My elderly mother (88) is a hypochondriac. Any advice?

My elderly mother is a hypochondriac. Unfortunately, she is able to use the Internet & Googles “conditions.” She also sends me up to 50 emails a day, sometimes more. She has always had depression & anxiety problems & was quite abusive when I was young. Both my sister & I are exhausted with her complaints. She has Osteoarthritis & has recently had tongue cancer requiring removal of one third of her tongue as well as lymph nodes. Since this surgery she has been way worse despite healing well medically. She phoned me to give me blow by blow reports on bowel movements with details including straining, disempacting herself, pushing until she is dripping sweat. She has the necessary medications for constipation. She has not been diagnosed with dementia as she refuses to see a Gerontologist, especially a “brown” one. She now lives in a Retirement Residence where she gets her meals & nursing assistance if she falls or is unwell & just has to push a button on her wrist. She hates living there but is not able to live in her own home due to mobility & balance issues caused from years of deconditioning. She refuses to go to events at the RR even though we recently purchased an electric wheelchair to allow her to get out of her apartment. She is causing great anxiety for my sister & I to the point our lives are being very adversely affected by her behaviour. She is mean & manipulative with us...her only daughters. My sister & I have gone to Counselling to learn how to deal with her behaviour but she is dramatic to the point of ridiculous. Her cup is always half full...the story of her life. Although we have been advised to back away from her by the therapist, this is just not possible. Her pleas for “help me”, suicide & neediness just become worse with backing away...you have no idea how awful she can make us feel. Her emails now go to my “junk mail” so that I can get respite from her constant complaints. I need to become less sensitive to her unhappiness but as a Professional Caregiver my personality is to always try to help...I cannot change my personality....I feel so guilty ignoring her. Nothing but her death will bring relief it seems...her personality disorder is sucking the life out of my sister & I. She is relentless despite our telling her to please stop sending emails. I have blocked her on Facebook Messaging. She refuses help & by law is considered competent although I am sure she has Dementia of some kind. We are worn out. I feel that we deserve to enjoy life, something my mother never did manage to do. She lives at a Pity Party & refuses to leave it. I understand removing her from my life is recommended but I just cannot do that. Is there any other advice from others to help? How can I become desensitized? Therapy has not helped. Thanks...

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Some notes I have on detaching:

Accept that others are responsible for their own choices.
Anger – deal with it in a healthy way.
Blame – don’t blame and don’t accept blame.
Consequences – face them and see that others experience consequences of their choices too.
Decide what you are willing to do and what you are not willing to do.
Detachment is not a feeling so much as a choice of behaviors, though the feelings should (will) follow the behaviors.
Detachment means you can maintain positive behaviors towards to others –kindness, compassion.
Don’t enable the unhealthy behaviors of others.
Focus on yourself and what is good for you.
Forgive, but don’t forget the need to protect yourself.
Grieve the relationship as it was, the hopes that you had, the mistreatment you received.
Refuse to be manipulated e.g., emotional blackmail
Respond, don’t react - be proactive.
Separate yourself - physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, socially from others behaviors/feelings.
Set boundaries.
Say “No”.
Space –create it between you and them.
Try not to take their behaviors personally.
Treat others and yourself with love and dignity.
You can only control /change yourself – your emotions, your behaviors –do not take responsibility for the others feelings or behaviors.
Realize it is a process and that you will make mistakes and get “sucked” in, but that you can learn from your mistakes.
.............
#1 Look after yourself.
#2 Detach emotionally - the book and workbook about "Walking on Eggshells" is good and other resources for those with narcissistic parents like various websites - google narcissistic mothers
#3 Set up the boundaries according to what you think is right, and what you want to or can do and let him/her know clearly - maybe putting it in writing would be helpful - you do NOT have to do it all for her. Look after her needs, if you choose to, but not necessarily her wants. All those phone call and emails are not about needs, they are about wants.
Golden23’s advice of “look after her needs but not necessarily her wants” is spot on. It cuts thru all the muck.
My mother, like yours, was a World Class Drama Queen. She was also narcissistic and a martyr. Growing up, I remember only one couple who was friends with my parents. My mother often said they had no friends because my dad had only a 9th grade education and couldn’t hold his own in a conversation. (Not true).

When she began suffering from vascular dementia, she entered a fantasy world of hallucinations and delusions. I wasn’ t a member of this board yet and had to muddle through it as best I could. I got the BM daily too. During our conversations, I found out my grandfather committed suicide 50 years ago. She also said she had an affair with her boss. I know the suicide is true, but I will always wonder about the affair and I am glad I look like my dad.

