Elderly mother trashing appliances. How do I get her to stop? - AgingCare.com

Elderly mother trashing appliances. How do I get her to stop?

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Well she doesn't use the stove, thankfully, but she has trashed several small appliances and messed up the washing machine (just getting a service person in the door costs $95 now) and despite me even taping the doors closed, she is still messing with things - she put in so much detergent that it came out the top of the machine. How do I get her to stop? She gets mad if I tell her not to do laundry, etc. On the other hand, she fusses about doing it. Says 'why don't you stop following me around?' One day she had left the sink faucet on while puttering around and it had overflowed also - and I was already worn out from picking the 'Depends' filling out of the dryer. The previous week she had flushed her Depends down the toilet ( I think that made enough impression that she is careful about that, now.) It seems like all I do is fuss about things and try to head off another small, but costly, disaster. It's like having a large ten year old running wild all over the house - except that she can't run anymore!

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LivingSouth, I believe you are in the state of "denial". I watched my mother live there for several years in dealing with my father's vascular dementia. Despite the dementia diagnosis, despite living with my father and observing his behavior changes, despite seeing Dad struggle at times to execute simple multiple step tasks, Mom still saw Dad in her mind's eye as the capable man he had been for decades. She would ask him to "look at" or "fix" something or try to talk to him about his dementia driven behavior as though she expected him to be able to change that behavior. It never worked.

It didn't work because my Dad's brain didn't work very well anymore - dementia was in control. He could not change his behavior regardless of the motivation. The only way to change Dad's behavior was to limit his options - by physical changes (like securing potentially dangerous materials in locked cabinets) or supervision (locater bracelet, cameras you can monitor when out of the house, in home attendant, or MC).

Please accept that the Mom you have known for decades is gone. The dementia brain your Mom has now is neither thoughtful nor predictable. She doesn't want to cause problems and has a limited capacity to understand how she has caused problems - so she cannot change her behavior to avoid causing those problems again in the future. Now you need to change your behavior. You need to accept where your mother really is on the dementia journey. You need to make your home safe for your mother or you need to find a good facility for her. It's a really difficult turn in the road.
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Val3rie Aug 10, 2018
Thank you TNtechie, this is what I am going through exactly. I keep trying to make my husband into the man he was pre-stroke and vascular dementia. I keep thinking IF I CAN make him do...this or that...he will be back to normal.

I need so many reminders that this IS not so. I wish it were, but it isn't.
Thank you for your comment here. It helped me greatly.
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I hate to add to the chorus, but your mother can't be left alone any more. Because she *thinks* she's fine, and she isn't physically disabled, she will cheerfully go ahead with any household task that pops into her head. It's a fire, an electrical fault, a fall, a serious injury waiting to happen.

I paused for several minutes to think what to add on a positive note, but I can't find one. I'm sorry.
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Reply to Countrymouse
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08/10/18

Dear Living South,

My experience is like yours and others who have posted. 

Consider safety first - for both your sakes. When she still lived alone with daytime caregivers, she burned a pot on the stove twice. After the second time, I shut off the breaker to her stove and microwaved all her meals. 

When I moved Mom in with us, as hard as I tried to “dementia proof” our home, I still found Mom using the microwave in the middle of the night. She had put in a cup of water and it was set for 10 minutes. I can’t imagine the horrible burns she would have had if I hadn’t woken up and found her in the kitchen. 

I’ve cleaned depends filling out of the washer and dryer, and had to vacuum the lint trap and snake the dryer vent hose to remove inches thick, built up lint - another fire hazard. We re-did bathrooms with ceramic tile just in time for her to repeatedly overflow the toilet (and stash her soiled rugs and Depends in places that I only found because roaches and ants would lead me to them. 

The exhaustion and cost of these incidents can be dismissed because they happen randomly. The denial about the situation mentioned above was real for me, and I think it’s natural. 

When 24-hour supervision in our home was no longer enough, we moved Mom to a care home. It was a painful, guilt-filled decision. But, It was the only way to protect the physicial safety and well-being for Mom and my family.

Now that we are no longer living in a constant state of “High Alert,” I can see how exhausting and ineffective it was to provide for her on our own. What she needs is professional care to help her through the continued decline of her cognitive and physical health. 

She needs me most now, just like your mom will continue to need you to -
Ensure the best possible care for her (not necessarily to provide it)
Be her tireless advocate
Be a loving daughter - which it is clear to see you are.

Best of luck to you. And, remember to show yourself as much kindness and compassion as you would want for your mom.
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Reply to Gardens
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The simple answer to your question is that you can’t. As was said, Mom can’t be left on her own. You said you found her outside. Next time, God forbid, you may not find her. People with dementia go from one obsession to the other. If she’s alone all day, you’re playing with fire so to speak. You should start thinking about a facility or a home health aid for her. It’s not easy, but for her safety and your’s, it’s for the best.
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I wholeheartedly agree with TNtechie, Sanibel01 and Ahmijoy. Everything they state in their posts is 100%+ correct. Mom's behaviors won't change, and she won't understand 'special waste containers' and the like. You will go insane to try to think of every possible danger before it happens at home. And you absolutely cannot leave her alone. This is paramount.

