and relax while reading an interesting article and having a cold drink! Create your own respite time/ space. Take your cell phone with you. If you can, keep a brief log of odd behavior. If it's repetitive, you can create a basic chart with one item like "sponge". Then tally how often she exhibits the odd behavior. Daily? Every meal? Nighttime? If you create a paper document, hand it to the nurse or responsible staff. If possible deliver it to the doctor's office prior to your mom's doctor visit. Attach a written note that instructs the nurse to pass this along to the doctor. The note should briefly state you've observed these behaviors RECENTLY and think she is experiencing some CHANGE in her mental functioning. Don't give the change a name - the doctor has to determine that. The important thing is having the changes recorded on a paper document which they must enter into her medical record. Verbal comments are too easy to dismiss as just complaints rather than observations. Let us know how you do. You deserve all the help you can muster up.
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I really believe that some elder parents cannot accept the fact that their own children are now "senior citizens" themselves, so those parents keep on treating us like we have the maturity level of a teenager or someone in their early 20's. That they need to continue to keep "teaching us"..... like nothing ever good happens outside after midnight..... put on a sweater if you go outside or you will catch a cold.... advice we been hearing all our life.... Mom's will be Mom no matter how old we are.

I notice my parents [92 & 96] are still helicopter parents toward me [68]. Any time I get a cold, they would think I wouldn't have tissues, antihistamines, cough drops, etc. in the house.... OMG, I spend the last 50 years never having any of this stuff in my own home :P
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Your mother and my mother must have been separated at birth! I'm in the same situation except that my mother also cannot do simple things like READ an invoice. She gets angry and starts accusing the sender of trying to raid her bank account. So this is my job to read her mail. She tells people that everyone around here is in danger of having them home shot into. It's a really quiet neighborhood. A peeping tom may come and climb up the ladder left in the yard and look into her room. (Don't think so, mom!) She also cannot figure out the telephone. She also says that the tv clicker is defective. She wants to change her doctor for the fourth time in seven years. I have a feeling that her dementia, which was mild, is getting worse. Everything is the worst case scenario, and as a teen I knew that it was pointless to argue with her about anything because she was not rational. If I show her something in writing - like a magazine article - she will believe it more than if I just tell her. Like you, I end up ticked off and with my stomach in knots - in addition she has trouble hearing, so the explanations have to be repeated over and over....

I have high cortisol and the stomach fat that goes with it. (One smug doctor told me that I needed to 'learn how to deal with stress.' Like I don't already know that?)

A counselor once told me to say to her 'well, you may be right, but......'
And they also said that I could try ' why do you think that?'
The last one seems to work best for me - you could try it. Good luck.
Helpful Answer (6)

Great sponge story. If Oprah said so, it must be true.

Your MIL would hate my MIL, whom I once caught using the same sponge to wash her dishes as she used to wipe bird feces from her car windshield. MIL has a housekeeper and a groundskeeper, but she doesn't like them to do work because "their ancestors were slaves." (????) I say we bring them together and let them drive each other nuts.
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All I could do was nod my head when I read your posts, trapped. My mother is much the opposite, but she seems to take joy in trying to get my dander up. We're told repeatedly not to argue with our elder charges. I wish someone would pass along that same advice to them! I can rarely say anything without my mother taking the opposite stance just to start an argument. I sigh and try to ignore the baiting. Tonight she tried to start one after I said something. She retorted by saying the same thing. I said that there was no argument, since we were agreeing. She got very mad and said no, we were not. She didn't know why I always had to argue with her. Sigh. I don't know why she has to fight at me all the time. We can't even agree peacefully.

sodonewithsal, your mother sounds like mine when it comes to cleanliness. I have to pick up all the cloths after they are used to make sure she doesn't clean the floor, then wash the dishes with the same cloth. It is really disgusting, so I've gotten a little OCD about it myself.

Personally, I think we ought to have medals for caregivers -- purple hearts, medals of valor, silver stars, medals of honor, peace prizes. I think most of us would be well decorated by now.
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