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My mom is 93, in fairly good health and still lives in her own condo, even though she is legally blind and has mobility issues (i.e. needs to use a walker all the time). I am her primary "go to" person for grocery shopping, doctor appointments and anything else she needs.

In the past few months, she's developed this habit of freaking out if she calls my home and I don't answer the phone right away. She'll leave a voice-mail and start calling around to different relatives to see if they know where I am. The most recent incident was the other day. I was in the shower. She called and left two voicemails within 20 minutes. When I returned her call, she was all agitated...she said she thought I'd been in an accident. She even got out her rosary and started to pray. I told her that I was fine; I was just in the shower. I again told her that it's not good for her to get this upset. She tells me I don't understand...I've never been a mother. Then I point out that she never did this until just a few months ago. I try to get her to explain why she's doing this all of a sudden, and she changes the subject.

This behavior makes me feel so uncomfortable...like I can't even take a shower for fear that she'll call me and go haywire if I don't answer the phone. Does anyone else have this issue with a parent?

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Average cost of AL in most US cities is almost $4, 000 per month, which doesn't cover everything-- an expensive option is Medication Management which can add 800-1, 000 per month. These places are Very Expensive, and no guarantee of the Real Costs, before you move in! I've checked with several in out area and not one would give a "maximum" cost, they all hyped up their "menu" approach but not one said there's any way to control costs. Most people cannot afford that. Be very wary of runaway costs before moving to AL.
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jetta -so familiar and it is all about boundaries. Someone said that her mother could still have her love, but could no longer have her life. Works for me. You can look after yourself while you are looking after them. In fact you need to look after yourself. That means adjusting the care mother gets, as she needs more, without harming yourself. There are options other than working yourself harder and harder.
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My Mom is 87 fragile, walker, cane etc.and biggest pain the neck. I am her daughter and she treats me like slave. Nothing is ever good enough, perfect enough and she has been a complainer since she came out of her mother's womb 87 years ago.
She too,if I dont answer her call on the first ring and goes ballistic. Or if she lives with me she has a bell she rings...do I need say more. I love my mother, but I do not like her. I sought counseling...my counselor said because she has done this all her life with me, it has just gotten worse with age. The question she stated to me to ask my Mom was "do you want a daughter or a caretaker because I can't do both?" It is setting boundaries with your Mother. I said she would have two weeks, either go home or go to assisted living place because I was no longer capable of taking care of her demands.
I use to call her anyday, she NEVER calls me...I set my boundaries and asked politely if she would call me the next day. It took 10 days of waiting and she never called!!! I called her and she read me the riot act. I said she was suppose to call me (and no she didn't forget either) She said it was not her responsibility to call me, it was my job to call her. Politely I told she needed an attitude adjustment she became furious and threatened to hang up on me and she did. I did not call her back for two weeks then she called me not apologizing but saying "Hello it is so nice to hear voice, I missed talking with you." It's about boundaries!
PS - I am not talking about people with dementia or Alheizmer's whole different game, but the scenario of making boundaries for yourself still stands otherwise you are going to be in the next bed to your mother, either seriously ill and/or insane. Done that for 55 years of my life....counseling and setting boundaries helped me in the last five years. My mom decided she wanted a daughter after all.
