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My mom lives in AL with different levels of care. She has her own little room with bath and goes to the dining hall for meals. She was diagnosed with MCI a few years ago and it's continued to decline. It's like her mind is just gradually going away completely, so strange because she was always curious and interested in things and ideas. So far she still knows who I am and who she is, but It's not possible to have a conversation with her, because she has no points of reference or common understandings. She has few friends and has always been introverted and prone to depression, and now that you can't really converse with her (and her friends are getting older too), she doesn't have much to do. She sleeps a lot, more all the time.


I feel like a terrible person, because I absolutely hate going to visit her. The smell of the dining hall, the elderly infirm people on walkers and in wheelchairs, the moment of entering her room and seeing her asleep again, waking her up and getting her to put on her glasses and hearing aids, the laboring to make small talk, answering the same questions as ever and being unable to get her to understand what I do for a living, on and on. I just hate it.


Last time I went, she was fast asleep as usual, and I just couldn't. So I tidied up, checked her supplies for what she might need, then just left a note and went home.


I used to be able to get myself over there once a week, then it was every 2 weeks, now every month. I'm in an intensifying spiral of guilt - resistance - guilt - resistance.


What is wrong with me? She's a sweet little old lady. She can still be very funny at odd moments. Or infuriating too. I know I have a lot of baggage from the past when she didn't take very good care of me. Maybe I haven't forgiven her? I don't know.


Has anyone here stuggled with these kinds of painful, conflicting, confusing feelings? I wish I understood it better. I feel so bad about it all the time. Thanks for listening.

So, I felt very much the same. I kept my visits to once a week tops and one hour. Always brought a treat ( a latte and a chocolate cookie or cake) so mom had some thing occupy her. I also came with about 30 minutes of " material". Sort of like stand up. Funny stories about my kids , grandkids, cousins and friends of mine that she knew. I embellished A LOT.

Then I'd push her wheelchair outside to look at the pond and trees or if the weather was bad, around the facility to see who was where and look out the windows at the weather.

Then back to her room and I'd cut her fingernails, trim her facial hair and lotion her up with something that smelled nice.

It was exhausting. But having a plan helped.
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Kittybee Feb 18, 2019
This is terrific. I've experimented with this without even being aware I was doing so. You're right, the visits where I have a plan are always the least stressful and most "successful." She is very visual and loves looking around at things like plants and trees and planes flying through the sky. She enjoys the taxi rides when I take her to appointments, enjoys looking at the buildings. Also, I've been able at times to realize that she's not in the right mood for a visit, which will only make me feel bad, so I'll say, well I was just in the neighborhood (not!) and thought I'd stop by. Great to see you, love you bye! And that can be enough.

Thank you!
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Oh, something else. I gave myself a reward after every visit. There was a fabulous dairy with homemade ice cream nearby. I gained 25 pounds in the 4.5 years my mom was in the NH.

When my doc noticed, I explained that ice cream and white wine were getting me through this stressful period in my life. He told me that Bourbon was probably a better idea. Ps I've lost the weight.
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CantDance Feb 18, 2019
Barb,

You crack me up!
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I can't tell you how comforting it is to see a post like this. Because I feel the same and I feel the guilt. You were brave to come right out and say it. I too hate going to visit my mom with dementia (Alzheimer's) in AL. The shock of the facility, which is lovely really but it is a "holding pen" for seniors. And sometimes you encounter someone who is really having a hard time and it's a real shock to think that is where mom lives now. And then there's what mom is like now - unhappy, repeatedly asking the same questions, and unable to understand her situation and why she has to be there. My brother and I each go twice a week. Each time I take deep breath before going in. What has helped me is adjusting my attitude. That is the one thing I can control. The following things have not made the negative feelings go away, but do help):

I try not to think negatively about mom before I go. I realized that when I did this, it was mostly my guilt trying to make her seem unreasonable/unpleasant so I could feel better (lots of guilt) about not taking her to live with me. I now tell myself that our visits are the highlight of her day and the least I can do is make her happy while I'm there. Even if it means pretending to be cheerful and wanting to see her. Hard because I'm not an actor and it goes against my nature, but I do my best. It has made a difference.

I've cut my visits down to 30-45 minutes, tops, unless I'm taking her to an appointment. The shorter time is more bearable for me, and it passes quickly. And I do the visit at the start of my errands, so I get it over with, then go on to do other things (groceries, shopping, banking, etc). I'll admit I even reward myself by doing a little shopping for myself afterwards sometimes. Now, I remember how good it feels to leave, with my visit done, and the rest of the day and next couple of days "free".

