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I need some new ideas for how to deal with my 81 yr old mother who is not really ill, has high blood pressure managed by medication, has received heart monitoring test results that say her heart is healthy but refuses to follow doctors protocol and is convinced that something serious is wrong. I have two sisters with full time jobs who live close by and I live 500 miles away in another state. Our mother has always been obsessed with her health. She is a widow having outlived 2 husbands. I am 61 yrs old. My sisters are in their 50's. We have tried to convince our mother that she needs to move to a facility that can assist with her health care but she refuses. She visits the ER at least 3 times a month and is always released and sent home. She is anxious but refuses mental health care. We are at a loss as to what to do. None of us could handle having her live with us. This is not an option. We have reached our breaking point. No solution is good enough. What boundaries have others made in similar situations? Do you tell your parent call the ambulance and let me know how things turn out? Desparate

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My grandma used to visit the er monthly for attention. We started calling it her vacation home. My mom got fed up told her that if she continued her stunts, no one was going to throw her a pity party. My mom told family not to visit or call her in hospital and no one did. The visits stopped after she didnt get the attention.
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This sounds exactly like my 84 yr old mil. She insists she has to visit er about 3 times a month. My husband and I both work and just could not handle it any more. We were the only family nearby and we're doing all her shopping, housecleaning and she wouldn't take her prescriptions. It was like a game to her and I would have to visit her daily and make sure she swallowed her meds or she would spit them out. One time she kept it in her mouth and then dropped it in my car. That was all I could take because I was afraid at some point my baby grandchildren would find the pills somewhere. Mil just didn't get it.We are in our early 60s and it was affecting our health. Mil loves the er and all the attention she receives. We finally had to insist she move into assisted living. She still insists she has to go to er all the time while in assisted living but they have tried to cut down her visits. Sometimes they just send her because of liabilty issues. She has cried wolf for decades and I mean decades. Sometimes I feel badly but my husband just doesn't worry about her any more when we get the call she is on her way to er. Feel badly that she is spending so much in Medicare and Medicaid but if it wasn't there we would be bankrupt. She just sits all day and won't get up and move and then complains about her joint pain. This has been going on for decades too. She is on pain pills for her arthritis but has never tried to help herself since she knows someone else will take care of her. She is addicted to her pain meds but I think the doctors have given up and just appease her. She tells us the doctors say she is such a good patient. She is quite a liar and leads everyone to believe she has had so many health problems all of which are not true. If it wasn't for assisted living my husband and I would have no retirement together one day. At times I know she frustrates them but they are used to handling these situations. We thank God every day for the assisted living which has allowed us to have some kind of life together. Sorry this was so long as the stories go on and on. She moved closer to us because her daughter couldn't take it any more. Signed, tired and frustrated
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I don't have any words of wisdom on this topic, but I am very grateful to read your posts. My mother has been anxious and a borderline hypochondriac all of my life. I relate to the "cry wolf" and overuse of the Medicare system comments. My friends do not have mothers as elderly as mine and don't understand.
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Anne, this sounds just like my 89 yr.old, 3x widowed mil! In a one yr. period she made 8 visits to the ER--and those are just the visits that we know of because I either took her or picked her up! Many times, we learned, she drove herself, called the emergency squad, or took a taxi! Each time she was discharged after a few hours and some tests--nothing was found. (In fact, except for dementia, she is in great health!) I started going with her to dr. visits, and her wonderful dr. "ordered" her (with our consent) that she find an AL community "just in case" and that's what we did three yrs. ago. So, check out several AL facilities with her and get on a waiting list Mil put a deposit down in a continuing care community near us, which she chose. When she later had surgery to snip some abdominal adhesions that were causing discomfort she moved into the nursing unit of the community and then into the assisted living building. Since she had a deposit, she got "first dibs" on a room. She never went home after that, and still demands to go to the ER to be "checked out" when she has gut pain ("cancer") , indigestion ("heart attack), constipation ("bowel blockage") ingrown toenail ("gangrene and amputation"). I am not making this up!!! The nurses are on to her and can calm and distract her, and the dr. prescribed anti-anxiety meds as needed. As JessieBelle stated, there is a chance a person's complaints won't be taken seriously if you "cry wolf" too often, and both my husband and I were appalled at the misuse of Medicare money for her fictitious illnesses. On a side note, after speaking to ER nurses, I learned many people who live alone misuse the system. They stated that the elderly use the ER because they have Medicare and often feel entitled.
They're also scared, the staff is friendly and the patient feels taken care of in our small community hospital, and they are given meds for pain. They like meds! In most cases, however, there is an underlying physical issue that needs to be taken care of, and usually is not, so they see the same patient again and again. We are grateful mil's physician alerted us to the problem so talking to your mom's dr or hospital social worker is a great idea.
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I think she may need to see a psychologist or psychiatrist as this is a phobia. It can be treated. The fact that this is how she has been and not something new means it is a long standing problem. Consider it to be much like an obsessive compulsive person who has to wash her hands 500 times a day or an agoraphobic who can't go outside. This is not something done in the emergency room- she needs a therapist.
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This is my situation to a T. I believe she just needs more company and more connection to the outside world. Since she does not physically qualify for long term care homes I don't know how to increase her social connections. She goes out every other day to church, social clubs etc but the more time I spend the more she wants. I believe she is afraid to die and would bennifet from religious councel. She is the oldest person in our community and this obsession became worse when the only person older than her passed away. She has friends and relatives older but they do not live where she can see them. Perhaps if she could gauge her health level compared to others it could help. I am grabbing at straws. I have refused to go to the emergency room with her and told her that if she chooses to go to ER and they send her home she will have to arrange her own transport back home. Seems cruel but it has cut down on the visits.
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Dear Desperate-it sounds like your mother is manipulating you all and you fall for it every time. Running to ER is simply a cry for help and "notice me" when the doctors cannot find anything wrong with her. If her health was always a concern of hers when she was younger, believe me, she will survive probably all of you! Leave her be, tell her she is doing a great job of taking care of herself and then live your lives. This 80 generation had many more challenges than we baby boomers and I suspect she will live to be 99 just to tick you all off! Calm down and call her infrequently...
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Thank you to everyone. I will be contacting the hospital social worker.
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I experienced similar where my mom was looking for the constant attention and telling us she had a tumor, was scheduled for surgery, etc. - fabricated. Insisted that we come up and stay with her, etc. We solved by telling her to have the doctor call us and tell us about the "prognosis", "planned surgery" etc. It never happened. We told her "we were very concerned but didn't have the skill set required for nursing her and that she would have to hire nurses to come into the home for her care and be with her at the hospital and through her rehab -- we then said "after that and you are better, we will come visit". This didn't stop it; but slowed down the calls.
I agree with akdaughter, call the hospital social worker and explain the situation (they may not give you much info regarding your mom because of HIPPA) however, you can tell them that you just want them to note on her record what you and sibs have observed (be specific) and ask if they can make a note on hospital ER admissions records next to her name to have them contact hospital social worker for consult. This should help. It is best sometimes if outside experts (social worker and physicians) can intervene on your behalf. Hopefully, she will heed the advice. Check what your legal rights are with DPOA. Preview some AL places and then narrow down to 2-3 and arrange to take mom for a visit -- see which one she likes and which ones will best meet her needs now and in the future.

