My Mom complains tirelessly about the same things over and over. What can I do?

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Thank you so much for your caring responses. I am going to see if my mom will go to a counselor. Keep your fingers crossed about this!! Thank you again.
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Your mom could have her marbles, as you say and still be in need of mental health care. Mental illness is very real and has nothing to do with intelligence. Without investigating what is wrong with her, I wouldn't just chalk her behavior up to being an annoyance. Why not really listen to what she is saying and then follow up to see if these complaints are valid and need addressing or if she is forgetting about her numerous complaints. Then you can properly address the situation.

If she complains about her health care, check it out. Maybe her health care is inadequate. If she complains about her neighbors in the IL, talk to others to confirm. Maybe they are a problem. If she is truly miserable, maybe she is depressed and needs meds. If she is actually forgetting her previous complaints, then maybe she has dementia. If that is the case, no amount of telling her to stop will help, as she will forget those statements. With dementia patients you have to learn to listen to the repeated statements over and over with patience and compassion.

If you think she just wants to complain for no real reason, then why not get her scheduled to see a counselor once a week? Perhaps that would provide her with another outlet to express herself.
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Join in perhaps? If you agree and take up her theme and exaggerate it, maybe out of sheer cussedness she'll start defending whatever it was she was initially complaining about… well at least it would make a change!

Is there any substance to her key complaints? Or are they all about things that no mere mortal could do anything about, like the weather or the imperfectability of human beings?

Some people do just enjoy complaining; and if that description fits your mother then I'm not sure that forcing her to change her behaviour is desirable, even if it were possible. You can reserve the right to point out to it that you get very weary with her conversation - "Mother, I hope you're enjoying this 'cos I'm not" - or, for a quieter life, resign yourself to doing the visits but not expecting them to be any fun.

BUT if this is a radical change from the person she used to be, it's a different matter altogether. Has she always enjoyed a grievance, or used she to be a reasonably positive and chirpy individual?
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Continue to set boundaries. Tell her bluntly that you have heard it before and don't want to talk about it. When she starts up, change the subject, hang up or leave if she won't be distracted.
And help her find other things to do and think about. Unfortunately as we get older there are more and more things to worry us and complain about.
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Thank you for your responses! This was my first post on the site and my first time here. I will say that my mom is 89 and has all her marbles. Lives independently in senior housing. What I have been doing is asking her if we can talk about happy things for a while. That works for a very short period of time. When she starts complaining after that I just leave and go home. I was just wondering if there are ways to extinguish this behavior....
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I have this a lot too, and honestly, i have to tune her out sometimes. my grandma in law will literally complain continously about anything and everything. even if nothing is wrong, she will find something to complain about, just to complain. it drives me mad! so half of the time if its just pointless complaining, and not a serious isuue, ill have to tune her out and nod and say yes. its hard to do because we have more rational thought. after she is in bed, ill go off somewhere quiet and meditate for a bit, and that is the most helpful thing!
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Older people do this a lot. Sometimes it is due to the reasons sunnygirl mentioned. And other times it is just a way of communicating. When the day is filled with little aches and pains and inconveniences, it is what they think about. So when they talk, it is what they talk about. The only cure I know for it, if that is the case, is to get out more and be around people. That makes their world get a little bigger, so they talk about other things for a while.
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You don't say what your mom has been diagnosed with. What is she complaining about? Her health, money problems, her mobility, her environment?

Maybe she complains because she needs more input in her life from her loved ones. Maybe she is depressed and medication is in order. Maybe she has dementia and she is confused and forgets that she has already complained, so she says it over and over.

Why not write down your concerns about the complaining and anything else you have observed and discuss it with her doctor? Maybe a physical exam and mental exam could provide some answers and options.

If you are more specific about the situation, you might get more concrete responses.
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