When sne first entered the facility, I visited every day, then every other day. The worse she got, leaving me behind in her delusions, I visited less often. She had times she recognized me and when I visited during those times, I enjoyed the visit. I pulled her phone after many 3AM calls. I knew in an emergency, the home would call me, not her. It took me a long time to realize that my “real” mom existed in my mind and memories. This person had moments of clarity, but she was someone now who didn’t remember or recognize herself, or me 98% of the time. The sooner I accepted that my mom would not become one of those ladies, who at the age of 100 would celebrate by skydiving, I was able to detach. That doesn’t mean I didn’t care about her anymore, but I also cared about myself. I let the complaints about the home roll off my shoulders. There were always new ones. I got to know the staff and knew they were the ones who would alert me to any real concerns.
At mother's worst when she was developing dementia, but had not yet been diagnosed, I would get around 20 emails a day , each one complaining and nasty to me. It was not a pleasant time. I stopped answering phone calls at one point as they were so abusive. I glanced at emails and screened voice mails to be sure there was no real issue and left them alone answering very few. A couple of times I told her if she continued being so nasty she could find someone else to be her POA. You can google "detaching," It helps though I never managed to get completely detached. Mother had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, which is very difficult to treat. It is everyone else's fault and never theirs.

It sounds like she has the help she needs and that you and your sis need a break. I would take one by setting some very firm limits regards phone calls and emails. You deserve some peace in your life.

Boundaries are necessary with someone like your mother. Tell her you will, for example, answer one phone call a day, and one email a day or whatever you can cope with. Better yet, tell her you are taking a week's break, then you will answer one call and one email a day. If you play her game you are enabling her which is not healthy for her or for you. Be prepared that she will be angry - what's new?

Let us know how you are. Things are very stressful for you right now. ((((((hugs))))))
There is a huge plus to this. You do not have to live with her. She is lonely and just wants someone to care about her that is in her family.  I live with my Mom who does the above plus much much more and right now she has positioned herself on the sofa so she is in the middle and can watch my ever move as I go in and out of my room to care for her.  Count your many many blessings. It could be a lot worse. P.S. don't read the emails if they upset you. Open them but don't read them.  I have lived with my Mom for 7 years and my friends do not even recognize me now.  If I had chosen not to move in she would be in a facility as your Mom is.  This would be better because if you are the only one with her it gets 100 times worse as she would take all out on you.  You will be okay because you are away from her.   Learn to not let her emails and complaints control your life.  Do things to distract from this that are relaxing for you.   Please know that you are so fortunate to not live with her.   
One day I woke up and realized that, "Do as I say, not as I do," was not funny and way too accurate with my mother.

I grew up. I realized I could say no and mean it. I realized that there was a "double standard" with Mom and that I could no longer live with it. And I told her.

I can't count the number of people telling me to "honor thy father and mother" and I told each and every one of them that the unwritten commandment was "honor thy children" too.

Good Luck to you - I can't even imagine what you are going through. But I know you could use a hug and a lot of love.
Your post could have been written about my mother---(sigh) she was such a challenging person to grow up with and I have still got a lot of anger about the way she handled (well, didn't handle) so much of the basic needs of growing kids. And she had 6 of us--we sort of raised each other and ourselves.

Mother used threats of suicide all the time---the last time (I was 31, it was actually ON my birthday) she was complaining about something and pulled that "Well, I'll just kill myself and then you'll all be happy". Something in me snapped. I said "Ok, mom, but will you please not leave a mess behind. I'm not in the mood to clean up after you". She's never used that phrase around me again---but it was kind of late--I remember being the first one home from school and tiptoeing down the hall to her bedroom and checking to see if she was breathing---what kind of sick and twisted way is that to keep kids in line?? She was this way for years and years---suddenly after daddy passed away, she changed. She was still having colds that took her "near death" 3 or 4 times a year, she still sought after surgeries constantly, but she seemed to enjoy life more.

She now has mild dementia, repeated assaults of the surgical variety on her back, knees and hips have rendered her almost immobile. She cannot do stairs, barely can move, and most of this was self-created by being totally non compliant with her PT. BUT she's nicer now, and I actually don't mind seeing her. My other 4 living sibs have as little to do with her as they can. She lives with one brother and his family, but she may go days and not see anyone of them.

