Is there a way to get my Mom to talk about something other than all the things that are wrong?

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i.e. bad doctors, bad gardeners, etc?
Every time I see my mother all she talks about is negative stuff, it is so hard for me to listen to. There is never, and I mean never anything good that she talks about. The adult grandchildren really don't see her, because of this. My father died about 6 years ago, she was negative then but now it is terrible. She mostly sits at home all day, she is 85 years old. She keeps talking about all the doctor appointment she needs, eye doctor, skin doctor, etc, but never makes the appointments - we finally got rid of her car this year, and she still talks about how she wishes she had the car, which she hadn't driven in over a year, and even then maybe once or twice. I drive her to all her appointments, with a full time job.

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She is wanting you to fill the void and do everything for her because she is depressed as hell and does not feel up to it herself. That does not mean you actually try to do it all for her, but just take the perspective that she has become seriously depressed and needs treated for that and act accordingly. Depression is a very debilitating disease, and she probably was mildly chronically depressed before losing your dad and now its blossomed into what you are seeing now. I suspect that as things stand she has no more capacity to see her way out of this negative thinking and the box she has put herself in than the man in the moon.
SO understand all of you who have either stopped visiting or limited visits. If I didn't I'd have to change my name to GetnWeak. : ) Interestingly, I spent last evening going through cards which I'd saved from my aunts (her sisters) who were in ALFs as she is, or at home but in bad shape. Yes, they spoke of their infirmities, but talked about all the things to do at the ALF, etc. They accepted the changes brought by old age. Mother accepts nothing. She is nearly blind and deaf, but there are so many worse off than her, who are still pleasant and sociable.
All her frustration and anger is directed at me, and it sucks the life out of me, so I pull back. At my age (soon to be 73) I feel I have a right to enjoy my own old age, and pray that when my time comes, I can be gracious like my aunts, not bitter and angry like my mother. Meanwhile, I do what she needs, but leave when she starts to put me down, or my children. She has driven them away, and then complains that she never hears from them. So sad, and when she dies, I think I will cry for the relationship we never had, not for her death.
My mom is a lot like this. She is 88, with dementia and living in an AL facility. She complains about being bored, nobody comes to visit, she has a terrible cold, the other residents aren't friendly. I know that the staff takes her to an activity two or three times each day, other residents are chatting in the community areas, she does not have a cold, and the sad truth is that except for me and my children, there is no one left to visit her. Her friends, who are as old or older than she is, are homebound or in care facilities. When I ask who she would like to have visit, she often mentions friends who have been dead for as long as 20 years!

She is in a very good facility, and on an antidepressant. I visit once or twice each week and take her to appointments. She makes no effort to get out of her apartment on her own to visit with the other residents or to entertain herself. After several years of this, I have come to the conclusion that I cannot change her, I can only change the way I react to her. As a result, I keep my visits and phone calls short. If she starts complaining, I make up a reason why I need to hang up. Listening to a long litany of complaints is exhausting and stressful.
I have noticed that the ego is the last thing to go.

You might want to ask her about things that she did well. "Hey, mom, how did you do this or that?" It doesn't matter whether you care about the answer particularly, but it can get her off on a topic that she does feel good about. I often ask my mom about her childhood (hundreds of stories) and that occupies her without negativity for quite while.

And, of course, I always have to suggest medication. My mom was an impossible nuisance untill she got on the right meds. Have you had her evaluated? Trust me on this one: it is worth it. The right meds can turn things around overnight.
In defense of "helpmemom," I would ask some to re-read her post. This is not merely a reaction to a new situation, it has been on-going for a very, very long time, decades, and is now just getting worse. It is very easy to imagine that others are withholding understanding, sympathy, and empathy, until we offer those things for decades to no avail. I know many children and grandchildren in the US and in Germany who have simply been worn down to a sort of "survival state" by this negativity.

Hang in and get some help. Look into a geriatric doctor and the right meds. You may be surprised.
Dear Helpmemom, sorry you are dealing with this stress. There are a lot of comments suggesting that you could do more to help your mom, but I am guessing you are doing a ton. It does sound like she is depressed but it could also just be her personality for whatever complex reasons. I am dealing with a similar situation and it is overwhelming to me. I am an only child and want to help my mom be happy but it seems futile at times. She refuses to take anti-depressants but I am probably going to need them soon. Good luck to you. Check out some of the posts on narcissism and see if they apply.
GardenArtist,

Our personality traits manifest more intensely as we age. Anything we have been hiding behind a mask become more difficult to hide and it comes out.

