I'm an only child and live long distance. When I call Mom the conversations end up with her crying. Should I call?

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A series of health problems have left Mom with short term memory loss and behavioral delusions and aphasia. However, she can still communicate her feelings to me. She was living independently until last June. She has always been somewhat reclusive and hates having people around her and touching her and telling her what to do. She has been placed in a long term care facility and just hates it. Every phone call ends up with her wanting me to get her out of there and take her home where she can be alone, to die on her own terms. The facts are, she can't live alone and now her home has been sold.

My phone calls seems to upset her and I was wondering if I should call less or not at all. I usually call twice a week. I have an elder care nurse who visits regularly and reports to me. The staff all tell me Mom seems pleasant, somewhat depressed and confused. She will not participate in any activities.

My husband and I are planning a trip in few weeks and I fear that seeing her will create a whole new set of problems. She might think I am coming to take her out of the NH. What should I do? Mom cannot travel long distances. She is being given low doses of an antidepressant. I thought I saw a change for the better for a week or so, but now she is back to her complaining and crying.

Thanks for your suggestions. This website is a wonderful place for advice and support.

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In for a penny… If you're still thinking in terms of moving her to a nursing home near you, it can be done. Ask a logistics company for advice - after all, "if it absolutely, positively, has to be there…"?! Ask the airline, or Holiday Inn, or what about train companies? Ask both nursing homes, the one she's leaving and the one you'd like to move her to: this won't be unprecedented, they'll know what works and what doesn't. It might seem like a heck of a project, but why not see what you can pull together?

My great aunt moved from Edgware in England to an ALF in Mass. in her mid-eighties to be near her daughter; and the reason she had to was that she'd become too frail to live alone in the house she'd been in all her married life. How she and her daughter got it all done I will never know, but done it was. Good luck!
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Joyce, I would meet or arrange a call with your moms care team and talk about your concerns and mom. They can give you an unbiased and candid opinion on her emotional state and whether she quickly recovers and participates with others or is truly unhappy. If it is the latter, you might visit some similar care facilities near you and check for comparable costs. Then reconsider if you want to move her closer for your peace of mind and if this is a possibility. I think you will have to do by car or rail. Know that another move can still be traumatic for her and may not solve her happiness -- you would be doing this to relieve some of your stress and worry and there is nothing wrong with that.

My mom sounds exactly like your mom and my long distance situation. My mom has refused all in home care assistance and to consider any move. Talking to her by phone is hit or miss. Visiting her is painful as the dementia makes her paranoid, accusatory, etc. ; lately she refuses my visits and locks me out or tells me if I come she won't let me in and she's not up to it.

I know from this site that taking her into my home even if she would consider is out of the question because I work full time in a travel job and will not quit to care for her. Further, I don't have the caregiving skills she will need as her dementia progresses.

You will have to decide what is best for you. I would go ahead and visit and steel yourself for the emotional tug that will likely occur. Stay strong and enlist the care team and director when you need to help you reconcile your feelings about moms care. If you can, visit and participate in the dinners in the dining room, activities, walks and sitting on the porch, etc. certainly you can take her off premises to shop or for lunch or visiting one of her old friends but I would steer clear of going by the old house or keeping her occupied outside the facility too much as it might seem like a punishment when you leave and she has to resettle in her home and routine. Encourage her to show you around, meet the staff, have mom give you a tour and try to make it a positive experience there.

