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In a nutshell, my mother (like many others on this forum, I've noted) is extremely self centered. All three of us siblings were subjected to some form of either physical and/or emotional abuse when growing up. I have found it in my heart (largely through the help of my very loving and supportive spouse and church family, pastors, etc.) to forgive our mother but she apparently cannot forgive herself. The end result is her inability to stop torturing us with memories and recollections of some of the most heinous events we had to endure. I have tried to tell her that this behavior is both extremely upsetting as well as counter-productive to a healthy relationship at this point but this seems to do little good in the long term as, of course, she cannot recall when she last did this and is extremely narcissistic and clearly is filling her own need to continually raise these painful times. Many times I can shake this off in a day or two but for all practical purposes I endure this type of exchange every time I see her, which is at least once a week. My husband (one of the most loving and forgiving people I know) has even come to the point where he feels this behavior on my mother's part is becoming unforgivable as he hates seeing me in this constant state of distress. Any and all comments and/or suggestions for how others deal with a similar situation will be most welcomed. Thank you!

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Countrymouse - she does just what you describe depending on the day/mood. My mother actually was in show business to a point before she married our father (she was a singer/chorus line performer) and, of course, marrying dad and having us kids (only one of which was apparently planned, my brother) derailed her career. Guess that was our fault, too. Although (and here's a kicker) how motivated was she really when she never learned to read music? To give credit where credit is due, my mother has an incredible ear for music and can both sing and play the piano or keyboard this way. But, if you're going to do something like this professionally, I just don't see how you get out of learning this most important skill. She had a singing teacher who apparently didn't see the need either as "she was just so gifted." What a bunch of hooey, IMHO. I never go into this at this stage, of course, as it is totally counterproductive and, really, whatever would be gained by it? So, when she drifts off to these better days (oh, and my sister and I were apparently just lucky that we actually were allowed to be born) I just let it be. It's really when she goes to the very dark stuff that I allude to in my posting that my stomach, head, psyche, etc. starts to roil. Maybe I need to get myself something inanimate to kick, as you say. My sister works for a dermatologist and can provide me with Arnica samples. :-) Thanks so much to everyone for your insights and input but, just as importantly, your ear and shoulder - they are more helpful than you can know.
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lmb, it is easy to forgive a person when you don't have to deal with them closely. But caregiving can reopen wounds from the past. You discover they are not really totally forgiven, they are just covered over by layer of maturity. When we go back into the situation where we are the child, the wound can show up again quickly.

If your mother has dementia, chances are she will not stop doing this on her own, though time will bring changes. You'll have to decide whether continuing a relationship with her is worth your time. If you decide to continue the relationship, it will have to be for your own growth and understanding and not for the sake of appearance. Much luck with this one. Going back into an abusive relationship can be infuriating, so don't feel you have to do it.
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It doesn't make you selfish, Jeanne, it makes you healthy.

My Dad taught me the lively art of telling bullies to f*** off. That isn't a problem. Comforting the inconsolable, failing continually to accept the impossibility of same… he died before he figured that one out. I have no plans to follow in those footsteps, but it is proving hard to step out of them.
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Wow. You folks are cut out of an entirely different cloth than I am. She was abusive all the years you were growing up, because she was narcissistic (or just plain mean) and now she is abusive because she has dementia? I would visit once a month at most, and leave immediately if the visit became distressing. I would do my best to see that she had decent care, but it wouldn't be by me personally.

You can't help being abused as a child. Once you have a choice in the matter, to allow abuse to continue just doesn't make sense to me.

Whenever something came up about "wife beating" on the news or grape vine my mother always said, "I'd like to see the man who'd hit me twice." It was clear to us girls we shouldn't put up with physical abuse, and clear to the boys they better not do it. I guess I've extrapolated that to any kind of abuse.

Forgive her? Fine, if that fits your life view. Subject yourself to more? I can't see it. Maybe that makes me selfish.
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lmb1234, is she doing that thing where life was wine and roses and we were all so happy, and you goggle at her, and want to say 'sorry, was this your other family with whom I was not previously acquainted that you're talking about?' - or, does she herself get upset and sad about the things that went wrong? With my mother I get a bit of both. They're equally galling in their different ways. 'Darling Daddy' (do you mean that man you were always keening over whom you wished away every second until the day he died, when you suddenly changed your mind?) and she were the centre of the social whirl, apparently (my eye they were, on a subaltern's salary with far too many children). Poor P., heavy sigh. Such a funny little thing. (For 'little' read starving, on account of pyloric stenosis. They nicknamed him 'Belsen Eddy.' Must have been hilarious).

How do I deal with it? Badly. I deal with it badly.

As you can see.

These are the moments when the "pretend she's somebody else's mother" strategy comes to the fore. Nod, smile, hand-pat, that's lovely. Finish giving her her supper, get out of there. Go and kick something inanimate. Apply arnica.

