Mom has early dementia. I need advice on how NOT to keep setting her off?

Follow
Share

My mom has early dementia and we cannot seem to talk over the phone without my angering her. Yesterday is a good example. I called to check in and she began to tell me that the Meals On Wheels Program (delivers meals to homebound, elderly once a day) is awful. That the food has expiration dates that are 3 days overdue.

Not thinking clearly (I realize this now) and trying to find a reason as to why this would be so, I said to her "well, it might be possible that these were stamped before the food was put in them. I know ... very stupid on my part. But, I was honestly trying to figure it out. She started screaming at me that I always try to make trouble and that I always want to be right. Then she said "the food is horrible and I feel sorry for people who have to eat it". To this, I said, call my brother (he is the one who got her on the program), and tell him to cancel it, then. Again, she got very angry and said to me, what makes you think I cannot do it? Why do you always tell me to call him to do things? So I told her I was sorry. Then she said, I don't want to talk about this anymore and she hung up.

I am always left thinking "did I say something to upset her"? Or is it that she has the very early dementia? After all, I am stressed out and frustrated and it could be me.

She was never an angry person all her life and her disposition has changed so much. The thing is I can't distinguish between her being grouchy over being ill (also has serious heart disease which has her homebound and in bed a lot of the time and not feeling well at all) OR my ways setting her off.

How do I NOT set her off in the first place? I really feel like I don't want to talk to her anymore and getting tired of being yelled at and having the phone slammed on me.

This question has been closed for answers. Ask a New Question.
9

Answers

Show:
ag, so much depends on how the person with dementia was before. An abuser will probably stay an abuser. This is a big challenge for a caregiver and takes a lot of maturity to handle. If a formerly kind person becomes abusive, we know it is just the disease. This also takes a lot of maturity to handle because it is so sad. I agree with you so much that if we can no longer handle it -- if we find ourselves yelling too much or physically abusing or neglecting the person -- it is time to look for a facility to provide care.
Helpful Answer (2)
Report

When one's mind is ill and is processing information abnormally, it is NOT abuse. It is not a conscious attempt to abuse a person. I hope some will read this and respond to their parents/spouses/client/whomever with this fact in mind.
Sure, it hurts ... it hurts me because she is no longer my sweet Mom (seems so due to the ILLNESS), but I will always remember her "when". If this were to happen to me, I would want people to understand and to be as kind as possible. It's enough that outsiders don't get it and that people are treated poorly in some nursing homes and by other care providers. We, as family, do not have to add the the sick person's problems. If I become that way, I will bow out as I will no longer be any good to her. Just my humble opinion. Will be interesting to see if anyone answers this in the affirmative.
Helpful Answer (1)
Report

Ag8080, there's no way not to set your mother off if she's in a bad mood. You could comment that it's a nice day and she might reply, "You call this a nice day? Who made you the judge of nice days? You always have to get your two cents in about everything. It makes me sick."
It's not your fault that she's being this way.
That"s the way they roll sometimes when they're in a bad mood. Your mom isn"t an ogre. She's lashing out at you because she's honked off about something and she thinks she can get away with it because she's the parent and you're her child.
Is being yelled at and belittled a form of abuse? Yes. It is. It's not like being kicked in the teeth, but it still hurts.
Helpful Answer (2)
Report

Jessie: Thank you. Good advice. We all have different situations and different Moms and different levels of stress. It's hard. Just don't want people thinking my Mom is an ogre because she is NOT. She is not bad, she is sick.
Helpful Answer (1)
Report

ag, this group is so diverse. I've learned to just take to heart the words that fit my situation and ignore the rest. It's a good thing about having several people writing. There will be a few people who have mothers similar to yours and their answers will click with you right away. That is how it was for me.
Helpful Answer (2)
Report

Thank you all. If anyone has any links on this, I would appreciate it. Shakingdustoff, I don't really know what you mean about abuse. My mother is not abusive, she is ill. And I don't know what you mean "she needs a neuro examination? You do not know my mother's dx nor her conditions.
Helpful Answer (2)
Report

Everyone here on AC is dealing with this daily.

I do a lot of "uh ha" and "oh really"..

Educate yourself about dementia. The more you know will help you understand what she is going through.
Helpful Answer (3)
Report

I'm facing a similar problem with my MIL, who misunderstands the helpful suggestions I make when she's feeling anxious or vulnerable about something that reminds her she's not as sharp as she once was and starts screaming crazy accusations at me.
The best course is not to try and reason with her. Just say you're sorry to hear that (whatever "that" happens to be.) If she starts arguing, just say you've got to hang up because something's boiling over on the stove.
If you cut the conversation short every time she starts jumping ugly, she'll eventually learn to quit it.
Helpful Answer (2)
Report

It sounds like you're walking on eggshells and it is probably not you. Many of us have the problem of not knowing what is going to create an argument. It took me a while with my mother to decide that unless something was important, then it was best to just listen. Your mother may have heard your alternative suggestion as a correction. And after she was irritated at that, mentioning to have your brother call to cancel just added a little fuel to her fire. In her frame of mind, she may have heard it as her no longer being totally competent -- something she is probably fighting against.

Nothing you said was wrong. It was just the way that she heard it. I think I would have said, "But at least you don't have to cook!" That would have given her a good thought. If she went on I would say that she could cancel it if she wanted. This would have said the same thing, but made her feel she was in charge of things. This is important to people in the early stages of dementia, where many are still fighting to maintain competence and dignity.

One thing we can hope for our elders with dementia is that their minds hold out as long as their bodies do. During the earlier stages of dementia, most elders are still competent, though their reasoning may be off. To me your mother is saying that she still wants to be the competent mother. If the dementia progresses, it will change over time. Helping is still good, of course, but their egos can be a bit fragile and they can perceive things wrong. It isn't our fault, but we can have to learn to be diplomatic in our phrasing of things.

And sometimes even when you're diplomatic and loving, they still get mad. I'm sure that is just the frustration they feel. It is often aimed at a family member they feel safe with.
Helpful Answer (2)
Report

This question has been closed for answers. Ask a New Question.
Related
Questions