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My almost 89 year old mom gets crabby frequently now and wants me to listen to her complaints without responding. (I spend at least three days a week with her to keep her engaged in outside activities.) That's easy to do when the complaints aren't out of line, but she complains a lot about my siblings, especially my brother, when it is undeserved. If I try to explain his side of things she explodes and says she just wants me to listen. I have been trying to get her to go to a counselor so I'm not in the middle but she refuses. My brother lives with her part time and has a girlfriend. Most of her complaints about him relate to his relationship with his girlfriend (for example, he takes her places but he won't take my mom anywhere). Are their tricks/techniques for listening to irrational complaints? My brother doesn't take my mom many places except to doctor's appointments but he is otherwise good to her. Help!

Hi there!

Several year’s ago my mom started getting real crabby & that was so out of character for her. When I took her to a doctor appointment I brought it up. (I didn’t tell my mom prior to the appt that I was going to talk to her doc about it.) Her doctor simply said, “we can take care of that easily”! He started her on an anti depressant. Wow! What a huge difference that made after a few weeks. Now we have our lovely, happy & good natured mama back.

Just a thought. Good luck!

Lynn
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firstoffive Apr 4, 2019
The doctor has suggested an anti depressant but Mom refuses to take one. She says she's on enough medication. I'll try again though. Thank you.
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It sounds like your bro is being some what reasonable in balancing his time. He has set boundaries as to what he will do for your mum. Though it is a good idea, I doubt him taking her out for a few meals would stem the complaints. Some people have a negative take on life -their glass is always half empty, not half full. Sounds like your mum has much to be thankful for but she is not seeing it. She prefers to focus on the things she doesn't have.

For yourself, reflecting her feelings back to her without agreeing may help " I can see that that upsets you", "I hear you are very frustrated by this", and such. Defending your brother is further aggravating her and is not accomplishing anything good. He is satisfied with what he is doing and doesn't need you to defend him.

Set some boundaries - if your mother continues to complain then limit your visit and tell her you will come back when she is feeling better. I know it is hard to sit and listen to someone who b*tches all the time - especially about the same subject. My mother did that and wanted me to agree with her. Mostly I couldn't agree, so I limited my time with her when she complained. "Gotta go, I have errands to run."

Another technique is distraction - change the subject to something that interests her and even if she is negative, it upsets you less.

Finally detaching emotionally will help. Here are some points on detaching:

Accept that others are responsible for their own choices. (e.g.complaining)
Anger – deal with it in a healthy way. 
Blame – don’t blame and don’t accept blame. 
Consequences – face them and see that others experience consequences of their choices too. (you are facing what listening to the complaints is doing to you and looking for ways to deal with it e.g. limit visits as a consequence for your mum.)
Decide what you are willing to do and what you are not willing to do. (how much time are you willing to listen to her complaints)

Detachment is not a feeling so much as a choice of behaviors, though the feelings should (will) follow the behaviors.
Detachment means you can maintain positive behaviors towards others – kindness, compassion. 
Don’t enable the unhealthy behaviors of others. (continual complaining is unhealthy)
Focus on yourself and what is good for you. (It is not good for you to have to listen to complaints all the time)
Forgive, but don’t forget the need to protect yourself. 
Refuse to be manipulated e.g., emotional blackmail 
Respond, don’t react - be proactive.
Separate yourself - physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, socially from others behaviors/feelings if necessary
Set boundaries. 
Say “No”. 
Space –create it between you and them. 
Try not to take their behaviors personally. 

Good luck. You have to look after yourself too. I doubt it helps your mother for you to listen to her complaints for very long, and it certainly doesn't help you.

BTW - I am 81 and my daughter wouldn't put up with that from me and I am glad that she wouldn't.

