Is it normal she's so negative?

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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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Top Answer
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!!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!!
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!
Kazzaa - the universe is telling you to let your mother be put into care. By hook, crook, or large men with a section order and restraints. My mother's time in a psychiatric hospital was a miracle. They put her on new meds that have gentled her down to be more of a puppy than a rabid rottweiler. Mom did not go willingly or quietly. She bit and struggled, fought, and scratched like it was the end of her life. It was loud, ugly, messy, and shocking. She had to be restrained and sedated. But it had to happen. Try not to be there when it happens, or not in the house at least. Go outside, or down the street. Not sending my mom in would have been a terrible idea.

Calm is much better for her overall state. So what if it's more meds. I say bring them! Mom is also in a rehab location for now, which is a transitional time between hospital and whatever your next placement needs to be.

Step down and let the professionals step in. Once the professional psychs get her in a hospital environment, her real self will come out in neon. I also had this terrible anxiety that they would send my mom back and we'd be no better off than before. Mom was not able to put her act on long enough to get away with anything. Her alternate reality came through, plus her paranoia, her anger, her distorted reasoning, her inability to perform tasks of daily living. She was around people who had seen it all before and knew how to deal with dementia patients used to fooling everyone.

Use this time to repair your own life, heal, and get back into your groove. You can also use this time to make changes at your mom's house while she isn't there. If there is something like rehab your mom could do for a while, it buys you even more time to get it together.

One thing must now be true - you absolutely must not return to the way it was before. Social services MUST come up with a plan for her care that does not involve you. Make it very clear you are not able or willing to do it. Say it put you into mental crisis. Get your own doctor to write a note. Whatever it takes.

We're here rooting for you all the way.
I have also been thinking how can I not go each week, but I am afraid that may not be able to happen. she has to have her pill box fixed each week and the AL cannot do it due to not being able to administer medicine. I have tried more than on pill box and she gets so confused. Thinking back, I had to stay with my mom all last summer. She lost ability to care for herself at all, so it was me all summer and I mean I left my family and moved in with her. I came home a couple times a week. Then I found someone to stay with her when it was time for school to start back and I had to go back to work. Now, I was blessed to get her in the new AL facility and dont have to take so much time physically. Hasn't changed the time it takes up in my mental capacity. Something I thought back on that she is saying to me now, brings me back to when I stayed with her. Sunday when I was there and things weren't good, she said, "you just brought me here and dropped me off and don't do anything for me anymore". First of all, I do a lot that she just doesn't see, but I am getting why she is so mad. She wants me 24/7 and says whatever it takes to make me feel guilty. She agreed to go the AL, I did not force her there, but she still blames it on me. She did ask me if there was anything they could kick her out for...I told her no! I also talked to the director and told her my mom may come up with an idea to try to get kicked out. My mom will be in for a rude awakening because if she does, the nursing home will be her next stop and then she will be broke--(this is also something she worries about paying AL). Nursing home costs are double what the AL facility cost. Shameful but true. I have decided she will not come to my home and treat me that way here in front of my kids. I DO have a say so!! Thank you for helping me realize it!
Yes, it is normal to have those feelings. You are not alone. Even though you know that it is the dementia causing the problems, it is hard to separate that from the way your mother used to be. Try not to let guilt enter the picture. You have a family to raise and your own life to live. You are still taking care of your mother even though she is not with you.

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