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Mom called me TWELVE times in a six hour period with what I think are ridiculous complaints. Today the first complaint was that had her wipe the front and they only wiped the back in the bathroom. Next she complained that it took them 15 minutes to get her lunch brought to the table. (Does she have anything else she needs to do?) Then she claims they’ve fixed her wheelchair so she can’t move it. She also complains that they’ve done something to make her voice gravelly and to make her have phlegm in her throat. Then her water wasn’t in reach. And something about her bra. And not being given enough time to wash her face.


I think this is a wonderful LTC home and have seen no evidence that she’s being mistreated in any way. I know it’s important for me to show up enough that the facility knows somebody still cares about her. But the visits consist of her constantly complaining. I’ve tried lots of things to distract her but it doesn’t work. So between all the phone calls and visits filled with petty complaints, I’m at my wits end.


My mother has always been a narcissist and our relationship has never been great. None of her former friends or neighbors ever visit. My sister lives out of state so sees her infrequently. She’s rude to my husband so I don’t want him to deal with her. And I’m just fed up! Today I hung up on one of her calls and turned my phone off for two hours so I could get some things done.


She is trying to convince me that she needs to move somewhere else. I’m not doing it. This is the fourth place she’s been in two years. She really wants to live with me but we’re in the process of downsizing and moving, plus I’m physically and psychologically unable to care for her.


Should I just tune her out when she complains, try to make her understand that the staff is not trying to be mean, or ??? BTW, she does have mild dementia and is both visual and hearing impaired.

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You have my sympathy! My mom did this for years. She would call incessantly all day long. I tried lots of things, answering the calls, turning the phone off, turning it off for a few hours a day. If I didn't answer, she would call my daughter and my out of town brothers in a panic telling them she couldn't get ahold of me. So then they would call! I thought I was going to lose my mind. I finally started turning the land line off for several hours a day. My daughter and brothers got used to and also ignored her calls and I didn't give her my cell phone number.
This may be a horrible thing to say, but it actually improved greatly as her dementia progressed. In memory care she doesn't have her own phone and can no longer remember phone numbers or see the buttons on the phone to call. In addition to regular visits, I call her every morning on the caregiver line and after about a 4 minute talk, she's good for the day.
I also went through the moves to different places not realizing till after a few of them, that she would never be satisfied. In her memory care facility they literally have activities for the residents from dusk till dawn and she still acts like there's nothing to do. She is however happier than I've seen her since this journey began and that is consolation. I know each person is unique but wanted to offer some odd hope and a weird silver lining that may possibly be in your future. This journey holds few rewards for anyone involved, I've learned to take the blessings where I can find them and keep on keepin' on. Take care.
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Update: I’ve been following advice received here and it has helped a lot. Thanks to all of you for helping me make some changes. The funniest thing happened the first time I visited after this conversation, I’d been there about ten minutes and she’d been eating the stuff I brought and just as she finished there was a fire drill. That took up 15-20 minutes so there wasn’t really enough time left for her to think of any complaints.
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NeedHelpWithMom Feb 9, 2020
You lucked out. Yay! Fire drill? That must be an interesting scene with the elderly!

I find some older people often become very impatient. I guess when you reach an advanced age you always feel like time is running out. Frustrating for them and those who care for them as well.
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Bliving, sadly as we age we find our world starts to get smaller. Day after day it is same routine except for an occasional activity that your Mom may or may not enjoy.

If only your Mom could find another resident to become friends with, learn about each other's families, then the focus would be off the minor things to complain about.

Since this is the 4th move in just two years, Mom is trying for a 5th move, as that is something different and very interesting.
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NeedHelpWithMom Feb 9, 2020
I totally agree with this answer. An idle mind isn’t a good thing. Boredom and sometimes anxiety, even depression leads to all sorts of delusional thoughts. Their lives don’t have the same meaning or purpose anymore.

You nailed it FF!
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I would try to accept the fact that she's not likely to be happy or complaint free, no matter what....no matter where she lives or who cares for her. It's sometimes just the nature of them forgetting that they already called, feeling scared, feeling confused or just not realizing what they are saying. So, for me, it helped to of course, confirm that she's well cared for, but, not get distracted with things that are delusions or her imagination.

Are the staff any help with her? If not, I'd explore Memory Care. The staff there seem to be more equipped at managing the care of those with dementia.

If she's overly anxious, I'd discuss it with her doctor. I might explore medications to help with her anxiety. Meds helped my LO become much more content.

Address her ability to call you so much. Either take the phone from her (Staff can call if your're needed) or let it go to a phone with a voice mail that says you are at work, in a meeting, etc. and will get back with her when you are able. Then, check the message once a week. All of the daily back and forth is very stressful and not helpful for anyone. It doesn't help either of you. Limiting the time you spend listening to her complaints would likely limit the stress. And, when you do see her, tell her you have solved all the problems and that things are now remedied. With my LO. she tended to worry and stress over nonexistent problems. So, I would bring treats and balloons to celebrate. telling her that I had taken care of all the problems, all was well and we should be celebrating. At least for a little while, she was so happy.
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I wouldn't take my mother's phone away because she loves having it. If/when it gets to the point where she's calling 911 or making a nuisance of herself to THAT extreme, then it will go. Otherwise I think it's a mean thing to do. You, on the other hand, can control if/when you answer the incessant phone calls from her. You know nothing is really 'wrong', she's just complaining which is her norm (same with my mother), so do what you have to do to tune her out. The SNF will call you in the event of a real emergency, so rest assured with that knowledge.

