How can we know what is serious when an elder has something wrong all the time?

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My mother wakes up every day with symptoms of something. It has been like this for six years and goes on all day long. It may be a rash that she turns into a disease. Or quite often it is something nobody can see but herself. This includes the doctors. She has had digestive issues that no one could figure out, cancers that weren't there, ear aches with no symptoms showing except for what she says... I quickly figured out that her main illness was that she sat in her chair and fixated on herself. I think the symptoms could be real to her, even if they are only in her mind.

I am into my sixth year of listening to it every day. I have to admit that I've become pretty immune to it. That worries me, since I may miss something that is really wrong since she cries wolf so much. She has also gotten into a habit of calling the drug store or my cousin doctor if I don't act fast enough to fix her problem. Good grief.

My mother has vascular dementia, diabetes, and spinal stenosis. The only other thing we've ever found wrong with her is a urinary tract infection. Her factitious illnesses are driving me nuts, though. I can't even be around her for more than a few minutes, because it is all she wants to talk about. There's nothing I can do about factitious ailments except worry that they may not be factitious.

An easy answer would be placement in a NH. She isn't sick enough for a NH yet, though, even though to listen to her you would think she is. I tell her that good food, good exercise, and socializing are the best medicines. Those are "pills" she doesn't want to take, though.

This is more of a vent to keep my sanity. Thanks for listening. I know that other people out there will be able to relate.

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Sandwich, I always thought your mother and mine were so similar. Borderline personalities. It sounds like yours was also a gaslighting expert. With mine the gaslighting was more to protect her perfect image. And anything that happened that didn't fit in to this image was said not to have happened. Anything that didn't fit the perfect life was said to be untrue. It certainly warps a kid's sense of what is and isn't real. It makes a kid feel that something is terribly wrong with them.

It has always been about my mother. Mostly it was her nerves. She had generalized anxiety and would go off on us when we made her nervous. I can really relate to the Stone's song "Mother's Little Helper." We walked on eggshells around her with her nerves and my father with his Asperger's.

Her whole life has been about her and her perfect life. In the words of Dylan, She never looked up to see the frowns of the jugglers and clowns, so she thought everyone thought things were perfect. Even now she says that she let me stay here when I had nowhere else to go. Oh... okay.

This is starting to sound like it belongs in another thread, but I know it all fits together. I really think that she thinks she has bluebirds and butterflies flying about her and that all the things happening to her are not her fault. And if anyone cared enough then they would find that pill to make her feel better. She has the "pill" in her own self, but it would require some effort on her part. It is rather irritating when I know she has made her own bed, then wants her daughter to lay in it for her. She gets upset with me when I don't take her to the doctor for every symptom or do so many other things that would be plain crazy.

I think you are so right that there needs to be more looking at the psychological problems of the elderly. My mother wouldn't go for it, though. She would never talk to a therapist when she was young, and still won't because she's not crazy (her own words). Of course, I know she is as batty as a bat cave.
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If it's boredom alone, a nice day program will fix things right up. But sometimes it's much deeper than that.

My mom learned to associate illness with affection at a very young age. That was the only acceptable way to be touched or close to someone. She had to be the attention receiver in all relationships.

This turned into pretty severe hypochondria in adulthood. Every ache and pain was the end of the world. Her back hurt from lying around all the time, which must mean she needs to lie around until her back cancer really got worse and then we'd all be sorry. She had everyone believing she had Chrohn's Disease for about 15 years and then suddenly disavowed ever saying it at all one day.

It was a little boredom, but mostly mental illness.

Part of mom's narcissism meant that she was never responsible for her own state of mind or wellbeing. It was all something or someone else at fault whether it was high blood pressure or a turned ankle.

She was never able to occupy her free time, her mind, or connect her own choices to consequences. She was so alienated from her own feelings, she couldn't recognize boredom, loneliness, and sadness as temporary states. Whatever she felt at the moment must be the way it was going to be forever.

My childhood was a long series of her doctor appointments to this specialist and that one, and another one here and over there. I thought everybody's mother was in the hospital at Christmas. It was a nonstop doctor's parade. Add to this that my father was truly really sick and it was messed up.

Mom was on a grand total of 19 meds when I intervened. Many in conflict, many contraindicated for a woman in her 70s with dementia.
She couldn't keep it straight. Her liver must be cast iron after so many decades of so much strong medicine.

She fooled many, many people that she was OK but kooky and difficult, sometimes weird & mean. She should have been in a 24/7 secure memory care unit many years ago, but we all had missed the signs. She seemed like she was doing OK on the surface, but she was absolutely not OK.

Being able to stand up and go to the fridge or toilet or use the stove doesn't mean OK. I think there are a lot of elders who need more mental health intervention before they need help with their socks, and it's not happening. It's sad.
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Thank you, Jeanne. My mother can still make her breakfast and make it to the toilet most of the time. I handle her serious medications (diabetes, hypertension), but she has her less serious remedies around her. She's not ready for a NH, since she does okay. She just worries about her health all day, taking her sugar reading, temperature, and blood pressure to make sure all is okay. Maybe she feels that if she is not vigilant checking her body and vitals that something will sneak up on her. Paying so much attention may be her way of controlling things? Just guessing here.

