My parents divorced many years ago and my mother lives alone, a few hours from me. My brother died many years ago so I am the only one to assist my mom. I go to visit her almost weekly and it is so distressing. She doesn’t bathe regularly and recently lost significant independence when she lost her drivers license because of her eyesight. She needs cataract surgery but has decided against it even though I have made appointments for consultation. Every thing I do she becomes resistant to. She remembers events negatively even though at the time they were positive. Her words to me are occasionally sprinkled with comments like “at least you did one thing right.”

I cannot convey how deeply these events hurt me. I have been watching out for my mom for many years. I am scared, deeply sad, and angry. I defend myself when she says mean things. She hasn’t always been this way but occasionally I have reflected that she would throw in a zinger even when I was growing up. I recently set up a caretaker to visit her once a week. It is still new so I don’t know how things will go for the long term. She still lives in her home and refuses to go anywhere else or closer to me. I get so frustrated everytime I visit. She will tell me that her dirty hair looks great and her eyesight is fine and she failed her drivers test because they were flakes. Often during these conversations I start to raise my voice and find myself yelling telling her I won’t listen to it. When I leave I feel immense guilt which is almost debilitating. It is a cycle that had happened over and over for about 2 years now. How do I continue helping my mom without the intense cycle of emotions while getting her necessary medical and personal care?

You say: "I am scared, deeply sad, and angry."

I would say that this is about as close to perfect as empathy can get. Because so is your mother. And just as you don't know how to move forward, neither does she.

The trouble is that until you can jump-start her, she won't be *able* to think how to move forward.

What you do know is that the last two years, quite apart from being a total wringer for you, have done nothing to help. So ditch the strategy of making suggestions and setting up arrangements and try something else.

Finding the caretaker sounds like a good first step, not least because - if all goes well, fingers crossed - you will soon have another perspective on how your mother is doing.

So there's only you for the role of primary caregiver, but who else is in her life at all? Pastor, doctor, friends, neighbours, former colleagues, evening classmates, anybody?

I am sorry that you are feeling what you feel as guilt. You are not guilty - you didn't divorce her, didn't die, didn't make her old and alone and unhappy. Don't forget that being very sad on a person's behalf does not make you able to make everything better. Don't take responsibility for what you can't help.
Helpful Answer (15)
Reply to Countrymouse

The zingers are designed to invoke guilt. Said on purpose. My 92 y/o mother created a big scene at the ALF last weekend & my DH & I went down there to help straighten things out. My goal was to keep her OUT of a nursing home and IN the ALF which she's semi-happy in. During the discussion, she chose to throw in a zinger, saying, "Well I'm all alone here like a DAWG all the time anyway." She pushes my buttons to get her jollies, that pisses me off & causes me to raise my voice, which in turn leaves me feeling guilty and dwelling on what a 'bad daughter' I am, which I'm really NOT. See the pattern? It's all a game these women play and it's really hard not to get caught in the trap. Come up with some things to say in response to your mother (don't take the bait): "Gee Mom, that's unfortunate. I'm sorry you feel that way. What can YOU do about that situation?"
If you (or I) feel inclined to raise your voice, walk away for a moment, collect yourself, and then return to finish the visit. Get out of there BEFORE the yelling starts, in other words, so there will be nothing to feel guilty about afterwards. I promise to follow my own advice here, k? :)

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Reply to lealonnie1

As long as she is safe, has enough food, bills paid, etc. Sometimes you just have to wait for an emergency to happen. Hopefully, the caregiver once a week will work out. Often, difficult elders will accept basic direction and help from others - like a caregiver or visiting nurse instead of a daughter or other relative.

My parent resisted everything, and it only made things worse for her - you cannot force them to do things. However, late in the game, a visiting nurse was able to convince her to let me take her to get her toe nails trimmed, get flu shot. My parent liked to get her hair done, so it was not a big problem getting her there, but she would often forget or we would be very late.

Assisted living was not an option. When she was at her hair appointment, I would do her laundry and clean the house. I had to tell her that Medicare would drop her if she didn't go to her annual check up...that worked.

