My 82 year old mother lives with my family. She has no major health problems, but has some arthritis and anxiety (has been on and off of several anti-anxiety and depression meds and nothing ever helps...the meds just make her more paranoid). When I leave for the day, or just to run a few errands, she starts crying and then starts calling me. She will leave multiple rambling voicemails about inconsequential things (because I just can't answer every single phone call). I know that she is lonely and wants to connect with me. But, I have responsibilities and a young daughter to care for. I just physically can't give her every moment of my time. When I tell her that, she starts to become verbally abusive. She either attacks me or plays the victim and starts crying (or calls relatives to complain about me). I know she is hurting and lonely. We are there for her each morning and evening, and many other hours of the day, but she never wants to be alone. She has siblings and friends who offer to spend time with her, but she rarely wants to see them, she just wants me. I've signed her up at the local senior center, but she will only agree to spend maybe an hour and a half there. She lies and says she doesn't feel well, but when I pick her up, she feels a surge of energy and wants to go out to lunch. I love my mom, but I just can't be the center of her universe. How do I set healthy boundaries in love? How can I get her to take charge of her own social calendar? I'm not her cruise director and I'm not responsible for her happiness. I do find time to take her on fun outings, but then she just expects more. But, she will complain to others that I don't do enough for her because my life doesn't revolve around her. I know she is always safe and loved, but that just isn't good enough. This is harsh, but I feel like she is a zombie sometimes...following me around the house, talking to me through the bathroom door, questioning my every move (literally). When I'm in another room, she starts pacing around looking for me, and then asks when I can come back and sit in the living room with her. She doesn't like any of us to be in another room. It sounds so harsh to say, but she literally paces around and spies on us. If we are in the other room "too long", she comes in and says she was just worried that we weren't okay. We have NO privacy. It's like I'm her TV program and she feels "put out" when she can't watch her favorite show: me! I'll sit in the living room checking my email and she just stares at me. Her behavior has made my 8 year old daughter uncomfortable too. It is dehumanizing. I hate having to avoid making eye contact with my own mother. She was always so kind and loving. Now, she has no verbal filters and seems to want to say things just to push our buttons and get some kind of reaction out of us. I need room to breathe, but I would never leave her in her time of need. It's like a prison. I feel so guilty for feeling this way. She has been to two therapists, but always quits saying that they weren't very good and can't help her. She has been screened for Alzheimer's but always passes the tests. She is kind and loving to others, and they can't imagine her being abusive. I'm sorry to ramble on here, I hate to complain. We've thought about putting her in a retirement home, but know that she would just want to be with me. I feel desperate and yet guilty for feeling that way. Sorry for complaining, but thank you for listening.

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I'm curious what medical professional thinks that this isn't the beginnings of dementia? Has she had brain scans, extensive cognitive testing (not of memory, of her reasoning skills; think several hours of oral and paper and pencil tests, IQ, verbal reasoning, etc).

With regard to meds for anxiety and depression, my mother and MIL ALWAYS said they made them feel "funny", "dizzy", "weird", etc. Interestingly, when my mother was recovering from her stroke, she was put on antidepressants without her knowing about it, and she did just fine! My suggestion would be to get her to a geriatric psychiatrist who may be able to have her admitted to a behavioral center for a trial of meds.

She also sounds like an excellent candidate for Assisted Living, if you can swing that.
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I agree with Francis. The behavior you describe is very much like my cousin's was in the early stages of her dementia. (Vascular mixed with Alzheimers.) I just thought she was controlling, a worrier, OCD, etc. I know you say she passes the test, but maybe they aren't giving her a complete test. I'd push further. Request a neuropsychological exam.

I found the controlling and having to know where me and her cat were every minute behavior very bizarre, but since she was able to run her household, there was nothing I could do. Eventually, it got really bad and other things started happening too.....she was then unable to take care of herself. (She became so worried about her cat, she was frantic. She was convinced her cat could get through a crack the size of a peanut. It was unreal. She had taped most crevices inside her house.

