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Update on mom in assisted living. I had a hard time convincing my mom to go to assisted living. She was diagnosed with dementia 2 years ago and she couldn't stay alone anymore. I work, have a family she kept wanting them to leave. In March, she went to assisted living. I go twice a week and at first called her every night. I now only call three times a week because she is so negative I cannot take it anymore. When I go to do her hair, she constantly complains. She complains how I do her hair, about the place, about the people, about everything. She keeps asking me "could you live here?" Actually yes. It is brand new, wonderful people and great food. I worn out with the negativity. I have explained to her about her complaints, but she says I am "fussing" at her. Not true, just need some peace. Is it normal for a dementia patient be so negative? I do not want to go visit or call her. It would be so easy to just stop. I am an only child and feel obligated to help her. I feel so much better knowing she is safe and well cared for. She will not bathe or change her pajamas. She doesn't want to get her clothes on. She just wants to complain. She tells me she doesn't eat there, but they tell me different. Her memory isn;t so much the issue, it is her personality change, her inability to care for herself, and her reasoning skills are gone. Oh my, you cannot reason with her at all. When she truly believes something..well, she will say.."well, you are always right and want to argue with me." I want to walk away and enjoy my life without her in it, but I feel guilty for even thinking such a thing. Is all this normal?

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So you know, I am listening to the advice I have been given. I went to visit mom, do her hair, and fix her pill box. Same 'ole thing today when I first got there. Complained about the cable, must not get good cable here, nothing on this tv. I used to get a lot more movies on my other tv. Never could get her to understand that cable is cable--it is not the place and not the tv. She became upset and told me she wasnt going to go through this with me again today. We went to do her hair and she sat in the chair and said "get this over with so you can go back to your palace." First of all, I hardly live in a palace..haha, second of all I am NOT taking it from her today. I stopped dead in my tracks and told her exactly what I needed to many times ago. With all your help, I have been able to do what I know needs to be done..so here it went-- I told her I wasn't going to do it today either and for that matter I wasn't doing it ANYMORE! I told her that I have decided as of today I am not coming back and taking this from her. The put downs, the yelling or her complaining. No more! I began to tell her how hurtful it was. That I come to see her and help her the best I know how. I also stated to her that I want to come for a pleasant visit and we haven't had one yet. I didn't stop until I said what I needed to say. She got very quiet and just looked at me as I spoke. I told her to find something else to talk about beside complaining. After washing and fixing her hair, she looked at me and said, "will you trim my nails"? I said that I would be happy too. After doing her nails, she asked me to do her toenails, I did. She asked if I would take a walk with her to the other levels and sit on the covered patio. Gladly I told her. We actually had a nice visit. She talked of everything from where she used to work to things when I was little. I still watched how I answered questions and made sure I didn't reply to something that would set her off, but I did say what was a long time coming. I usually go and stay about 2 hours, today, I was there for 6 hours. Wow, I was shocked and so was my family. They wondered what happened to me..Ha! She kept trying to find things to talk about to keep me there. I could tell she knew I meant business. Before I left, I told her I enjoyed our visit. Thanks to all for the much needed encouragement and for letting me realize I get to decide everything!!
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Reply to jeweltone
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jeweltone, there's no reason why you can't reduce the phone calls a bit more, and line someone up to do her hair at least once, to see how it goes. I think the best thing to do is to stop 'reading into' your mother's comments and moods, because they simply do not reflect her reality (she IS comfortable, she IS eating, etc.) She will say whatever she says, and her moods are whatever they are -- and there's nothing about those things you can do anything about. If it's too draining, then pull back on interacting with her. It's ok.
I'm still waiting for the moment when my mother will finally (at long last) go into AL. And I know, from our lifelong troubled relationship, that my visits will become less and less. They already are, the truth is, it's helped me tremendously, and hasn't hurt her at all.
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Reply to looloo
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I think this is very normal. She's lost control of the life she knew and it's hard to separate from your things, friends, home, former life. She's frustrated and unhappy and maybe just blowing steam with you. Talk to staff and see if they notice the same or if she is pleasant with them and just unpleasant with you.

