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I am doing all I can for my mother. I visit her every other day. I talk to her countless times during the day, just so she can talk to someone or complain to. I cook and take her food, meds, clothes, etc. How do you deal with all of the complaining? I am an only and no kids. Wonderful husband that I don't want to have to deal with this since he had something similar with his mother. My mother constantly says she needs someone. I tell her I would hire someone but that won't work. I tell her to move to a very nice AL but that won't work for her. Just complains and miserable. She use to be so active until a year ago. She just gave up. She hates being 88. She is always saying she wants to be someone else. She has stopped living, basically. She wants to, but her brain just won't let her. Her memory is great. She does her own checkbook. It makes her very upset but does it. I sit with her. She won't turn it over to me. She reminds me of stuff I need to do. I think depression or severe anxiety. She won't take meds that her doctor has prescribed. Anyone else out there dealing with similar? Thanks for listening.

Gosh another only child here too! And I am the mom of an only as well. I am looking at my experience with my mom and reading about everyone else's parents here and making choices and plans now to not put my wonderful son through a similar hell. Right now today I can begin working on my attitude and trying to retrain my brain to see the positive more often than the negative. I think complaint and worry become habit and they are damn hard to break once your brain has those familiar negative grooves worn in. I saw it to a horrid degree with my MIL. My mom who was basically pretty sweet all her life is now has a daily litany of complaint. She's made it to 97 and her body is just wearing out. So she has so little control over escalating loss in her life I guess complaint is all she has left. I used to be such a "fixer" . She could hardly get a word out before I would rush to fix whatever was wrong. Her roof. Her teeth, her lack of this or that. I realized it wasn't even about her, what I was doing with all this crazy codependent behavior. I was trying to "fix" it for me so I would be loved, valued, respected, etc. and also to try to control the tide of complaining.
But the constant negativity is so hard to listen to. Lately my end of the conversation is like "yep, uh huh, jeez, that's rough ma" etc. I'm pretty checked out when it starts in. I felt guilty for awhile being so detached. But there is such a thing as compassion fatigue and I realized I was there. Used up, worn out, burnt out. I'm trying to figure out how to restore myself with daily meditation, finding at least three things a day to be grateful for and writing them down. Complimenting random strangers, letting a-holes cut ahead of me in traffic and smiling instead of a rude gesture. Little things. I'm a work in progress.
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lealonnie1 Nov 11, 2019
"I was trying to fix it for me so I would be loved, valued, respected....." These are very profound words, my friend. And with chronic complaining, no matter HOW much we're able to actually fix, there's just more 'broken' to follow. So we never wind up feeling loved, valued or respected by a chronic complainer. Best thing I ever did for myself was to resign my post as resident fixer.
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Stop presenting solutions. Empathize with her feelings of loneliness and sadness.

"That's so sad mom, I can see how you would feel that way".

"Yes, I see how that's a problem".

In presenting solutions, you are giving her the opportunity to say "no".

Empathizing with the feeling bats the ball into HER court. She needs to come up with a workable plan that doesn't involve you giving up your life.

Some people seem to enjoy being unhappy; her happiness is NOT your responsibility.
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Upstream Nov 11, 2019
BarbBrooklyn: That is SUCH an important point you just made: "her happiness is NOT your responsibility."
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I am an only child too of a 92 y/o mother who's spent her entire life complaining. She detested my father, her mother, her friends, women in particular....in fact, she's rarely had a decent thing to say about anyone or anything. She wants me to be her sounding board, of course, so she can present The Sweet and Wonderful Face to the rest of the world and save all the venom and hatred for my ears. I've spent the vast majority of my life trying to make HER life better and in the process, have managed to make MY life worse. Dealing with an Energy Vampire has a way of doing that to a person, doesn't it?

Anyway, I digress. Mother dear has lived in Assisted Living now since 2014 when I had to place her and Dad there after he fell and broke his hip. He died 10 months later, sadly, but mother is going strong like the Energizer Bunny, now living in Memory Care with moderate dementia and about 100 other issues, both real and imagined.

In order for me to maintain MY sanity, I limit my contact with her toxicity. I call her once a day at 8:10 pm and visit once a week. When the carrying on gets too bad, we leave. "We" meaning my poor husband and I, since I refuse to visit alone as she is MUCH worse without a buffer. My husband invented a code word to use when her behavior gets bad and my voice starts to rise in volume: bananas. If he utters that word, I immediately shut up. If things calm down, we stay. If she continues the tirade, we get up and leave.

Why are you subjecting yourself to this woman so frequently??? Ask yourself that question and if you enjoy punishment. If the answer is no, then devise a plan to save YOURSELF. Because she, I'm afraid, is beyond saving and chooses to be miserable. As my husband says, some people love misery SO much they meet it half way. You cannot fix your mother's life, you do not have that power, my friend. Relieve yourself of the burden and let her wallow in the misery of her own making. It is not your job, or your lot in life, to make HER happy. Take care of YOU and your dear husband, who needs to come first.

