Thank God for this forum. Where would I be without your help and reassurances?
Mom confabulates to fill in the blanks of her faulty memory. I understand this. It helps her make sense of her world. Most of the time I can "go along with" her alternate reality. When Mom says she's already acquainted with someone I've introduced her to for the first time, I never challenge it. When she says memory care staff stole her hearing aids (when in fact she's lost them for 100th time), I say "Oh, really? Why don't you help me look for for your hearing aids first before we report it to the director?"
What really troubles me is when Mom makes slanderous statements toward me or some other family member that simply aren't true. For months (possibly years) Mom has been circulating terrible stories about me that non-discerning people have taken for the truth. You could argue that you can't fix stupid; if people can't see that Mom has dementia and believe her confabulations anyway that I shouldn't worry about it. Sorry, folks. It still hurts. A lot. Not all of this character assassination goes on behind my back. Mom will tell me to my face. Am I supposed to smile benignly and agree with Mom I'm a low-down, common ______? (you fill in the blanks). Sorry; I won't. Let me add that I have minimized contact due to a lifetime history of abuse from dear ole Mom. Her more recent negativity and character assassination are just the icing on the cake.
Likewise, Mom attributes criminal actions to my dear sister, whose conduct is kind, loving, unimpeachable. I'm looking for appropriate answers that preserve mine and my sister's dignity without antagonizing Mom. Ideas, anyone?
You don't argue with them; if THEY argue with you, you say "I'm really sorry that you don't understand the nature and extent of mom's disease."
My expectation is to see Mom once a month, if that, in 2018. My policy when she gets nasty: "I'll be back sometime when you're feeling better," "I need to take you back to memory care because I'm going to visit/do so-and-so," or "The doorbell's ringing, I have to go now."
Rainmom, you're right: reasoning with dementia is hopeless. The only thing I want to do is respond in a way that doesn't support a falsehood about me or those I care about. Call me stubborn, but standing by like a numb-nut while Mom reams my sister ain't an option. For me, silence is tacit approval, even with a demented person. I guess the best thing for me to say is "That's not a nice thing to say, Mom." Please understand, I know I'm the one with the problem here. Mom has always lied, slandered, fabricated, whatever you want to call it, long before dementia set in. I know I can't fix her, dementia or no dementia. I just need to find a satisfactory way to respond to the false assertions for my sake, not hers.
Barb, I probably shouldn't care so much what other people think, but I like your responses! I will have to practice a bit (grin) until I become expert with it!
Thanks to all!
Offensive remarks fall under the heading of challenging behaviours rather than faulty memory. If responding proportionately with something like "that is not a nice thing to say" doesn't help or makes things worse, then there's nothing for it - you'll just have to do the "I'll come back another time" routine and cut the visit short.
Do you ever actually need to spend time with her, or is it always optional?
My mother and yours sound very similar. Except I am an only child and my mother attacks my very helpful and wonderful wife as well. I realize it is her real, spoiled personality coming out without the social skills to cover it up.
She started being really abusive about two years ago, making up horrible things about me and what a horrible person I am. These stories went from when I was 25 back to 9 years old. Of course the abuse was forgotten once she needed something. Which was most days.
When she fell and had to be in the hospital and rehab for two weeks, I visited daily. My wife helped with her bills, and for convenience we paid many of her expenses ourselves, just as we had with my in-laws and father. She accused my wife of stealing from her when she couldn't remember the reason for some checks.
She was just as needy and demanding when we were taking care of my two in-laws (both became nicer as they aged), a daughter struggling with serious mental issues, and a son with physical problems. A demanding, total narcissist.
One thing that helped me. I gathered up a bunch of receipts and wrote that we paid them for her on each. I included a long letter about how we helped her in spite of her abuse, and gave numerous examples of her outlandish behavior. I also wrote that she was affecting my health (true), and in the future I will just leave if I feel uncomfortable with her behavior. I also said I do not expect her to change, but that I can control how I react to her. I did not talk to her or see her for a week.
The letter seemed to help a lot. I think it was because she could read it over and not fill in the blanks like she does with a remembered conversation.
I have stuck to the walking away strategy, and refuse to engage her when she starts with the negativity about anything or anyone. I do not accept apologies from her for any reason, I tell her she will just do it again and everyone will feel worse the next time.
Her behavior is much better now, we even had her over for a meal, something we have not done in more than a year.
I still will never trust her again, and I still try to minimize the contact, but the relationship is tolerable for now. I still get the occasional call from the senior community staff when she throws a tantrum, but at least I am not the object of her hatred and have been able to minimize my own stress.
It is stressful to worry about other's opinions. The only opinion that matters is yours.
Your dad and my mom must have gone to the same school!
Mom's memory is very selective. She only remembers the bad stuff. One of my visits with Mom will end poorly, like they usually do. I'll leave, and she won't hear from me for awhile. Then she'll call when she needs something, referring to the unpleasantness of our last get-together but never apologizing for what she knows was nasty behavior on her part, instead assigning blame to me. Then she'll forget and the cycle repeats, over and over and over. I know it's the dementia, but I also know Mom's hard-wired narcissistic ways are worsened by the dementia. So I say the serenity prayer a lot!
My mother has narcissistic personality disorder, now overlain by dementia. She has always demonized me and cut me out of the family while glorifying my drug addicted, alcoholic brother and sister. I've been all alone, without a single ally, and envy that you have your sister.
See All Answers