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At 79, she required a pacemaker last April which went very well--her pulse is now fine and doctors have assured her it's added years to her life. But she won't hear of it. Quit her job as a professor; stays in the house most of the time; is terrified of falling and dwells on every ache and pain as potential disaster. I told her she's fine but she flips out every time I accuse her of this being self-imposed. Says I don't understand and "punishes" me with threats of "I won't tell you anything more; I won't tell you if and when I see a doctor; don't call me etc." I have tried to be patient but she is getting on my last nerve! I have a husband and teenager and a full-time job. No matter what I do for her, it's not good enough. I devoted three months to taking care of her when she recovered from the pacemaker, coaching her back into some semblance of life when she was petrified and depressed. Is this my thank you? How do I draw some boundaries with a woman who is clearly suffering from anxiety and won't do anything to help herself? It's like she lives for the drama because it gets her my attention and sympathy!

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I agree with Barbbrooklyn. Your mom sounds SO MUCH like someone that I know. After all her doctors cleared her of anything, but, depression and anxiety, she finally went on meds to treat those conditions. I'd see if her primary will recommend a psychiatrist. Trying to convince a person that their stress, anxiety, depression is causing them physical ailments is almost impossible. Even if the doctor says it to their face, they just have trouble accepting it. And she may never accept it. I learned to let it go and always encourage her to see either her Primary, who is aware of what's going on with her, OR her psychiatrist.

I no longer respond to her complaints anymore. I just change the subject or tell her to call her doctor. If she has a fever, rash or some actually serious symptom, I'd take action, but, if not, I would not discuss it with her. It makes no difference really. I occasionally will ask if she's taking her medication as prescribed (anxiety/depression), but, I won't discuss imagined illnesses.

It's such a tough thing. I will offer you some encouragement. The medication, if taken, does help some.
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I have lived w GAD and Panic for most of my life as well as depression. I cannot imagine how it will be when I reach elderly age. I work hard to keep it at bay now, but it's hard.
It is so scary to be alone and have health issues. Depression and anxiety go hand in hand usually. Is it possible for her to meet with a therapist to help her develop tools for reducing her health fears?
I honestly do not think she is trying to be ungrateful. It sounds more like terror and promising to be a "good girl" and not complain...because she knows it upsets you and is more afraid of losing you. But those health issues are very real and very scary - so she is in a conundrum and the problem is increasing for her. Impasse is good because growth can come from this. She can learn new ways to handle health anxiety and communicate with you better.
Health anxiety is hard in of itself, it is compounded after a major event like pacemaker installation etc..It screams our mortality more than the usually nuances of the ongoing undercurrent of aging every day in life.
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I would get your mom to a geriatric psychiatrist and talk to her/him about treating her depression and anxiety.
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Your mother is looking at 80 years old and is realizing that life is getting short. Every ache and pain can be symptoms of something seriously wrong. Some older people can worry so much that they become hypochondriacs. I went through this for several years with my mother. Many mornings she would look at me with grave seriousness and say, "I think I have cancer." It was usually just a spot on her skin or a swelling from giving herself insulin shots. She would prod and feel all over herself for signs of trouble. She checked, and still checks, her vitals a lot and knew something was wrong even when the vitals were fine. She has always been a worry wart with generalized anxiety disorder. Often it would get so bad she would pack her suitcase to say she was going to go to the hospital. I had to tell her that a hospital wasn't like a hotel, so she had to be admitted.

I wish I could tell you some way to encourage her to stop worrying and just to live. I live with my mother, so I had to start ignoring her daily symptom lists or they would have driven me crazy. We went to the doctor so much with imaginary things that it was a real hardship to me and costly to Medicare.

I wondered if your mother might have fallen in the past. Older people often become afraid of falling after it happens. My father was so afraid of falling that he wouldn't leave the house willingly the last years of his life. He was terrified.

I don't know if there is an answer that works when older people are facing the fears of things that come with aging. Reassuring is about the best we can do. Alas, we can't fix old age. We can just help them stay as content as possible. Does your mother have any friends? They might be able to get her up and about faster than you can. Parents often think their kids don't know anything, but friends (and doctors) are different.
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If she has a pacemaker/defibrillator, she will fell the shock when the darn thing fires off. Oh, she won't tell you it went off, she'll just go bonkers about something else. Sooo you have a sit down with her and the cardiologist.
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FF good idea to have the thyroid tested, some of the problems you described can easily be traced to a low thyroid. This lady was clearly functioning very well before the need for the pacemaker arose.
If she had never before had any heart problems it sounds as though she was very healthy for a woman of her age. it also does not seem to have affected her cognition. The fact that she decided to retire at 79 probably has little to do with her state of health if she continues to be able to live alone and perform her own ADLs. I am guessing and this is only guess is that something was found abnormal with her heart probably at a routine Dr visit, further testing was done and it was concluded that a pcemaker would be the best option for someone with her diagnosis.
With all this she is probably just plan scared and has retreated into her shell where she feels safe. you are the closest object and the easiest to lash out at.
So unless there are things she is not able to do like get to a store can you try backing off and not asking questions or offering advice about Dr visits etc. If there is something she wants you to know she will tell you. Don't expect her to be gratefull for your advice she sees no reason. It is simply annoying to be told what she already knows.
You said you have a husband, teenager and a full time job so concentrate on those. Why did she need being taken care of for ten weeks after a pacemaker unless she had open heart surgery it is a simple procedure. Invite her to join you for activities for you teenager and to go out for the occasional meal even if it's just fast food. If she refuses so be it she really does not want to go. Honor her fears about falling but encourage the use of a cane, walker or even a wheel chair. Fear of falling is very real. I have had three bad falls in the past six months and they do take the stuffing out of you even if no permanent damage is done. It can take days or weeks to recover and is usual for the fear to become worse. Every little hazard become a fall off a cliff situation.
A lot can be done with suitable medication and councilling so gently suggest this but don't be surprised if she outright refuses.
It is very difficult for an elder to go from being functional to realizing they only have a finite time left. The only way to get past that is to accept the new limitations and do what you feel comfort with not "what is good for you" according to others.
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Mamadrama, sometimes we need to put ourselves into our parent's shoes to help understand what they are going through. To some having a pacemaker placed is a walk in the park, to others it is a terrifying experience wondering when the pacemarker will stop. The fear of falling is very real... that happened to me right after I had a major fall last year that came out of no where.

To bad your Mom had quit her job as a professor, as it would have given her reason to get up in the morning, to keep her mind busy, etc. Right now she is scared.

She really needs to see a talk therapist who is a senior themselves as there is more to understand. But your Mom may be of the era that going to someone like that is taboo, so she might refuse. My parents [who were in their 90's] probably would have disowned me if they knew I had a therapist.... [sigh].

Her primary doctor could help her. Have her thyroid tested as a low thyroid could cause some panic issues among other things. If that isn't the case, then the doctor could put her on a very low dose of Xanax or whatever she can tolerate.... it can make a world of difference. I use to refuse to take such pills, now I can kick myself for not doing it sooner :P
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