I am undergoing a severe bout of depression right now. Although my mother is alive, I miss her. She has fairly severe dementia and can't visit in the traditional sense. Sometimes, she's not sure who I am. Most visits now start immediately with her whining (I'm sorry but there's no other word for it) that we're going to leave, even if we've only been there for five minutes. She keeps this up, no matter what else is going on, like taking her around the facility to visit and get out of her room or eating a meal with her or bringing snacks like hot chocolate and donuts. Nothing makes her happy. Nothing. No matter what we do, she is anxious because we're eventually (in a couple of hours) going to leave and she doesn't like to be alone, ever. I know when I visit her, I'm going to leave feeling depressed and crazy. It takes me at least three days to recover. I can't just brush it off, or let it roll off my back--it affects me. She has forgotten we were there by the time we're in the parking lot.
So here's my dilemma--do I visit and fight my way back up from the pit, which is getting harder and harder, or do I not go? She is anxious the whole time we're there but forgets--I am anxious and disturbed to say the least, for days after. I know she's my mother and I owe her a lot--but I can't deny that these visits are slowly killing me. How do I make this right in my head?

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((((((((cedar)))))))) My mother passed about a year ago. She had vascular dementia and life long borderline personality disorder which made her a very difficult person to relate to. I lived (still live) 5 hrs drive away. I learned over time that visiting for short periods and always having an "out" when she got difficult was what worked for me. This was before she developed dementia, but it applied as well afterwards. I realized there was nothing I could do to make her happy, and making myself unhappy and more stressed wasn't helping anyone. We need to know that our feelings are ours to look after and the feelings of others are theirs, and not our responsibility. I only visited a few times a year. Mother was well cared for in a facility and I kept in touch with them and looked after anything that came up, medical issues, financial matters, etc

I applied a "harm reduction" concept for myself and did what I needed to do to keep myself on an even keel. It still wasn't easy and still was very stressful being a POA daughter of a very ill mother, but it was better than the extreme stress I felt from spending more time with her, which made me ill.

It sounds like you are being made ill by the stress of frequent visits, whereas your mother who expresses unhappiness when you are there, then forgets about it immediately. Can you see yourself as a trigger for her unhappiness and her as a trigger for your stress and that both of you would be better off if you visited less often?This is the reality, not some Hallmark movie concept of what a "good daughter" should do.

Please look after yourself. Your mother is being cared for. Give yourself a break until you feel stronger and then visit less often so you don't get into this condition again. Only you will know when you feel better. If you need permission/support to cut back on visits - many responsible, caring people on here have suggested it.

Good luck, Let us know how you are. I wish I had cared for myself more and sooner than I did. My health suffered.
Helpful Answer (24)
shad250 Dec 2019
I'm sorry for your loss
You are not alone. Thank you for posting this and how you feel! I wish we could talk more about this. I have the exact same situation with my mom. I mean exact! It takes me 2 days to recover from a visit with mom. My mom has Lewy Body Dementia and Parkinson’s Disease. Yet she is fully aware that she’s loosing her mind- Hallucinations, delerium. But the worst for me is when she cries, begs and cries for me to stay and visit longer. I have to slowly watch her die and suffer. It’s been five years now. She’s in memory care. Dad is gone. I used to go everyday and for long periods of time. But due to the depression and anxiety, and lots of grief that I now have, I had to take a step beck and go only 2-3 x a week. I miss her so much and she has not even died yet. I’m in therapy and taking two medications. It helps balance the abnormality of this. I also get out a lot with friends and try to balance the pain of this by doing fun things too. I have to do this for my sanity and for my own teen kids and my husband. My mom needs me so much but so does my own family. How do I choose? There is only one of me. That’s the key though- boundaries because there IS only one of me. Guilt bombards me daily but that’s all from the devil and it’s normal. So I try to ignore it. I’m doing what I can to survive. You are not alone. I wish we could talk more to support one another.
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You know, I don't think there's an 'easy' answer here. I don't think a therapist can help you because s/he can't fix the fact that your mother is suffering from the hideous disease of dementia. You can be given an anti-depressant by your doctor, which I highly recommend, because you need something to help you through the mental and physical pain you're trying to endure on your own. It's not doable alone, I don't think.........we all need help from time to time, right?

Anyway, I digress.

I think you need to figure out what works for YOU in this situation, since nothing works for your mom. The visits are more for YOU than for her, since she can't appreciate them and forgets they occurred the moment you leave. So maybe set up a day and time each week or whatever that you will go, and decide how long you will stay. Like DollyMe to yourself beforehand and prepare yourself as best as you can for what will transpire during the visit. If/when it becomes too much for you to keep up with these visits, cut them down even further or stop visiting entirely, if you're able to do that.

