Mom has been ill for 10 years now. It began with heart failure, then dementia (still undiagnosed) though doctor says that she “sundowns”! I think they don’t want to diagnose it. I don’t take her to doctor … not strong enough physically so my brother does. He tells me nothing and now she rarely goes to the doctor. A nurse practitioner came in once a month, but she kicked her out too. Something is wrong with just about everyone. Her “dementia” has been obvious to me for at least three years. It has gotten worse and the whole time she has been agitated, angry, and says hurtful things. She did not want antidepressants, but is on a benzo (relaxation drug) for mornings. Very low dose and it helps for that time of day. She is ill and my denial takes the form of trying to reason with her. Yesterday is an example of how I get confused. I called and asked IF she had eaten the food I sent over. I cook, freeze in one meal containers. I had made a favorite of her (took 4 hours and I hate to cook!). She had ranted and raved over how much she loved it. Soo .. thinking I might cook it again, I called and asked if she had eaten it. She got furious. She said: stop asking me and don’t cook for me anymore. And why are you so persistent? Then, today is her 90th Birthday. Yesterday I called to ask if she would like to go out today? And she got really angry. “why would I want to celebrate my birthday? Do you like to?” …. All in such an angry tone of voice. She continued to berate me till I put the phone down. Yep. I hung up. I feel like I cant do this any longer. She has refused every caretaker and doctor access. She was never this way. I love her but it is affecting me to where I dread this.

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There is no cure for dementia, but many of the symptoms can be treated. But the treatments only work if you use them! An antidepressant doesn't do any good sitting in the medicine cabinet. Sigh.

Your mother wasn't like this before (thank heavens!) but over the last three years you suspect she is exhibiting dementia. Dementia involves damage to the brain. (Different kinds of dementia involve different kinds and locations of the damage.) Dementia progresses ... it gets worse.

The mantra that helped my patience quota was, "This is not my husband speaking. This is the dementia." Maybe that is easier to do if you actually have a medical confirmation of the diagnosis. I don't know why some doctors are so reluctant to give that diagnosis. Her doctor says she "sundowns." Well, sundowning is a characteristic of dementia. So if it helps any, you can go forward knowing her doctor has stated (in a roundabout way) that she has dementia.

Feel free to read material that is widely available on dementia and particularly how to deal with many aspects of it. Watch some Teepa Snow videos on youtube. Read articles and posts on this this site regarding dementia. Once you are out of denial you MIGHT be able to cope more easily. Or maybe not. Dementia in a loved one is extremely challenging to cope with. But it is worth a try.

Since dementia gets worse, it will progress to the point where mother is not safe to live alone. (Possibly it is there already, if she is not eating regularly and refuses help.) It may take a crisis to be able to do anything about this. Often a fall and injury is what puts a loved one in an emergency room or hospital. Take advantage of this to get an evaluation done, and point out to the discharge people that mother lives alone although she can no longer manage her own care.

One approach to preserve your own sanity is to detach more from your mother. Don't call as often. Talk only about inconsequential subjects. But because your mother was not like this before, perhaps for "old times' sake" and for the fact that you do love her, you could continue to interact with her and keep an eye on her health, while saving your sanity by reminding yourself that this is not mother's fault. No one would choose to have dementia! No one would choose to be anxious and angry all the time.

And most definitely, whatever else you do, remember that this is Not Your Fault. Regret, sadness, even despair might be appropriate at times, but guilt should never be part of the picture. It just makes it harder to cope and it is entirely inappropriate to the circumstances.

Keep in touch here, and let us know how you are handling things. Many of us have been in shoes extremely similar to yours!
Helpful Answer (23)

My mom was really bad--made life miserable--until she go the correct meds.


You can go with her and your brother to the doctor for correct meds--and it can take a while to get them sorted correctly, and

you can get on your knees and thank God that she is not living in your house. You have no idea how luck you are that you had the freedom to hang up.

