How to tell how much Mom (95) can do for herself, when she doesn't want to do anything and doesn't communicate?

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My mom lives with my husband and me. She's 95. I'm the only living child to care for her. She's been her for about 9 yrs. She wants everything done for her. Doctors and physical therapists have told her she needs to stay active and move or she will end up in a nursing home. I don't want that and she says she doesn't either. So, I quit making her bed and fixing her breakfast & lunch. I only fix dinners for her. She has to fold her own clothes but I fold the sheets. I take care of her meds and balance her check book and pay her bills for her. She will not communicate to me when she really needs help with something. She just said moans and groans and makes faces or gets mad & pouts. I can ask her a direct question and get a lot of dialogue but no real answer. Even questions that should required only a yes or no. I often have to play 20 questions with her to drag anything out of her. She has often commented that she thinks she would be a good actress. She's a manipulator. I want to know if I should keep keeping her as active as possible & not start doing more for her. I honestly believe she will start to go down hill if I do that. For instance when she had some knee pain a couple of years ago, the orthopedist recommended she stay off of it for 6 wks even though nothing showed up on X-ray other than a little arthritis. Well after 6 wks she literally couldn't get into the car. Her primary care doc said that was the worst thing she could do. Sometimes I just think I've been letting all her dramatics get to me. But like my husbands said its hard to tell what true and what's not. By the way, her knee didn't quit hurting after the six weeks. She always has pain somewhere. Not long after she moved in with us, she was still driving, she feel in the shower while we were gone for the day. Laid there for 8 hrs, broke her ankle. When I got home she was in hospital. My husband got home first. She didn't call out. Didn't try to get to phone. She just tapped on the wall. Anyway, at the hospital I and the docs asked her several times why she fell. She said she didn't know, just fainted she thought. I asked her if her back was hurting, and she said no several times. That's her pat answer when anything goes wrong. She was very adamant that it was not her back. She had to have surgery then a few months in the nursing home. She wasn't very cooperative in nursing home. After got home, she didn't want to continue PT. Docs and Pts all told her she would do much better with keeping active.

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My mom is 96 and definitely, has cognitive decline (maybe dementia). She's still able to live on her own, with a ton of help from me. She has her little routine that she sticks too pretty well. But then she'll stop doing her dishes for a few days and I'll start to worry that this is the beginning of the path to assisted living. So I'll do them for her, just to catch her up, but then she'll rally and go back to doing them. But she barely does anything else. Heats up food I leave her, stays in pjs most days. Does her dishes. I take her garbage out, fix her meds, do all of her bank/paperwork, fill her fridge, do laundry, and on and on and on.

At some point, you just have to realize they're going to do what they're going to do (or NOT do) at that age and you have to go with the flow. If she winds up in a nursing home, so be it. You can't stop the march of time and you can't make your mom do what she should do. You can encourage her, but it's up to her in the end. Hugs, I know it isn't easy!
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It does sound like mother has dementia. That's not very surprising at her age. One of the things that comes with dementia is unwillingness and inability to initiate action, and even to follow instructions. My husband has trouble when I ask him to bend his arm. It looks like stubbornness, but it's the dementia.

It is hard to accept this truth, but when you start reminding yourself that it's the disease, and remind yourself 20 times a day, it gets easier. Any "sly" behavior that you see is a feeble effort to protect her self-image. Let her have a little pride.

It can really make you angry! I get angry 10 times a day. But it will work out best if you can let the anger pass quickly.
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Your profile says Mom has general age-related decline, but her communication doesn't sound like typical aging to me. Has she been evaluated for cognitive decline recently?

You are expecting her to perform tasks you think she should be able to do. Sounds reasonable and practical. How is that working out? What does she fix herself for breakfast? Lunch? How does she do folding her clothes? I guess I wouldn't take those tasks back unless there is some indication she is having difficulties with them.

Not wanting to do things she can do may be a sign that she really can't do them or is worried that she can't do them well. Or it could be a sign she thinks she deserves a rest at her age. Or, and this seemly likely to me, it may be a sign of depression.

As most medical folks have told you, staying active is very good for Mom. But if she is inactive due to cognitive decline or depression, just insisting that she do the tasks probably isn't enough. A thorough medical evaluation might help you sort this out.

Another way to incorporate some activity into her life is an Adult Day Health Program. Going for a few hours one or more days per week would ensure some exercise and stimulation in a calm and supportive environment.
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