My mother thinks she's sick, exaggerates her symptoms and always goes to the ER when she's fine. Does anyone have an idea as to what is causing her to do this? - AgingCare.com

My mother thinks she's sick, exaggerates her symptoms and always goes to the ER when she's fine. Does anyone have an idea as to what is causing her to do this?

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Since I can remember, my mother has been sick. When I was younger she would pull me aside, say shes dying and having a heart attack. This occurred all the time. She was always fine.


As an adult I have lost patience and sympathy for her. She could get a paper cut and say she was stabbed. Or she says she has a stroke and is talking and communicating perfectly.


She is always in the ER, constantly dying, and every organ in her body has apparently shut down.


I have always thought this might be something psychological.

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Anti anxiety medication.
Breathing techniques for her panic attacks.

I'm sure you're right, that there is an underlying psychological condition behind your mother's behaviour. But if she's been doing this for as long as you can remember, it might have gone a bit too deep by now to be easily unearthed. Still! - Never say never. If you can find a likely-sounding psychologist or therapist near her, you could do worse than introduce them to one another and hope that it's a start. The worst that can happen is your mother says no and you're no further forward.

With the medications, by the way, my extremely resistant mother agreed to an SSRI to "regulate her brain chemistry" which even she recognised had got seriously out of hand. Talking in terms of brain health, organic disease, chemical regulation and so on reflects the physiological roots of every condition, and can help to avoid the stigma many people still associate with mental ill health.

Best of luck with this. You may also find it helpful to research techniques for not letting her stress you out, while you're at it! :)
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The most interesting thing I found after shutting down my LO ways of sneaking out of hospice to see doctors... she was seeing her gyno at 88!!!...was that her health actually improved! She had been getting weekly transfusions and interferon shots. Hospice said either or and since she couldn't drive I had to convince her friends that they were NOT doing her a service by taking her to her zillion doctors. Bad guy again...

She got an ok from hospice to go to the dentist on her own dime so of course she had all her fillings replaced. You would be surprised how junkylike your parent might behave if they are addicted to a social life based on their doctors visits.
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Mkat91,
I feel your pain. I've dealt with this kind of thing for many years. It's very difficult to get help for those person, because, you really need everyone in the family to be on the same page AND be in unison with the doctor. Even with that, it can be very challenging.

If your mom has a good Primary, I'd write down your observations and provide it her Primary, so he can properly evaluate her and rule out any actual ailments. It's highly likely that he already knows what the situation is. Some people call it "thick file syndrome." I'd be very sensitive about what you say to your mom, because, you aren't likely to convince her that she is not having these medical trauma's that she is reporting.

My LO's Primary, after running all kinds of tests, ruling out actual conditions, explained to my LO that her anxiety was causing her symptoms. He also prescribed medication to treat it AND referred her to a psychiatrist, who was very sensitive to the situation. With seniors, I think they take a very light approach, of encouraging medication and supporting the patient through their difficulties.

I'd keep in mind that even though they may have psychologically induced ailments, to THEM, it's quite real. Trying to convince them that it's not real, is pretty useless.

I would research Somatic Disorder and Conversion Disorder and ask your mom's doctor or psychiatrist about these types of disorders. It's very hard on the family, when someone has that kind of thing. It also tends to run in families.

I hope that you can find some answers.
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My mother has done this too. Recently I reminded her of the story of the boy who cried wolf.
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My mom had dementia and would constantly tell us she wanted to go to the ER. Sometimes she would call 911 and we didn't know it. She would complain about her head hurting. The doctors could never find anything wrong. After the 3rd time of her calling 911 she almost got me arrested for 911 abuse I had to put her in a nursing home. So apparently it is just something the elderly do.
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My father runs to the ER on a weekly basis for nothing. He claims it is constipation but I just can't imagine someone going that often for the same thing. He will continue to go until the ER staff start getting annoyed with the constant visits then he backs off for awhile. He is bored and lonely and wants attention. He was living alone so any ache or pain was 'the end' in his mind. I spent an entire year running to every doctor and ER visit with him until I finally caught on that this was all just for an outing and some attention. I went cold turkey on his ER visits.
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Mom2Mom,
I know exactly what you go through & are dealing with my mother was in hospital for 18 days in Feb. she was always calling me to come up & visit. But since then she was going to Emerg. Every Sunday for 9 weeks & last time she was in & out of hospital & on a Sunday, Monday & Tues early April after seeing the same Emerg doctor each time he finally admitted my mom to the hospital for a 4 day stay this time & they flushed out her bladder & they called in a specialist to see why her catheter was not working. So it has been 3 weeks without going to hospital on a Sunday, but today is not over but have fingers & toes crossed that there will be NO hospital visit today. I wish you luck .. I do have to agree sometimes I have back & watched my mom & she seems more active at hospital then at home... So that is where I think it has something to due with wanting More attention even if she doesn't realize it.
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My mother who lives across country from her adult children was never very good with pain. She would sweep the walk then need BenGay for days. She fell, broke her hip and got loads of attention calls and visits. Suddenly she was in the hospital biweeky. Pacemaker, hip replacement, pessary, removed gall bladder and colon, broken spine and ribs and five lung draining all in 14 months. I suspect Münchausen syndrome. She was put in hospice and kept sneaking out t
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Loneliness, fear, and depression are frequent causes. Geriatric psychiatrists or psychologists who specialize in the elderly are wonderful. Most insurances will cover counseling. My father loved his weekly meetings to deal with losses (memory, no driving, strength, friends). Social activities from any source that seniors can count on weekly also help (volunteers, senior centers, meals on wheels, church, family, and friends). We used to line up visits and outings for my Dad as much as possible. It takes a village to care for elderly in today's society. They often feel alone and isolated and therefore, use illness as a way to get needed attention. Having said that, some people have an insatiable need for attention and boundary setting by family and friends is important and necessary.
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My mom used to do this all the time. She lived alone and constantly called her Drs office complaining of lightheadedness, chest pain, couldn't breath at all hours. They would have her come in when they were open and many times ordered ekg's and non-stress tests and all would be normal. Once they gave her nitroglycerin pills and she almost passed out and fell down the stairs after taking one (becasuse she didnt need them) Eventually she moved in with us-for money reasons. One day she clogged our toilet (long story behind it). She got me really upset-I went out for awhile to calm down. My husband called-said your Mom is being brough to the hospital. She was complaining she couldnt breath and said her chest hurt., he called an ambulance. Of course she was fine, ekg, blood work fine...that is when everything made sense...I figured out she had anxiety. At the time that this happened she had lived with me for 3yrs and never once had any health issue aside from early Alzheirmer's. Prior she had been to the ER four times on a yr for these same symptoms and six to her Drs office three ekgs and three non stress test. I explained the to the ER Dr. she agreed, cleared and released her.
So maybe your Mom has anxiety, try and think of what is gooing on in her life that may be triggering her health episodes.
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