What do I do when my mother says I'm planning her death?

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I don’t know what to say. She lives at home alone, age 90 with congestive heart failure and I believe dementia. She remains undiagnosed though they say she “sundowns”. She has so many of the symptoms. My brother is in denial. I am not.


It is very hard. She is homebound, has fallen a lot, does not want any caretakers. We have had many. I have offered to go over and clean; she said no. I cook and she doesn’t eat and then tells me not to cook anymore. She is not hungry. I cannot do anything right. I shop for her food as well. I buy whatever she needs. I pay for it all and we send money every month. Have been for many years.


But today she has said that I am thinking of her death and that I want her money. Nothing could be further from the truth. She has some money saved up. It is in my brother’s hands for years.
I once made a huge mistake and said that I would leave my children equal amounts if I were to die. In other words: If I had three dollars, I would leave one dollar to each. She interpreted this as meaning that I want her money. She is planning to leave it all to her grandson, my brother’s son who is 12 years old. I had told her fine. Many many times. I do not care. In fact, if she were to leave me any money, I would give it to my brother as he needs it more than I do.


I have never cared about money,not hers, not mine and not anyone elses. I have always helped her out financially and never said one word. My entire life, in fact. So to hear this now, is just painful.


I try to explain that I don’t care. I even told her to ask everyone … in the family … to tell them all that I want her money. My thinking was that maybe someone else could convince her this is not true. All who know me know that I am the least materialistic person there is.


It all ended with her telling me not to speak to her anymore … not for a year at least. I believe it is dementia. Memory loss, inability to handle so many things, calling me a liar all the time, people stealing things from her, misplacing things … the whole gamut.


I don’t know what to do. I am at my wits end. This is a mother who loved me always and whom I love dearly. I pray for her daily. I pray that she will not suffer to much and that when her life comes to an end it will be as easy as possible. I am grieving.


There is no way to have the kind of closure I am looking for … closure with love because she just doesn’t believe me or trust me anymore.

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Lisa stop worrying about your mother's baseless accusations. Start worrying about her mental state as a result of chronic congestive heart failure. Dementia, yes, probably verging on a certainty; but more to the point crippling, overwhelming depression.

As an illustration, my mother experienced a sense of utter dread and hopeless misery, to the point that this woman - who "didn't believe in" psychology - at last agreed that she might be depressed and she might need some help.

This isn't her feeling sad because she's perhaps lonely or frail or unable to get around as she used to. It's full-blown irrational heartbreak. And what she's doing is trying to find things to hang it on. You just gave her a peg for it, that's all. There's nothing *real* about what she said to you. Remember that, because you have to be the rational person for both of you.

You say your brother's in denial; and your mother's living alone? So who's taking care of her?
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Lisa; I so feel for you in this situation. There is something called "anticipatory grief"--you lose the parent that you know and love to dementia, but they are still alive and yet so diminished. And sometimes, like your mom, see you as the enemy, when all you are trying to do is keep her safe and happy. It's unfortunate for most of us that we can't do both. "Safe" and "happy" are often two very different things when you are dealing with a parent with dementia.

As CountryMouse points out, your mother's depression is looking for a peg to hang its hat on. "You provided the peg", meaning of your, that you are the one who visits, who cares, who shows up. It's a very old story here; you haven't done anything to deserve being the peg; you're "it" by being available.

Take all the steps above, talk to her doctor, call social services and have a needs assessment done.

But I also want you to consider whether or not you're depressed. You certainly sound it and if you haven't been evaluated for depression, I urge you to do so. It's very, very hard to deal with a situation like this when you are under the rain cloud of depression yourself.

Please tell us how you are making out; we learn from each other here.
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"I buy whatever she needs. I pay for it all and we send money every month. Have been for many years."

Why? Why isn't she using the money she has saved up?
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Okay. Don't go over to help her, just go over to see her. Wouldn't that be a start?

When you say ten years is a long time, do you mean she's been rejecting you for ten years, you've been worrying about this money fantasy-anxiety of hers for ten years, or what?

You don't need POA to take medical advice about your mother's mental state, and you don't need your brother's permission either.

You do need to respect your mother's wishes; but balanced with that you need also to think about what her wishes would have been were she in her right mind, which at this point she probably isn't. There is a stoical school of thought that says if she chooses to live unsupported at home, no matter what the consequences, then she has that right; but then again if you can do something to change her level of risk won't you want to know that you have done all you can within the bounds of her preferences?

This isn't about cleaning, or her legacies, or anything domestic or social. This is about her being mentally ill as a direct consequence of her chronic physical illness and needing treatment. Once her depression is under control - if that's what it is - then the misery will lift enough for her to be able to think straight. Or at least straighter than she currently is doing.

Perhaps you could talk to your own doctor about ways and means of getting your mother's mental state evaluated. The catalogue includes: self-neglect; her medical history + ? vascular dementia; self-isolation; lack of support; and suspected severe depression. So if that were your doctor's patient, you ask, what steps could be taken?
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I think I would start with adult protective services. She is certainly a threat to her own welfare and possibly to others if she burns the house down. Is she paying her bills and would you know if she was not?
Does she see a Dr and take medications. The Dr can't talk to you without her permission but you can write him/her a letter laying out all of your concerns just as you have to us. We will keep you in our thoughts and prayers
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Your mother is ill - physically and mentally. She needs help even if she won't accept it. Please look up articles about when a parent needs help such as this one on this site:
https://www.agingcare.com/articles/signs-your-parent-needs-help-143228.htm

Take notes and take them to her doctor or your doctor saying you believe your mother has dementia and she needs help. Is her home safe for her? Is she properly nourished, and kept clean and so on. Does she take her meds properly.

