My husband finally got his 94 year old sister in a great nursing home run by a Catholic religious order of nuns who are devoted to caring for the poor. Before we got her accepted here (got her on Medicaid, too) she lived in a private senior hotel where she sat perched on her daybed, with diarrhea stains all around her on the floor, in a dirty nightie all day watching tv. She paid extra (money she didn't have - husband had to pay off her bills, get her electricity turned back on, phone re-connected, etc.) to have her meals delivered. She would fall (almost blind, walks with a walker) about every 2 weeks and they would call the city fire dept to pick her up. Well, you get the idea. She is highly intelligent, very private and has a haughty, demanding manner. She has always been a terrible complainer. Even the last time she saw their brother who was just dx'd with stage 4 lung cancer she spent 5 minutes complaining about the service in the senior hotel where she was then living in that they served the plate from the wrong side. You get the idea.

What galls me now is that she is doing SO much better - she's clean, well tended medically, they gave her their largest apt (which she insisted on!) bring her to meals in the pleasant dining room (she's in a wheelchair now having developed a pressure sore on her heel from her previous place) gets physical therapy 2 x a day - they stop in every few hours to bring her juice and see how she is. Everyone is very nice. She has a device with a nurse call button on it and it never leaves her hand. They come in the morning and wash and bathe her, put her on the toilet, dress her and bring her to breakfast, then they wheel her for therapy, then back to her room for some tv watching then lunch, more therapy, then back to her room, then to dinner, then back to her room where they come in later and prepare her for bed. The tv never goes off even all night. Bottomline - why the 15 complaints? Its insane her life is 1000% better. Small things irritate her, the staff comes in at different times, they all don't follow the same procedures, the coffee is often cold, yesterday they served a potato and vegetables with a grilled cheese sandwich!! Those 3 items don't belong on the same plate! OMG! There is nothing to do at night - they should have speakers and music and concerts - LOL - like she would even go!! Is this typical for life long crabby people - being 94 or 24 her brother tells me she was always a whiner but everything is so good for her now - surely even she must see that!!! Infuriating!! We both worked so hard to find the best place she could afford, get her all checked out medically at her favorite downtown hospital (had to rent a van to get her there $200.00 a visit) move her so she would qualify then get her moved and settled in. Now visiting her here is almost as bad as at the previous place - just a different set of complaints. When we left there yesterday we were sniping at each other - I guess from all the negativity we just came from - the room was toxic. Even now my blood is still boiling from her constant bitching. We only visit her ever 2 weeks and he doesn't even want to go then but I feel we owe it to her, i.e. visiting the sick. Next time we are going to try to just keep interrupting her when she goes on a rant and see how that works - sigh - we are dumbstruck by her still so negative and unhappy attitude.

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Some people just like to complain; I think it reflects a negativity of outlook, at any age. Others are angry at their situation, or life, and take it out by complaining about or to others.

You mention she's haughty and private. She may feel that she's entitled to better than she's getting, perhaps something like private, catered service. Does she come from a wealthy family?

I think it can als be a reflection of not being able to either physically or mentally solve problems in a more positive way. That's not a criticism; many people have difficult solving problems at a lot of levels. And life is so much more complex these days that it was when a 94 year old person was growing up. In some ways easier, in some ways harder.

If you feel up to it, you could tell her that you've worked hard to find a place she likes but are disappointed that she finds so many things wrong with this place.

You could point out the good things, but she'd probably refute them.

You might just have to tell her that you don't know what else you can do to make her happy (if that's even possible) but you feel as if (a) you've failed at that (b) you don't know what would make her happy or (c) you would like to enjoy visiting her but that's difficult since complaints dominate the conversation.

You'd have to weigh the potential outcome - she might get ever madder; she might become embarrassed that her complaining is so pronounced.

You write that she's always been a complainer. Maybe it's time to accept that she isn't going to change, and adjust your visits accordingly. Don't let her negativity bring you down. You've probably done all you can, and even more wouldn't change her outlook. And remember, it's not your responsibility to ensure that she's pleasant.
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I guess its normal for her, if that's her life long personality
sometimes a resident of a facility will complain to family members

but with every one else they're fine.

they may claim its sooo lonely, but when youre not there...they are out visiting with others and socializing

just let her *itch and complain. just nod in agreement.

you did good. you did the right thing. shes being taken care of.

my mom complains too. not a lot, but sometimes I get annoyed too.

like they didn't make her bed "right"

coffee too hot, coffee too cold

they served her too much food. they are just trying to get rid of the extra food. :/
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Google "Narcissistic Personality Disorder". You'll start to understand her "entitledness".
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Goodintentions Jun 2018
Bingo. Grew up with a father that is a classic Narcissist. We didn’t know what that was until I was almost forty. He is now in assisted living and I feel sorry for the staff.
irishdaughter11, one thing we need to remember that at 94 years old and being in Assisted Living, your husband's sister's world is now very very small.

She can no longer hop in the car to drive to the mall to have lunch with friends.... most of her friends either moved away or have passed on.... her sense of taste is no longer there as we do lose our taste buds as we age... her eyes aren't as sharp and neither is her hearing.... my gosh, she needs someone to help her bathe. And today's TV shows are filled with flying rocket ships and huge animals, thus nothing she can relate to. Hopefully she can watch the old TV show and old game show channel. Any one would be grumpy.

I see from your profile that your sister-in-law has Alzheimer's/Dementia, is that the person who are referencing? If yes, one cannot correct a person who has this type of memory loss.

