Help! Live-in mom (80) and negative rumination. What have others done?


Haven't been here in a while, but my mom moved back in with me 4 weeks ago and there are issues. ;-) Anxiety and depression (both untreated for the most part) have been issues for her since I was a teen. I don't know if it's worse now, or if I am less patient with it. I have had my own struggles, but with talk therapy, cbt, and meds, I'm in a really good place, and I'm not willing for that to change.

The negative rumination happened again this morning (before 8am!!), when I am relaxing before the day starts. I mentioned that I thought anxiety was affecting her sleep. That was enough to get her started on how her father died when she was 8, her mother was unkind, etc. That went on for 15 minutes until I stopped her. I've heard this story hundreds of times. Probably closer to thousands of time. She gets annoyed when I stop her (with a gentle reminder), but she does stop and leaves. She complains that she has no one else to talk to, but she literally tells this story to everyone she meets.

It is hard to have any discussion of a health issue without this happening. If the topic is anxiety or depression, she talks about her dad and PTSD. Sleep has been a big problem lately. When sleep is the topic, the constant repetition is that her sleep problems started when she had radiation for throat cancer 5 years. She thinks that if she can find out what happened then, she can fix it. She's had the same sleep problems to varying degrees for at least 35 years. Sigh.

A lot of times I can use the "shiny object" approach to get things on a different track, but that doesn't work for me when we actually have to discuss a topic and she gets stuck in the past. At some point, this may have an impact on my own depression and anxiety. We're working on adjusting meds, and I'd like to get her back into talk therapy, if she's willing.

What have others done? I think that she'd be happier if she stopped this. If she can't, what can I do to stay sane? Right now, I have a 15 minute limit on the repetitive moaning stories, but I/m thinking of going to 10.



I'm doing less well tonight. I overate at dinner - a sign of stress for me - and a potential problem big time. We saw the gerontologist yesterday, and mom was in a state. It actually started the night before the appointment - anticipatory anxiety, I think. She was very unkind to me. This was a problem last time she was here. On the drive to the doctor's, she was paranoid, anxious, and agitated. These are issues predating her being "elderly", but being elderly makes it worse. On the one hand, I was glad the doctor could see her like this. On the other hand, it was a very tense and unpleasant day and a half.

We're still waiting for the neuro and psych records to be transferred to the doctors here. We also have an appointment with psych here, but not for several weeks out. No talk of when (or if) she will return to her home. Thank g*d she likes the senior center and for the excellent senior services in my town.

It was really painful to hear her say that she thought my sister or I would act in a way harmful to her. I'm giving up a lot to have her in my house. Frankly, it's a real risk to my mental health. The only reason I let her come was because we thought she had a very bad cancer diagnosis. I'm glad that's not the case, but I wish that she would go home! (Sister and I are working on it...)
Helpful Answer (0)
Reply to modernbird

What does her geriatric psychiatrist recommend?
Is she using medication for depression or anxiety?

I would stop the 15 minutes NOW and start one ( or more) of the 16 ideas below.
Here is a great article from Psychology Today.

“The ability to replace paralyzing, agonizing thoughts is a powerful tool and can be learned. It might seem counterintuitive to let go of rumination but it is a sound choice and a skill that gets better with practice. Psychologist William James said, “The greatest against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” Creativity and happiness are enhanced when you can alter the inner dialogue.”

Spend some time with her on positive affirmations, laughter and movement.

Welcome back.
Helpful Answer (1)
Reply to 97yroldmom
modernbird Jul 30, 2018
Hi 97,
She's taking meds for depression now, and we're working on everything else (see other replies).

Thanks for the article link. It would be so helpful if she wanted to stop ruminating! Alas... We've started watching movies with strong heroines, which is inspiring. Right now we are watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon. I think I'll take the lead at dinner tonight and talk about things we are all grateful for. That was on the list, and it's something that helps me personally.
I agree, time for a good check up. Write down everything you have said and ask the receptionist to have the Dr. review before he sees Mom. If Mom has no money, call Medicaid and see if they will pay for DC or partial. Like said, she can tell her old stories because they will be new stories for the other DC people.
Helpful Answer (1)
Reply to JoAnn29
modernbird Jul 30, 2018
In progress, and fortunately money is not an issue (unless something changes dramatically). Thanks for your response.
There are antidepressants that specifically target rumination. Have her seen by a geriatric psychiatrist. It's the kindest thing to do.
Helpful Answer (2)
Reply to BarbBrooklyn
modernbird Jul 30, 2018
Barb, thank you. She is seeing a gerontologist now, and we will be scheduling an appointment with a a geriatric psychiatrist soon. We are trying to find records from her old psychiatrist first.
My mother was negative, paranoid and a Drama Queen even before she had dementia. Then, with dementia, she also became hallucinatory and delusional.

When she went on and on about how her facility was “hell on earth”, quite frankly, I ignored her. I’d wave to and greet the aides as they passed her door, I’d straighten her dresser drawers. I’d check my phone. Nothing deterred her. I gave no credence to what she said. I took none of it seriously or to heart.

If you feel she has anxiety and depression, she needs to go to her doctor for medications which will help. The longer you let this go, the worse it will get for everyone. Check out Senior Centers or Adult Daycare. There will be a whole new group for her to “ruminate” with. And most of those people have their own rumination. Neither your mom nor the people at the centers will remember what the other said.
But if you ask them, they’ll say they had a wonderful time talking with each other. Mom could quite possibly just be bored. By giving you a litany of her diseases and health problems, she may be trying to convince herself and you that it’s ok for her to be living with you. Living with and depending on one’s adult child is never easy.

If she says radiation caused her insomnia say, “oh, I’m sorry. Should we ask Dr. Smith if she can prescribe something to help you?”

I would definitely get her to her PCP to be thoroughly checked out and evaluated.
Helpful Answer (4)
Reply to Ahmijoy
modernbird Jul 30, 2018
Ahmijoy, thanks for your response. It sounds like you;ve been through the ringer on this! Depression and anxiety sucks.

We've had a good couple of days, thankfully. She's at the Senior Center today for some exercise and lunch, and we do have a good gerontologist that we've just started working with. Still trying to get the meds and sleep worked out. Until then... ugh. Luckily, she doesn't have dementia (yet), just a mild cognitive impairment.

i thing that the thing that's made the most difference so far is having a regular dinner and sleep schedule. I've moved the family dinner to an early time, and I'm "enforcing" an earlier time to get ready for bed. It seems to have helped a lot.