By clicking Talk to a Specialist
for information about our privacy practices.
My mother-in-law is not only a hypochondriac but also has factitious disorder which is when one fakes being sick - or actually makes oneself sick- for attention.
She has had several mostly unnecessary surgeries and procedures as a result. She was a nurse and she is very good at knowing the right things to say in order to fool the doctors.
There is no point bringing it up with her because she will deny it. It may even be subconscious in some sense. The only thing that put an end to it was pulling the doctors aside and telling them. The first time we did that she was scheduled for a brain surgery the next morning. She was livid when she saw us talking to the surgeon but he had us talk to a social worker and the surgery was canceled. That was years ago and she is fine, of course.
Since then we just tell every new doctor, nurse, caregiver, etc. Sometimes they still seem to forget but it is in the notes and as medical systems are starting to share data the doctors can read the notes from other doctors and hospitals. One surgeon told her he wasn’t going to do surgery on her after reading the notes and she called him every name in the book but it worked.
People like that will doctor shop if they can until they find one to give them what they want so we try to limit her ability to do that to the extent that we can. As she has lost more independence it is getting easier and easier.
Best advice, though, is to just make sure all of her medical providers know how she is. I don’t think there is any need to confront her about it. If she really thinks she is sick and worried about it have the doctor reassure her that she is fine.
Oh my gosh, one time she said to me, “My hair hurts!” So I said, “Do you mean that your scalp is hurting?” She said, “No, my hair!”
I told her that it was impossible for her hair to hurt! She insisted that it did. I let it go and thought that this was another one of her insane thoughts.
Yes, It’s crazy! Some people have so much anxiety that everything is a big deal and if there isn’t a problem they will make something up.
I feel your pain. It’s incredibly frustrating. I started ignoring my husband’s grandmother. Or I would just go along with whatever she said. If she made up a crazy symptom like her hair hurting, I would just tell her something like, “Oh, that’s too bad. I hope it stops hurting soon.” She was looking for attention. It made no sense to argue a point with her. It’s a waste of time and energy.
Do you think meds for anxiety would help her?
Contacting an Elder Law Attorney will get you started in getting the issue documented and you can set a meeting with a Geriatric Psychiatrist, too.
I have a fear that I will dismiss a real health issue because I am so used to blocking out her complaints. I agree with others that have noted that the best course is to allay her anxiety overall, which could include medication.
One thing I have noted is that often my mother seems to be worrying about something that is really not that important. Then I realize there is something else that is actually worrying her more, something more serious, and her way of dealing with it is to worry about the more inconsequential matter to distract herself.
It is not necessary that she believes or accepts the label "hypochondriac.". Don't waste time and energy trying to convince her of a label.
If she is obsessed with her health know that as we age we DO get a myriad of aches and pains (I am 80; I know!), and we do know more on a subconscious level that the grim reaper is knocking on the door, or at least lurking on the doorstep. We fear what we may face toward our end and we fear for those we love. So a lot of that is normal, and it makes us worry over every little sign that this current ache in the knees (neck, back, you name it) will take us down.
I would encourage Mom to see her doc, measure her own blood pressure, take a daily multivit, be certain to get out and walk, form friends and hobbies (knitting, podcasts, gardening, baking, writing). I would LISTEN. I would ask her what she tried, if she talked with her doc, and etc. Your very act of listening may be the cure for some of this.
You can listen to me now and in perhaps four decades will know, we get pretty achy and pretty worried. When you get there you will remember I told you so! Hee hee.
My best to you and to your mom as well.
My hubby is one. Anytime he has a rare headache, it's a brain tumor. If his stomach is upset, it must be the start of colon cancer. The list goes on and on. It can be exhausting. I found what works best for me is to just ignore. I just hope I don't ignore if and when something is actually serious.
Hubby's grown daughter is also one. She is now half way through the alphabet of major illnesses.
Doctors are pretty good as to sorting out real health issues from issues that either don't exist or are not as serious as the patient believe.
Too funny. I know a couple people like this.
Glad you pulled yourself out of it even if your hubs hasn't.
IMO elders begin to hyper-focus on themselves and minutae because they have less things to distract them all day, and/or they have not come to grips with mortality and have a fear of dying. My own Mother is doing this more and more (age 93). When she winds up about some health problem I tell her a therapeutic fib that the doc can't see her for at least a week. Ofter her "crisis" will be forgotten or resolve itself.
Maybe consider hiring a companion aid for your Mom or try adult day care.
Your profile says that you are 64, so your mom is in her 80's.
What makes you think she's a hypochondriac?
Do you attend her doctor's appointments with her?
More information will get you better answers from us.