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My 88-year-old Mom lives alone, can not drive, is in poor health, and has age-related dementia. She is not interested in AL and insists on remaining in her home. I live close by and have been her go-to person for several years now. She asks for my help or for me to visit her almost daily. I've tried to set healthy boundaries with her over the years and have been pretty successful. However, lately Mom is becoming more and more resentful of me not doing what she asks. At first she was very understanding and would say for me to help when I could. Now she makes sarcastic and sometimes childish remarks when I tell her "no", and frequently becomes angry. She doesn't do this to anyone else but me. She is sweet to everyone when I take her places and is very appreciative of anything someone else does for her, especially my siblings (who seldom even visit Mom). But, she told me the other day that I need to "step up" and do more for her. She even told me that she raised me poorly because of "bad attitude."


Does anyone have advice on how I should deal with this? I would love to explain to her that her snarkyness makes me want to do even less for her and with her.

Sometimes you just have to say no. There should be consequences to her nastiness, just like with little kids. If she's rude, yelling, and demeaning, stop, say something like, "I refuse to be treated like a slave. Perhaps we can talk when you are more reasonable," and leave.

You NEVER need to let yourself be bullied and that is what she is doing. Everyone else sees her as a dear old saint, right? That's abuse. Don't take it. You can call Adult Protective and get them to visit with you sometime - say to mom, these are some friends I've invited over. Get them to evaluate her and see what kind of plan they can come up with for her. This is free. The trick is to get them inside the house to chat with you both.

Step back. Save yourself.
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Reply to surprise
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This may be completely unhelpful, but perhaps might work for you if not her.

Have a session with her, complete with pencil and paper, and ask her to tell you all the things that people actually do for her that are helpful and/or she appreciates. Make lists under each person’s name. Write out a fair copy of the lists and show her, when she gets snarky. Your list is going to be the longest by far, and you can tell her that she provided all the information and agreed it.

If you want, another time ask about things that people actually do that make her cross, and make lists under each person’s name. Not things that aren’t done, things that are actually done that annoy her.

Some people have talked about having a written record of things that have been ‘agreed’ to show the angry parent, to stop each flow of complaints. Perhaps this list would have the same effect. Anyway, it might be therapeutic for you to see the scale of what you are doing compared with the siblings and others. Perhaps you even show other people, if they seem to believe her complaints.
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Reply to MargaretMcKen
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polarbear Dec 1, 2018
Great idea! MargaretMcken.

I like lists and charts and graphs. A number/logic person I am. Hehe. Make things so much easier to visualize and understand. And it's hard to argue when it's all in black and white.

But then with dementia people, all bets are off.
But it's worth a try.
I am arguing with myself here.
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They become like 3 year olds. I feel like my own mother doesn't see me as a real person, just her servant. If my mom expects too much, or don't get instant gratification, she can become quite mean. (Not every mom), but mine had always been demanding of my poor father. He was a great guy, nothing like her. No surprise he died early, God bless him. I don't want the same to happen to me, but it requires emotional detachment from her, & finding something else to do (so your mom's unhappiness won't consume you). Instead of enjoying my retirement, I'm looking for part time job, (just to interact with others & stay sane). Find a way to enjoy your own life that God gave you, & dont let her take it away. Shalom☺✌
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Reply to Tiger55
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I'm like Tiger, my mother has always seen her kids as unpaid labor. My mother pitches a fit when I won't go running to the store for every thing that she wants. Many times, she already has the stuff around the house but can't find it. I will tell her that I will go the next day(usually don't) or try to find something similar in the house to distract her. I've read that, with anyone, the best way is to say 'well I can't do that for you, but I CAN do this'... to give them an option. I have told my mom that God did not put me on the planet to be anyone's servant. That calmed her down for a while, but I still have to remind her. They do become like ten year old kids, but you still have a right to put limits on it. Ex boyfriend said to just walk away, and sometimes that's all that will work.
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Reply to LivingSouth
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I’m afraid I have to agree with ArtistDaughter. Expecting someone with dementia to be reasonable can get nearly impossible as the dementia worsens.