Your mother has lived her life. You are still living yours. If you make her misery the focus of your life, that's TWO lives destroyed for no good reason.

Best of luck setting down boundaries and sticking to them.
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HelpPlease1963 Nov 11, 2019
Thank you . All of these words do help.
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When my mother was alive, she too was a complainer. My Therapist told me just because someone throws a ball at you doesn't mean you have to catch it. In other words you do not have to respond. I would give my mother a time limit on complaining. I would say, "Mom, for the last 20 minutes (or however long I decided) all you have done is complain, lets talk about something nice for awhile.. The first time I did this, it took her about 15 minutes to think about something. Also, since you do not have to catch a ball thrown at you, you also do not have to respond to complaints. Just say, "I do not want to hear it".

I am 85, so I am on the other end of it. I try to keep busy and have something positive to talk about. I was asked to come back to work a couple of days this year and I can talk about that. I don't think they will ask me next summer because they have a good crew now. I volunteer with the Sheriff's Department and I can always talk about that without compromising people's privacy. I am going downhill like everyone else my age, and I know sometimes I slip and complain, but I need to read posts like this to keep reminding me to not be a "Debbie Downer".

Last, remember LINCOLN FREED THE SLAVES. If you stick around and listen to the complaining, you are a volunteer not a slave. Leave, even if you go outside and sit on the curb.
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NeedHelpWithMom Nov 13, 2019
I love your therapist’s remark that just because a ball is thrown doesn’t mean we have to catch it. That’s actually brilliant! Please keep sharing that information with others. Great visual image. Wise advice.

Don’t you think some complaints come from boredom? I do. How can they not be bored if they can no longer do what they used to due to ailing health?
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My FIL also does not take his meds for his severe depression and anxiety. For a long time both my husband and I tried to coax him into doing things. Everything was met with resistance. Eventually we both stopped offering. He loves complaining and we no longer listen. Once the complaining starts, we acknowledge how awful/terrible/sad/frustrating whatever is, and we end the visit.

That said, I don't understand why you feel guilty. What have you done wrong?

It sounds like you need to learn to accept that this is your mother now. It took my husband and me a while to accept that this is how his dad is now. Being miserable is a choice. You cannot get your mother to choose differently just like we cannot get my FIL to choose joy/gratitude/contentment. He has made his choices and he must live with the consequences i.e. fewer and shorter visits.

Step back from being your mother's sounding board. The more she complains, the more she will want to complain. It's a cycle. There's a whole philosophy surrounding complaining that says complaining makes things WORSE because it decreases the likelihood of taking positive action.
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Just want to say how helpful it is to read and realize that many of us are facing similar difficulties with our parents. My mother and father have always been generous people who took good care of us, financially. Emotionally, all 5 (siblings and I) were on our own. Now, they expect me (oldest-almost like being an only child most days) to listen to every complaint, solve every problem, fire every aide who is not Mary Poppins. FIX this. I cannot. I have tried and realize now that this situation is un-fixable. My job is to make sure they are safe and taken care of. My husband says my mother likes being miserable and she is just MEAN. She is so mean to my sisters that they rarely visit. Our family dynamic has changed- in a bad way. I mourn the loss of my childhood family. Watching people you love disintegrate due to mental illness and Parkinsons (Dad) is terrible. Feeling resentment towards my sisters because they choose to distance themselves from this pain -makes me miserable. We are traveling for Thanksgiving with my adult kids and sisters are not happy. The guilt that is building for me is really shaking me up. As I write this I realize, I just want us all to be happy again. Sad situation-for many of us. But I wish us Peace.
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Upstream Nov 12, 2019
Yes! I am an only child and my parents and I were so close while I was growing up. Our family unit has totally unravelled, everything is such a mess now. Every day I have to tell myself "I didn't cause my parents problems and I can't solve them." Same thing here - my parents put me through college and mom gave me some money when her mom died and left a substantial sum of money. But I was never, ever to bring my drama or problems to them. I learned in my teenage years not to share my problems with my mom and that has continued (I am now 52). For the last 10 years I have been expected to be their sounding board, marriage counselor, etc. as their lives have devolved. It's so bad that I took a box full of birthday cards & such from most of my life and ran them all through the shredder, along with old photos, etc. In my opinion that life and those people are gone...I can only hope for a better future when this is all over. My parents went down the path of alcoholism late in life (in their 60s) totally out of the blue, with marriage issues, depression, anxiety, prescription drug abuse, etc. and have really spent their retirement years miserable. It's been horrible to witness and when they are gone I want to forget all of it.
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Wow, I thought I was in a unique situation with my Mom and I'm not. She stopped living 20 yrs ago and now at 91 she is alone, miserable, and wants to die.

She's never made close friends, never made an attempt to know my kids (her grandkids) and remained superficial for as long as I can remember.