Many caregivers, especially when it is thrown onto their backs, are in denial about dementia "not being that bad" with their loved one. Part of this denial is because it is a horrible reality that we have no control over AND all of it gets worse over time. It's really too much for people to bear, so it's easier to fool ourselves into thinking, "it's not too bad; I can manage this....", etc.
Until one day, something really bad happens, and 911 has to be called or some scenario like that. And / or the loved one wanders off, no idea where they are or how to get back home. Indeed, it is like having a bad 2-year old around.

Case in point, my DH had frontotemporal dementia, and aphasia. His behaviors started kicking in about 6 months after diagnosis. He started wandering so I had to quit my job and take care of him. There were tons of things that happened, too many to list here. But the home stretch was that he attempted suicide and then had to go into memory care. His disease spread so rapidly that the doctors couldn't really keep up with it. After only 4 months in memory care, he passed away. All this happened last summer, so while I miss him dearly with all my heart, I am relieved he doesn't have to continue the way he was, especially with the behaviors. Dementia of any kind is an awful, awful journey that affects us all.
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Reply to RainyDay51
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It's hard when your parent becomes your child. I liken my trips to stores with my mom as going with my daughter when she was a toddler - have to keep your eye on her every minute or she disappears, have to keep her from opening packages, have to take her to the restroom at least 3 times before leaving, etc. Mom adds "I'm hot, I'm cold, I'm thirsty, and I'm tired" too. It really wears you out. You try to treat them with the dignity that an elder deserves - especially your parent - but they just argue and yell and fight like a tantrum-throwing 2 year old. Mine gives me the added joy of telling anyone who will listen how "mean" I am and the looks I get from these people are scathing. Only another person who has gone through this understands.
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disgustedtoo Aug 11, 2018
How apropos! Yes, it is like having a toddler who needs to be reined in, and you need eyes in the back of your head!!! And yes, those who have not been down this path are clueless!! I have been finding more and more people who know someone, often a grandmother, who has embarked on this journey, so they understand.

The times I took mom shopping, I did have to circumvent some purchases (she would keep buying chicken and freeze it, but never use it!) We never got to the stage you are in - we moved her to a MC unit before it got to that point (would not agree to move in with any of us and could not stay alone!)

In your case, it might be better to have someone else along with you to keep a close eye on her, or have someone who can watch over her (babysitter!) while you run the errands...
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If you can't turn off a circuit you can still unplug the washer and shut off the water supply, but even then it really sounds as though she has reached the point where she shouldn't be left unsupervised.
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I'm sorry, LivingSouth, it's time for your mom to either have 24 hour care or move her to a facility. As for her getting mad, there's nothing you can do. She won't believe or listen to you. Find out if you have a POA, yes that important document that allows you to make changes to her lifestyle. If you don't, get a new will. It's imperative that you get her help while she still kind of has some of her facilities so it is legal.
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She can no longer stay by herself. You need to keep a step ahead to keep her safe.
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Livingsouth, your situation is heart wrenching not only for you, but for those of us who have dealt with this or are in the midst of it as well. All people seem to want to remain in their own home and many will refuse to leave. Add dementia and safety issues to the mix and you go crazy trying to honor the wishes of your loved one. I disconnected every appliance except the toaster oven and microwave in an effort to avoid the gas or burners being left on, the floods from overflowing, etc. and it made life even harder. My mom then “washed” things by hand with Comet or just put the dirty dishes back in the cabinet. Every issue, that was addressed was met with a new set of problems. Still had spoiled food in fridge, wrong products being used for “cleaning”, meds being mixed up, filthy clothes being hung back up or worn repeatedly, wandering, being yelled at, fixing financials, trying to protect folks from door to door sales people, phone scams, and the list goes on. We too waited far too long to move our parents who fought tooth and nail. End result, they were too far gone to be in assisted living and were required to be in memory care. There’s a huge difference in freedom and costs between assisted living and memory care. So at this point, the care is beyond what’s humanly possible to give by a single person 24/7. Your options are to either have 24/7 care in your loved one’s home by a team of caregivers, move your loved one in with you and put child safety locks on all cabinets and appliances and be prepared to still be battling her getting into things, put cameras up where she lives and have some sort of monitoring 24/7, or to move her to some sort of facility BEFORE that choice becomes a nightmare. It’s all heart wrenching. Hugs to you.
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MissingCally Aug 10, 2018
That is absolutely too much work. Use the facilities and help that is equipped to handle these situations.
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