How do you cope with an elderly mother's lifetime negative personality?

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NOTHING makes my mother happy and if it does it lasts only temporarily. She has always been negative, whiney, complaining, self entitled, immature and unhappy for as long as I can remember. Now she is older and prefers to only rely on me. I do not relish the idea of dealing with an emotional vampire, but she is my mother and does need some help. I have limited patience with these type of people. Any ideas of how to emotionally cope with a living doomsdayer without blowing your cool?

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First of all, Debralee, you are savvy enough to know going into this that you can't make your mom happy. Therefore, hopefully, you won't blame yourself when she complains. I do think you'd be smart to start making a plan for how her care will go as she ages. She won't be easy to cope with and you will only have so much to give.

Planning doesn't mean you have to do anything now, but I'd suggest that you check around your community for appropriate support groups. Also, make sure that appropriate legal papers are in place. If she's ever going to cooperate with you on that it's now, since she only wants you to help at this time. Likely, the time will come when you need to hire help for her or find an assisted living situation, so you'll want to know the lay of the land, so to speak. Investigate in-home services, assisted living and even nursing homes just so you know what is available. Then try to keep up as your mom's needs change.

I hope you'll keep coming back to this community because there are many members who will know exactly what you are talking about. You'll find support, sympathy and information.
Take care of yourself, too!
Carol
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Carol is right. And do, do, do come back here: I've had my lowest year yet, but for the short time I've been on this forum I have felt so much better I can't tell you what a relief it is.

Your mum is scared. She dreads things and people. She leans on you because you're the devil she knows.

I have a sweet, loving, intelligent mother who is a black hole of negativity. Her standard comment on life is "people are horrible." That is her sincerely held belief. It is beyond bonkers, but there it is.

I have tried pointing out that all of her long life's experiences should tell her that a) people like her; b) most people, most of the time, are kind and do their best - they are the opposite of "horrible"; c) good things, as well as bad, happen.

I am wasting my breath. My sister's advice to her that "nothing is ever as bad as you think it's going to be" goes down better; but actually all it proves is how incredibly pessimistic my sister is.

Here's what you do. Make the practical plans. As Carol says, you already know that you can't make your mother happy; but you can be satisfied that, objectively speaking, you've got good support in place for her.

If your mother is a career complainer, guard against feeling responsible for any impact she has on other people. One lady I know, who I adored but then she wasn't my problem, caused her son to feel he had to apologise formally to the entire staff of a respite care home that she'd been in for less than a week. This lady actually managed to get herself barred by John Lewis, the retailer: I don't think they've got round to the States, yet, but they're a Quaker-founded organisation who are known for the best customer service attitude in history. She alienated every member of her large extended family except for her wonderful son, whom she slandered outrageously, and who cared for her until the end of her days at enormous expense to himself. Her swan song was forcing him to cancel a badly needed holiday by getting admitted to hospital. DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU.

You're her daughter, not her mother. You can't control or change her behaviour, her manners, her attitude; and you've no right to, actually, even if you could. It is not reasonable of other people to hold you responsible for what your mother does or says. It's still embarrassing, of course; but it's not your fault.

Not being driven insane by her yourself, is partly a matter of how much of her company you can bear. My sister loves my mother but, tacitly, we all get that she can't stand her. My mother is passive aggressive, my sister is just plain aggressive, if you ask me; and there's the usual baggage of anger, hurt, jealousy, betrayal - normal happy families, you know what it's like. So my sister does short visits, presents, post cards, and has taken on POA for finance - the bits she's good at and can do cheerfully, and that don't involve too much actual contact. And I do the caring, 24/7, which is... interesting.

Sometimes I feel as though my mother is a dead weight mentally and emotionally, and she can be incredibly depressing to be around, but I'm getting better at coping. I have to admit, Citalopram (it's an SSRI, I think) helped take the edge off her anxiety without changing her personality, so that's another option. Do watch out for genuine mental health issues: they can also happen to people who were miserable to start with, don't forget. I know all about resistance to psychiatric intervention - it took me years of trying because she thinks all psychology is bunk. The day she admitted she was depressed, I knew she must have got to suicidal. In the end it was my loving, medically qualified daughter in cahoots with a trusted family doctor who got her to try the pills. Worth the effort, but not totally transformative.

Look, if being too much with your mum is going to drive you insane, don't do it. You don't have to tell her why you can't, so there'll be no need to hurt her feelings or get insulting. There's a lot you can do for her that doesn't involve direct contact, or no more contact than you choose, and you shouldn't feel bad about it. Do what you think is the right thing, and try to keep your sense of humour when she clobbers you with the accusations.