Though she expressed gratitude at times, and was nice here and there when I was growing up, she was mostly verbally abusive towards me.

Very difficult times. All the best to you.
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Reply to UptoHere

Your mom sounds as if she's depressed and bitter. Is she on an anti-depressant? Is there anything in her life that brings her joy or satisfaction or peace? Anything she enjoys doing? Her eyesight is poor, would she enjoy listening to books on tape?

Does your mom spend the majority of her time alone? Perhaps she has a church community that can visit? Or friends? Relatives?

She's unhappy and probably lonely. Have you considered assisted living?

It's not your job to make her happy. We don't have the power to do that for people, but being aware of her apparent unhappiness might help you in finding activities/outings/hobbies she might enjoy and that might bring her a little happiness.
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Reply to Eyerishlass

Eyerishlass is correct - it is not your job to make your mother happy. My husband and I went out of our ways to make my in-laws happy and, after my MIL died, to make my FIL happy. He resisted most of our efforts. Now we just make sure he's safe and has his physiological needs met, but we no longer try to coax him into doing any new activities. He never really had a hobby and he won't try.

For someone with failing eyesight, books on tape are an excellent idea. Also, she can listen to music and musicals especially the ones she grew up with. Familiarity seems to give my FIL comfort.

You are on the right track bringing caregiving services to your mother. Does the weekly caregiver bathe your mother?

Is there a grocery delivery service where she lives? Many grocery stores are expanding their prepared foods section. I would be very concerned about her ability to maintain proper nutrition because she's unwilling to get her cataracts removed. Perhaps an in-home consult with a geriatric care specialist would help? Sometimes strangers are able to help more than we ever can.

There came a point when we hired a woman to come by every night for 30 minutes and get my MIL ready for bed. We paid her $15 a night. Maybe your mom has a neighbor - perhaps a health care student - who could use the extra money?
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to NYDaughterInLaw

How old is Mom? My husband had an Uncle that was a pip. He lived in Fla, we in NJ so visits were not regular. He was almost 90 when his wife passed. He had cataracts and was almost deaf. He would not get his eyes done or get a hearing aid because ... he just wanted to die. TG he did hire a great aid. He lived to be 98. Look at what he missed out on.

There is really nothing you can do unless you move closer to Mom. Even then, it will only be to make sure she is safe. Even if she was in an AL or NH she could not be made to do what she didn't want to. Elder abuse if they try. Thats even taking needed meds.

She needs to be evaluated. It has been suggested on this forum to tell a fib and say Medicare requires it. She could be in early stages of Dementia. Like said depression. When you get the results, have the doctor sit in front of Mom, look her in the eye and tell her what he has found and what she needs. Don't allow him/her to let u do it. Won't mean anything coming from you.

I can't imagine not wanting to see or hear if its possible to improve both. I am in the beginning of cataracts and have problems driving at night and seeing distance. I can't wait to get them done. Can u tell Mom if she got her cataracts done she maybe able to drive again.

If Mom is in the beginning stage of Dementia, I really believe that being able to reason, is the first thing they lose. In hindsight, I found this with my Mom. My disabled nephew came to live with her. He has a neurological problem where he has some reasoning problems. She believed him before she believed me. I would leave her house mad almost everytime I went. I didn't realize that this was the Dementia.
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Reply to JoAnn29
rovana Jan 4, 2019
Please everyone, don't encourage elders to drive when they have vision problems.  Time for them to locate other ways to transport.  Usually, it is not vision alone that makes them dangerous on the road, but physical and cognitive losses that are mounting.
Hi Fallon, you sound very compassionate and sweet, and all you can do is offer your best to your mom but your ability to assist is very limited without consent from the patient. It has a lot to do I think with their personality to start with, the dementia seems to strip away everything to their most deeply ingrained traits.