Hang up and rejoice! Twirl around the living room. You have freedom!
Helpful Answer (16)

Do you have the legal authority to speak with your mom's doctor? My mom doesn't leave the house for medical appointments any more, when I have something I need to discuss with my mother's doctor I can make an appointment as her healthcare poa/proxy to discuss her needs. If possible it might be helpful for you and the doc to have some face time so you each have a better understanding of her problems.
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Sorry for taking so long to reply. I want to thank you all for your responses. Yes, it is a difficult situation in that my brother has POA and he will not speak to me or anyone else, for that matter. He is a control freak.
I have contacted her doctor but they are not allowed to tell me anything. I cannot, will not, remove my help from her despite him. She will not accept in home care by anyone AND she has not been declared incompetent. So, I guess I must just deal with it.
Yes, I do get off the phone and away from her when I must keep my sanity. I do feel guilty for doing this, but I know I have to save myself. She usually forgets, anyway. I know that if she knew how she treats me and others, she would cringe. She was always a very lovely and loving mother and I cherish my memories.
The question is HOW will I keep those memories separate and compartmentalize them when the time comes. I have sort of half-said goodbye to her, if you understand what I mean. I hope that, someday, I will have the good memories of her when she was healthy physically and mentally ... at times it is hard to remember.
Helpful Answer (8)

I know you might not get the logic of this, but you are so lucky!!

First, your mom used to be a loving mom and lovely lady, which makes it clear that she's not herself now. You can definitely tell your mom isn't mistreating you, I think it's in part dementia and in part a normal fed-up state in life, because people can get literally fed up and tired from living in suffering and with truncated capabilities. It might happen to you and to me! But at least you KNOW that's not your mother, it's a person that's unhappy, old, tired and Ill, who you love and who needs you.

Second, you get to care for your mom...from the distance!! Wow, that's a privilege. That makes you free of guilt yet allows you to be responsible; yes, hanging up probably feels bad at the moment but it's a wonderful thing to be able to stop the pain -yours- yet not fail as a daughter.

Third, you're NOT alone! Yes, your brother might not do what you wish he did, but he's there, and he wants to be, if not he would not have taken the responsibility. You've no idea what it is to be the only soul responsible for the care of someone and the toll it takes on you, physically, emotionally, financially, your life!! Literally. I don't mean to undermine your situation at all, it's just that sometimes when we are too involved in a problem we miss all the bright sides to it.

As advice, I'd do two things. One, is to have a heart to heart conversation with your brother, never criticizing him (remember care taking is hard and we all try to do our best) but explaining how you feel and that it'd help a lot your wellbeing if he could share with you a little more and don't forget a "please, it'd mean so much for me", and also ask him how else he thinks you could help your mom and him, he might respond to that if he's a control freak, as you're offering help according to his needs. You know him, do what you think will get him to respond as you need him to.

Lastly I'd suggest to ask yourself what could you do differently? Meaning that maybe your mom would appreciate much more a visit of one hour from you instead of the four hours you spent making the dish for her; most elderly people feel alone and being alone and sick is a horrible and depressing combination. I struggle with that too, but try to remind myself that I've to think of what she really needs, not what I think I should do. Changing your way of caring for her might really with time help her feel more taken care of how and in the areas she needs it the most. Even with dementia a person feels better when true needs are being met (mostly emotional needs); in return her mood, aside from the illness might improve.

Hope that makes sense and a hug and best of luck to you!!
Helpful Answer (8)

Lisa, it isn't easy for your Mom to become older.   My Mom hated it whenever the doctors told her this or that medical issue was age related.  She didn't like getting old.   And she didn't like seeing my Dad aging, either.   Both were in their 90's and still living in their house.

My Mom didn't like it that she couldn't hop in the car, nor have Dad drive her, to the stores for shopping.   She didn't like it that all her siblings and best friends had passed on.   She didn't like all her aches and pains.   Mom was losing her eyesight and had lost most of her hearing.   I would be upset and very grumpy, too, if that was me.

