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I see quite a few discussions where there is some thought that it's the caregiver that gets the brunt of the bad moods of the person they're caring for. In some cases, the person being cared for tells awful stories about the caregiver.

This morning, my mom was a bit snippy to me. Minutes later, as I brought her some hot tea, she looked so sad, looked up at me and said, 'You're the one that does the most for me and I'm the worst to you." She just looked so unhappy that I knew she was feeling quite bad about being snippy to me.

But I'm curious why this is? Is it because the caregiver and the person they're caring for are spending so much time together that it grates on the sick person's nerves and they lash out? Is it because the caregiver is the symbol of the sick person's long gone independence?

While I am actually pretty understanding about this -- I mean that I don't feel persecuted when she does this as I know it's just part of the disease -- but I'm just curious why this is.

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I believe it is a matter of trust of the caregiver
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In some ways, I think that she does feel comfortable with me, but she can only really own-up to the behavior because she's still in fairly good mental health. She has her good and bad moments, though.

What I mean about being comfortable is that I think she's comfortable that I won't throw her out just because she doesn't toe the line, for example. She's still not comfortable living in someone else's house, even though I remind her that she's now a member of the household. But I know that after years of living on her own she won't feel comfortable with this for quite a long time.

We push people so very hard to be independent and our final reward for that is to have someone else take over and start bossing us around, basically. I think that's a change I'm going to have a hard time with when I'm older, myself.
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How many times do we go about our day doing errands or working and we're perfectly polite and friendly to everyone who crosses our path and then we get home and are grouchy to our family? There's an old saying, "Familiarity breeds contempt".

I think we get the brunt of the bad stuff because we are closest to those we care for. And I also think that being elderly and needing someone to care for us can be a bitter pill to swallow so they take it out on the person who's caring for them.

You must be taking very good care of your mom for her to own up to how she acted and discuss it with you. She obviously feels very comfortable with you.
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In a way it's remarkable that your mother is aware she is doing this. Often that is not the case at all.

I think it has a lot to do with the person's perception of their caregiver as a "safe" target or outlet for complaining, verbal abuse, etc. I.e. they believe the caregiver won't retaliate, that there won't be unpleasant consequences. If they don't see the caregiver as "safe", they will usually find another target. Of course, all this assumes the person has any control over what they say at all. Others have behaved this way all their lives and certainly won't change in old age.
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I had never thought about it this way, but it just makes so much sense. How often in our lives are we perfectly polite and kind to strangers but ill-tempered with our families. We're taught to do this to be polite and to have outsiders think well of us, but also I see what you mean, that our families are more willing to put up with us.
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Maybe it's the old adage 'you always hurt the ones you love' whether it's husband and wife, parent child or best friends. It's easier to lash out to someone you believe is going to take it and stay with you, rather than someone you think may leave.
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