How does one deal with constant negativity in trying to help mother?


My parents live with me. Both are in their 90s and ill. Mother is in constant pain and has recently been put in at-home hospice care. I have caregivers come to the house seven days a week. I feel terrible for my parents and try to do everything I can to make them comfortable, but it is hard for me to hear constant negativity first thing in the morning when I come to attend to them before the caregiver comes. There is always a problem that my mother tells me about. When I try to get a handle on what she is saying by asking her questions, she becomes angry and nothing is accomplished. Whatever I do is never right. The food I make "tastes like shoe leather" which my mother gleefully tells anyone who comes to visit. I know I should not engage with her because it makes me feel miserable for the rest of the day. I do not want to be depressed every day because it is not good for my health. What can I do to not fall victim to the constant negativity and complaints? I really would like to feel happy once in a while.

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Dear demstress,

Thank you for the update. Maybe consider talking to a family therapist or counsellor or joining a support group. The negativity is real and it can wear you down an lead to burnout.

I wish I had learned better skills to cope with my dad's negativity. I think is diagnosis of diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and then the side effects of medication just made it worse. I was his primary caregiver so it all fell on me.

Hang in there. Thinking of you. I hope you can find a better balance.
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there is not absolutely anything you can do to please her. I know it hurts to hear complaints all the time. i am going through that right now. ive learned to tune mine out and do what i am suppose to do for her. You need time for yourself while hospice nurse is there. If u can go to another room or step out for fresh air, listen to some calm music. For me i exercise and it helps a lot I also found other activities like reading books, gardening when the weather allows me . if it is too cold, i grow basil or house plant from seeds. just find something that make "YOU" happy. You deserve it. Good job for taking care of your parents.
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I wish I knew. I walk away and have tried boundaries as others suggest - the parents then gossip and tell my family I am a miserable, hateful daughter. As the scapegoat, the foundation for reinforcing their belief is well rooted and effective in maligning me - yet none of the siblings have ever asked me how I am nor offered to invite me to visit or anything.

I understand the bracing of yourself to face the onslaught of morning negativity - we cant be all things to our parents. Therapist, RN, etc - and their experiences as elderly seem so sad that I try to thinnk how they must feel - enter guilt and my own depression. As if I am not enough.

wish i knew
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If she sees you react, that feeds her negativity. It's tough to hide it. Perhaps you can say to yourself, "It's the disease talking" to put a pleasant look on your face. I thought about pity when mthr went on her last rants and that helped me.
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Thank for you for your responses. Mother is on pain medication and also medication for depression. It may take time to work. But in the meantime I hear nothing but complaints about the bed/mattress (which was provided for her) the food I cook (which others think is tasty), and now the caregivers. According to my mother, the caregivers don't seem to do anything. I do not agree because they have to deal with my father, who has severe dementia and can be belligerent. It is not easy taking care of him. It seems that all this negativity seems to wear me down. I have read other comments on this site about the same thing. I will try to not engage with my mother so as not to respond to her negativity. The less said the better.
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What Jeanne said.

Call hospice now and get whatever is needed to mitigate pain. When I brought my father's partner home from the hospital into in-home hospice, they too failed to bring anything to help with agitation and pain. I didn't make that same mistake when my mother-in-law went onto at-home hospice. I don't know why there isn't anything there right now, but having been there, done that, I have no issue saying get the meds your mother needs now, and don't be afraid to be insistent on it. If they put you off, find a new hospice service.

I'm not saying it will end the negativity, but Jeanne is right - it could reduce it immensely if she's in pain.

As to more ways to manage your reaction the negative behavior, is it possible when she's being negative about everything you are trying to accomplish in the morning is to simply not talk (i.e., don't let her see you react), finish your task and then remove yourself from the situation? Perhaps she'll ask why you aren't reacting, and then you can tell her why - her behavior is hurtful and hateful and I will not allow you to treat me like this so I will leave ASAP. At other times (i.e., when you aren't doing a necessary task), when the rude behavior starts, simpy walk out and indicate you will come back when she's more amenable? If she's talking rudely about you in front of others, can you simply say that that is hurtful, untrue and not fair, and you will return when she can not talk to you in that manner.

Bottom line, it feels like it is impossible to set good boundaries for oneself if you are in the thick of caregiving. I know its the illness that often causes the lashing out, but I don't know better ways to manage the impact of their words. Right now, removing myself is the best I can do, and I do express why when there's opportunity.

Are there things you've done in the past that have worked, or is it escalating faster than you can manage it?

Best wishes...
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One of the purposes of hospice care is to eliminate or at least drastically reduce the pain. Your mother might be far less negative if she were not in constant pain. Discuss this with the hospice nurse. In fact, don't wait for the next visit -- call the 24-hour number you've been given. Ask about which pain medication to administer and in what amount. That is why you have been given those comfort meds.
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