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alwayslearning, you seem to be right, at least in my case, where being in a care facility lessens the anxiety and takes that worry about you away. My mother was in the hospital for over two weeks and is now in a NH for rehab. There are no phones in the rooms, but provide portables. When I told her (hesitantly, Lol) she could call me anytime, she declinad and said it would be best if I called her. I visit her daily and phone her before bed. I've noticed much less anxiety about me. Will see how things go once she returns home...
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Disable call waiting on your phone and take it off the hook.
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ps, the way your mom is framing her anxiety -- that she's worried about YOU -- makes it sound like something that wouldn't be fixed by moving to an AL. But don't take that too literally. If you change her situation to where there are more people and more help around, her general level of anxiety would go down, and I'd bet anything that, by extension, whatever portion of that anxiety she has hooked onto your well-being would go down too.
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BTW there are ALs where you do NOT have to eat at set times; and there are workarounds for the places that have meal-times. For example, for a couple extra bucks you can have your meal brought to your apt on a tray, and then warm it in the microwave later when you want it. Or skip a dining-hall meal and microwave a frozen dinner you've kept in your little fridge.
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Catbalou8: you stated she fears that something might happen to you. Please heed this warning: many caregivers suffer debilitating health issues like stroke and heart attacks( the latter being more fatal to women than men) due to the stress of caregiving. Don't put off getting additional professional caregiving - do it now.
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I realise my insight will be taken as a gnarly ol' fed up caregiver but here's what happened in my house. My Mother-in-Law lived with us the last nine years of her life. She was h*ll on wheels with combative dementia; would kick and hit me every time her son left the room--knocked out two of my teeth even. But the truth to this question lies in who your parent always was. The day we got married, my MIL sent a telegram to my husband at 4 a.m.: CALL HOME IMMEDIATELY! We thought his father died. We ran around trying to find a phone to call her. When we reached her, she wanted to know if I needed extra money so we broke into her house and stole all her guests money and her 12 year old black and white TV that only got two channels. IDIOT! When we took a vacation to Hawaii, she called us constantly describing how sick she was. When I arranged for her to have antibiotics delivered to her house, she said she would start taking them once we got home!!!!! IDIOT ALERT!!!!! We spent our 15th wedding anniversary at the beach to get away from her after 5 calls to our house demanding to know if we took her money (she hired a lawyer to go over her books who, after 3 days, informed her we had not touched a penny. MIL sought to make my husband choose, all of his life, his mother over his wife. She came to our house with the same crazy set of anxiety/narcissism and drove me, especially, crazy until she died. She would hit me and then tell my husband I hit her!!!!! This is not a stroke or dementia. This is self-serving individual who will keep doing this as long as you let it work. I got to the point where I told her, "I don't care." in response to anything she said. She never stopped. When she died at 98 after *I* had two silent heart attacks, all I could think of is, "Ding dong the wicked witch is dead!" Good riddance!!!!! And for those of you who are going to tell me it's all God's plan, I've paid my dues already. I don't have to listen to anymore of that justification. Helpful to some but not helpful to me. No one helped, in fact. That was the problem with what amounted to the last 17 years of caregiving both the 8 years while she lived in her condo and the 9 she lived with us. Good luck all of you. I wish you the best!
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Thanks, all, for your kind responses. I should probably clarify a couple of things. Mom is not lonely at all. She lives in a seniors' building (but it's not AL) and has made lots of friends. Despite her low vision, she plays cards every night. She has friends in for tea. She goes out to lunch sometimes with her church friends. Sometimes, she has more of a social life than I do!