I don't think you can stop it, but you can adjust your attitude and expectations. Be rested and in a good frame of mind when you visit and call. Bring a treat, picnic, etc when you visit and do something fun by getting her away for a walk, sitting out on the porch, a drive, etc. the change of scenery will do her good and give you a chance to talk about other things vs her new home and situation.

Avoid disagreeing about the AL or convincing her otherwise. ITS okay to acknowledge her feelings and telling her it hurts you and makes YOU feel bad to know she is unhappy...but you can't change things. It's also okay to set boundaries and limit your visits and calls. When she gets negative, simply cut the conversation or visit short.

Remember, you aren't responsible for her happiness.
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Reply to sunflo2
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If I were in your shoes:

If I wanted or felt compelled to do her hair, I would tell her no more complaining and she has to say something nice at the end or I will not do it anymore. Remind of her the rules when you are doing it if she needs it.

I would also tell her that I can't take her negativity - it is too wearing on you and that you love her, you have a husband/family/house to care for and need your energy. Lessen your calls and visits if she is not responsive. It is OK to see her/talk to her once a week. I bet that's still more than most people do.

I would talk to her doctor about getting her on anti-depressants. Many times complaints and negativity are a result of depression, and getting old is difficult.

Good luck!
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Reply to Doggirl
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Jeweltone - We've all been on this bucking bronco ride. It's exhausting and nauseating. And you have nothing to show for the energy it took. Not even a tshirt.

I would ask the facility your mom is in to have a pastor or counselor to come talk to your mom. And a psychiatrist. Seriously. Having that outsider/third party person come do active listening and guided response (I won't call it correction) can really help. And if the talking doesn't work, then there are some really great meds in this day & age.

Change of any type - even something we would think is insignificant - to a demetia patient is monumental. They no longer have the reasoning skills to self soothe or put it in perspective. So, to some individuals, every change is the end of the world forever and they get stuck in that spot. Please know the behaviors you are seeing are not of your making or your responsibility. It's brain change.

Also be prepared that you are going to see more of this kind of thing. Just expect it. If it improves through time, counseling, or meds, then HOORAY. If not, you know what it's coming from. From a self-care standpoint for you, this is going to sound mean, but I don't intend it that way. To run this marathon, you're going to have to save your energy for things that matter. Your daughter, yourself. This means you have to make yourself stop spending so much emotional effort on mom because that is not a situation that will improve by your tears. It takes time to learn how to detach with love, but it can be done. Practice, practice, practice. It's a hurricane bunker in the raging storm.

All you can do is validate what she says/sympathize: No mom, this isn't how any of us thought it would turn out. I'm as surprised as you are.

I try to (pointlessly) turn the conversation with my mom: You look better than you have in 25 years. The diet you hate and this environment is clearly doing you some good. You could barely get out of bed and up & down out of a chair when you came up here, and now you can go like the dickens with your walker.
With my mom though, she is chronically embittered and has always purposefully sought the negative in life. She has never been capable of positive thinking. Doesn't stop me from trying though.

You can say things like: I wish I could make things like they used to be! I would if I could.

You can move her around the facility, to look at the pictures, down a hall, see what's over here, over there, etc. I think sitting still one on one with each other, is sometimes a recipe for a terrible visit.

My mom mourns a reality she never had. She misses her house, which was a pile of cr_p. She never took care of it, it had holes in the siding, the roof leaked, there were critters, the well water was so sulphurous it corroded the water heater, the dishwasher, the sinks, the toilet, & shower stall. It was flithy, smelly, dark, and dirty. She misses a house that existed 15 years or more ago, that was new, bright, and clean right when she moved in. (It didn't stay that way long though). She misses being able to do things she never would do when she could. She refused - quite angrily - any invitations with church or the senior group to go on trips or see sights. She hated visitors. She stayed on self-imposed house arrest for almost 2 decades, eventually turned into a real shut-in, and is now complaining about how nobody takes her anywhere and she's stuck in prison. Whatever mom. Complaining is her native form of communication.

