How to help when mother doesn't really want help?

Follow
Share

My 80 yo mother has had depression and anxiety for quite a while now, plus what appears to be borderline personality disorder/narcissism. Three years ago she made a suicidal comment and ended up in a geriatric psych ward for a week, then sent home with outpatient therapy 3 times a week for about 6 weeks until she "graduated". She's been in and out of this facility now 4 times since.

Last fall, she kept making comments about "wishing it was all over" and such, so I called her home health nurse. She came out but said they couldn't do anything because when they questioned her, she said she wasn't going to hurt herself. A few weeks later, she wrote what appeared to be a suicide note. She made a big show of writing it in front of us, and when I asked, she said it was "a grocery list". When I walked nearby, she tried to hide it. So when she finished and went to the bathroom, I retrieved it and about fell out after reading it. I gently confronted her about it and offered to get her some help. She argued that she was "only putting her thoughts down like they (the outpatient therapy place) told her to". I said it didn't look like journaling to me and I wanted to call someone. She got so mad that I dropped it, but didn't sleep all night for checking on her. The next morning after she left for her therapy, I called her therapist and read the note to her. She said it sounded like a suicide note, and they would talk to her, but if she "doesn't say she's going to hurt herself, there's nothing they can do". Later that day, the therapist called to say mother assured them she wasn't going to hurt herself. She also said that mother "seemed to like the attention she was getting there and having something to do, but she didn't seem like she really wanted to help herself and they were getting kind of iffy about having her keep returning to the program". That same day I took the note and drove to her primary doctor's office asking for help, but was met with the same statement of "if she doesn't say she's going to harm herself, there's nothing we can do". A few days later, mother developed a condition that necessitated a trip to the ER. While there, I showed them the note. They seemed concerned about it and after the medical condition was cleared, they admitted her to psych for what I was told would be a 72 hr observation. The next morning, my mother gleefully called me to come pick her up as she was being discharged! I was floored.

She has since moved back to her old residence. She still mopes, gripes, and complains every day that she "wishes all this was over" and she "doesn't understand why God leaves her here when she's ready to go". Her home health nurse called me all concerned about mother's depression and I filled her in on all that's happened. They called her primary doctor and she in turn contacted the outpatient psych place again to get her back in. Well the outpatient place has called her several times to set her up again, but she refuses to go saying "I used to get more one-on-one time there, but now it's all group and I don't like it" and her frequently used phrase "It's boring". She used to go to the senior citizen place for activities but she won't go now because "it's boring" and they "don't do enough". She's been on antidepressants and anxiety meds for years, and will just start and quit cold turkey whenever she feels like it. She can't stand to be sleepy because she's afraid she'll miss something, and says if any of her meds "make her feel goopy" she's not taking them. She says the psychiatrist at the outpatient place is a "quack" and "doesn't know what he's talking about".

She expects us to visit all the time but it's difficult to want to spend time with her when all she does is mope, complain, and make those comments about wishing it "was all over". Plus we can't just visit, she always has a to-do list for us. Her "friends" call to check on her, but they don't visit as much for the very same reason. Same for when she lived in assisted living- she loved it at first but then started trying to micromanage the residents and staff so nobody liked her.

Any advice on how to deal with this is greatly appreciated, thanks! Sorry for the length of my posts.

6

Answers

Show:
Thank ya'll for sharing your experiences!
Helpful Answer (0)
Reply to BlueRidgeGal
Report

All my life, growing up, my mother used the "Well then, I'll just kill myself and none of you will have to bother with me"-or "I'll kill myself and see how bad you'll feel"...I thought this was normal behavior b/c it's all I KNEW.

She never tried. She never wrote notes, she only threatened. I remember walking in the house after school and standing by her bedroom door--waiting, waiting to hear her take a breath. The fear rising up in my throat that she'd finally done it---and somehow it would be my fault...awful.

Well, flash forward 50 years--she NEVER intended to do any self harm. She was depressed and frustrated by having a large family and a hubby who paid almost no attention to her--less when she was ideating suicide. I finally called her on it, 30+years ago, said "Do that if you choose, mom, but please don't leave a mess".

