This is not what you may think. He asks, "Is this my dinner?" After I put it down in front of him, or at his regular place. I used to answer with a simple "yes". The problem is he will ask more questions until I lose my patience. So once I say yes, he asks another question, like, "can I go ahead and eat this?" If I answer that, he asks another question, like "right now?" If I answer that, he says, "or should I save it for later?" I finally tell him to do whatever he wants, and I walk away frustrated and aggravated.
Another example: One day he had a catalog in his hand, and asked me if I wanted it. I said yes. He started to hand it to me, and I asked him to just set it down on the table. He asked me, "right here?" I said that was fine. He then proceeded to lower the catalog about a few inches at a time above the surface of the table. At each lowering of several inches, he asked, "right here" and I said "yes" each time. But he never set it down. He only lowered it a bit and held it above the table, waiting for each "yes" response. Finally, as he held it several inches above the table, I stopped responding. I just ignored further questions, and only then did he did set the catalog on the table.
This type of thing has begun happening daily. The only way I have been able to stop the one or two or three normal questions turn into 7 or 8 more highly improbable questions is to answer only the first few questions, and when the questioning gets ridiculous, (as with the catalog being lowered 3 inches at a time but never being put down on the table, all the while asking "right here?" at each lowering) is to simply ignore the improbable questions. After 30 seconds my father takes the action (puts the catalog down, lets the dogs out, throws the rag down the laundry chute, etc)
Talking to him about this issue has not helped, and explaining to him hasn't helped. The only thing that works for me when he does this is for me to fall silent and sometimes walk away. Only then does he respond by taking the action (eating dinner, setting the catalog down, letting the dogs out).
Initially, I thought this was purely for attention-getting, yet my dad has a full life of group workouts at the YMCA 3 times a week, church on Sundays, and regular contact by phone with his kids (all 6) and grandkids, and talking with the neighbors. He doesn't do this with any of my siblings but me, but I do live with him. I realize that is why he is different with me.
I cannot stand these "improbable" questions which multiply and become ridiculous to the point of nonsense. I have only been able to get away from them by ignoring them or by finally telling him to do whatever he wants. It stops the silly questions, but I feel guilty responding this way as I wouldn't respond to anyone else like this.
Any insight, ideas or suggestions would help. Thanks so much.
The rants? Day 4 and the belly laughing is still working! He stops, and then starts again. I belly laugh again. He has asked me each time, "What's the matter?" Note: not "What's so funny?" I just answer him that nothing is the matter, just that "what you are saying is hitting me so funny, that's all." He doesn't ask me any further. If he does (in the future), I will repeat myself, "It just hits me funny. You know when something hits you funny? It's hard to explain."
He has completely stopped within 2 minutes MAX each time. He just gives it up. So it is clear to me that the type of engagement he wants with me is a negative one: argument or upset. He doesn't want laughter or humor. He wants me to go to upset, or to argue with him. With laughter, there is no payoff in it for him. He doesn't want to laugh or joke with me or anyone else. He doesn't want to talk about what is going right or well, only what is dramatically wrong and horrible.
I don't want to be upset about politics, Obama, or the economy. These are things he mainly rants about. The same things over and over. I got the idea to laugh (but didn't) when he told me a few months ago with a totally serious face, shaking his head, "I'm really worried about Obama. That b*****d will find a way to get around term limits, and get himself re-elected." At that time, I thought "That's so ridiculous it's laughable!". But I didn't laugh. I just said' "he doesn't have that power or authority.". Which only kept his ridiculous rant going. And I finally just walked away.