I once was having a discussion with my mother regarding something unpleasant that had happened to me as a child.

Moms take on the occurance was off kilter that I stupidly needed to correct her and reminder what really happened.

Of course it lead to an argument.

Finally, I said to her “it happened to me - you weren’t even there! Do you really think your memory of the situation is more accurate than mine?”

You see, I really didn’t understand much about dementia at the time - or I never would have bothered with contradicting her in the first place.

Of my mother snapped “yes it is”. And, proceeded to tell me of the many other ways she’s smarter than me. Sigh!

Soooo - rather than trying to get your mother to understand and be reasonable - I think you’re better off developing strategies on how to not let her get to you.

Sorry to say...
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Reply to Rainmom
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Unfortunately I have to tell you this is only the beginning! At least you’ve had the blessing of having a more considerate mother earlier on. She is not thinking about the situation correctly, she is unable to.

The first thing to do I believe is to realize the situation has changed, which is a sign for you to pay extreme attention to make sure any changes needed are made timely, for example, if there is a need to change her living situation and get in house help, for example. Her aged related dementia seems to definitely be getting worse.

Secondly, please keep in mind that she cannot help her behavior, it is not just the result of an unpleasant personality. It is the result of an illness. If you really understand this, her behavior won’t bother or hurt you as much. Don’t try to understand logically what has no logic! Just take on your parent-like role and treat her lovingly, kindly, and still, respect your boundaries, just learn to humor her instead of confrontimg her.

if she says something hurtful such as that you need to step up, just say something like ‘Mom, I’m so sorry you feel that I’m not doing enough to help you, trust me I’m trying my best. I will do what you need as soon as I have a chance. And I love you!’
If her response is negative don’t engage in any further arguments, don’t feed her need to be confrontational. Just remain quiet. She will get over it, and you will save yourself a sad, annoying AND Pointless argument.

Best of luck LM1984! Breathe, breathe and breathe!!!
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Reply to Rosses003
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Do not ever say NO. You should always respond positively. Like: I want cake. Yes mom after we have had our dinner. I want an ice cream. Yes mom, after we eat, we are going for a walk in the park and we will have ice cream. My treat.

The same when she demands more visits or a trip to the mall, etc. Do not waste your time to logically explain things like cake before dinner ruins your appetite or we do not have ice cream at home.

The fact that she abuses you while she is cordial with others... that is a normal behavior that our loved ones show with their main caregiver. The barriers are all down and they expect miracles from the daughter who does most of the heavy lifting. This was discussed on a different forum and a patient who could still comment intelligently said "I make a hard effort to show to the outsiders that everything is going well and I am OK. It takes a lot of energy and concentration. I do not need to make the same effort with my wife because she knows how bad it is and she understands". So take it please as part of the disease not a grudge against you with all that you do.

Good luck.
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Reply to msamada
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It is quite common for those with dementia to turn on the person that is closest to them - this is spouse, sibling, child as this doesn't seem to matter the exact relationship - we all have been through this in one way or another - I think of it as the 'BADGE OF COURAGE' to be dealing with this

I finally had to put my foot down with my mom - she lit into me when I got there then she yelled 'if you don't do it then leave' so I said 'goodbye and remember I am your only visitor' and left within 5 minutes of getting there & didn't go back for days [40 min each way to the NH] - she realized she was cutting off her nose to spite her face & was much better after that

It seems that with my mom, she would remember things with strong emotions attached - so because she was yelling at me & I left immediately then afterwards she was better most of the time - I also told her quite forcefully that I would not accept that type of behavior from her .... basically you are dealing with a 3 year old with extra baggage - so would you take that sort of stuff from a 3 year old? ..... NO so why take what is abuse from someone you are helping -