And as others have said, I've gotten to know some of the other residents. Some visits are spent sitting with mom and her 2 best friends and chatting all together. Also calling other residents by name and touching their hands or giving a hug - I know they appreciate this and it makes me feel good. I've had some nice chats with some of the staff too. This all personalizes my experience there and makes it seem less institutional.

These have helped me adjust my attitude. I learn a lot from these forums - ideas for doing something, or for adjusting my expectations. Hope this helps. It's a tough go.

Trish
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Kittybee Feb 18, 2019
Thank you, Trish. These are all good ideas for coping, and I especially like the point about negative thinking being guilt/justification for avoidance. I think this must be at work for me too. I like the idea of thinking beyond the visit too, to the next things you need to do, and your reward! lol.

My mom had one friend, but that friend has become quite old and in constant pain, and can't now really handle visiting my mom very much - but I visit her and we have nice conversations. She's an avid knitter, so she always shows me what she's been working on, and it's always something new, she's so fast. She also paints beautiful little pictures, so we talk about that. Or we'll talk about something about my mom - she does look out for her, which is a big help. It is a bright spot I sometimes reward myself with after I'm done with my mom.
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My mom and I had a positive relationship but I can still easily relate to the yuck of visiting. My mom was in a nursing home, over time she lost verbal ability, and visits were hard with one sided conversations. She was fully present, but not able to contribute much, and though it was a very good nursing home I couldn’t help but hate the environment. What I learned from watching the place though, was that the visits were important to show the staff we cared. Residents who had regular visits and involved family were treated with more care and kindness, it’s the truth. It may not be the best side of human nature, but it’s still true, when people see that you care, they care more. That’s why you plow through and show up, it keeps the staff knowing you’re paying attention and aware that this is a resident that is cared about
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Kittybee Feb 18, 2019
Oh, wow! I never thought of that. I'll bet that's very true. The caregivers there are overworked but remain as cheerful as they can, but...they're overworked. Mom isn't a complainer, so it would be easy to overlook her when given the choice between her and someone who was noisier and/or had a lot of people looking in on her.

Thank you so much.
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Yes, I understand where you are coming from. I have written on other posts about my loss of feelings related to my parents. My parents are both now in a nursing home and I see them three, sometimes four times a week. I spend half the time tidying up, talking to the staff about them, and the rest of the visit is for them. Years ago (my siblings and I began the caregiving journey over 17 years ago), I asked God to help me to see them through His eyes and to give me the will and power to continue to care for them because I was so loathe to do it. This is an ongoing prayer. I can only say he continues to answer my prayer on this issue daily. On my own strength and will, I could not.

I do not enter the nursing home without asking Jesus to go in with me. The sights, smells, sounds are all filtered through the love of God. Is it all wonderful? No, but I experience it all in a way that is bearable and has purpose. There are many other residents there that I have grown to care for and who welcome me like a relative. Yes, they are old, demented, and often outwardly unlovely, but I greet and visit with them anyway. All through the grace and power of God. Of myself, I could not do this because my natural inclination is to shrink from, avoid or flee. I sometimes marvel at my own reactions now and how they have changed. To God be the glory.
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Kittybee Feb 18, 2019
It's good you've found a way. You visit them a lot!
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I didn’t have the easiest childhood and mom was narcissistic to boot. We tolerated each other for many years. She definitely wasn’t “maternal” and the pregnancy wasn’t her “idea”.

Fast forward to mid stage Alzheimer’s. I (the only child) had to intervene. We had her at our house for 3 months but that physically and mentally didn’t work. She’s been in memory care for 3 years.


She’s in stage 6 Alzheimer’s and has (finally) lost her narcissism. I like her a lot more now! She even told me a few months ago that she loved me (although she didn’t know our relationship). It brought a tear to my eye, as I’d waited 61 years to hear that.

I guess being a nurse helps me tolerate the other residents and their smells/sounds/looks and the building.

I’ve forgiven my mom for not being the mother I wanted and needed. She needs me to watch over her and I need to do that. However, I also visit for only 20 minutes at a time, because we are both “done” by then. We visit once or twice a week. She’s in better physical shape at 96 than I am at 62!

