How can you deal with an 84-year-old Mom who refuses to go to the doctor, but says she is in tremendous pain all the time? - AgingCare.com

How can you deal with an 84-year-old Mom who refuses to go to the doctor, but says she is in tremendous pain all the time?

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Constantly complaining

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You hand her a glass of wine and suddenly the pain is gone.
My MIL put her hand over her heart and announced she did not know how much longer she would be here.
" Should we get the stickers?" I asked.
" What stickers?" she whimpered
"You know, the stickers, Gary gets this, Sue gets that" I said.
She sat straight up and yelled "NO WE DON'T NEED THE STICKERS"
Instant recovery. She never complained again.
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If your Mom has constant pain, chances are it isn't from the dementia.   Where is this pain that Mom has?

Sometimes we need to use a therapeutic fib to get an elder to do something.   Like telling her that if she doesn't go to the doctors at least twice a year, she could loose all of the health insurance.   Some elders will sit up and take notice.
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What sort of pain? I know this isn't the answer, but the first thing to do is check she doesn't have an obvious source of real pain.

Assuming she doesn't, so that you don't have to take any immediate action, then you could ask her what she would like you to do to help. And if she wrings her hands and wails that nothing will help, stick a sympathetic expression on your face, give her a hug, and fetch her a nice cup of tea. Or, as Pam suggests, and I think I might take that advice for myself, a modest glass of wine.
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What kind of doctor is she seeing? You state that, she has dementia, short term memory gone, seeing people in the house, hiding all her stuff cause people are coming in and taking it. A person who has significant memory loss, delusions and hallucinations, imo, needs to be evaluated. Based on my experience, many Primary care doctors aren't as well versed in treating dementia patients as we would like. Maybe, a new doctor would be helpful. Or a consult with a Geriatric Psychiatrist.

People who have dementia often have difficulty in accurately reporting pain. Since your mom is reporting it, she may really be feeling it, but, it could also be pain due to depression, anxiety, etc. Sometimes these conditions cause real pain and symptoms. Perhaps medications could make her feel better. Your mom could also have delusions that make her think she's sick or in pain. That's why I seek a psychiatrist, if that is feasible.

There are ways to get people to see the doctor.  You may have to be creative.  Sometimes just saying it's for an immunization, checkup, free visit where you get a coupon for a free meal, etc. I've heard of a lot of ways to get them there.  You provide the doctor a list of what you are observing and concerned about before hand.  Though, it sounds like the doctor she's been seeing may not be open to that. 
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She does have COPD and I checked with medical personnel a couple years ago when she had a bad upper respiratory infection and wouldn't go to the doctor. He said as long as she is of sound mind and hasn't been diagnosed otherwise there is nothing I can do. She has dementia, short term memory gone, seeing people in the house, hiding all her stuff cause people are coming in and taking it. She has lived with me for 19 years and since Christmas she thinks she has just come for a visit, always talking about having to go back home (MO) dreading the trip. She can't hear, I have to repeat everything 4-5 times, then when I raise my voice so she can hear, she says I'm yelling at her. So hard to be patient when she refuses to cooperate with anything I suggest. She won't believe anything I tell her, always has to go check it herself. She knows her mind is going, and I think she is scared they might find something wrong.
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You are describing the behavior of most loved ones cared for by posters on this forum.
As the Dr told you if she has not been diagnosed as being of unsound mind there is not much you can do. I am sure she is afraid and confused but i don't believe there is a textbook answer to this question. I am sure that medication for her depression would be very helpful assuming she would agree to take anything. Do you believe she has actually got pain?
Is there any way you can do to trick her into going to the Dr? Would she go for something like a flu shot? if you can find a way to get her there send a letter ahead of time listing all your concerns. She will probably not to allow you to go in with her to the Dr's office.
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There are physicians that will come to the home! When the MD arrives, explain to your Mom that this friend needs to evaluate seniors as part of his/her studies. Tell her this is a great opportunity to help this 'friend'. Tell the MD ahead of time about all of the issues you describe.
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Thanks for all your responses. Mom had 9 surgeries in her lifetime and been in and out of the hospital a lot when she was younger. She fell 3 years ago and fractured her pelvis in 2 places, in the hospital for a week and in a Nursing Home for a month. This is when her memory begin to get really bad. Up til that time she was just forgetful. Her memory was completely gone in the hospital and Nursing home. I ask her therapist is her memory would return if I took her home, he said it might, sometimes when they get back into familiar surroundings, it does. The funny thing was when she would go to the Occupation Therapist, she would tell me he was trying to prove she was crazy, and she would get every question he ask correct except month, day, year and president.....then back in her room she was completely out of it again. When she went to her doctor after that fall, he said she had a mini stroke at some point. I believe that maybe why she fell. Then she fell going down the steps last year and hit her shoulder on the wall. She complained so much I finally convinced her to go to the immediate care center. They x-rayed it and said nothing was broken, but to see her doctor if it continued to hurt. Of course, it continued to hurt but she refused to go back because she really didn't remember falling or even going to the doctor. Her regular doctor doesn't seem concerned. I tricked her into going for a flue shot a couple years ago and called ahead and talked to his nurse, he said that she was just getting older, that was life. She fell and fractured her neck bone that hold her head up last March and she had to go to her doctor after being in the hospital......tried to talk to him again and it was like he didn't want to address the issues, he said she answered all my questions correct. Of course she would never agree to seeing any other doctor, cause he knows all her history. She worked as a Nurses Aid in a hospital for years, so she thinks she knows as much as the doctors. I think the pain in the shoulder is very real.....sure it is something to do with the muscles since there was no bone broken .