She has caregivers in on Mondays and Fridays to do light housekeeping, change her bed, etc. They also help her shower, although she's still able to do this on her own on other days of the week. She has a cleaning lady in to do a thorough clean once a month. She makes simple meals and heats up stuff in her toaster oven. There's a senior centre across the street where she buys cheap, nutritious meals. So, she really does all right on her own...for now. I know this can change.

Mom has been waffling on the idea of assisted living. She's very influenced by her friends' opinions. A while ago, someone she knows moved to an AL facility and she loves it, so mom was all gung-ho about taking a look at some places. Recently, another friend said that she wouldn't go into an AL because mealtimes are regulated in the dining room. Mom now says she would hate going to breakfast, lunch and dinner at designated times. She likes to eat when she feels like it and do her own thing.

So, for now the plan is to keep Mom in her condo as long as possible and if/when her needs change, bring in care-givers more often...every day if need be. However, that doesn't ease my burden. Yesterday, after working all day and then picking up Mom's groceries and delivering them to her, she said, "I don't know what I'd do if something happened to you. I would have to go live in assisted living." I just said, "Well, I don't think I'm going anywhere anytime soon. Let's not worry about that just now." I think her statement says it all...when she doesn't reach me on the phone right away, she's afraid that something's happened to me and that she'll be left to fend for herself. I get that, but wow, does that ever put pressure on me.
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My Mom is also home alone and with some dementia. Also refuses to consider AL or caregivers....and she has days she does exactly this. Also, when something doesn't go right, she panics and calls and calls. The other day, she pushed the wrong button on the microwave and messed up her clock. She couldn't follow the directions, and could not get me because I was in that part of AZ where the cable was cut and we were 4 hours with no cell service, internet or phone service. She typically does exactly as your Mom...calls my cell, if I don't answer right away, she leaves a voice mail hollering at me for not answering and then immediately calls the house number. If no answer there she will call my husband's cell. If no answer, she starts on the granddaughters cell numbers. And she is yelling and mad by the time she gets someone. There were days I was getting 15 to 20 calls a day from her. Better now, that I set some boundaries, and I do call her a certain times. Also, we got her alarm system set up with a couple cameras so I can go on line and see if she is OK in the house, since I live 5 hrs away. I alarm her in at night and disarm her in the morning before she wakes up, because she's never been able to learn how to work the system. She also sometimes, takes to messing up the TV because she pushes the wrong buttons on the remote....and then there is HELL to pay until someone gets over there to fix it for her!! When these things happen, she always acts like someone else or something else made it happen and then complains because I am not living there with her, or in town so I can come right over and fix it!! She does have 3 neighbors that help me take care of her when these things happen, and a volunteer group comes and checks on her. But I am at the point where I want a caregiver in home with her for 4-5 hours a day too. She's just getting worse. And it's time for me to check in with her right now....so gotta go! I LOVE the alarm system with the video. It is ideal for family who live out of town....for assurance that your elderly one is doing OK in the house alone.
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1. Thank her for praying for you! It can't hurt.

2. She is losing her grip on reality as well as some of her abilities and faculties, and is scared to death. If she has enough short term memory, your calling her at predictable times may work well for both of you.

Once, my mom asked me "If I call you on the phone and you don't answer, does it mean you aren't there?" Not sure where she thought I would be. I always tried to answer, but sometimes she would misdial and be upset; I guess I was lucky she usually blamed the phone and not me personally. Its just hard. And when it stops because they can't dial at all anymore, that's hard too, though more emotionally rather than practically. If you can find anything that occupies her time better it may help reduce but probably not eliminate this; sometimes more pictures of loved ones around will be reassuring too. I tried to get my Mom a CEIVA frame and could have loaded it up with new grandkid pix or funny sayings or stuff most every day, but she hated technology too much and wouldn't have it.
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This has happened to me, too. I am her only child and so has become dependent on me. I know she worries about her fate if something would happen to me, and forgets we have contingency plans in place, plus she has two caring grandkids. However I know how frustrating it is to feel you can't take a leisurely shower, or be away for very long. My mother has panicked when I took too long getting the paper in from the porch (decided to sweep it or clear snow). I try not to get angry at her paranoia, but it is a challenge. With short term memory loss she forgets what I am doing or where I am and worries something is wrong if I don't respond right away. Thinking about a white board - but not sure she would check it for updates on my whereabouts (and what a pain - I forget to change what day it is above the TV for her). Just try to be patient and hang ing there!
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Agree w/zoo--ask doctor to see if an assessment for early dementia is warranted. When you think about how vulnerable a 93-year-old is, living alone w/ impaired vision and mobility issues, her worries--assuming her mind is good--are understandable--and majorly intrusive.

My 101-year-old mil , R, with serious vision issues, refuses assisted living or having someone live with her--but like your mom, has 2 neighbors happy to help. This arrangement helps her only-child son and me: these 2 neighbors phone each day to say "hello" so R knows they care. Once a week (Mon. and Friday) each asks if they can take her grocery shopping (the cart provides stability for walking-- she likes to go); pick up groceries for her; or do other errands. If it's a regular offer and your mother says "yes" once, she may look forward to it. We are mostly rid of the grocery-shopping.

Do check with her neighbors assuming you think they're responsible and willing. The next time grocery shopping comes up--suggest she give a (verbal) list to the neighbor or your brother.

Re: phone. Can Mom see a large clock? Remind her constantly that if you don't answer because you could be in the shower (or whatever), you'll get back to her in an hour or two hours, unless she leaves an emergency message. If she can't see, she may not realize how much time passes. That's another issue.