One other thought: when you're feeling mischievous, try agreeing with her and taking her statements a step further. She says "you don't care about me." You say: "no, I don't. Never have. Why would I? Does anyone?" It could work as a shock tactic (no I haven't tried it, just tempted sometimes!).

Good luck. You'll look back and laugh. xxx
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Debralee, my mother is exactly like yours. I could write pages about her nasty negative comments, selfish ways, and how much this is her own fault. But, I think you already know where I am coming from.

What I do know about mom is she is happy in her misery. It draws attention to herself. She is her main concern and always has been. What I have started doing with mom is when she starts talking about something negatively, I just clam up, say nothing or change the subject. She gets my drift. I have no patience for her BS anymore.

What I do know is I will make sure she gets all of the help she needs when her health goes. But I will not take her into my home. She will have in home care, assisted living or a nursing home. She has mental issues that will never be addressed and she is not taking me down that slippery slope with her.

She refuses medical help, second guesses any doctor she ever sees. Can't take any meds because of the "side effects" real or not. She would test the patience of a saint. I am no saint, so, just no, no, no.

My husband has some funny little things he always says about her. For instance, "poor me, I will just lay my little old head on a railroad track" or "I'll just eat worms" and the best (from his Catholic upbringing), "Offer it up". He gets a gut full of her too.

Also Debralee, I am just baffled that these types never see what they do to others, especially their children. They don't care. They never wonder how they could make someone's day. Just to quote my husband again, "An empty suit."
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Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Over the last five years I've done every one of those horrible things - the exasperation, the frustration, the screaming rage - but, not sure what exactly changed, I think I have got past them to less complicated pity. Perhaps it helps that my mother got most of her bitching about my father done while he was alive! Then when he died suddenly, 14 years ago, suddenly she was the grief-stricken widow - that was pretty hard to take at the time. "Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone..." I used to have to button my lip not to point out the home truths.

Fact is, my mother was a useless wife and a hopeless mother. Now I understand that it wasn't her fault; and I can tell her that and mean it. It's getting better. She's never going to be happy, but I can keep proving to her that she is loved even if she'll never truly believe it.
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Debralee, Your situation sounds so close to mine and my heart goes out to you. "Emotional vampire" is a good way to put it because it can be so emotionally and physically draining to spend so much time trying to help someone who finds fault with everything and is so insufferable. I have little patience these days.

In my case, my mother has a lifetime of depression, which is being treated now with anti depressants but wasn't always (it's a miracle she just agreed to anti depressants). Clearly the other medicine and talk therapy she was on wasn't effective but the new medicine seems better so far.

If depression is an issue (or possibly something else like mental illness or dementia), try suggesting your mother see a psychiatrist or appropriate professional as it may make her feel better. But if your mother is anything like my mother or father, she generally won't take your advice, or maybe will see the doctor you recommend, only to leave a long voicemail message complaining about how horrible the doctor was, how long she had to wait, how stupid the questions were the doctor asked...blah blah blah. My father is the other half of this coin...

I'm in my 40s, have a full time plus job plus a wonderful child and husband. My parents are in their 80s with failing health, previously very independent and are having trouble coping. They live closeby (they moved closer to me and my family about 8 years ago; in retrospect probably not a good idea for us all to live so close) and they are both so increasingly demanding, demeaning (what do I know anyway?), angry at their current situations (which gets directed at me, not my sibling, interestingly) and they only occasionally express gratitude when they feel they have absolutely have to, and then it really doesn't seem sincere after all the difficult behavior, including yelling, I've had to endure. And my parents wonder why my ringers are turned off in my house and I screen calls!

I love my parents but I really don't like them now, and will not endure this to my or my family's detriment simply because my parents feel safe "letting it all hang out" for their daughter. I work hard every day to handle them as best I can, stay sane/healthy, and to tend to my needs, my family's needs. There's LOTS of great advice here and on the web you can google on how to handle difficult parents and how not to react when your buttons are pushed (they even have scripts on how to handle situations; let me know if you can't find it). I'm working on keeping my cool but it's not easy.

Most importantly, you must, at all costs, do as much as you can to take care of yourself!

