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My mom, mid 70s, seems to be making dangerous decisions and I’m not sure what to do. Like going out when it’s icy, but she just healed from a break, for something random not essential. Or before she was having issues seeing but still went out. Not understanding covid and things like washing hands and sanitizer. When I try to reason with her she just gets stubborn and then ignores the topic. She tells me that she can do what she wants but these are risky behaviors. And guess who gets called when there is a problem. On top of that I’ve caught her in so many lies. I can’t be there every second but she seems willfully to do these things that lack common sense. Some of the things could also put other family members at risk. I don’t know what to do. Like she insists I take time off to drive them places when at the same time she’s sneaking off on her own. Any advice?

I had to move my parents here in 2011 after dad had to stop driving after a few minor fender benders. I found them a great apartment in an Independent Senior Living place about 5 miles away from me, their only child. My mother was 84 at the time and had always been a liar but suddenly, every word out of her mouth was a lie.

One day, after promising me she was staying in all day, she crossed a very busy main street and went to Walgreens, after I purposely TOLD her I was going there to pick up her prescriptions. So you can imagine her shock & horror when someone tapped her on the shoulder in Walgreens later that day. She turned around and saw ME standing there, not in a very good mood, either. "What are YOU doing here?" she wanted to know. I had a better question, "What are YOU doing here mom?" She nervously laughed.

That was the beginning of the continuation of a very strained relationship between she and I. She's now 94 and living in Memory Care. So you could say that she was starting down the dementia highway back then, or, you could say that she has always been a stubborn ox with a penchant for compulsive lying.

She'd also insist on going for 'nice long walks' in a neighborhood she was unfamiliar with, alone, with no ID, no cell phone or medical alert button or any way to call for help if she needed it. And had bad neuropathy in her legs even then. My poor father would worry himself sick every time she did that, which was often. There was no reasoning with her, no talking to her, in fact she'd laugh in his face when my father begged her to stop going on those walks.

The moral of the story is this: you can't save a person from herself.

Something will probably happen one day to remove your mother's power of choice, and then she will wind up placed somewhere she doesn't want to be because she's made one too many unwise decisions and refused to listen to reason once too often. The hospitals are full of those people and so are rehabs.

Unfortunately, YOU are the one to pick up the pieces of the messes she is likely to make, as I have been all my life. THAT is the irritating part. Waiting for The Phone Call. And hoping for the best.
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Reply to lealonnie1
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Is this behavior new? Does she have dementia or do you suspect she does?

The more info the better advice you will get. FWIW I also have a mom who engages in risky behavior and tells me she can do what she wants. You are not alone, many here get it believe me!
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Reply to ExhaustedPiper
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Abby88142 Jan 13, 2021
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There is a big difference between "lack of common sense" and dementia. If your Mom has the former, and not the latter, then really there is nothing you can do but reason with her. This I would do gently when you are getting along. Tell her you need to sit with her and talk to her. Then explain that any fall for her could result in an injury that would incapacitate her enough that she would need to go into nursing home care. Not about her common sense, just about the fragility of bones with age. Tell her that you are concerned for her, and say this only because of your worries for her.
Then let her speak.
Then, basically, it is over. You have done what you can. And these things are self limiting in that her choices will dictate what the outcome is for her life.
You cannot change people.
If you are speaking about dementia and an inability now to be safe alone, and safe in making her decisions, then she may need to go into care, where these decisions will be made for her.
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rovana Jan 13, 2021
So you must let elders do dangerous behaviors that impact the whole family? I mean like letting them mix cleaning fluids and release nerve gas? I think you would be wiser to decide that when dangerous behaviors are done, elder will face consequences. And if you cannot control elder, then time to let a facility do it! Why should other family members have to put up with this stuff?
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If no Dementia and just being stubborn, then tell her she is on her own and not to call you if she falls, just call 911. If she gets COVID, then she is quarantined to her house. As such, you will not be coming into her home. And if she leaves it while quarantined, u will call the police. Believe me, I was raised by a stubborn man. When he wouldn't use a walker to go to his doctor and it took Mom and me to get him to an elevator, hold him up, and then down the hall to the office, I told him I would not bring him again without a walker. Next time he agreed because I was the only one that could take him. Of course, when he got home, I got the walker back.
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Abby88142 Jan 13, 2021
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Willfully doing things that lack common sense - I can relate to this with my LO. We could not stop her!!! It was hard to accept that and it was a lifelong problem that got worse as she aged. She was never able to predict consequences or accept that there could be a bad outcome - she just went for it. She brought a lot of heartache squarely upon herself and there wasn't much we could do about it since she has her own free will and was refusing other living arrangements.

She would pull all kinds of stunts when she was alone for any length of time: using knives to open packages (she was on blood thinners), unnecessary trips up and down basement stairs (she was a severe fall risk even on a "good" day), deciding she "had to" put up Christmas lights outside (she did have a fall from this), routinely having long conversations with scam telemarketers (I'm sure she gave up info that she should not have), letting strangers into the house, making unnecessary car trips as well (long after her driving ability had started to come into question).