Good luck! and hang in there.
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Have to add that one thing that worries me is that my mother cries wolf so often that no one will pay attention if something really is wrong. This happened with a bladder infection last year. She was sick, but her doctor dismissed her.
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anne, I have walked many miles in your shoes. My mother has certain definite health issues -- diabetes, high bp, and undiagnosed dementia -- but she is also a hypochondriac. It was so bad at the earlier part of this year that we were in various doctors' offices 3-4 times a week. I knew that most of her problems were factitious, so I tried to put my foot down and said no, I was not going to take her. She went behind my back once and made an appointment. I was surprised when the doctor's office called me to confirm the appointment. I did take her, but the doctor dismissed her, giving her a cream and saying nothing was wrong. That was the last appointment.

There seems to be some complex reasoning going on for people who want to go to doctors. They often obsess on some small symptom until it becomes something major. Often the symptom is created by the way they live. For example, someone who sits in a chair and watches TV all day may get rashes on their back and bottom, or the pressure on their spine can cause back and leg symptoms. They can be resistant to advice that can help, e.g. get up and get moving. They hope a doctor will have a magic pill that will cure it. It doesn't help that there are so many advertisements now for pills and medical remedies on daytime TV. (I can't stand those ads that, IMO, should not be shown to laypersons.)

The only thing I've found that helps is to say that the ER is for emergencies only and what is wrong with them is not an emergency, e.g. heart attack, stroke, trauma. Then say if they want to go to the ER, you will not be there for them. They are on their own. My mother changes her mind fast about going to the ER when I say that.

The doctors saying nothing is wrong with my mother and me saying I won't take her unless something is really wrong seems to have worked. Unfortunately, now she feels the doctors don't care about her anymore. I think in her mind there was a confusion between a medical visit and a social visit.

I believe strongly in conserving Medicare money, so it bothered me to see my mother abusing it with her factitious illnesses. If everyone did it, Medicare would have gone broke a long time ago. My mother doesn't understand this. All she thinks is that it is free to her, so it is all that matters. This thinking bothers me a lot.

My only advice is to just say no and try to stick to it. You may find like I did that sometimes they will go behind your back. I hope that it works out for you like it did for my mother. I do not mind taking her to the doctor if she needs to go, but I don't want to take her for imaginary illnesses or attention-seeking behaviors.
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When my late MIL was making frequent ER trips, the social worker at the hospital got involved. She worked with the primary care physician and together they told MIL that she could not continue to live in her home alone. After a trial of part-time in home help (she didn't like having people in her house), she moved to an assisted living facility. Maybe you and/or your sisters could contact the social worker at the hospital to speed things along. Sometimes aging parents will listen to a medical professional when they won't listen to their children.
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Anne1certain, I don't mean to be disrespectful but have you thought about having her see a Psychologist? It sounds to me like she doesn't have medical issues but is obsessed with going to doctor's. Perhaps make an appointment and not tell her what kind of doctor it is or ask her regular doctor to make a referral. Just a suggestion to rule out other issues.
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