My mother has dementia,we still aren't sure what her diagnosis is exactly because she wants to handle her health like a cowboy on the frontier, no modern medical intervention at all. She is physically remarkably without problems, she can walk faster than I can, but mentally breaking down badly. We make doctor appointments, only to find her gone from the house when we show up to take her. She has pills which she discards. When we try to help her with the filthy house and she gets super angry, hovering and demanding we get out of her business as we try to throw away rotting smelly food. We ask if we can get her a caregiver and she says she wants no one in her house. She states "I don't see the dr because I'm not sick, I don't see the dr because I'm not sick, I don't take pills because I'm not sick (for 3 hours same sentence with a 30 second break between them)" When she finally had to go to the dr. kicking and screaming because she needed them to approve her license renewal (I'm going to DIE if I can't drive!!!! I'm going to DIE if I can't drive . . I want to KILL MYSELF if I can't drive) The doctor actually signed off on it to her families horror. Why? because they showed her a picture of two lions and a giraffe and asked her which one was different which she has no trouble answering. (They are also ducking the care she's entitled to under her policy by not diagnosing her).

I've been convinced for a few years now she's going to push on until something horrible happens. It's a terrible feeling.

I can't really listen to what she says. She hates all her old friends and has been rude to many of them until they stop reaching out, then says she's lonely and forgotten. She says she's stuck in the house and bored and then flips out if we try to encourage her to go with us to the senior center or library. When friends or family reach out on the phone she won't answer or if she does she's rude enough for them to pick up on it, and then when the phone hangs up she explains why she never liked whoever just called. We visit almost every day, and then what friends she hasn't run off rip into us for neglect because she tells them we only come over once a year.

Basically, I treat this like my dogs when they bark or my cats when they meow and consider the source. None of this is true, I don't have to take it to heart. This disease is awful and it's making her miserable, she has a terrible knowing that she's losing her mental abilities (and she's been lifelong super negative anyway) and so that's sort of spraying all over the place.

I figure if we just take the high road and make every effort to provide love and proper care, that we won't live with regret later.
Helpful Answer (4)
Reply to brightside
dads1caregiver Jan 6, 2019
Brightside, have you thought about going for conservator? The test the drs use normally has math questions. Driving? My FIL continued to drive way after he should have. Husband & I did everything. We hid keys, flattened tires, disconnected hoses, etc. One Saturday, we received a call from a woman that was 8 mos pregnant. She asked if we were FIL's family. Then, she pleaded that we get FIL off the road b/c he ran into her/husband on the highway & continued to press on the gas pedal then got out of his vehicle & asked them to go to supper w him. The next Monday, we started the legal process for gaining conservatorship. FIL couldn't pass the simple math test. It's not only dangerous for their health from accidents of all types, but others as well.
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Allow help. You want to do what's right for your mom, but sometimes the parental and child status is hard to separate when caregiving is needed, and the child feels responsible even when the parent is being the difficult one. If possible allow someone to do the showers, bathing, housekeeping etc... while your time is just for visits, or a short outing in the car. losing independence is never easy, and what appears to be resistance may be confusion, onset depression of losing independence, and driving abilities, which is one of the most difficult adjustments to go through especially for someone who was a good driver, or driving was part of their work. There is always an adjustment period, and there are times when some do not adjust, and you have to be lovingly assertive to prevent serious problems from happening such as skin breakdown, and UTI's. Someone not attached to her intimately may be what your situation needs. Don't give up, you are not alone, this is a common behavior. I have worked in Senior Care for 37 years and have witnessed this scenario many, many, times. Sometimes all it takes is a non-family member to visit, once or twice and get insight that your mom is not willing to discuss with you, and build from that. Being an only child, and sole caregiver can be stressful, my mother had 12 children, but only allowed certain ones to assist in her caregiving needs, so this happens with large families as well. I wish you the best of luck, and accept help, or get some help, it will be best for you and your mom.

Cynthia L H.
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Reply to MyCalling

I’m so sorry that you are going through all of this. So hard when loved ones fabricate memories. It really hurts. God bless you.
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Reply to NeedHelpWithMom

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