I tried to get my Mom interested in Independent Living thinking being around people more in her own generation would help, plus the activites, plus having 1 or 3 meals prepared in a restaurant like setting.   Plus weekly linen service, weekly housekeeping, etc.   Heck, I was ready to sign up it looked so good :)

My Mom refused.   It was until she passed that two weeks later Dad wanted to pack up the house and move to Independent Living.   He loved it there, was happy as a clam :)
Helpful Answer (6)

I would start right away with accompanying your brother and mother to her doctors' appointments. You need first-hand information about your mother's condition and the opportunity to speak to her doctor about your mother's behavior, symptoms, and medical interventions. My sister and I both take my mother to her drs. appointments (depending on whose schedule is free) but we keep each other completely up to date on all the details. I would not tolerate being kept in the dark about a parent's situation that is affecting me personally. If your mother and/or brother won't allow you that access, then I think you need to distance yourself until more cooperation on their parts is forthcoming.
Helpful Answer (6)

Lisa, I feel your pain as I have been through this process too. I read "The 36 Hour Day" by Nancy L. Mace and Peter V. Rabins, which helped me very much (you can obtain real cheap on Amazon or go to the library). As for DPOA for Medical, I would think that as a caretaker, you should be aware of "health issues and diagnosis" that could impact her care. My brother and I both have DPOA for health care (i.e. backup for each other), but the doctors office should also have a "release of information" form that your mother could sign which simply states that they are able to discuss your mothers health with you, with her consent. Some of her "behaviors" could indicate a urinary tract infection. When or if she becomes a danger to herself or others it is time to have her competency evaluated. Unfortunately, my situation escalated to the point of having to "petition" my mother for involuntary admission to a geriatric psych unit after which the diagnosis and treatment of a urinary tract infection & Alzheimer's was actively followed up. Long story short, my mother is now in an Adult Foster Care Home for the memory impaired and doing very well. Good luck in this long journey.
Helpful Answer (4)

Rosses003 suggestion about time with her instead of cooking was excellent advice. Every time you visit her, I suggest that you bring a small, inexpensive gift of something she really likes. It could be food, just something she really likes. Do this several times to see if it soften her attitude. You also could create a small album with photos of much happier times. When you visit her, you must detach yourself from her and only say positive phrases to her. She may not remember what you say or do, but in all likelihood, she will be left with good feelings about your visit.
Sometimes, I pretend that I am an actor. This technique enables me to be someone else in difficult situations. Not always easy to do, but give it a try.
Often, adult children feel the need to rescue their mother/father from difficult situations. But sometimes, we, as adult children, cannot rescue them from themselves and we must step back after we try everything possible. Then we need to acknowledge that only professionals can help our parents.
You are in a difficult position and my heart goes out to you.
Helpful Answer (4)

Hi Lisa,

I feel for you as well. You received great advice so I really have nothing much to add except that I have learned by hugging my 91 year old Mom who has dementia (she lives with me and I am her only caregiver) makes a big difference! My Mom puts a smile on her face after I hug her and kiss her cheeks. I feel human touch is so important.

My Mom's brain is broken and I know she feels lost within herself and has a hard time trying to express what she is feeling but I can see it on her face.

Also, I don't try to talk sense to her anymore because a few hours later she won't remember what I said and that's okay! I get it though I do miss my "old Mom" and our heart to heart talks.

I have learned to accept the dementia and I know it will only progress. I understand it's hard to accept. Make her favorite dishes because she will appreciate them even if the next day she won't remember. I make my Mom's favorite foods and my Mom will tell me she's not hungry but I put a small portion on a plate and say to her "Mom, you don't have to eat it"... (I take the pressure off of her by saying that). Guess what? She eats what I cook every time!

Keep posting as we are here to listen and help if we can.

Best to you! Jenna
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