It is time to use "therapeutic fibs". Just agree with her whenever she says something negative. Play along with her. A potato with a grilled cheese sandwich "OMG what were they thinking, who does that !!!" I bet you and your husband will feel better after visiting.
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She sounds like a generally unhappy person. If his sister is 94, your husband cannot be a spring chicken himself! Stop guilting your husband into seeing his sister and let him be in charge of visiting her. If you want to visit her yourself, that's your choice; however, if he doesn't want to go, spend your time doing something that you both enjoy.
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You should have heard all the complaints that MY MOM had the FIRST 4 MONTHS that she was in the nursing home for Rehab:
--"I am the FIRST person into the Dining Room and the LAST person out of the Dining Room." (Actually, Mom was the LAST person into the Dining Room and the First person out of the Dining Room." {SIGH}
--Mom complained about the wheelchair being too hard (We purchased a NEW wheel chair with a special cushion for her.)
--Mom complained about the CNAs being rough with her while using the Easy Stand Lift. (No, they were not--I watched the transfers several times.)
So on and so forth and etc. and etc.

You need to give your husband's 94 year old sister time to get used to the routine of the new facility and time for the staff to get used to her.

You stated that "she has always been a terrible complainer". Well, just because she moved to a different nursing home doesn't mean that her personality changed also. She will ALWAYS be a complainer--she will probably complain to God when she gets to heaven. :)

I know that is it hard, BUT you need to let your husband's sister's negativity "go in one ear and out the other ear". Nod your head. Say "Oh, really?" Make non-committal replies to her complaints.


Mom and I did that a lot, and like you, I would be angry and upset after visiting Mom! Once I quit responding to Mom's complains, she did calm down a little. BUT if Mom was really mad, she wouldn't talk to me at all. That got me in trouble with a certain "By-The-Book" Social Services Assistant. (That's a story for another post.) **Once Mom's medications were adjusted properly, she quit complaining so much.** Surprise!!!

Take a deep breathe before visit your husband's sister and try NOT TO REACT to her complaints. I think that you will find that you will not get as angry as you have in the past. God Bless.
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Your frustration with your mother-in-law's continual complaining is understandable. My mom is much the same. It sounds as though some of your MIL's complaining at the private senior home you described was justifiable, and it's wonderful you were able to move her to a better living arrangement to resolve those issues. But she's always been a complainer; I totally understand that feeling of toxicity in the presence of a self-absorbed chronic complainer. These people suck all the oxygen out of the room. Their conduct is socially repellent and emotionally exhausting. And you're right: as soon as you address the problem they're complaining about, they just move on to the Next Big Thing; i.e. the staff stole the stuff they can't find. The coffee is weak. The wallpaper is ugly. A perpetual state of butt-hurtedness. (Is that a word? Never mind; I just made it one).

UTI's can cause challenging behaviors and you might consider a urinalysis to explore that possibility, although given her lifelong habit of complaining, clearing up a UTI probably wouldn't help. Has she been tested for dementia? Dementia would likely exacerbate a complaining habit. You might look into an anti-anxiety and/or antidepressant to take off the edge, as they did for my mom. At least now we can redirect her for a minute or two.

You've started off on the right foot by limiting your visits to every 2 weeks. I would suggest that when you do visit, keep your visits short, try to divert her focus from her grievances, inasmuch as you can. If during your visit she won't stop complaining, tell her you'll come back sometime when she's "feeling better" and go! No guilt! You didn't cause her problem!

I'm convinced there's nothing to be done for chronic complainers. Whining is central to their identity. You can't change their behavior, only yours. Respond accordingly and take care of yourself! Don't move MIL from her current nursing home unless her care has been compromised. Moving will produce a whole new litany of complaints, as you've already seen. Whatever you do, do not move her in with you! Your life would become a living hell!

Again, you have my profound sympathy. I wish you and your husband the best!
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At her age her world is very small. Laying out a little guilt and going on a rant probably is the only thing besides meals that she has to look forward to ! Bless you for finding such a great place for her.

Remember it takes time for folks to settle in and no elderly person likes change. Stop letting the negativity get to you. My favorite tactic when it gets too nasty is...."Look at the time, so nice to see you, gotta run....."

Freqflyer has it right...find the humor in her high standards of etiquette for nursing home dining! Breathe and stop stressing!
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Yes, unfortunately, if someone was a complainer in their younger years, it will continue in their older years, and with the onset of dementia, it will only get worse. You've done the best you can and gotten her into a good place - from your description, they are very attentive and take very good care of her. Trust me, they've dealt with all kinds, and her complaints will just be taken with a grim smile and a nod, because there's nothing either she or the staff can do about what she's complaining about. She's going to continue to complain, and the staff recognizes that, and they know how to deal with it. They will listen attentively for REAL complaints that have validity and weight, and take care of them accordingly, but the staff knows the difference between true, valid complaints and the whines/complaints of someone who is just crabby and has been all her life.

I'm sure the staff counts themselves fortunate that she's just crabby and whiny, not combative, throwing things and cursing. My mom had a man in a neighboring room like that for a few weeks. He had the CNAs in tears or extremely angry most days. He'd literally look right at the CNA, knock his juice glass off the tray onto the floor, and say, "There! Now clean THAT up, you f--- b----!" Felt sorry for his wife, whom he was going home to after his PT rehab was done.
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Well Said. A big thumbs up. I agree that furnishing complainers with an audience is a form of enabling. I listen briefly to assess whether or not there's a legitimate concern and respond accordingly. After that, I don't stick around long for nonstop griping. All that does is reinforce the negativity, like wind and rain on sandstone.
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