Your mother isn't likely to be made to understand that the staff isn't trying to be 'mean' to her. In her world, everything has to be perfect; everybody has to stop what they're doing IMMEDIATELY to see to her needs, no matter how tiny they are, and that's that. Anything else constitutes 'not good enough' in her mind, and is likely to stay that way. That's why she's been in so many different places.....nothing is every good enough nor will it ever BE good enough, right? So what's the point in continuing to pander to this behavior. Ignore it, and look after YOURSELF for a change.

I limit my exposure to my toxic mother for these reasons as well. Once a week visits for an hour and once a day phone calls for about 10 minutes apiece, and that's about it. Anything more and my nerves are F R I E D.

Wishing you the best of luck setting boundaries and being okay sticking to them!
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Bliving Jan 26, 2020
Mom does expect instant response to her needs. And expect perfection. She dropped something on the floor and wanted me to pick it up and throw it away. I said I’d do it when I got up. She couldn’t focus on anything else and started rolling herself over to get it. And she would have fallen out of her wheelchair if she bent over herself, so she definitely was manipulating the situation. I said OK I’ll get it now and then I’m leaving. I felt guilty and childish for doing that but otherwise I probably would have screamed at her.
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Instead of taking her phone either stop answering her calls & let her leave a message or use the do not disturb feature on your cell phone. You could even block her if you wanted. The facility will call you if there’s a true emergency.
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As said, lose the phone. There is no need for her to have it. And don't let her have staff call for her. Tell her they don't provide that. Staff will call you when there is an emergency.

If you take her phone, let staff and Administer know. My daughter says at the NH she worked they had to write up a report and investigate. Only to find a family member had taken it.

Your Mom will never be happy. As her Dementia progresses it may get worse. I guess you could say "sorry Mom but this is it" I believe in being blunt when things aren't getting thru. I had a friend who was never happy. Always someone elses fault. You can't change people.
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Bliving Jan 26, 2020
You’re so right that she will never be happy. I’ve told people that being miserable seems to be the only thing that makes her happy.
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It was great when my mother couldn't figure out how to use her phone anymore. But then she never could use it (it was a flip phone that she only used to call people long-distance).

But she would sometimes get the LTC staff to call me.
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Very common, chronic complaining to manipulate and get what they want. I would block her number once she starts, unblock when you are ready to. If there is an emergency the home will call you. If she starts up when you visit her, gather you things and leave.

You will never make her understand, set your boundaries and stick to them.

Good Luck!
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What you explained is oh so common for a lot of us, who have loved ones in facilities. I am sorry that you are going through this.

What I have done is to say: "Mom, I hear what is frustrating you - and we are all trying to take care of everything at the same time. You need to pick the most important issue so that we can take care of you and everyone else at the same time. Get her to focus on one thing at a time - as I am sure she is just overwhelmed by having to be away from her family (maybe).

When my mother would get impossible and start being rude and what I would call "Get her Irish Up", I would tell her "Mom, I can't stay here right now, because you are not being nice to me or to everyone else. I am the only one here to help you and if you can't be nice to me then I am leaving. I will see you tomorrow" - and then leave. Treat her like a child. Some of her behavior, as we all know, is not in her control - but refocusing her is important to OUR survival, and be ready to just leave - even if you just arrived.

Re the phone, I would take the phone away and have your mother ask the aides for the floor phone if she needs to speak with you BUT tell the aides that she is only allowed to call in an emergecy, and that they need to refocus her when she gets aggitated and ready to fight.

I would also tell your mother that the head of the facility knows of her concerns and that everyone is trying to take care of the issues for her. Sometimes, knowing that someone is trying to help and that "she" is the priority, helps. Of course, we know that she won't remember later, but in the moment - it sometimes helps.

At your mother's next Care Plan meeting, discuss these incidents with the staff and see if they can have an aide spend more time with her to keep her focused. Good Luck!
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Bliving Jan 26, 2020
We’ve never had a care plan meeting so I’m going to call this week and ask for one. And then I’ll do as you suggested and ask mom for ONE problem she wants me to bring up. It’ll probably be about her bras, which the staff has no control over. I’ve had her try more than 20 bras and finally told her I give up. I don’t want to take away the phone because that is the only way my sister can reach her, and I wish my sister were more involved.
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Unfortunately, the frequent calls are typical in early to mid dementia, as is the wanting to move back "home". If you phone is a smart phone, I recommend you use the do not disturb function to send your mother's calls to vm for most to all of the day. If something happens that really need your attention, the AL will call you. You can call her at a time of your choosing. If your mother is only calling you and not using the phone to call friends, you might consider taking the phone.

Sometimes the best way to handle the repeated conversations about leaving the AL is to blame it on the doctor. Your doctor says you need to get stronger and be able to get to the bathroom on your own or walk to the table, etc.

You are right you need to visit to show involvement, but that doesn't mean you need to listen to all her complaints. I encourage you to bring some treat for your Mom with each visit, an ice cream, slice of pie, bottle of lotion, a DVD or a photograph of a grandchild. Try to have a conversation about something that's happening or something positive. When your mother starts complaining, use minimal responses like "Really" and "That's too bad." before trying to turn the conversation to something else. When you've had enough, it's time to leave for an appointment or you need to get home and clean out the freezer.

Good Luck!
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Bliving Jan 26, 2020
I should have been blocking her calls all along. Thanks for reminding me. Sometimes she’ll leave a message that is coherent so I can listen to that and call her back when I feel like it.
As for leaving the home, I’ve told her repeatedly that I don’t have the ability to move her because my sister signed her in. I keep telling her to call my sister but she doesn’t seem to remember how to do that.
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