Good luck and let us know how it turns out. Your experience god or bad helps us all as we navigate the same problems.
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My father has Alzheimers and other medical problems. He sleeps a lot, isn't eating much, and has abusive verbal outbursts. He lives with my mother at home in Fl. There are 2 home health aides that come in, plus a visiting nurse. Dad is kind of in and out of being cognizant, and has some paranoia. My mother has a variety of health issues herself, and does not want to keep dad at home. I know he will fight this, but it is what she wants to do. She is pretty close to falling apart herself. Previous to this, he was shuffled between a hospital and rehab nursing homes for the past 5 months. At this point, does she have to have his consent to have him placed in a nursing home ? I am in NJ and she is in Fl, and she is on the phone with me in tears all the time. I don't know what to do anymore. Should mom move elsewhere nearby (they live in a trailer park) and leave dad at home with the caregivers? Should dad be put in a nursing home ?? I need help, and soon.
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I know it's hard to seperate emotions when you speak with your Mom. I would suggest, keeping the call as short as possible, when it starts to head south, tell her "oh, I need to leave for an appointment" or something simple to end the conversation. More short calls are better than long crying ones.
My husband and I live with my MIL and when people call and she starts crying with them, I want to grab the phone and tell them "make it short and sweet". I don't know if my MIL knows what she is doing but sometimes I think she's trying to push buttons and make others feel sorry for her that she is in a terrible living situation and so unhappy. I have tried to tell her that circumstances have put us where we are and we have to learn to live together. Or in your case apart! But ......speaking logically to a dementia person is like beating your head against a wall. I can only hope that in time your Mom adjust to her surroundings, I pray my MIL will get used to us. I have jokingly started calling her "Greta" to some of my friends, they only get it if they like old movies, "I vant to be alone". Seems to be a state the elderly get into and is very hard to adjust too. Good Luck, remember short and sweet and call often.
PS Just noticed this posting is a little dated, hope everything is working out.
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Just a thought here I know people can deteriorate with a move but thats usually due to depression being put in a nursing home, not a real home. My Dr said my Mom wouldnt ever walk after her broken leg, but I brought her home and she did. He said she wouldnt survive her strokes, but she did. being Home is everything. He then admitted it was because when their spirit is happy, they heal, but not when they are depressed usually. I hope to god my kids dont ever leave me in a home, I rather all my money go to home care for my husband or I . I do kwow my kids wouldnt ever leave me thou, they have been so proud of me taking care of my mom thru thick and thin. I hope your poor mom home or at least closer and has visits daily. It doesnt matter if anyone remembers anything or anyone, dementia patients live in the MOMENT and they need lots of love...
"They are sad and sick and lost and need you at all cost, they dont understand but need you there to kiss their check and hold their hand. The best of them is gone, but need someone beside them until their life is done." author unknown
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I can see your problem. We have dealt with many issues with my MIL that actually surprised us, deeply imbedded fears seem to surface when dementia sets in. My thought was that she probably would not "miss" the east coast if she doesn't really gain anything by being there. My MIL did have friends who she missed greatly, but some of those friends urged us to move her because they couldn't really car for her & they could see she wasn't caring for herself very well.
Sometimes people decline very quickly when they are moved, so it's a tough call. You know her best and know if she can tolerate that much change in her routine. There are medications that could help with the short-term anxiety ( actual transportation time) if you think she would benefit in the long run.
The staff at the Assisted Living where my MIL now lives gave us a book, "Talking to Alzheimer's", which is about how to visit with people with dementia. It gives practical advice, i.e., how to phrase questions so they don't sound like you're quizzing them, etc. Many of the tips in there could be applied to phone call conversations as well. I found it very helpful.
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Dear caregiverinCT, In my heart everything would be better if Mom were closer. Living on opposite coasts is the pits. I am intrigued about this bus service. Mom would probably get quite panicky traveling. I have seen her have anxiety attacks over less. To answer your question, she never goes out. She refuses to participate in any activities. She has no friends or relatives who visit. I am her only child. I call her at least twice a week. I tried to call more often, but the conversations were usually either quite negative or sad. The elder care nurse sees her twice a month and is very good with her. Even when she lived at home alone independently, no one had ever been inside her home. She would only talk to people outside. Her house was always clean. She has never liked being around people and it got worse as she aged, choosing to isolate herself. She always used my Dad as an excuse not to entertain, saying she had to take care of him. She seems afraid of everything. On the other side of the coin, she can be truly personable talking with people and used to be quite funny. It sure is hard to watch what this "dementia" disease has done to her. Thanks for your input. jw
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I know you are asking about interacting on the phone & visiting,etc., but it would be easier if she was closer. Does she go out much? Have contacts with old friends who visit? If she is not gaining anything different from her present area, it would make sense to move her. We moved my MIL 400 miles to live with us, even tho she was afraid to do so. SHe lived with us for 4 yrs., moved to AL this month. I know there exists a bus/ambulance service which will transport people anywhere in the US. Not cheap, but they have 24hr travel option with more than 1 driver on board, so someone can sleep while the other one drives. A friend used it to bring her husband home across country.
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Dear JRW,
I feel your pain. It is very hard to have your parent cry. Blame & guilt accompany these feelings and it is quite natural to want to not call because it distresses her. (& you) This is a part of the equation that can't be solved. When you visit, step up the calls before to tell her how excited you will be to see her on ________ (day of the week). Explain it is going to be a great visit and plan an outing or two for her with you guys. She will probably think you are coming to get her out but that can't be helped. What she means by this is that she wishes you were coming to take her away from this place.
Regarding the "better for a week" sounds very familiar. Unfortunately their acting kills can only last for so long. I can't tell you it will get better with time. It doesn't. The best you can hope for is her acceptance of the situation. She will not be happier anywhere other than her home. This is a fact. A facility is still a facility, no matter how expensive & dressed up it is. It's not home. My psychologist said "You can't have a rational discussion with someone who is irrational." You just have to keep plugging and deal with the situation of 'it is what it is' for her and you. It won't get better. This is a chapter left out of 'The Manual' of caring for old people and certainly left out of Tom Brokaw's book 'The Greatest Generation'. My prayers are with you. It is not easy.
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Echoing what others have said about no one answer fits all situations. One thought did occur to me that I didn't see addressed, though I didn't read all the words of all the posts. Your mom's crying may be a good release for her. She may feel safe crying with you. I am super emotional, and sometimes folks will say, "Oh, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have brought that up." But no, actually, I needed to cry, so it was good they asked a question that allowed me to take my "all is well" mask off. Maybe your mom sometimes needs to cry, and you're a safe outlet for her. I know that's rough for you, and you have to draw your own boundaries on that part. Anyway, sounds like you have found the input you wanted. Lay aside any judgmental responses you received (personally, I don't feel safe expressing myself on this board.) Best of luck. Peace to you.
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