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My father really wants to see his children and grandchildren.They live on their own, in a rural setting. Their frailty is advancing though they have no plans to take on some outside care. One sister living nearby is becoming more and more taxed with little incidents. What is the 'bunker' mentality my mother is developing? How to approach her without getting her defenses up? She claims illness (not the case - but she is a drama queen even for a cold), or stress with too much family around. We have never been overbearing, and in fact everyone is scattered all around so when siblings make plans in advance to visit for holidays and she pulls the plug, it is really disruptive. She cancelled Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. My father goes along with it to keep the peace, and we figure he has to live with his choices as well. But it is heartbreaking to hear his voice wishing we could have come...

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I knew one elderly man who did this in order to hide the fact that he could no longer do the things he needed to do. He was brilliant and very handy. When his water pump broke he hid the fact that he was living without water because he didn't want to admit that he couldn't fix it himself anymore. If they were always fiercely independent, they could be trying to hide the fact that they can't do things for themselves anymore. Could someone in the family make a quiet, unannounced visit and check out how they are living?
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Thanks to all who gave their insights. I will keep these points in mind when I go to visit tomorrow.
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What does she say about visits by one person or one child's family?
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They do reach a point where they cannot handle a big crowd. It would be better to have a large family gathering at a nearby hall, and have small groups visit them for an hour at a time. Our mom is particularly upset by small children who play and laugh and run about. Mom can't multi-task anymore, too many conversations in the same room overwhelm her. It is part of aging, just as frustrating for her as it is for you.
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It does sound suspiciously like your mother has dementia and is trying to hide it by not allowing you to visit. Does anyone have medical POA?
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Was is the opinion of the sister who lives nearby, regarding their health and cognitive abilities?
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Is she trying to hide the fact that she (they) have failed physically or mentally from the family? Dementia can make one feel scared and agitated. Does she fear the disruption and confusion of a lot of family being around? Can you children take on the hosting of the family gatherings to ease the burden on your parents? I needed do that when my mom was no longer able to safely prepare a holiday meal. Perhaps one or more of you need to visit (not everyone all at once) and really assess the situation.
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