At first I tried to jump to every whim, problem, need, etc but through the eyes of my wife realized that I was being manipulated by her.

Listening to her talk is all about what's wrong, what's not right, stupid workers, Trump....well you get it and it drives me insane to continuously say, "uh-huh, I understand, there's nothing I can do."

I've distanced myself from her as much as possible. I'm not an only child, but my sibling has really, really distanced herself from the situation... so I'm it. I call once a week, visit when I need to bring supplies over, and have thankfully called in hospice care which has taken an incredible burden off of me, including reducing the ER visits to ZERO (they were almost weekly).

I think what I've really had a hard time with is not just the negativity, but the judgement that I receive from others who know nothing of the situation and why I'm not there all the time (Mom's in AL). I get comments all the time from the receptionist or others such as, "oh you didn't stay long" or "wow that was quick" to "we haven't seen you in a while." I've chosen to not let the comments bother me now, but at first I considered it a judgement on me as a son.

So, in short, I get what you're going through believe me. And even if you're not an only child it can feel like it. I am taking the situation as a learning lesson of who I do NOT want to be when I get to be her age and what I DON'T want to do to my kids. :-)
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HelpPlease1963 Nov 12, 2019
Thanks; I just don't want to live that long. I don't have kids, and if I outlive my husband, I will just check myself into a facility and call it a day.
I always said I wanted them to dress me up and I'll sit around with my jewels on. HA HA
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My parents refrigerator failed and I drove my mother to look over and purchase a new one. Mom had never had a new fridge as they had always purchased a used one but I convinced her the new insulation standards and energy ratings made the newer fridges less costly to run. The side by side Mom picked out for same day delivery included an ice maker and cold water dispenser. My brother came in as I was drilling a hole through the baseboard and floor to bring up the plastic water supply line for the ice maker just in time to tell me how upset Dad (with mid stage vascular dementia) was the fridge was purchased without his consent and that I was drilling through his kitchen tile. I replied "Dad needs something to complain about so it might as well be this."

You need to develop some of this attitude. You cannot solve your mother's issue alone and sometimes there is no resolution available at all. Accept it and learn the selectively listen and/or ignore a certain level/volume of complaints.

You may want to also give some thought to how much of your behavior is enabling. Are you really helping the situation by supporting Mom remaining in her home when she really needs AL? Maybe pulling a back a bit would allow Mom to realize she needs AL, or maybe not since a lot of times the AL rejection is emotional and not logical.
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Dealing with the same. I too am an only child, with no children of my own. My parents were very fit and active people, and moved down the street from me. Around the time they turned 70 they decided they were "too old" for just about anything, and then came the depression and substance abuse downward spiral. Fast forward to now: dad is in a memory care assisted living facility (age 81) and mom (age 77) sits at home alone with the phone unplugged from the wall, TV off, etc. She is miserable and over the past decade has narrowed her life to the point where I am it. Totally...it. She ran off all friends, has no hobbies or interests, doesn't want to go visit my dad (didn't want to take care of him, at all, which is why I had to move him). I am her 100% only outlet to the world. She cancels every opportunity for something to grab onto, like physical therapy (we've been down that road at least 5 times), mental health therapy, friends, volunteering, etc. So, basically she is 77 but her mom lived to 96. It terrifies me to think this could go on for another two decades. It totally exhausts me mentally and the whole situation has had a terrible impact on my own mental health and well-being. I could never in my life have planned for what my parents became and what it has heaped on me - I think only-children get it the worst!!
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HelpPlease1963 Nov 11, 2019
Wow! I think I finally find someone who can truly relate . Thank you and would like to send notes to you in the future if okay .
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I had to realize that I wasn't going to be able to improve my MIL's negativity and complaining. For a long time, I tried to find solutions, or if it was something I was doing, I'd stop or change.

But one day it dawned on me, that she was going to complain . . . .about something. That's just her personality, maybe it always was -- I wasn't around as much when I was raising my family. And it doesn't matter - it's her personality now.

So, I don't fix things or change myself anymore. She complained about my whistling along to the radio in the car (not to me, to her daughter). When it was brought to my attention, I told SIL that I would keep doing it, not loudly or annoyingly by any means, but there was no need to stop, MIL would just have to look for something else to complain about - heck, I'm doing her a favor by providing the topic of complaining for the day ;) LOL

I think the only thing you can do, is to try to distance yourself some -- and being the only child, that will be hard! But you have got to protect your own mental health too. As you pointed out, this could go on for two decades -- and you will not make it through that much complaining. Try to remember, for her, complaining is like you and I talking about the weather -- it's just her conversation. Try, try, try not to get wound up in it. Acknowledge, deflect and move on.
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lealonnie1 Nov 11, 2019
Yeah huh? My mother says shes not complaining, shes just TALKING. Except that kind of talk is the stuff ulcers are made of......for US, not them!!! They cause disease for others, not themselves!
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