One last thing - does your mother have dementia or is she in pain? There may be a health reason she is more crabby.
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firstoffive Apr 2, 2019
Thank you. I think my mom has decided that she needs someone to complain to and that person is me. I know everyone needs to vent but I need to find someone besides me for Mom to vent to. She wasn't always this way; she was a good mother to all of us. As she ages I want to help her find enjoyment in life and have good memories of us together. Instead a lot of memories over the past year are of us arguing over her criticism of my brother, and that's not fun for either of us. She has even told me that she wants to die when she gets mad, and no daughter wants her mom to say that. Your daughter is a lucky woman.
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The complaining wears us down and it’s contagious too. I find it rubs off on me, then I have to be extra careful with my husband and kids. Don’t do it on purpose but it has a way of trickling down.
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JesusLove1976 Apr 4, 2019
You are right! It sure does! Then, kids learn from Momma to complain, because they go by example better what they are told, and they examples more than what they are told. But at least you understand you are doing it, recognize it, and do not want to do it, I give you tons of credit for your humility in admitting.
That is very beyond helpful. Anyone struggling with this can be, "I cannot listen to chronic complaints. Because I have self-accountability for my actions, I won't be around it for I do not want it to rub off me and I do it myself!"
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Set Boundaries.

I would clearly state I am not going to spend my time listening to your complain. If you plan to spend the day complaining, then I am taking you right back home.

If she continues, ask her "Why would brother take you on a social outing when all you do is complain the entire time?"
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NeedHelpWithMom Apr 4, 2019
Yes!
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The complaining doesn’t stop with some people no matter what you say or do. I’m not going to say something dumb like ignore it. That becomes impossible to do if it’s chronic.

One thing I have done is find a distraction, cooking on stove, important phone call, etc.

I tell mom that unless she wants a burned dinner that I have to get back to cooking, make a phone call, anything like that.
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Instead of answering your mother’s complaints about your brother, could you just say something nice instead? “Yes but he has a good heart” or “He’s such a good looking man” or ‘He keeps himself fit” or “He tells us interesting really stories about his travels”. It might distract your mother, and even if it doesn’t, you haven’t argued or gone along with the complaints.
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I feel your pain. Sounds like she just wants to dump all her negativity. Maybe it's too heavy for her to carry all that around and she's basically ranting? I've become the master of the non answers. Things like mmmhmmm, uh huh, oh wow, I see, etc... If she's directing them all at you I guess that's saving your brother some pain from the direct assault? I would go with humoring her and privately letting your brother know that's how you are handling things because it's easier for you not to confront her. Good luck!
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firstoffive Apr 4, 2019
I wish she wouldn't yell at my brother but she does. She accuses him of not doing anything at all for her, which is not the case. I will try the non answer route though and hope that helps alleviate her stress.
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Thanks for replying with such a clear and detailed description, Firstoffive.

I'm afraid it doesn't make me very hopeful. I think you are right to think that your mother needs a proper assessment; and unfortunately what you'd be looking for is changes in her brain which explain her negativity, constant criticisms, and painfully low mood.

But. If her doctor suggested a counsellor, the doctor must also recognise the need for a specialist consult. Rather than you asking her to do this, won't he? Can't he tell her he needs further and better information to manage her health as well as possible? - it has the great virtue of being true!
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firstoffive Apr 4, 2019
Thank you. I'm going to speak to the doctor and see if he can help her.
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Irritability is a symptom of depression.

Mom wants to stick with her own doctors, but her own doctor has suggested a mental health evaluation, hasn't he?

What part of "mom, you are crabby because you are depressed and there's treatment for that" doesn't she get?

Get up and walk away when she crabs. Say "mom, that's not you talking, it's the depression. You need to get treated".
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NeedHelpWithMom Apr 4, 2019
Barb,

I have a question for you about depression and if the patient doesn’t want a doctor to know. I suspect my mom has mild depression at times. Who can blame her? 93 with Parkinson’s. Whenever the doctor asks about her being depressed, she always says no. Is this common for seniors? Should I speak to her doctor privately about this? She says she doesn’t want meds. So confusing at times, wanting to respect our parents, keep our sanity and bottom line, do what is best. Know what I mean? Thanks for listening. I value your support.
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She wants you out of her business? In that case, you can easily stop coming by as often or trying to help. When she asks why, remind her that’s you’re simply respecting her wish.

Won’t take long for her attitude to change!
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NeedHelpWithMom Apr 3, 2019
Great answer! I love it.
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