Try forgiving your your mom for not being who you needed her to be. Maybe you will see your visits in a new light.
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Kittybee Feb 19, 2019
I admire you for doing the work of forgiving your narcissistic mother. And for becoming a nurse! Nurses are like earth angels! I have had a few who were completely not down with my slightly delirious, weepy nonsense the few times I was in the hospital, and just told me to suck it up, do the work, and get out of there asap. I appreciated those people so much! Yes, changing bedpans, dealing with gross bandages, smells, etc. Bless you!
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I had a good Mom but I went thru the same thing. By the time she was placed in the AL she could not carrying on a conversation. She talked but just as you were answering her, she was on a different subject. She declined monthly. When I visited, I talked more to the other residents then her. I really understand where ur coming from.
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Kittybee Feb 18, 2019
Thanks, it's helpful just to know others have been there too. Underneath everything, I think I must just be really sad, and going over there brings me face to face with it and there's nothing I can do about it.

I read a couple other posts where people felt guilty that they wished their loved one would die. I have that thought too at times. How can she stand the emptiness of her life? Sometimes I think that she has "decided" to pass the time by sleeping, and one day she just won't wake up.
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I can relate to everything you've said. I feel the same. My relationship with my mother was complicated and not the most positive. Still, she raised me and sacrificed for me and I feel I owe her. I feel so guilty that I am not doing more for her but caring for her is overwhelming. I visit her once a week at the group home she lives at and basically can't wait to leave once I get there. She is unhappy with everything and very negative. There is nothing I can do to make her happy though I try. I think its important to still be positive around our parents in this situation and to try not to let our distress show. I am struggling with this, but I know it's important.

I want the best for her and am trying to stay strong. It does help to know that others share the same feelings/experiences. Do what you can for her and remember not to be too hard on yourself. Hang in there!
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Kittybee Feb 18, 2019
Thank you! I wish I had advice for you. You are showing up for her regardless of "reward" and that's huge in itself. You're right, you can't "make" her happy, you can only do what you can do. The fact that you keep showing up for her is the main thing.

Also, I struggled with that feeling of "owing" my mom. But then I thought, wait a minute, SHE decided to have me - I didn't ask for it! When you're a mother, you give to your children and that's that. There's no moral obligation or law that says the child now is required to reciprocate. When the relationship is, shall we say, "mixed" as mine with my mom is, it's even harder to justify putting that guilt trip on yourself.

And the real point of that is to just remove that guilt and keep removing it when it comes back. You have the best intentions for her, you continue to show up and do your best for her. There is nothing to feel guilty about.
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Its normal to feel the way you do. If you can't communicate with her now, you are frustrated. I have my mom ask the same questions everytime I visit. I try to just give her a short answer because I know she will ask me tomorrow. And I feel so sad and guilty for leaving her there. But she can no longer live alone or even with me. She needs so much care.
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KittyBee,

You didn't create this situation. No guilt.

Keep visits short. Make them infrequent. Bring a little something. Treats, something to look at, etc.

I take my mom old magazines, like Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping. It doesn't matter they're 10 years old. She looks at the pictures, gleans what she can from the articles. She loves them. When she's done with the magazines, she or I pass them on to another resident and they circulate through the facility. Sometimes they end up back at Mom's! LOL

She loves certain treats that don't require refrigeration. I bring them to her. No, they probably aren't good for her but hey, she's 93. They make her happy. That's what counts.

I try to keep topics neutral, try not to stir her up. Sometimes take her for a little drive, to a store, or something. Never let her see my shock or pain at anything she says. When I can no longer redirect the negativity (anywhere from a few minutes to 2-3 hours), I say, "Oh Mom! So-and-so's expecting me! Gotta go!" I give her a quick hug before she starts the woe-is-me diatribe and leave.

Sometimes I go home depressed for days. It takes that long to shake off the anger, frustration, pain, and sadness I had to suck up. I walk a tightrope between Mom's self-made hell and my own emotional stability. If I don't take care of myself, I won't be able to take care of her.

No one gets to decide for you how often or how long these visits. Do what's right for you. Brush off criticism. You're in this for the long haul. You didn't create this situation. No guilt.
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Kittybee Feb 19, 2019
"Sometimes I go home depressed for days. It takes that long to shake off the anger, frustration, pain, and sadness I had to suck up."

I know what you mean.

Big hugs and thanks, CantDance.
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