Anyone know what I should do? Mother, 91, still pretty "sharp," in nursing home and from all reports, happy as a clam during the Covid sequester. The problem is that she refuses to call me or return my unanswered calls. This is in sharp contrast to her extremely demanding dependence on me for years. This new reliance upon a now-closed community is meeting her social and emotional needs but her "ghosting" behavior is a little unsettling for me.

My mother is 93 and lives in a Memory Care ALF; they've been on lock down for over a month now & we've been unable to visit. She seems fine with that, and is making fun of the residents who cry over not being able to see their children. She's practically hanging up on me when I call her, and acting very irrational in general, actually. I tried calling her back last night & she didn't even pick up the phone!! When I call over there to speak to the staff, they say she's doing fine also. Yet, when I DO speak with her (I call daily) she's in a VERY foul mood and complaining about everything under the sun, constantly saying she wants to die and can't wait for 'all this to be over with', meaning her life. I'm to the point where I don't even want to TRY speaking to her, frankly. But I will, because she's my mother and even though there's nothing I can really DO for her, I can try to encourage her to the best of my ability. She was even super rude to my son (the Golden Child) last night on the phone & pretty much rushed him off the phone too. Nobody is saying what she wants to hear, and nobody even KNOWS what it is she WANTS to hear. As an only child, I am the only relative she has left. Her husband died and so did all of her brothers and sisters, so I'm IT. Yay. I managed to convince her to agree to a video call on Monday, so we'll see how that goes. With any luck at all, it will improve her mood, but I'm not holding my breath.

I think they're all flipping out, truthfully. Either they're super clingy towards us or writing us off completely. When dementia is at play (as it is with my mother), I believe they're all declining pretty quickly with the circumstances that are in play right now.

I don't know why your mother is acting this way towards you right now, and she probably doesn't either. But you can take comfort (as I do) in knowing she's being cared for and in capable hands where she's at. Sending you a hug and a prayer for peace to settle in your heart, in spite of the difficult circumstances we're all facing at this time.
Helpful Answer (14)
Reply to lealonnie1
Clementine49 Apr 17, 2020
Thank you. And I am terribly grateful for the care she is receiving -I certainly wouldn't want her feeling upset or miserable. Thankfully, she is not. My problem, I think, is that my role in her very self-centered life was always labeled "useful" and, now that others are filling that role, I have not only been dismissed, but not missed at all. I just don't know what to do with all that freedom. And sadness.
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I would enjoy the ghosting for now. Be happy mom is happy and doing well. It is usually the completely opposite complaints and concerns that we hear around here. Enjoy the break.
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Reply to gladimhere

I am glad she’s okay and sorry it is stressing you. She may be a bit numbed out as a reaction to all that is going on.
It’s not unusual for elders to form attachments to the ones who are caring for them. I’ve seen small children do this also. Under the circumstances that seems like a good thing. A bit of adjustment for you I’m sure.
There is little you can or possibly even should (even if you could) do about it at this point. Again, glad she is doing well.
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Reply to 97yroldmom
Clementine49 Apr 17, 2020
I think you are probably right -there is little more that I can do, considering the circumstances. I know that as she listens to the phone ring, she knows I'm thinking of her. Cards and gifts and calls to the caregiving team to see how she's doing -she knows I care.
Her ghosting behaviors might be good news for you- your mother's ghosting of you... indicates that, as you wrote, she was utilizing you (for your entire life) to meet her emotional demands. Her behavior, is deliberate. Normal mothers are the exact opposite of what your post describes.

Normal mothers would never ghost their adult children, or anyone for that matter
... But within the realm of psychologically manipulative mothers ... ghosting or giving silent treatments to anyone = normal behaviors.

If you have siblings, contact them, they might have had completely different life-long experiences with her.

It's easy to dismiss her actions as age-related, but abusive personalities tend to show-up clearly, as their bodies grow older, as hiding their abusive ways becomes more difficult after their frontal lobe starts to deteriorate.

If the aforementioned applies to your situation. Don't react. Stay silent and enjoy the silence.

To ease your guilt, contact the facility - so they understand that you're still present in your mother's life,and to check-in about your mother.

Since normal mothers wouldn't fathom ghosting a family member, then it's VERY possible, if not guaranteed, that your mother will deny that she ghosted you, whilst pretending that you're over-reacting. For the record you're not over-reacting.

Maybe it's best to use this time to online resarch more about mothers who ignore their daughters/sons etc.

