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My mother is 88 and lives independently in an apartment since her sister died two years ago. Although I take her out twice a week and she goes to church on Sunday, she complains about everything: her neighbors, being alone, being bored, and has herself with a myriad of dire ailments. Two doctors have told her that she is in good health, but needs to work on her anxiety. She doesn't take the medication they prescribe, saying they don't know anything about medications. Instead, she keeps looking for "fixes," like calling a nun to give her communion (when I could), having someone come in to clean (then abandons it), signing up to go to the senior center for lunch, then complains everyone is in "cliques." If I try to give her any suggestions, she just cuts me off, but tries to imply that something is seriously wrong with her, and I need to "realize that she needs more help." I work from home, my husband is retired, and this nonsense is really dragging me down. If she wanted to get out more, she has a bus at her apartment, a cab she could take anywhere in town, and a trusted neighbor of mine who is willing to come at least one other day of the week. We took her to my son's wedding in PA for the weekend a few weeks ago, but instead of enjoying herself, she got herself into a snit over what she perceived as not being "greeted properly" by some of our nieces. It was a stress just having her there because she looked mad and acted terrible the entire weekend. I don't want to be unkind, but she is such a downer to be around now, I can't wait to go home or get off the phone when I call her on the days we're not out. She is a narcissist, and all my life she has wanted everyone else to fix the problems she creates. I refuse to give in to giving her more of my time when she is 1. so ungrateful, and 2. she is creating issues to get attention. My thought is to just listen and start saying, "I don't know what to tell you" and staying on course. I would appreciate any input. Thank you.

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The opportunity to have you all for support is a blessing beyond compare! Thank you all!
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And the more you do it, the easier it becomes! The first few times you cut your call or visit short, you'll probably feel guilty...but that feeling will pass because you won't be subjected to the negativity. So keep practicing! I'm glad you protected yourself more today!! WOOHOO for you!!
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Patti, I'm glad that you were able to draw some boundaries today. It's hard work and make sure you reward yourself and take care of yourself in big (mamograms, pap smears) and little (facials, pedicures) ways.
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You are a saint Pattiac. She's lucky to have you. I hope you can stay positive. Who knows, maybe she will learn some techniques for being more positive from you!
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Blannie and Sunnygirl1, today when I called her, I tried to focus on protecting myself by letting her feel badly, but just not involving myself in it. I listened, but didn't react, except to repeat back in another way what she said, yet distance myself from it. I will also work at cutting short the conversation if she goes on and on. Today was better, but I believe the responses gave me a renewed focus. Thank you all!
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I guess I wouldn't deal with someone like that very well. First, I would make sure she doesn't have dementia. If she has brain damage, that's different. I would approach it totally differently. But, if not, I would have to be more direct in my approach.

I would get therapy, but I think I might be more proactive in my dealings with her. To me, I don't mind people feeling bad, if they should feel bad. For example, I look at who should be feeling bad....me, who is the dutiful daughter, spending time to support, encourage and love my mom through incredibly horrible behavior or her, who is selfish, bullheaded, and refusing to help herself. Easy choice. Let her feel bad. If she feels bad, maybe she will stop complaining and listen to doctors orders. I have no reason to feel bad.

I would explain that a lot of her misery is brought on by anxiety and/or depression and that the meds might help. And unless she tries the meds for a few months, I would not subject myself to her constant complaining. Then that's what I would do.

I know she's your mom, but how can you stay positive with so much negativity in your life?
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I think you just have to practice cutting her off when she starts with the complaining. Be sympathetic, like Babalou says, "Oh that must be difficult", and then five seconds later, get off the phone - "Oh mom, I gotta go someone's at the door...or the dinner is in the oven and the timer just went off....or hubby just came home and I have to greet him." She'll learn that complaining will result in a very short phone call or visit. Do that consistently and she *might* start to change a tiny bit, just to spend more time with you.

Basically you just have to protect yourself as much as you can, because at 88, your mom's not gonna change - her negativity will only get worse!
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NYDaughterInLaw, I agree that only I can change, because if my mother was going to, she would have by now. It's only going to get worse, and I'm bracing to handle it. Thank you for the good wishes!
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Thank you, Countrymouse and Babalou, for the lift in spirits. I do vent, but it's becoming a worn out topic. Yes, I have asked her what she means by more help, and she is specific, gets me all tangled up in details of a solution, and doesn't follow through. Both doctors, who she saw within a week of each other, did a thorough check, including an EKG, because she complained of chest pains. It's arthritis, but otherwise good health for 88. Having helped her three sisters who've passed, I've been keeping an eye on the dementia, which has slowly increased, yet she can manage her bills, apartment, and shopping quite well. She'd probably go shopping 5 days a week if I had the time, or interest, to take her. :)
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Stop listening is my suggestion. If she's complaining about everything then there's nothing really wrong. Instead of giving more perhaps withdrawing a little bit will help you to feel better and focus on your own family. Narcissists never change (nothing is ever good enough) and only you can change how you react. If she is becoming demented she's going to need much more professional help than you can give. I wish you lots of luck!
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[mutter mutter rhubarb grumble] - I wouldn't be struggling with guilt over her comments, I'd be struggling with the urge to say 'oh shove it, mother' and hang up on her!

But I realise that reality with a narcissist is not so straightforward. I agree with Babalou that you do honestly seem to know what you're doing. Can I prescribe regular venting, rather than pinching your mother's medication? :)

When she says that you have to appreciate that she needs more help, and you ask her what she has in mind, does she ever nail it down to plausible specifics? Or do you just get more background noise in reply? Sigh.

The only caveat I'd add is that the perceived slights and, especially, the bit about her doctor having confused her with her sister: these two incidents do ring a couple of dementia alarm bells, because they sound a little bit like her trying to make sense of situations that for some reason aren't making complete sense to her. Keep an eye on it.

Hm. In good health, or in good health (for 88)? Do you know what they checked out?
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Thank you, Babalou. I appreciate the suggestions for comments. Will definitely try them out. I have done some therapy over the last 10 years, and am good at setting and sticking to boundaries, but struggle with the guilt from her comments as well as her withholding appreciation and approval. My husband, family, and friends are very supportive, too. Her regular doctor has prescribed antidepressants that help, but she doesn't follow the prescribed dosage. Two weeks ago during her visit, he looked at me and said, "She doesn't listen to me, and I gave up. You keep doing exactly what you're doing." Instead of listening, she said he confused her with her sister! I saw this coming years ago, and tried to get her to consider one of the nice senior living apartments, with activities and trips, but she refused. Even if I did add another day, it would not be enough. She'd want another, and another, etc. Then I would need the medication - lol!
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I think your instincts are spot on. "That must be so hard mom". "I'm sorry you feel that way". "I'm sorry that you haven't been able to find a solution". Validation without getting sucked in.

If you are the child of a narcissistic mother, going into therapy yourself may be necessary to heal the scars and withstand the increasing demands.

Has she ever been to a geriatric psychiatrist she sounds like someone whose mood and outlook might be improved by antidepressants that have antianxiety properties, rather than straight antianxiety meds.
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