Guilt is pointless. You are doing all the right things for your mom and you have nothing to feel guilty for. You are going to have to train yourself not to let those toxic thoughts of regret, remorse, grief over lost opportunity, etc to rob you of your resilience and joy. It is work though, but it's absolutely imperative.
Choose happiness. It will take you far and it isn't forbidden.
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Reply to sandwich42plus
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Trying to catch up here.
Family secrets - I got so tired of putting up a front and keeping the family secret that all was well and we were a happy family. This also relates to communicating and not getting the response you hoped for. I have shared with several cousins, and it seems they just do not want to hear it. I got one snappy reply, one very delayed response which side stepped the issues but let me know they did not want to deal with it, and one non response, though this cousin had said more than once, we know you are going through a hard time with your mother. So batting zero there – very little family support. It is complicated by the sister who puts up a wonderful front when she wants to visit someone, and then, according to my nephew, goes home and bad mouths them all. My nephew is the only one who has been supportive – he knows his mother, and therefore understands his grandmother. I am happy for that support. I did once have some support from a relative in Norway who knows mother well, and also from a cousin in England when I laid things out after other sicced him on me. I think they are both dead now. Her siblings were supportive as they knew her, but they are all dead now.

I once found an excellent web page which had biblical bases for dealing with abusive parent. We are not required to put up with abuse. If fact we should protect ourselves from it.

Young adult days and phone calls and messages, and fears that I was doing heaven knows what. So embarrassing to come back to one’s room and find a bunch of messages to “Call your mother” pasted on the wall going up the stairs and then have people ask what the emergency was. “Nothing”. Mother always instinctively seemed to like the boyfriends who turned not to be good for me and disliked the ones who were good for me.

We have to learn to set boundaries, to not second guess or over think things (hard one for me). To readjust our self-images – too fat, not smart enough, too smart, not well dressed, can’t get along with people (because I would not put up with her sh*t) and so on. We need to unlearn the lies.

I have felt alone most of my life and that I had to deal with things by myself – which I did as a child. There was no help. I find it hard to accept help at times – but more feel I have to give it. Getting better at that.

Tirades - mother ranted on and one and on and on and seemed to gather energy from it. The rest of us would be wrung out and she was on a high. It was such cr*p.

Being two people - I always said that my mother and my sister did not know me. They constructed me to be who they needed me to be - the scapegoat, the black sheep, the fall guy. They even decided what kind of clothing and jewellery I could and could not wear, and what type of man I would end up with. I would figuratively shake my head in wonderment. They really do not know me -and I guess, don't want to. Their loss. I would say that my mother has a better idea of who I am than my sister has. I know they have talked about me behind my back ad nauseam and bad mouthed me. Whatever.


Yesterday was my birthday and, for the first time, I had no communication from my sis or my mother. It was awesome and liberating. YAY!!!!!! I am looking forward to a good year and one with more mental and emotional space. Oh, how I long for that. They “left me alone”!!! That they did on my birthday was the best gift. Loo, if you look at sites for children of parents with personality disorders and/or narcissism I think you will find it. We find ways of withdrawing from the abuse even as children.

I am slowly decreasing contact with mother. The crazy phone calls last year were awful and I cannot have that again. She does not have a private phone in hospital but will when she is moved to her new facility. If she is still on the meds, she will not call as often or at least not be as crazy. Once a week is enough. The staff can let me know if there is a problem.