Regarding the driving in particular, I didn't think I could successfully get her license revoked so I decided that I would make as many trips for her as possible so that she would have less of a reason to drive and would not be on the road as much. Nice theory? She STILL came up with the same number of "reasons" why she had to drive here and there, so all that I did for her was just on top of that.

After a long and painful caregiving experience (there were a multitude of health issues on top of her poor judgment), she had an unwitnessed fall - which we believe involved a loss of consciousness. She went to the hosp and to the nursing home permanently after that. What led to that final fall at home? She told us she remembers looking for something which was stowed away somewhere & she fell trying to get it. She had a helper in the morning, another in the afternoon, and someone was coming back in the evening. WHY she did not wait for a helper to come and search for this missing item is beyond me. Unnecessary, reckless behavior cost her what was left of her independence. She's still that same person now that she's in 24/7 care, but she's falling less and general safety is much better. I would have loved for her to learn to live safely, but the more I preached.... it seemed like the more stunts she would pull off.
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Abby88142 Jan 13, 2021
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I hate to say it, but sometimes we just have to sit back and wait for 'Something' to happen!

My own mother was spending money she didn't have like thousands of dollars and I tried & tried to tell her she would lose her home, but she refuse to listen to me! I and my Sig-other live with her and all I could do was pay the house taxes and house insurance, while I waited for the bottom to fall out. It finally did!! She bounced hundreds of dollars of checks, almost lost her Health insurance. I ended up saving her health insurance then I made her come clean. She spent 89,000 dollars in less than three yrs and had to filed bankruptcy. She lost her truck and my brother's truck because her name was on it and she took out a 10,000 dollars loan! And like always, I was the one who cleaned up her mess as I have done my whole life! Sigh!!!

Now, I handle all her finances and pay all her bills and the house bills!

Unfortunately, people have alright to make bad decisions and there is nothing we can do!!
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Reply to Shell38314
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I’m sorry you are going through this. My mother always made bad decisions (likely an underlying mental illness) but once she hit 70 she was more and more unreasonable and disorganized. Looking back I believe it was the onset of dementia. There was nothing I could do except get out of the way because she was untruthful about so many things. When she was older I called APS several times and they found her to be “completely fine.” Now she’s going to be 88 this year and last year everything came crashing down. She made many many bad decisions along the way that impacted her finances and so many other things.

There were layers and layers of issues with my mother that prevented me from helping her or even communicating with her. If you have had a good relationship with your mother then you can try to have a come to The Lord meeting. You can call her out when she is not being truthful: “Mom that’s not true and that won’t work.” You can tell her that you are not going to support certain decisions. Keep it simple when talking to her like, “that’s not working for me (like if she wants you to leave work to do something that negatively impacts your time and job), you need to think of another way.” “Mom you are putting me and my family at risk and I won’t have any part of it - what are your other options.” Sounds tough but this may be just the beginning of a long battle.

Someone on his forum suggested trying to get her to her doctor and that would be a good way to start if she will agree to go. Early intervention can help. No one would give me a diagnosis of dementia (or anything for that matter) until she was placed in an ALF and was seen by a new doctor and specialist.

I am glad you are taking some action and finding some help in the beginning of it all. So many others on this forum, including me, are armpit deep. You need to first set boundaries for your own and your family’s well-being. I would not move her in with you or quit your job to be a full time caregiver. Just saying. You need to have some mastery over the situation and not let it run you ragged. I tried to step in many years ago and it was so stressful I ended up in the hospital myself.

Unfortunately for my mother I had to cut off contact, wait until she was sent to the hospital several times and her finances were in a mess. And sometimes that’s is what it takes. I am not trying to paint a bleak picture here, I’m just trying to share that with some parents it’s not an easy journey. Start reaching out for local resources now and make sure all her paperwork now in order. Keep us posted.
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Reply to Mepowers
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Get her a doctor's appointment to examine her for dementia. This sounds like Alzheimer's disease - the person with it doesn't recognize that he/she has poor decision-making. The other option may be a small stroke that affects the decision-making area of the brain. Don't be surprised if your mom's primary care doctor makes a referral to a neurologist. In the meantime, try to keep her safe and make sure you have powers of attorney for financial and medical drawn up by a lawyer.
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There is so often such a gulf between what is important FOR a person, and what’s important TO that person. It does sound like she may have some degree of dementia. Even if that is the case, what CAN she control in her life, what is most meaningful to her?

I just finished reading the book, Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande, and would recommend it to all of us dealing with loved ones who are aging and/or infirmed. It is so compassionate and well written, by a surgeon with patients who deal with end of life choices, as their choices dwindle. He’s especially credible as he goes through this with his own beloved father.
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Has she had a recent physical? Is she prone to UTIs?
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Abby88142 Jan 13, 2021
Yes and No.
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