I know it is very hard having a parent turn on you, but at this point, you need to deal with that separately (and with professional help if you require it) from dealing with your mother's situation.

Call your local agency for aging and social services and see what ideas they have to help you mother. as well as what has been suggested above. You may want to call APS to do a check on your mother as she is a vulnerable senior. At this point, it is likely that non family may have better success in getting your mother the help she needs than family can.

My heart goes out to you as you have lost the mother you knew. Her accusations comes from the condition of her brain which sounds damaged, Paranoia is common with the onset of dementia. ((((((hugs))))))
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All of us have to endure crazy, crazy stuff when this happens. It is legendary and it is part of the experience.

Square your shoulders and detach a bit. Detach with love is the expression. Don't go over to visit so much. Find your own happiness and acceptance from others in your life.

I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that we all have to find this "detachment moment." It is the moment we realize that the dementia has already "detached" our elders from us. We have to find a new normal.

Good luck!
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That must have been really hurtful to hear your mom say those things. I had a great aunt who would say things like that. I felt there were a few of things going on.

One is that she ran her own business, and I think she saw her identity, her success, and the money all intertwined. If your mom was wise enough to put the money aside, maybe it's a source of pride for her. Maybe she wants praise for that, or maybe it is her way of taking care of you all after she's gone.

The other issue was that the aunt really needed help (which we were too young to realize at the time.) My aunt relied on a distant cousin and a couple friends (who were also very money-oriented) for transportation and support. Her husband was going downhill, and I think the promise of inheriting money was something she thought would keep those people tied to her. (What my mom did for her was just done out of caring. We found her "Don't you want my money?" comments appalling at the time.)

On top of those things, she was in her 80s and was developing paranoia and was very suspicious.

The kinds of statements your mom is making probably come out of fear. It could be dementia or another medical issue creating the paranoia and irritability. (It might help to check the side effects of any medications she's on, also.) But in the meantime, instead of saying, "I don't want your money," it might be better to say, "Mom, what's important to me right now is that you are safe and comfortable, and that you know how much I love you" or "You have been really careful with your money and were smart to do that. I know you did that for all of us, but we want you to enjoy your money and use it when you need it" or just ask her why she thinks that, and see if she can talk herself out of it. Try not to take your mom's words to heart, if you can help it. You are the one who is with her the most, so maybe that's why you get the brunt of it. It sounds like you are doing a lot to help her!
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Lizette, I am so very sorry for your pain. I can hear your exhaustion and desperation for a solution in your writing. I know this is hard.

There was mention above of detaching and I did that with my mother. I was her caregiver 24/7. I mentally detached some of what she was saying from her.
Basically it is this: you were always close, you loved and still love each other. When she says unkind things it is not her saying it, it is the disease saying it. Think of your past relationship - who you KNOW her to be when in a healthy state. When she says these awful things think about how you can make this interaction best for the non-diseased her. You do that by moving her to more pleasant things. If she says you want her money, tell her "i have enough money and don't need anymore, but thank you for thinking of me. You had mentioned giving it to grandson. It could be a tremendous benefit to him especially if he uses it to pay for his college." Then you can take it from there, talk about his talents, his interests, the last time he visited - whatever.

Another thought is how you actually talk to her when you see her. I agree with a previous post, for now do not go to clean or do anything other than visit. She is losing her independence and may feel you are trying to take more from her by telling her what to do. I did it. At first When I wanted her to do something I would ask her what she thought of doing it, or if she wanted to do it, or comment that "some people do it this way...". After years of this I was worn out and more oriented to efficiency of words. Instead I was saying "Momma you need to XYZ". It was a caregiver that pointed it out to me. I had become directive, but none of us likes to be just told what to do. I had to change my communication patterns. You have to think about the wording you choose to communicate even common things if you want a favorable response. It can make your life much more pleasant together.

I talked to my mother the way her diseased mind needed me to, because my real mom would have wanted me to.
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Lisa, please don't eat yourself up with guilt over what your mom says. I know from experience that you have lived your life obeying her and doings as she says, like I did. I ignored signs of my mother's dementia, for one thing because she was always a Drama Queen and very negative. When it became necessary for her to go to a facility, partly because it was not within her control and partly because her dementia was ongoing, her behavior became worse. She became accusatory, morose and hallucinatory. There was no magic pill that would bring back "my mom". More than a few times, when she opened her mouth, family "skeletons" would fall out, things I never wanted or really needed to know. The rest of the time, she claimed people were coming through her walls to have sex under her bed. Her descriptions disgusted and sickened me. Avail yourself of any help offered, from coffee with a friend to professional therapy. Remember that you are now the parent and she is the child. Do what you need to do for her and go on with your life. Good luck, and hugs from one who's been there.
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