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."
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 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!
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 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.
My dad too does what you are saying. His reality has gotten much worse since his recent surgery. He’s now accusing my dear sister who has been such a help to him of using the money from his estate sale to go visit Cuba!! The estate sale was 4 yrs. ago but he thinks it was recent.
I have to decide how I will deal with this. I know he doesn’t even know what he’s truly saying as he’s created this alternative reality. And yet if I reason with him it gets ugly. Truly you have to detach even when hurtful things are said. Sometimes he will tell me I’ve changed and that I used to be nice. Especially if I try to say the nurses and staff in rehab can’t come immediately when he calls because they have other patients. He feels I’m taking their side. And silly me, I’m trying to use logic. Logic doesn’t help!! I’m a slow learner sometimes.
So think of it as though you are watching a movie unfold and he’s talking about people you don’t know. And say things like...really?...you don’t say?...and then try to redirect and talk of something you know cheers her up.
But get this book!
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.
I, too, have a narcissistic mother. She’s 96, lives in an independent-living senior apartment (no assistance there), can’t afford assisted living and we are currently having conversations about skilled nursing facilities (I hate the term “nursing HOME” ... they are not HOME, they are noisy institutions where we send our elderly after taking everything they have accumulated in life away from them ... but that is a whole different thread! 😳 ) My mother does not watch TV, listen to music, read books or magazines, she just sits there in her recliner by the window in silence all day and watches her neighbors out the window, making up lives and stories that are just completely whacked! A wonderful woman in her 50’s moved in next door, was so kind to give my mother her phone number and say, “If anything ever happens and you can’t reach the phone but you can read the wall that separates us, bang on the wall and I’ll come and help you!” My mother talks incessantly about how this woman wears shorts that are way too short and dresses that are way to tight, has men visit her (who could be brothers, cousins, friends, she has no idea), so she must be a prostitute! She has now convinced herself of this and tells me all about her comings & goings. This is not isolated. She has said horrible things about all of the lovely women there who check on her well-being, have offered help, etc. One is addicted to opioids, another must be gay because she looks it, etc. Sometimes I just want to scream, “these poor people only made the mistake of being kind to you, and you repay their kindness by slandering them!” I can only imagine what she says behind my back, as to my face she has told me that I am a know-it-all and the reason for my divorce 24 years ago was that he couldn’t stand me anymore (in reality, he was an alcoholic and I divorced him), that my wonderful husband Bob will not put up with me for long and he’ll kick me to the curb, and that the whole problem with me is that she was not hard enough on me when I was little! It has taken me a long time, and a fair amount of counseling, to learn to calmly respond that I’m not going to stay and be abused so I am going home and will call the next day to which she’ll respond with something like, “If I don’t die before then.” I have driven almost an hour down there stayed for 30 minutes to make sure her dishes are washed, bed is made, garbage is tossed, sh*t is cleaned off her toilet seat, and she has food, turned around and driven home. Anyway, it’s hard to hear the confabulation, but there is nothing you can do to change it. She cannot reason. Anyone who has known her for any length of time will have figured out that she’s got dementia and know the stories are not true.
I do like Enderby’s idea of writing a letter explaining why you will not stay when she becomes abusive, because my mother cannot remember anything correctly that she hears, but if she has something on paper she will read it over and over and over. Of course, I would word it very carefully, be as kind and loving as possible while relaying that you will not allow her to be abusive. That is great advice, Enderby!
If I can't escape physically, then - I don't know - I'm not above firmly and loudly staring at her assertively in the eyes and saying "STOP IT! NO!" but I'm afraid dementia care experts might not say that's the best thing (I think they would say "make her feel emotionally safe, sympathize with her, lie if necessary, then switch the topic") but I have to say, that does help my sense of dignity. We're not talking to a Mind here. No sense in catering to non-mind. But - the idea of helping her feel emotionally safe is important. After I might firmly tell her NO, then I do try to switch the topic and tenor of my voice to be comforting and enthusiastic and encouraging about some completely different topic - "Oh, look at that bird over there / child running down the street" or even better - "What would you like for dessert? Chocolate? Lemon cake?" getting her thinking about food often calms her down. Hey man, whatever works. !!!!
My question to everyone is this: how do I tell if this is a dementia or early Alzheimer's
Yes, how do I tell if my Mother is starting with dementia or early Alzheimer's or is she just using and/or playing her usual games with me as she has done for many years now? Nothing I ever do is right with her or good enough. I just want there to be peace for both of us.
AmberA: "...negativity and character assassination..." and "...learn to respond to the false assertions for MY sake, not hers..." and "..hard-wired narcissistic ways are worsened by the dementia.."
Enderby: [she] only calls to ask for something or to relay something being 'stolen' - AND - when i visit and find the item, she says "oh i'll have to call the police back and tell them they don't have to spend time on it, because the housekeeper returned it." [she is never the one to blame. ever.]
Harpcat: "..if I reason with [her] it gets ugly.." i've become a 'yesman' i have 100% given up on 'redirecting' - NEVER works; DAMN she's sharp!
Quint41: "..amazed by how many narcissistic, abusive parents there are..." including the rest of your shared similar story; regarding enderby's letter: i believe my mom would rip it up and express anger toward me for WEEKS for writing such lies [truths]
just what is going on! some strange cruel joke of aging. rarely [never?] experienced or witnessed by our parents when theirs were aging.
I'm an only child too. You need to have your mom evaluated by a geriatric neurologist. Alert her doctor (before her appointment) that you'd like her tested for dementia. (Alzheimer's is one type of dementia.) The doctor can refer her to the specialist under the guise of checking out another ailment. Then you'll know if she's got it.
My mom and I didn't get along in my youth. She was narcissistic and I couldn't stand it. Later, when she was entering stage 5 Alzheimer's, she accused me of everything from stealing to throwing her on the floor to incest! At first I cried, then I tried to defend myself, then I got frustrated, then mad. As everyone does, I tried reasoning, explaining, screaming, ignoring then placating her by going along with it. I started limiting the amount of time I spent visiting her. If she repeated something too many times and I asked her to stop, I'd say I had to leave. That would work for awhile. As the dementia gets worse, nothing works. I learned to ignore most of it and redirect the rest. You'll get tired of responding and give up. In the mean time, limit your exposure and try to learn how not to care. It really doesn't mater what anyone thinks. My mother says her daughter (me) hates her and she doesn't like her either. I don't care anymore. She doesn't know who I am and can't retain it if I tell her.
They just have to be pitied for how "out of it" they are. Dear God, may we all escape this fate.
Today I at her Brother-in-Law's memorial service. I met her daughter for the first time, I mentioned how concerned I was about her and would it be possible to get a generator as her house is all electric with no fireplace. Her daughter said her mother exaggerates, lights weren't out for more than 18 hours, grandsons plow her driveway, If things were dire they have snowmobiles to get to her. She has studded tires, in essence didn't happen. Wow!! She has stuck to that story, was telling someone else about it today. This is months later. I guess it is her reality. It made me feel good and bad at the same time. Good she won't go through that again this winter. Bad that her mind is failing so bad that she thinks she went through it last winter.