Carol has good points on planning for the future so she can be taken care of but you can still have your life. We had a geriatric consultant meet with the family during a crisis to get unbiased advice. She was wonderful BUT that doesn't mean my parents will take the advice, including assisted living. Hang in there and please take care!
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There is good in my mother. She can be a wonderful person as long as things are going her way. It is her constant negativity and unhappiness that is interferring in wanting a relationship with her and helping her with her needs. Who wishes for cloudy storms on a sunny day?
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Debralee- like so many others in this thread, I dealt with a similar thing.

I learned that for the chronic whining and complaining, the best way to handle it is to not engage. Don't try to sympathize, don't try to defend or justify or explain. It was SO hard for me to do at first; when the whining started and I had to just sit there blank faced and not respond at all.

After several days of this, however, it finally sank in that I was not going to play "pity party" anymore, and she redirected her whining elsewhere.

This is not to say you don't listen to and respond to legitimate issues, but you have to be ultra-aware of what is important and what is just simple whining.
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Sorry if this is slightly off topic, reading this reminded me of me own experiences...I can look back now and laugh a bit, but it's sort of a bitter and sarcastic laugh.

My aunt (who I cared for over about 9 years) was probably the most negative and entitled person I've ever known. Our place was a parade of people in and out from 7am to 7pm most days; my wife, a CNA, an RN, another caregiver, meals on wheels, 2 separate therapists, church friends, and me living with her. Even with all that help, she would say "no one will help me"...but she only said it to people who didn't know her or the situation.

That led to many outsiders pointing the finger at me because of her incessant complaining. They didn't know her well enough to know she would say just about anything to get sympathy, including blatant lies.

Once, she got pouty because I would not make a special trip to the grocery store for ice cream at dinner time. She literally stuck her bottom lip out like a 5 year old and refused to eat because there was no ice cream. The next day she told a temp CNA (her regular CNA was sick that day) that I "refused to cook for her" the night before. Of course the CNA confronted me, and I lost my temper because I was tired of being blamed for my aunt's poor choices.

At the time it made me so angry and depressed. I felt like I was just another person she used and discarded without even thinking twice.

I look back now and realize that I was partly right and partly wrong about her. She used people ruthlessly and never saw it as wrong. I was a pawn to her sometimes, someone she could blame her problems on to get sympathy. She was also very sick and scared, and was trying to keep control of her life the only way she knew how; by getting other people to handle her responsibilities.

Now that she is gone, I do miss her. I don't regret caregiving, but I do regret not taking a stand and sticking up for myself from the beginning when it came to the lies and manipulation she used.
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Captain, I know some wonderful people. And yes there are some horrible ones, just read the papers everyday! But we are all a mixed bags of good and bad traits. You just have to look harder for the gold in some.
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Every one of these posts is singing my song. Palmtrees1 is describing my 85 year old non-dementia mom to a T. My sisters and I have lived under her dark cloud and we are all now in our 50's and struggling to maintain civility while around her. One sister has alienated herself so as bot to be dragged down while another is just barely able to keep her cool. I have lost mine on numerous occasions to the point of yelling at her in person or hanging up on her on the phone when she starts one of her "poor me" rants. So many days of my life have been literally ruined by her complaints of my father (now deceased), her endless and mostly imaginary medical issues, her finances and of course all the horrible people, politicians, world disasters, etc. and on and on. On the flip side she can be quite nice and giving and "appear" to be cheerful and happy. Most people think she is very sweet, funny and amazing since she still has her health and energy. Only those of us that are closest to her get the barrage of complaints that she stockpiles and unloads the second she gets an opportunity. I've suspected many times that she has done this to others because I have seen her in action at parties and social gathering corner people and get in their face with an innocent seeming question and before long the train is rolling down the track at full speed ahead....she barely comes up for air and I can see the other person is looking very uncomfortable but trying to be polite as they squirm to slip away. It's always about her, her opinions, her lot in life, those stupid doctors, our horrible president who is a dictator, blah, blah, blah. I am not sure if she really is depressed but I am just astonished that she hasn't done a reality self-check about how she behaves. I won't be sucked into it anymore. I have battled the negative syndrome my entire life and have chosen consciously to try to be positive, happy and live life with a strong can-do attitude. I have prayed for some sign that others are suffering from a parent that is this way. I have now gotten that sign.....I am not alone. Thanks for sharing, this has been helpful as it validates my frustrations but sounds like there is no way out of it other than just "grinning and bearing it". And P.S. to Bermuda...I don't think anti-depressents can help an innately negative person. I am coming to the conclusion that this is a personality disorder as well as a habit that just can't be broken. Depression is another thing altogether.
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