God bless you. This is hard. Keep posting.
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When my mum starts talking along similar lines, I now interrupt her and say this is in the past and we don't need to talk about it now. And immediately distract her. Sharing here is so helpful.
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If you have a Senior Citizens Center in your area, check with them to see if they have a Caregivers Support Group. I live in a town of less than 20,000 people in a rural state, and our Senior Citizens Center has such a wonderful caregivers' support group that one woman drives an hour each way in order to have the opportunity to both vent her feelings and gain information about dealing with her husband who has rapidly slid into Alzheimer's.
If you don't have a Senior Citizens Center in your area, you might be able to get information about support groups from your pastor or the public relations department at a hospital or your state's Department of Family Services or the office of a doctor who specializes in geriatrics or a nursing home. Often support groups exist outside general public awareness, so don't be afraid to ask around. One woman I know credits our town's support group with literally saving her life.
If you find a group, attend at least three meetings before you make a decision on whether it is worthwhile for you.
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The comments I have read has helped some. I worked in nursing homes for years and understand dementia very well or at least I thought it did till we started caring for my mom and hers progressed. Now it's all I can do, not to correct her and sometimes if I have to hear one more love story about her and my dad I may have to scream into a pillow. I know she lives in the past, I know she doesn't mean or understand most of what she says but when it's mom for some reason it is harder to deal with. Add that to seeing my partner withdraw because he is disabled because of a drunk driver so he hears her stories all day and all night. He is looking for a night job so one of us will be around even though we have a sitter m-f that mom can no longer afford. I'm glad I found this site to vent and learn. I see my mom get more confused and weaker by the day and get mad at myself when I can't just listen to the stories because I know some day I will long to hear them when she is gone.
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Eyerish, that's some advice anyone dealing with a loved one with dementia should write on their wall: "You're going to have to figure this out without her."
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Eyerishlass - forgot to answer your other question. Yes, my sister experiences much of the same difficult behavior. My brother, unfortunately, was the most damaged being the eldest and almost feeds into this when he speaks with our mother.....that's a whole other sad topic, though.
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Eyerishlass - your insights are also spot on. When I say that my mother is self centered, I mean that in the purest sense of the word....she has always been this way, even prior to the dementia taking hold. My brother lives across the country but my sister is in PA and is able to help with the caregiving to an extent, but my husband and I are the local caregivers, as we are only 15 minutes from my mother. She lives in a HUD subsidized apartment building and is still independent (i.e., not in an AL or NH) but we are arranged for an aide to help 2 afternoons a week, which has been a Godsend. We may also be able to add an additional afternoon as I believe we will be able to access the VA benefit to pay for this perhaps as early as October. So, again, I know how very lucky I am in many ways to have this support.....yesterday was just a particularly tough day and my husband is urging me to get some feedback and/or other uplifting support to get past this rough patch. Thank you again for taking the time to offer your insights.
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Thank you for your input and insights, MaggieMarshall. I have actually spoken with my pastor about the situation once but have also thought that there are many others who need her time more who do not have the extra support system(s) I am blessed with, including this website. I have also done just what you suggest.....I do a lot of changing of the subject and veering her off onto happier discussions. But, I think she is doing some of the soul-cleansing that you describe which may be helpful to her as her life winds to an end (she is 91) just not so much for the rest of us. But, your empathy and suggestions are much appreciated.
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Because your mom has dementia this prevents her from responding to your requests to stop living in the past. She is unable to process that this hurts you and is unnecessary. The word "self-centered" has a bad connotation and implies that someone doesn't care about those around them and just want what they want and only care about what's important to them. People with dementia are self-centered but not in a selfish way. It's the disease. Her life, her thoughts, her reactions are all based on self. There's nothing that can be done about that and it will progress as the dementia progresses.

Try to alleviate any expectation you have from your mom because she is unable to fulfill it. Her brain has a disease and she is no longer responsible for what she says and does. Is that too easy of an out for someone? Probably. But that's dementia. People with dementia get the luxury of living in their own world without having to deal with anything in this world. Their behavior gets a pass.

Are you caregiving with your siblings? Do they get this same kind of treatment from your mom as well?

Your profile says that your mom is living independently. Is she in independent living or on her own? Does she count on your help each week and that's why you see her every week?

Is it possible to limit your time with her? Shorten the visits? Or make one long visit but less frequently?

Unfortunately you're going to have to figure this out without her. It's on you now to find a way to live with this. She can't help you or assist you or recognize your feelings anymore. I know it's so unfair.
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Use your church and God to give you the strength to endure and overlook her behavior. Make an appointment with your pastor to discuss it. Maybe he'll know just the words to put your mind at ease when she reminisces with ugly memories.

She is not herself, as you say she has dementia. Let go. When she "starts," change the subject. Monopolize the conversation if you have to. Perhaps she is doing some subliminal soul-cleansing even in her addled state. Maybe repeating "I forgive you for it all, mom. I love you very much," will have an impact.

In the end, if you really can't let it go, cut your visits down to ONLY once a week or every ten days. Promise yourself you will leave her vitriol where it belongs as soon as your visit is over. In the past.

Put a rubber band around your wrist on these days. And when you leave and begin to think or talk about her nonsense, snap it. A little Pavlovian conditioning might make some small difference. At least it will help you to remember that it's you who's DECIDING to let her difficult behavior ruin your day(s).

Dementia knows no logic. It takes no prisoners. In the midst of dementia, a person becomes, as you note, extremely narcissistic. Combine that tendency with a tendency in some to dwell on the past and, in your case, you have the perfect recipe for heartbreak.
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