My mother has dementia & lives in Memory Care also. She's not too advanced right now and remembers me when I come to see her. She does complain continuously, however, and it's always that I don't stay long enough, same as your mother. She does the same thing to her grandchildren which has forced them to cut their visits down as well. I really hate going over there these days, so I feel your pain.

It's okay to grieve the loss of your mother NOW, because you really HAVE lost her to this insidious disease of dementia. Sending you a big hug and a prayer that you can find some relief from the depression you are suffering and a plan of action to tackle the visits to see mom.

All the best.
Helpful Answer (16)

While it's true that a therapist cannot fix your mother, one could help you with your own emotions and thinking plus you probably need anti depression meds. Meds are great but combined with therapy is even better. Also, staying a couple of hours is way too long.
Helpful Answer (15)

I'm sure you've tried to change the subject when your mom whines and
that you've done all that is possible, but the one thing that might really
help you and her would be to put on some music as soon as you arrive. It might be relaxing. Or to take a little present that captures her attention immediately. Rarely do other family members visit my mom with me, but when they do they ask how I am able to stand her condition. So I've wondered if maybe I just don't have feelings, as they suggest I should be really upset. I'm not. At least not always. I would love if she did not have this disease and could be herself again at home. But if she must be in the facility, I would love if she knew I was not there to take her home and if she could know that my dad died and that's why he isn't with her and why she can't go see him, and if I didn't have to tell her he went fishing. I would love if she could remember where the dining room is and how to get back to her own room after dinner. It would be nice if she didn't think people attending the music concert in the living room were her "enemies". On and on. But this is how it is now.
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This is Cedarlove. Harpcat posed a question--has anything that's been posted here helped? Absolutely, YES. I have truly been helped by every single answer. This is the most wonderful, caring community. I'm sure more than one person has been saved by venting here and then receiving the love of the group. I know it has helped me and given me ideas about how to handle my situation. And just knowing that other people are dealing with the same thing and surviving, helps.
Thank you everyone. It's made a world of difference.
Helpful Answer (15)
Cedarlove: I am so glad to hear that you've been helped by the many posters on this thread. YOU are loved!💞
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I remember when I was a little girl there was a man who used to sit in the back of the congregation all alone. One day, I asked my mother who he was. He was the father of one of the singers. Years later, I learned that he went to hear her sing because they were estranged. He enjoyed her from afar.

You can be a presence in your mother's life by advocating for her. Be in touch with the director for updates. Send your mother cards. Maybe, if the facility is big enough, you too can enjoy her from afar. Interacting with her is only hurting you. So sorry this is happening.
Helpful Answer (14)

I cannot tell you what to do. No one can. Nor will I judge your actions. That isn’t my place and I don’t have any desire to judge you.

I only want you reiterate what was helpful to me. It truly took me totally stepping away before I could feel the full impact of how damaging full time caregiving was to me. I am glad that you are not in the position of being a full time caregiver.

You are under a great deal of stress. It’s all hard, part time or full time caregiving. Maybe you need time off for awhile. Not even phone calls. Completely step away in order to become refreshed again. Then you can reassess with a clearer mind.

Ask anyone on this site and they will tell you that I was totally blind and lost and couldn’t see the situation for what it was. It took me awhile to be able to process my experiences. So don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s called conditioning. You have to reprogram your thoughts. Not easy to do.

Either you will consciously choose a change or something will happen and changes will naturally occur. Just know that you deserve to have peace and harmony in your life.

My vote is to consciously choose positive changes. It’s never fun to develop emotional or physical changes due to a stressful environment.
Helpful Answer (14)

Or...change your mind.

really, a councilor I saw for a couple years advocated this...... and it worked for me.....

each time you think about her, know that this is not the person you knew. Know that whatever upsets her at the moment will pass very quickly once you depart.

then, force your mind to think of something else. What is for shoes...neighbor needing help. But, really force yourself to think of pleasant things. At first it is hard, but once you make your mind up..over time it becomes easier to redirect your thoughts.

and remember, the thing you are depressed about is only in your mind...Mom is not capable of remembering the topic for very long.

I was mourning my Mom for a year before she died. I felt guilty that I couldn’t do enough for her. I couldn’t fix her. She could not communicate with me, nor I her. I needed the help of a councilor.
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Harpcat Dec 2019
good advice
Yes. You go. You are grieving the loss of her; she is there, but not the Mom you know and you are appropriately in mourning. But you must visit. You two are likely each picking up on the anxiety of the other. Just try to understand this is a loss and you are depressed about it. The hardest thing for me in my loss of my brother, who he was, is the depression. There isn't a way to "fix it". There just isn't a fix for this grief. It is a matter of understanding you are not alone. There are so many of us, both the person losing their very selves, and for us, the loss of them. I am so sorry.
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