It took a few times but she finally realized that when she was nice everything was better for her - she was incapable of reasoning or verbalizing but when there was no visitors then there was no treat also [I always brought something small like a doughnut or a specialty coffee] & that as much as anything was why she cleaned up her act .... at least with me

Try taking a firm stance - like marking off on a calendar with high lighter which days you will be there & note the day you will do any shopping for her [once a week except for emergency meds] - it will take a few tries but the line in the sand is drawn now & stay firm as this won't be overnight -

Best of luck to you & the rest of us in the same situation but it helps knowing that others are in the same boat & have survived - then she will slip down farther & you may miss her spiritness [OK that's a stretch ... LOL]
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Reply to moecam
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Both my parents (92 & 93) are alive and living in AL 30 minutes away. Mom has dementia, dad has medical issues that make him tire easily and get cranky. Every time I see him or we talk on the phone he has another "favor" to ask. I used to do it right away, even if it was inconvenient. Now I say, "sure - the next time I go to the store, etc." It is a "yes" with "limits."

He was also getting nasty with me at times, so I finally said a few times that if he was going to be crotchety with me I was going to leave. Took a few times (and my mother who always says thank you for helping and tells him to say thank you!) and that subsided.

Now if he calls and it is really an emergency I don't feel so burned out doing something quickly.
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Reply to Judysai422
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Im1984, my 91-yr-old mom has similar behavior as your mom expresses. She refused to move from her two-story condo, even as her health deteriorated, until after several hospitalizations, a doctor told her she couldn't live alone without someone living with her - to her, doctors are authority and she accepted his declaration. I'd tried for years to get her out of her home. Currently my mom lives in AL, but regardless of her living arrangements, she has always wanted me to wait on her hand and foot, sit with her for hours while she naps, "get me a glass of water," or whatever, and put it right there (at the preferred angle). And I have done these things in the past, to my angst and frustration. I now live one thousand miles away (used to live 2500 mies away), have no siblings, so when I am with her I have to stay in a hotel and have no excuse to be any place else (or stayed with her when she lived alone in her own home). The last two years have been one major health crisis after another, taking toll on her mind also. In her bad moments, she treats me with anger, unrestrained fury, vulgar language. Other family members have witnessed her tirads at me, and they get up and say, "OK, I'm leaving now," and walk straight out the door. I started doing this too, or saying, "stop yelling at me or I'm leaving," or when she asks me to do something I won't do, like buy her alchohol and I say, "No I won't and you shouldn't have any," she'll say, "You have no right to tell me what I can't have," and I'll say, "You are right but I'm not buying any." Actually, I do have the right to tell her no because I have all proper legal authorities she assigned to me, but that does not matter to her. Her mind is going. She cannot remember that she even has any great-grandchildren, much less their names and how old they are. Anyway, my point here is to express my solidarity with you, that we have mothers with similar behavior, and that I, too, am concerned for my health welfare. I have had to develop my own personal boundries and stick with them when she pushes them. She is in a great AL for many reasons and her daily needs are met. She is not like this all the time, but there is no knowing who picks up the phone when I call - the nice mom or the mean mom - and then the conversation goes one way or another. As for my health, I feel pressure to take care of myself because if something happens to me, then all this falls to my oldest (middle-age) child (who lives farther away than me) who has a full busy life. I couldn't do that to him, so I have to take care of me, and that means healthy boundaries for me and my mom. It's like the safety instructions on an airplane: in the case of the cabin depressurizing, oxygen masks will drop from the cabin and you put yours on first before helping someone else. I wish you and I were friends - we could go out for coffee and then a nice walk to clear our minds and recenter ourselves. It's anguishing to shoulder this alone (my hubby is very supportive but has his own limited limits). Every morning I read the daily AgingCare email and questions, because I find such reassurances here that others are going through this journey too, and there is good advise here. God bless.
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Reply to Live247
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annemculver Dec 11, 2018
Live: an excellent response. I do hope you can permit her some things she loves. Pleasures are few at this stage.
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