You and your mom have established some rules for the game--so to speak. Once entrenched, they're hard to break. You've evidently reinforced you're "Johnny-on-the spot." But if you can let go and change one small piece of the game, your mother will need to make a small change to stay in the game etc. Good luck.
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My mother doesn't do this but she has no sense of time. Literally, I mean. My mother has Graves disease and that can affect a person's sense of time. I don't know if this can also be caused by dementia, but it's something to consider. I think I did read that dementia patients lose their circadian rhythm, too, so they don't always have a real sense of the time of day. I'm not sure whether any of it is related, but thought I'd pass it along in case any of it could be relevant.
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I think the problem occurs when she's not available to answer. I don't think the poster was trying to intentionally avoid the calls. The anxiety reaction from mom, when the poster isn't available, is the problem. I know we'd all like to be able to talk with our "moms", but many of us that still have them with us, realize that in many many ways, they are already gone and missed terribly.
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My reply is "Answer the phone"...and don't get mad at her for being that way. I know, it's annoying but I would love to be able to answer my mother's panicked and otherwise phone calls today. She's been gone for 11 years.
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My own mother also acted this
Paranoia over takes the elder.
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BTW, the 'manipulation' of telling you that you have never been a mother tells me when is totally with it! That is typical mother (and Catholic) guilt and she is working you somewhat! That is actually a good sign; she knows what she's doing despite the fact that the anxiety is real for her. Suggestion also might be to put down some rules and expectations and be firm. Tell her that you understand that she worries and cares for you, but that you will call her (how ever often and when it makes sense to you) within a 'range', so when you are not glued to a time precisely daily and if that happens to conflict, it all starts again. My MIL used to call and want to know if there was a heavy rain (we live in Fla) if we were ok and what were we going to do when the hurricane hit, etc. I brushed it off and told her repeatedly at times like that 'we get a lot of rain down here and they make a big deal of it in the news'. Even IF it was worse than that. But amazingly almost to the end she knew what customers he was dealing with and remembered his calendar (he was a national account person and all over the country and very busy), and she would ask me who he was with today, how did it go, on and on. It annoyed me at times but I realized she cared, was proud of her 'child' and these things occupied her mind. I told her often that we both traveled for our jobs and never knew really half the time where the other was, only when we'd be back home and who was supposed to pick up the dogs from boarding. After all we had cell phones so we knew if it was important we could reach each other. I tried to just remain calm with her and tell myself 'we will all be there someday and I hope my son will be patient with me'. There IS an element of truth that if you have not had kids, you may not appreciate her worry. The older one gets, the more they live in the past in their heads. Perhaps to her - and I think this every time one of my grown kids has an birthday and I can remember the day they were born! - she at times thinks of you as a child and herself as a younger mother, whose job it is to keep track. You don't have to be having it but you can just know that she might have a point and let it go.
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I like the suggestion about perhaps its a good time for AL. Her world is very small and she has too much time on her hands. I don't agree that this necessarily means 'uh, oh, dementia!'. My 93 year old mother in law did the same thing after she broke a hip for the second time and she was wheelchair bound. She had always been a force in her life and never did have dementia, but she feared that too because both of her sisters had it and died from the disease. I am only 59 but I don't work anymore and have a busy life. But I find myself taking on other people's 'stuff' sometimes because I have more time to do that now. I can see it! I don't stress out but things cross my brain that didn't when it was too full of work issues and raising kids and everything else. At 93 she has lost a lot of friends too. Someplace where she can be more social might help. We all want to live on our own, keep our homes and all, but I think when we think that we cannot see what life at that age might be like. Have patience but don't let her place a demand on you in your own mind that you must respond every time she freaks out. Might be a good idea to find her a counselor to talk to as well. And perhaps an antidepressant might ease some anxiety for her too.
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could you let her know that you will not be able to answer the phone during the time you are in the shower or whatever your plans are that means you won't be available to take her call. All in all you have your hands full and it's best to take care of yourself first.
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Catbalou8, Sounds like my grandpa in many ways, and I agree with the others. She is also probably lonely as my grandpa mentions this daily, but when help comes in he fires them because hes worried about money! The calls, yikes! I go shopping or anyone else and he thinks we should be back in hr or less, depends on how much we get and he panics! Always been demanding as well. Yup! My grandpa is also blind with mobility issues( walker) and needs care, because hes still competent by Drs, our hands are tied. He has had nurses, physical therapists come in and evaluate him in his home and all is ok enough to be there. As mentioned, eating and drinking right does help them out! We are trying to get gpa to accept 24hr care in his home, hopefully soon he will accept this. He also has a life alert, does your mom have one?