Anti-anxiety medications helped very little, however, anti-depressants helped a great deal. I'm not sure why, but they have significantly decreased her worrying and having to know where someone is all the time. PLUS, not being around me every day has helped her too. Now she is in a Memory Care facility and has relationships with other people in her Memory Care Unit. She is not as fully focused on me now.

Your mom may be able to put on a front for now, but that won't continue if she has dementia. I would try to get to the cause and consider some long range plans.
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Wow Wendy, I don't even know where to start but I'm living this same nightmare. My mom is 92 and diagnosed with dementia -3 yrs ago. She is a widow but manages to live independently. I'm long distance 6 hrs away. My mom is totally isolated, knows no neighbors, no phone contacts with others, alienated prior friends and refuses outside help, concern, senior center, etc.

I too am her only phone contact or visit contact and although we have a nice time when I visit and take her a round, she cries when I leave or lashes out and makes me feel terribly guilty and sad. It's something I've had to come to grips with.

I feel like you, trapped, and resentful and hate being her "only friend, only child only family".

I've improved but only by realizing that I can't be her everything. That I deserve happiness and a normal life too. That mom has choices and adult rights and she can choose to not be open to other companionship, outside interests, etc, but those are her options. SHE DOES NOT have the right to force me to cater to those whims and give up my rights to a normal life for the sake of her happiness.

I set boundaries, I meditate, I do what I can for mom and encourage her to pursue other interests, but I no longer allow her to make me feel guilty. I tell her I love her, but now am just honest and open and no longer hide activities or fun that I'm having in order not to make her feel sad or bad --I used to not be honest because I didn't want her to feel left out or think I might have fun at the expense of not having spent that time with her.

She too follows me around when I visit and I have to even lock the bathroom door when I'm there because she follows me and opens the door and does the same thing when I walk out of her sight..."oh, I was just worried about you"....I acknowledge that she has dementia and try to be patient about the disease but it isn't easy. I go with the flow and adjust because at least I don't live with it everyday but still think about her and do worry...but let go because I she has refused help or to move near me, etc.

I am longing for the day when I am able to get her moved to residential care but for now she refuses and is barely managing and extremely lonely, but the alternative of moving to a strange place trumps her desire to make life easier for her and be around other seniors.

My brother, other relatives have written her off as she won't visit unless I take her and remain with her like a caregiver at all times. Grandchildren are startled and uneasy around her because of her neediness and sometime dementia behavior or conversation.

It's all sad, but hang in there. Learn all you can about the disease but keep in perspective that you deserve to live your life and have family time just as she did at your age, without the burden of bing a caregiver and only friend to her even though she is your mother.
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Hi There, I am no expert but live with my mom who has Alzheimers (was diagnosed with that, anyway) and some of the behaviors you describe are similar to what she does. If I am upstairs for too long, she will start calling my name and if I don't answer right away, she will get frantic and start looking for me. When she does find me, she says the same things about wanting to make sure that I was o.k. Before she lost the ability to use the phone, she would call me very frequently as well. Before her diagnosis, she was a worrier and anxious person (probably because she endured some tragic events in her life, but again, I am not an expert) and when she is alone in a room for more than 15 mins or so, she begins to panic. Oh, and you said that your Mom eventually quits her therapists, my Mom went through several doctors, we could only get her to seeing the same one after she forgot to "dislike" them so much. From what you describe, it sounds like she does have some kind of disorder, but I am only basing that on the fact that the behaviors are similar to what I have encountered with my mom. I can't even have her stay at my sisters house for any length of time if I am not there, she goes into a panic and tries to run out of the front door. Her behavior also frightens my sister's 6 year old daughter, and that is something to take into consideration. It is unfortunate. I understand your feelings, you want to be there for her and take care of her during the time she needs you most. If you all/she can afford a nice retirement or assisted living facility, some offer trial periods so you could all test the waters. The only reason I suggest this is that I have a feeling that these behaviors are only going to get worse and if you are having difficulty may be worth the time to investigate other living arrangements for her.
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