She'd be in and out of rehab facilities, but they were not really helpful. Now she's 88 and weirdly, more stubbornly clinging to life as she ever has been.

Mom LOVES attention, she doesn't get a lot. It's hard to spend quality time with someone who was such a sub par parent--who was angry all the time---I'm not alone in this. I was probably more tender about the suicide threats, she scared me so much--and fear can be a way to control kids. Worked for her.

Maybe my approach was heavy handed and even cruel, but I simply couldn't take her threats and manipulations any more. She was 100% a drama queen, still is--and I have told her docs she'd been vocal about suicidal thoughts and nothing ever came of it.

I had to take a few giant steps back from her and just curtail my time spent with her. I'm 62 yo and I am still telling myself I am OK, I am not the source cause of her emotional issues---but it's ingrained so deeply. LOTS of therapy have been involved....this is not an easy fix.

{{Hugs}}
Helpful Answer (5)
Reply to Midkid58
Report

If someone wants to suicide and has the means to do it, eventually you cannot stop them. If she only wants to watch people jump, then jumping encourages more suicide threats. Perhaps she genuinely doesn’t want to stay living unless people jump for her. Unless you believe that suicide will make her burn in hell eternally, even that decision is not the worst outcome for everyone involved. To save your own sanity, it might be best to stand back and let her make up her own mind.
Helpful Answer (1)
Reply to MargaretMcKen
Report

Thank you countrymouse, I'll look into that book asap! I have found an online resource for those dealing with BPD/narcissistic parents that has lots of info too.

Ahmijoy, yes, she's the someone I'm caring for. She made a big production that I "took her note" and still insists that I "took it the wrong way". This is what's so frustrating about her- she does these things for what I know is attention, but when I get her the attention, she talks her way out of getting help and the "experts" believe her. She actually told me once when I asked her why she saved all these suicidal comments for me, that "you can't put me anywhere but they can". She doesn't want to go back into the psych ward so lies to everyone about her state of mind. The decision to leave the AL was her own- she said it was "boring" and they didn't have enough activities; didn't like the other residents, the staff , the food, and said she couldn't afford it. All this after she found the place herself and said it was "heaven". The manager actually offered to lower her rent substantially, but she still moved out.
Helpful Answer (0)
Reply to BlueRidgeGal
Report

Is your mom the ”someone” you are caring for? I have to say, your mom sounds like my own was, a negative Nellie and drama queen. If she’s been threatening suicide for all these years, I wonder if she’s just doing it for effect, for when your attention is off her. The idea that she’d write a suicide note in front of you and then leave it out where you’d be sure to pick it up is pretty telling. I’m sure she knew you took it and showed it to everyone you could, again—the effect she desired. Not to blame you. I’d be concerned too.

I’m sure Mom loves all the attention she gets for her rants and demands. Nothing could ever go well for her because people would stop paying attention to her. Why was she pulled out of Assisted Living? Was it her idea because she alienated everyone? My mom was never Miss Popularity anywhere she lived, even as a functioning adult. No one appreciated her negativity and drama. But when it was time for a facility, she went. She wasn’t happy either, but  it was where she had to be. The next time Mom winds up in the ER or in the hospital, speak with the social worker to see if she could be sent back to a facility.
Helpful Answer (3)
Reply to Ahmijoy
Report

Read "Understanding The Borderline Mother" by Christine Ann Lawson.

In that excellent introduction and practical guide, you will find tips on detaching with love including how to adapt your technique to your loved one's particular foibles.

I mean. You could call her bluff. Your mother is not going to harm herself. What she is doing is seeking attention.

But on the other hand, sometimes when someone is that determined to seek attention it might be a really good idea to make sure they get some. Only - it has to be the right sort, from the right people. And it doesn't always have to be you.

It is a great sadness that some people who are lonely are... well, they're lonely because they alienate others. It's still sad. But that doesn't mean you can solve it.

You have to protect and arm yourself emotionally first. Then you will be much better equipped to support your mother without going round the twist yourself.
Helpful Answer (5)
Reply to Countrymouse
Report

Related
Questions