She is always complaining about bad headaches, with all the weather changes, I think those are real too.   We both have a lot of allergies and I've had several headaches too.  I keep trying to get her to let me check her blood pressure and of course that's another battle.  

 She has acid reflux really bad and refuses to take any medication for it, of course she wouldn't remember to take it. So her stomach bothers her every time she eats. It just kills me to see her suffering like this, but there is nothing I can do. I've tried everything you all have mentioned and it just always ends up in an argument and her telling me she is moving back to Missouri, where she lived all her life. She only has one sister there who recently remarried and no place to live, can't afford to rent anyplace and pay all the bills on her SS, besides she is so scared at night, she couldn't live by herself. She is always telling me she has done things all her life and she will do it now.

She fights me on anything I suggest and won't let me help her at all. If I tell her something, she will tell me flat out "I don't believe that".

Sometimes I think I'm the one losing it. She will go from being her normal self one minute to talking about people being in the house stealing her stuff the next.
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Very complicated joint, the shoulder. Could be all kinds of damage to soft tissues like cartilage and tendons which would be very painful (and they *ache* a lot, it's miserable) and take forever to settle down. Nothing you can do about it, except maybe help her settle her arm onto a pillow - but no position stays comfortable for very long, unfortunately. Wheat bags that you heat in the microwave might help a bit.

The acid reflux... well, you could try handing her an over-the-counter antacid with a glass of water before meals. If she won't take it, she won't take it, but you've done what you can. Though... there is a nasty bacterium (helicobacter pylori, it's called) that causes heartburn and ulcers, and can be permanently cured. If I were getting this symptom regularly myself I would ask my GP to check it out. But it's up to you whether you think that's worth a battle or not.

Essentially, your mother does have a lot of genuine aches and pains that she could do something to relieve but chooses not to. And since you can't control that, and it just leads to conflict if you try, the only thing you can do is learn to let her be happy being miserable if that's what she insists on. Is she taking any regular pain relief? The trouble is there are pros and cons to that, too, as you know.

You could also ask around and see if there are any more experienced or more specialised GPs you could change to. Her GP is respecting her autonomy, good for him, but meanwhile if vascular dementia is suspected then you need a doctor who's going to be alert to the risks, too. And this one doesn't sound so hot on that point.
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You have a lot to manage, and all I can add is maybe some basic touch therapy. Maybe massage her shoulders gently when you are watching tv with her, or rub her feet. Anything that makes her feel loved and safe. Before my mom was in a hospital bed, I would lay on the bed with her and hug her from behind, and ask her to tell me a story. It seemed helpful to her to mommy me sometimes, so she felt like a mom and felt needed.
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