Pats on the back for everyone for dealing with these nightmares and surviving intact.. The support here is great. Have a good day and do something good for you!
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Reply to golden23
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Be careful here. What I find happens is that we have a tendency to take on the other persons energy. If it is very negative that will bleed over into your personality. I have found that when I now approach my mother I take a few seconds and think about all things I am grateful for in my life first. Sort of like a good shot of a positive energy boost. Then mom can be negative all she wants. I have stopped letting her dictate to me what my emotions are going to be. I am currently caring for her with in home Hospice. I do understand that she at the age of 93 can not do the things she used to do and it must be very frustrating for her and I can empathize with that but I will not let it change me. Empathy yes, change my mood no. She has always been a negative person and that has just magnified 100 fold since she has become ill. I myself have always been very positive and I will remain that way. It took a while for me to accomplish this but with practice it can be done.
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Tiger55 Nov 26, 2018
Thats awesome! I needed that myself! so thanks very much zimco13. I'm overly empathetic,& you're right: it has caused me to absorb VERY bad energy from my mother. (I just didn't know what was happening!) Now that I understand, I can do better😀. God bless.
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I am so glad the posts here are helpful. They have helped me more than I can express. Getting through this difficult. I called to check on my mom tonight and she started her misery again.--even after I saw here eating with someone on Monday and laughing at that. When I am there she is miss grumpy and sour faced. When I told her I just got in from work, --sometimes I tell her I have been working so she doesnt question me...she said "well, it could be worse, you could be like me, nothing to do." I replied by saying, yes, either way is bad, mom. Then a minute later she said, same ole same ole here. I replied, yes, when we are working and raising a family it is same ole same ole, and when we are retired and nothing to do it is same ole same ole. No matter where we are in our lives, it is a repetition. She didn't say anything, it was that uncomfortable silence. I said, I will let you go, just wanted to call you a minute. She said with a mad voice, well, ok then. I hung up and thought, I am moving forward and not staying stuck in your misery. I am going to enjoy my night whether she does or not. I am like looloo, I am tired of being a cheerleader. I am NOT responsible for her happiness! There, I said it. I am NOT responsible for her happiness. I know she looks to me for that, but it is not my job to make her happy, it is my job to make sure she is well taken care of physically. I have, ALL my life, taken care of her emotional health even at the expense of mine and my family. When she wanted to do something that I didn't I did it anyway because I knew she would make me miserable if I didn't. I was miserable anyway, so I should have done what made ME happy. It is the time NOW to make myself and my family happy. Wow, listen to me. I sound like I know what I am doing. If I keep telling myself, and each one of YOU these things, maybe we will practice what we preach. Nite all!!
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Reply to jeweltone
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Reading through these - there must be a lot of narcissistic mothers/fathers out there.  My mother lives with me and I think she is getting worse about never being happy.  Her birthday is coming up - she will be 92.  I told her I took the day off to spend it with her and she retorted she didn't want anymore birthdays - she was tired.  Made me sad but it would probably be a blessing if the good  Lord took her home.  She's never been happy and has clung onto me for 20+ years.  Yes I allowed it and lately I'm kicking myself for giving up some of the best years of my life with no privacy, and taking care of all her emotional needs.  Being the friend, the confidant (while she complained about ALL the other family members), trying to control everything I do and always criticizing me.  Now I just want PEACE in my life!  I'm NO spring chicken at 58 - and some days I feel like a 108.  I feel I absorb her negative energy.   Geez the other day I brought home over $100.00 in groceries..did I get a "thank you"...NOPE.  Only why did I buy an extra box of oatmeal - we already had one.  Some days I wish I could just run away!   Good luck and God Bless everyone.
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Tiger55 Nov 26, 2018
So true, you describe it perfectly. (How mother clings to me: like I'm HER mother). Sounds like we have the same situation, God help us.✌
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My mom was the same, and it went on for years.
I tried so many "tactics" to alleviate things, but want to share the one thing that actually did help a little.
It was when I simply stopped even trying to reason with her, and stopped arguing her, and just more or less agreed with her, that "Yes - It must be really hard getting old. I understand. It's sad not being able to do what you want. And it must be so tiring to do many things. I sure wish we could make you young again. If I could, I would." (stuff like that) And remind them that you love them.

That actually tended to shut the complaining down somewhat. I think they sometimes simply want empathy.
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Reply to EmilySue
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Tiger55 Nov 26, 2018
Thats a great observation☺, & I did read that once, on a mental health page, that people just want to feel "heard". (The trouble is when the elderly just dump on you constantly, &I no longer want to hear). Society has forgotten the caregiver, like we are some kind of robot without feelings & needs. But thanks for sharing what helped you.☺
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