Once again I left my mom (who has dementia & is living in an assisted living residence), with both of us in tears; feeling guilty at failing once again in this new role that I seem to be in now, her; frustrated with being forced to acknowledge & accepting help. I gathered up & brought home, her clothes that are so dirty...along with those clothes that have been draped in an ever-growing/never decreasing heap; 'out' (apparently) to be ironed. Even tho' she does pay for laundry service, somehow most of her clothes never manage to make it &/or stay, in the laundry bag. And I took her iron away! (for fear she may actually use it & leave it on) I also cleaned off her kitchen counter which was covered in wrappers/napkins/used tissues & who knows what...nothing gets thrown out. All which earned me a: 'leave me alone, I want to die' & 'you are a mean & controlling person'...
I know I am railing against this person that my mother is becoming... My mom was a refined, always impeccably dressed, sweet & wonderful person. And I struggle with seeing her in clothes that are covered in food stains. I struggle with the disarray she now surrounds herself in... The staff can barely vacuum the place with the melee of stuff she has lying about. And dusting...well, you'd have to be a savant strategist to manage that feat.
And I struggle with her every day accusations of 'people coming in and moving or stealing her things'...
I struggle...
My brother & I would like to have her stay in this residence (putting off the nursing home) as long as possible so we do our best to 'pick up the slack'. But she resists! She does not want any help...and demands that be the case in no uncertain terms...
So...what I need is someone to give me the secret... The secret as to which things do I 'let go' (w/advice on how to do that) & which things am I doing the right thing in 'addressing'... And how can I be sure that I am not severing one of the most important links in my relationship with a mother who, for all my life, excelled in unconditional love & support.
I miss my mom...has become my mantra...
Thanks for listening...even this has helped...
As I wait for the inevitable phone call demanding that I return that iron immediately! Who do I think I am!!!?

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Your question shows that you've learned one important lesson already: pick your battles. Only fight the ones that matter, and let the rest go.

Now, how do you tell which are worth the battle? Ah, if you figure out a sure-fire way to answer that every time, please write a book about it -- many of us would love to know that secret.

One imporant element has to be safety. If you don't think Mom can safely iron any more, then that is a battle worth fighting. Does the AL Laundry offer ironing service? If so, sign up! Does Mom have many articles that need ironing? Maybe phasing out that part of her wardrobe would be a good. thing. As for that phone call you dread, have your story ready. "Mom you have worked so hard all your life, Brother and I are hoping you'll just retire from things like ironing. Let someone else handle that. You deserve it! Let's go shopping this week for a few things that don't even need ironing." OR "There was a little fire in one of the units, and the AL wants residents not use their irons until they figure out something about wiring, so I took it home until they decide what to do." (before you try this, talk it over with the AL staff and see if they can back you up). OR "Oh, I forgot to tell you. My iron died and they are so exensive these days I want to take my time researching what to buy. I hope you'll let me borrow yours until I decide." Am I suggesting that you tell your beloved mother lies?! Yup. I don't know how people who can't bring themselves to tell therapeutic fibs cope with relatives who have dementia.

What else is worth a battle? Her wearing stained or dirty clothes bothers you, but does it bother her? This one might be worth a little detective work. WHY does she not put on clean clothes every day? Is it hard for her to open drawers or reach into the closet? Is it hard for her to put certain clothes on, so when she finds one that is easy she wants to keep wearing it? Of course, it might be totally irrational, but if you can find out what is behind this behavior you may be able to help her solve it.

What about the clutter? I suppose it could get to the point where it is a safety issue, but long before it may be a mental health issue. That is, people with dementia (like most of the rest of us) tend to do better in serene, uncluttered environments. But for her to see you cleaning up after her is a blow to her dignity. She doesn't want to acknowledge her own slipping capabilities. How can you give her the uncluttered environment she needs, without the painful message she doesn't want to hear? Could you straighten things up while she is in the dining room? Could you and your brother take turns -- one taking her on a little outing, the other one de-cluttering the apartment while they are out? I don't know if Mom would find it acceptable if she didn't have to see the work being done, but it might be worth a shot!

The accusations of people messing with her things is very common. Discuss with the AL staff if there could be some truth in it. Sometimes other residents do wander and don't respect other people's privacy (because they are impaired, not because they are criminals). Find out if any of that is known to go on in your mother's wing.

But most likely she misplaces things, can't remember, and accuses others. Sympathize without agreeing. "Oh, isn't it terrible that your nice pink braclet has gone missing? I know that is one of your favorites. Let's just look one more time and see if we can find it." Look in illogical places. She might have put it in the medicine cabinet for safekeeping. You may discover she uses certain hiding places again and again, and that will help the next search.

I know what you mean when you say that you miss your mother! Dementia is the "long goodbye" and we caregivers mourn a little (or a lot) as we go along. When there is finally a funeral or memorial service, our friends will all offer sympathy and support. Our grief that goes on for years is less recognized and supported. Know that those of us here whose loved ones have dementia know exactly what you mean when you say you miss your mother.

One of the most poignant things I've heard at a caregiver support group is one member reporting that her mother gave a deep sigh and said, "I really miss me." You miss your mother, and in her more lucid, aware moments, she probably misses the self she used to be, too. I hope we can all fight the battles that are worth fighting without rubbing it in that our loved ones are not the person they used to be or want to be.

Good luck to you.
Helpful Answer (2)

WOW, the AL place my mom was in briefly, was amazing! The only thing we have in common is the clothes. They lost hers and others showed up that were not hers even with her name written in the collar.
DO NOT BEAT YOURSELF UP for her being in AL. I WISH my mom had stayed in the PALACE (it was a palace) I searched for and got her into....only one month of NO Stress and then the PROBATE court ordered her to go back home, to terribly inefficient and sub standard care...unsafe, no medical staff....
Time will help her adjust and sitting with others when she eats. YOU DID THE RIGHT THING...I cried initially, but then I realized she is SAFE and her room is pristine and she has a private en suite bathroom...she had a call button around her neck so help came in 2 minutes...
Now, help is upstairs, laying on the bed, talking on the phone, while mom sits alone....until I come.
I am at her home 10-20 hours a week checking on the "staff??" that they send...not really staff, people with a pulse, that rock at watching the PRICE IS RIGHT.
You are much better off unless the place stays messy...maybe keep shopping and visiting other AL places. You might come across a better one.
Google "Benchmark Assisted Living", they are a chain, but their standards are very mom was in VILLAGE AT BUCKLAND, is a BENCHMARK agency, and they were AMAZING...I wanted to live there it was that good!
You have made a great but difficult did it with a sibling that is not working against you, (wish I had that) and you did it for her safety and well being. No guilt, give each other a hug! She is lucky to have you both!
Helpful Answer (2)

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