Just tell your mom how wonderful it would be for her to do some things and take her to some facilities, meet some friends, or she could have "company" come in and help until you can get her in somewhere. Good luck! Hugs
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P.S. my mom would also call me several times a day at work. That was just the beginning. If the panic got too much, she would get outside of the house and start to wander. It is amazing how strongly similar some symptoms can be among dementia patients. And then each person also has their own "thing" or two that is different. I thought this talk about the brain on the TED series was really interesting: youtube/watch?v=esPRsT-lmw8
I hope they find a way to stop this because they expect numbers to triple in the near future of those being diagnosed with some kind of dementia.
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Hi, I agree with what everyone has said here. My mom was also a very strong, independent woman who has become like almost a frightened child. She always was high strung and the dementia threw her into a whole other world of panic. She sometimes has aggressive moods as well. Her doc prescribed Depakote and has been on it for about a month. I'm still trying to figure out if it is helping, I think it is. She has been started on the lowest dose. Also, what I have found, is that when she starts getting grumpy, I get her something to eat or drink water and that seems to help as well. But unless you are ready to be the caregiver to be with her 24/7, you will need to find either someone to care for her in her home, (a live-in) or a facility. Best of luck. These times are tough.
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If at all possible financially, get mom into assisted living. You NEED some of your life back or you're headed for an early grave.

There are very good reasons why mom is this clingy (dementia being number one), but that doesn't mean you can live under the pressure of trying to fulfill her needs. Get her into an AL (even if finances are an issue, sit with an elder law attorney and make a Medicaid spend down plan). If she was living in a community, you could comfortably not answer the phone (she'll likely still call you) and know that there's someone helping her deal with her anxiety; distracting her, comforting her... and that she's not just spinning into a lather over it all alone in her apartment.

I find my father can be temporarily calmed by receiving a regular text. It will stop his phone calling for hours at a time. With your mom's low vision, texting would require some ingenuity. I think an iPhone will read a text aloud. You could try that in the meantime.
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How about creating a message that says something like, "You've reached (your name). Mom, I'm fine but just can't answer the phone right now. I'll call you back in just a little bit. Mom, and everyone else, please leave a message if you'd like.
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I've had my husband get very worried when an appointment of mine has taken too long, but nothing like you describe. Talk to her doctor as he/she will be able to prescribe a little anti-anxiety med which will calm her fears. Good luck! (maybe put a message on your phone that you are there, but unable to answer and will call as soon as you finish your project, shower, etc.).
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I have to agree with cetude, she should not be living alone with low vision issues and panic attacks. Falling would be my concern but for now maybe you could call her several times a day so she knows you are there and I bring my phone in the bathroom while I shower as not to miss any calls as I am the only caregiver to my parents of 90 and 92. My Mom panics if she doesn't hear from me by 9:00 am and always thinks something has happened to me so I keep my phone close. I know it's hard to be depended apone so much. In your situation I would move her to assisted living. Good luck to you :)
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I went through this with mom. 6 - 8 calls a day and she would panic if I didn't answer. When the calls started coming in the middle of the night too I knew it was time to move into my house.
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I agree with Pam about Assisted Living. I have gone through the phone call thing with my mom, too. She would call me each morning to "check in", and we would chat for a few minutes. Then she started calling multiple times, often forgetting that she had already talked to me. Next came the panic calls. If I didn't answer the phone fast enough (sometimes before voice mail would even pick up), she would hang up and call again. She would call every two or three minutes until I answered. No excuse for not answering was good enough for her. If I was in the shower, in a meeting, or at a dentist appointment I was still expected to answer her calls. Now she is in assisted living, and although she still has her phone, the constant calls have decreased. If she starts calling me repeatedly I suggest she go check her mail or go down to the common area to see if there is an activity going on. By the time she has done this, she has forgotten about calling me. The added benefit is that the calls don't stress me as much because I know that she is safe and has help nearby if she needs it.
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