Asking him to please stop never worked (he doubled down and continued until I would blow). I tried telling him I wanted him to respect that I was telling him I didn't want to talk about it. Even in the moment he wouldn't respond to that. He just kept going as long as I was negatively engaged. I also tried having him call my one sister who goes on rants like he does about these same topics. I explained, "She likes to talk about these things. Why don't you have these political discussions with her? She enjoys them, too.". He just shook his head and told me,"no." I have noticed that when they talk, then HE has enough (she doesn't stop, either). She has deeper and newer ideas than he does about what's wrong politically, and these don't interest him (ex: big pharma, conspiracy by AMA not to find a "real cure" for cancer but to cut, poison, burn people only to line it's own pockets, nothing more. These are topics he doesn't understand, care about or want to discuss).
This is no sugar pill "cure" for all issues dealing with bad behavior, but I have learned through this that we have to do what works for us, as long as it is not harmful or abusive to someone else. I felt myself resenting and even feeling a sort of hatred for my father's bullying rants which have taken a different form with age. I started to respond in a very negative way, even once pulling the car to the side of the road and screaming, "get out!" I saw myself as negative, ranting and abusive in that moment. And I realized that only I can change what I am going to do. No matter what he is doing.
I know I need to watch for changes in his behavior or health due to his age. I will continue to do so. It is good advice. I see this isn't that.
My thoughts on elderly (or anyone else's) bad behavior: handle it in a way that works for you in the circumstances. Dealing with the old guy at the church once a week is much different from the old guy at home every day. You need to find and keep your equilibrium.
Wishing you all joy and peace!
Maybe he is, in his own demented way, trying to engage you in conversation.
I don't know your dad at all, but it sounds to me like he might be experiencing some hiccup in his thought process that he can't help. It's annoying for sure, whether or not it's on purpose.
As this behavior is new, I feel he does it to control the conversation. There are other similar things he does to contol other conversations (political) which nobody in our family engages with because it's the same thing over and over. He gets ignored and left to rant to himself.
I fo let him know when I am not going to answer him anymore. When I have reminded him of that, he says he forgot. I don't believe it is related to his cognitive functioning except maybe he recognizes that most people would continue to respond. Though as I said, he only engages me this way as I live with him.
Sometimes I resent this behavior on his part and it makes me need to get away and remove myself physically from him to regain my peace and a sense of equilibrium.
Thanks for your input. He misses my mom. She had a very fluid personality. Whenever he would go on his political or other monologues, she would sit there and take it. It didn't bother her, she said. He is not used to people letting him know they have had enough. He does not respect interpersonal boundaries. I feel that these improbable numerous questions are a way of pushing boundaries.
Talking with him about it doesn't help, you say, but what is his explanation? Is he aware he is doing this? Does he deny it? Is he surprised it bothers you? I'm curious how he reacts to the topic.
If he had dementia I would tell you just to answer all the questions calmly. But if he is otherwise "in his right mind" I'm baffled.
Some things you could try ...
1) As Sherridene suggests, just answer the first question and don't respond to the others. Cheerfully change the subject.
2) Give a full explanation in the first answer."Yes, this is the dinner I prepared for you. You may eat it right now if you want to. If you are not hungry now I'll save it for later. Do you want it now?"
3) Get into the silliness of the situation.
Is this my dinner?
[lean over the plate, check off the contents on your fingers] "Beets, dinner roll,creamed corn, pork chop." [fork the chop and inspect both sides] "Yes, this definitely looks like the dinner I made and just dished up in the kitchen for you."
Can I eat it?
[poke each item with a fork] "Yes, I'm pretty sure this meal can be eaten. It is yours so you can eat it."
[look at watch or clock] "Not quite yet. I'll tell you when." [pause] "ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, ready?, two, one NOW!"
Or should I wait?
"Oh no, don't wait, don't wait, the perfect time is RIGHT NOW!"
[If he starts to eat] "Whew, I'm glad we got that off to a good start!" [high five him]
Be as silly and exaggerated as he is. Make a joke out of it. I have no idea what his reaction would be, but it certainly gives him attention.
4) Keep doing what you are doing, as it seems to work, but stop feeling guilty about it.
Good luck ... and let us know how this develops. We learn from each other!