This is why making any adjustments need to be made early to ourselves if we are aware soon enough that we need to change. Otherwise, we are who we are.

Excellent topic and I find comfort in knowing this issue seems more common than I thought in the beginning. Not sure why I expected anything different as my Mom has always been a glass half empty person. That said, our roles are now reversed and I want to be able to live with myself after she is gone. So I use techniques to keep myself whole as a top priority. First, acceptance of this current life situation. We can't change their behavior. We can change our reaction and our personal emotional state. Yoga, meditation and breathing exercises keeps my own personal resilience in check. Being able to flip the switch in my head back to a positive state is totally up to me. I find talking about the good times helps to change the subject. Bringing her flowers, bring a good movie DVD to watch while visiting. What I have learned is a bad visit can't drain me unless I let it. My Mom and stepdad have their own home 2 miles away. She would have me their all day every day. We talk on the phone multiple times a day and I visit every other day.
My mother is the same way, and it is annoying, but I understand it. And I'll tell you why.

My mother will be 87 in October. All of her siblings are dead. Most of her friends are dead too. My father died in 1992. She lives with me. She is in good medical health for her age, she still drives to church, to the bank, to the grocery store, to get her hair done. She has almost all of her marbles (although her memory is pretty bad). She has no hobbies or friends to do things with. She is hard of hearing, sometimes wears her hearing aids & sometimes she doesn't. She doesn't owe a penny to anyone, has excellent health insurance, has a good pension from my father & social security every month, and wants for nothing. She has severe spinal stenosis, for which she had a procedure done in December that eradicated almost 100% of the pain. She had very early stage 1 colon cancer in 2009 that she had a colon resection for & did not need radiation or chemo, so she got away lucky with that one. I buy most of the groceries in the house, as well as things for improvements & fixing stuff. I'm good like that, LOL.

Why does she complain & why is she so negative?

Because what else does she have in her life except other elderly people's health problems, other elderly people dying, her back pain gradually coming back, the fear of cancer coming back, etc. She's lucky I live with her, or else she'd have no one to talk to on a daily basis. I have 2 brothers, but they don't really come to see her & call her every now & then. I get it. I don't enjoy it, but I get it. When you're closer to death than you are to birth, I think mortality is always on your mind. Every ache & pain makes you think it's the end.

When I hear people say they want to live to be 100 years old, I laugh. Do those people realize that by that time, all of your friends will be dead, if you're the youngest all of your siblings will be dead, your spouse will probably be dead, you most likely won't be able to live by yourself or drive a car or make your own meals or take a shower/bath by yourself, you'll be deaf, etc? People think when they say they'd like to live to be 100 years old that they'll be in the same shape they were in when they were 50 years old, and that's not the case. The human body is like a car---when you're born, you're like a brand new, shiny car being driven off the lot. As you get older, just like a car, things start to break & need fixing & replacing, the paint starts to peel & rust begins to appear, the tires lost their tread, there are little dents & dings & scratches, and if you manage to keep the car for 30 years, other cars have come along with much better technology so the other cars that would have been 30 years old become obsolete & you don't see them on the road anymore. You're the only 30 year old car left on the road. Who wants to drive a 30 year old car that has rust, dents, bald tires, no radio or air conditioning, broken radio, torn up seats? The owner of the 30 year old car would be complaining about all of those things, just like an elderly person complains about everything in their life.

As I said, my mother complains & is negative-----and I don't like it & it is annoying & frustrating, but I get where she's coming from. I try to keep that in mind, but sometimes I do have to distance myself from her or I'll end up the same way.
HelpMeMom, sounds like your Mom needs to be around people of her own age group.... she is bored, so she complains to get attention. Any Senior Centers that are nearby? Any chance of her moving to Assisted Living. Look at all the things she could complain about there, like the children never come to visit, the food is terrible, but it would be to the other residents ;)

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