I've taken over most tasks in the house. I have told her that she could stay here with me as long as she can do the important things, like walking, toileting and bathing. I wouldn't be able to help if she couldn't do the simple things. I am not strong enough or dedicated enough.
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It is hard to accept this, but we cannot always protect our loved ones from the consequences of their behavior. Someone who cries wolf over and over about her health may cause others not to take her seriously. That is a consequence of her own behavior, not a fault of the caregiver. Of course you don't want that to happen, Jessie, but don't you dare feel one iota of guilt if it does some day. Not Your Fault.

Can your mom still do all the ADLs herself? Can she manage her diabetes herself? Take her medicines as directed?
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Cher, my mother does the same thing saying she wants to die and be with Daddy. But then she wants to go to the doctor for some problem. She likes getting new pills. I guess that new pills give hope that they will be the thing that works. I do think we need more psychologists to study elderly people. It seems like psychologists lose interest in people after they reach 50. There is so much information on kids, adolescents, and young working adults. There is so little on older people beyond the anecdotes of caregivers. I guess psychologists feel that what applies to younger people will carry over to the older ones. We need a magazine "Elder Psychology Today." :) I think learning a lot more about the workings of the mind as one becomes elderly would be fascinating, particularly because we and everyone we know is heading that direction.

One time my mother was talking about how she wanted to die. I asked her if she wanted to die that day. She stopped and thought a minute and answered no. So I think saying that they want to die is just voicing their frustration at the losses and changes. It isn't that they really want to die... well, at least not at that moment. They want to die much, much later. I am so glad that the Lord doesn't take people whenever they said they wanted to die. There probably wouldn't be many of us left on earth.
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My Mom does the same thing. It started when she was 85 and now she is 91. She has called wolf so many times that I am like you afraid that I will miss something. Worry, worry, worry! So tired that I want to quit. Mom has wanted to die since age 80 but worries if she does not get a pill on time. If I wanted to die I would not care if I got my medicine on time. Would you?
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Aha I have an advantage.... Mum can't remember how to use the phone at all unless it has been done for her and all she has to do is speak. She also doesn't have her meds. She can't be trusted to just take them as directed and I have to watch she swallows what she is given she's a bit naughty about 'palming' them sometimes!

I don't ask Mum to get dressed I tell her she is going to get dressed. I actually find a no nonsense attitude works better with her. if I say would you like to ..... then there is always an excuse. If I plan something it gives her time to get 'sick' so we don't plan (well I do but she hasn't cottoned on to that!) i get her onto the commode, give her a strip wash and then dress her no choice I take the pjs and put them in the wash and I only get her clothes.

Gosh I sound like an evil b*tch ...wait thats what she calls me!
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It must be tough when one has a standing appointment weekly at Urgent Care.

Whenever my Dad starts to talk about his aches and pains, I will start talking about my own aches and pains, but I will ask him what can I do for those aches. Then he starts telling me to try this or that. And before you know it we are on to something non-medical related.
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You're lucky you can get your mother out, Jude. Mine won't go anywhere. She prefers staying in her pajamas and watching TV. If I ask her if she wants to go somewhere, she tells me she is too sick to do anything. She won't even go into the front yard because it is too hot, too cold, too cloudy, too sunny, or she just doesn't feel like it. And she can't stand visitors. We had someone who was supposed to come yesterday and she called her behind my back and told her not to come because she was sick. She wasn't. She just didn't want anyone around. She has always been a hermit, so this isn't unusual.

It is so strange that someone can be a hermit, but want attention from her family and doctors for various ailments. The only way I can explain it is her late-life career is being a sick person and she strives to be the top in her career. My recent bout of walking pneumonia got reduced in severity to "just a cold" when she talks about it. It's like living in the crazy house at times.

Right now she is sitting, watching the Waltons on TV. When I peeked in on her, she was putting eardrops in one of her ears. She has all of her medicines about her so she can dab this or that in her ears, eyes, nose, or skin. It is a total self obsession that she can't or doesn't want to break out of.
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Jessie Belle and Rainmom we sort of know the answer to this because we share a mother! It is the first thing that any carer is taught but is so often missed by many. Learn to recognise wellness. What does she look like on a good day (yeah I know she doesn't have many!) Log it into your mindset. The also log in what she looks like when she is unwell. She will be flushed, running a temp, wobbly, incoherent perhaps, in pain real pain that will show on her face.

Then recognise miserable woe is me I want attention grumpiness. it's actually very easy to spot as I am sure we are all aware. When she is in woe is me mode, and if you can, take her out in the car or the wheelchair and get her mind stimulated.

When Mum really gets into one I swap things around ....a lot. I make dinner at lunch time i take her out in the car, I go and get some of her neighbours to come for lunch, I get junk food in for tea(something we rarely eat) I make a supper I play an old video or get out the photo albums - anything that will just shake it up a bit. it seems to work but is quite draining. Reality is if you sat with her 24/7 she would probably be oK but you, my dear, would be in the asylum before long!
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