If she has suddenly acquired (always hid) a manipulative personality, then she is trying to get you to react, and to worry about her. She is getting empowered by the stress her deliberate silence is causing you.
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Reply to Screennamed
Clementine49 Apr 20, 2020
Amen. Screennamed, you are right: after ruling out any other contributing factors to this "new" behavior, I can assume it is just a new iteration of one of her old tricks, the Silent Treatment. For sixty-something years of my life, it was very effective. Now, not-so-much moving toward not-at-all. But life-long emotional conditioning is not so easy to shake, even when you understand the pathology behind it all. As you noted, "abusive personalities tend to show-up clearly, as their bodies grow older, as hiding their abusive ways becomes more difficult " is a very revealing observation and, I believe, true in my mother's case. -but, sad as it seems, it also allows me to see the "real" personality behind the mask she once so expertly -I repeat, expertly- wore. If nothing else, she is true to herself -still sticking to her old tricks- even though she doesn't realize that her mask has slipped.
Thank you -and everyone else here- for responding with affirmations, care, and valid advice. Much appreciated!
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Is her phone working? Are you able to check on her through staff? Can someone send you a picture of her? I would be worried if I couldn’t check on her one way or another.
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Reply to 97yroldmom

My mom wants everything exactly her way. She objects if I confront her about anything. She feels like she knows best about everything.

So, I have very limited contact with her. I will phone her once or twice month to engage in a very brief neutral conversation.

I have accepted there will not be any meaningful conversation with her. It is more like small talk that I would have with anyone.

I finally gave up on resolving issues. I no longer try to control a situation that I can’t change. I do not have the power to change anyone else’s outlook on life.

I am sorry that things are difficult for you. Relationships can become complicated with our families.

Many of us have experienced awkward and disturbing situations within our families.
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Reply to NeedHelpWithMom
Clementine49 Apr 19, 2020
Thank you. Your words speak for those of us who seem to belong to a club nobody really wants to join -membership by default. The dues seem exorbitant at times, but the fellowship is exclusive and priceless.
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My mum is very similar - not that bothered about being in lockdown, as she rarely goes out or sees anyone but family anyway. She says she can't use the phone (for the hard of hearing) that we got her, so won't call anyone generally, though she did make the effort once to thank me for the parcels/magazines/family photos I am sending round. Apart from that, all the effort is one way, as usual. She would rather sit there alone not knowing whether we are ill or even dead, than trouble herself to call us or ask the carer to do it. And she admits to being too lazy to reply to the letters her friends have kindly sent, as she won't have any technology to keep in touch. But, again, I am used to this as she used the silent treatment to punish us as children when we failed to meet her 'needs'.

I am actually relishing this break from her usual 'extremely demanding dependence' on us and quite dread its return when things go back to normal - though as the UK government are talking of isolating over-70s for a year, it might not.

Try not to worry, and maybe try to see the good side of this change, as no doubt someone would let you know if your mother had any real problem.
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to helenb63
Clementine49 Apr 21, 2020
You are right, Helen. I should enjoy it while it lasts. This lull was unexpected but, after thinking about what you and others have shared, it is probably doing us both some good right now. She's doing fine, and that is a relief. Cheers!
I would have been thrilled if my mom had stopped calling me and found herself things of interest in the nursing home. As long as the staff can fill you in I say take this as a gift.
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to mikejrexec

My mother has never been one to initiate phone calls, Never. If I call her, fine, she'll talk to me (if she can find her phone, if it's not dead, if she can figure out how to answer it)….

I've had the same phone number for 41 years and she has never bothered to learn it.

A couple of weeks ago a neighbor of mine who plays Bingo with mother called me up and read me the riot act for 'neglecting your sweet angel of a mother'. WTH? I had been sick with shingles and not talking to or seeing anyone. And she has my number, no reason not to call me--except she wanted her friend to see how terribly concerned she was about me (not at all).

I told her friend (whom I have known for 30+ years) that mother is playing games and I don't want to be a part of anything she's playing at. I told her that she won't return my calls, won't call me and so that's that. If she wanted to continue to think Mother is some kind of maligned neglected woman, she can, but the truth is, she's narcissistic and actually kind of mean at times. I have set very firm boundaries about what I can let her talk about with me. (sadly, I found myself being the same way mother was being, with my own kids--to a small degree and they called me out pretty darn fast on it)

I can't change her. I can't even hold a conversation with her anymore. Triangulating this other woman into the 'relationship' and playacting that she was concerned and loving just ground my gears.

This woman can think what she wants. I can't change her either.

The thing is, I don't see what mother gets out of being this way? If you're concerned about someone, call them. End of story. Every single time I see or talk to mother (admittedly not very often) she asks about all the other kids and their kids...I always say "if you're concerned about them, call THEM."
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Reply to Midkid58
Riverdale Apr 17, 2020
How is your MIL doing especially under these circumstances?
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I agree. Enjoy the time.

I was lucky. My Dad was a pain but a loveable pain. Mom spoiled him. Waited on him hand and foot. He was a teaser but sometimes he stepped over the line and it became truth said in jest. As he aged, it got worse. And because I was the easier to upset, I was usually targeted. I told my brothers I would not be the one to physically care for him. TG he passed before Mom. But before he died, I started to set boundries. My Mom was easy compared to some but I set boundries. I was tired of being the oldest and expected to be there all the time.

I can understand why those with mothers that are munipulating keep allowing it to happen. You may be looking for something u have never had, love and attention? After years of this, I would think your tired trying and just let it go. Take a deep breath and say "I am not doing this to myself anymore".

So, enjoy the peace and quiet. Don't try to figure it out, Enjoy!
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Reply to JoAnn29

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