I think Golden's advice on detaching with love is great. I wish I had seen something like that 50 years ago.

At least your mother doesn't live with you. And you can ignore texts and call screen her. My kids do that to me and I'm 61 and very healthy and helpful!! Sometimes you just can't talk to mom--and that's OK. The guilt that comes with that, well, we work on it on a daily basis. And we wont do it to our kids, right??
Sorry, I will be blunt, Therapy will not help if you have decided before going that you will not change the way you interact with Mum. As long as she is calling the shots your situation will not change. This is coming from someone who just went through 3 years of intensive therapy to try to recover from an abusive childhood and marriage.

I limit my contact with my parents to 3-4 times per year, only on my terms. I do not answer phone calls from them. It is the only way for me to have a healthy life.

Your Mum does not want you and your sister to enjoy life, she wants you to be at her back and call, as unhappy as she is, and she will do everything necessary to achieve that goal. The two of you need to leave Mum's Pity Party, she is not going to show you the door. Sure she can threaten suicide if you take a step back, but if you cut off contact you do not need to hear the complaints.

Remember the tough love program for teens back in the 1980's, sometimes we have to use tough love for our parents. You and your sister have made sure your Mum is in a safe home, has the electric wheelchair, so she can get around. That is where your responsibility ends. Yes, it is hard after a life time of conditioning to make a change, but it is possible, I am proof of that. I certainly am not saying it is easy, it is not, but the rewards are worth it and you and your sister are worth it.

M
Thanks so much for all your help! I am most certainly going to read up on detaching. When my Sister & I took mom to her Specialist appointment and he told her she was cancer free & that her surgery had been very successful, mom showed no reaction. It was as though she had not heard him despite my telling her what a wonderful Christmas gift she had received. No talk of her being fortunate on the way home...only complaints of pain & inability to chew food which the Surgeon assured her would improve in the next 3 weeks. The following morning I had an email from her saying she didn’t know how he (Surgeon) could say she was cancer free when he had not even biopsied her.....well of course there was nothing there to biopsy! I told her this & explained he had also removed extra tissue margins around the tumour for prevention. She has remained miserable & complaining...constantly. She is “not participating in Christmas this year”. My sister & I have been through hell the past 6 weeks...we are detaching by not visiting daily & not reading her emails. We phone her & listen to her complaints but keep the conversations short. We think she wants to be sick....wants the attention & sympathy. If we tell someone when asked how she is doing that her surgery was successful & she is coming along well, she becomes furious....she says she is NOT doing well & she is exhausted & depressed, constipated, sore & can’t eat. Despite KNOWING recovery takes time, she only wants to know who was asking about her & telling us we are not to tell people she is doing well.
There is nothing we can do right. She is a miserable person who has lived her life with a half full cup. My sister & I NEED time for ourselves and we have decided to take that time. We want to enjoy the Christmas Season with our families & not feel guilt, anxiety & down in the dumps. She has no appreciation for our lives or for what we have done for her. Life is all about her. Ugggh...
My wonderful Dad passed away at 70. His zest for life was impressive. He never complained, was a happy loving dad & loved us. Thank God we were given him as a Father. The past 20 years have been tough, but at least he has not had to live through this disheartening time with mom.
I feel your pain in some ways.

Although my Mother was never abusive (even though her life was nothing but as a child), she could still give a good 'spanking' when necessary....not a beating...a spanking.

I am the middle child (yes, my therapist(s) will always asking after about the 3rd-4th session) and there is a definite middle child syndrome. I have always been the one through out my life, to be there for Mom. My siblings did their thing, so it was left to me. I asked Mom why she did this to me and she told me that she knew she would always be able to count on me for anything.

I was the one that got the 3:00am calls when we lived in GA (Mom lives in AZ) when Dad left her after 35 years of marriage. I was the one that she would threaten with her planning on suicide. I finally told her to go ahead and do it, but keep in mind that I would always hate her from that point on because Dad wasn't worth killing herself over.

I finally started to send her letters/cards telling her how much I loved her. I would send her small amounts of money for a just whatever Mom. Sent flowers when she didn't expect any thing. These things started to change her attitude and she was less depressed (it runs in the family; I am bi-polar too).

Let her email and give her a short response i.e. I am truly sorry that you're having such a bad time Mom. I'll call the doctor/nurse to let them know.

Send her little things like flowers to just let her know you're thinking about her.

As my therapist tells me, insert something to change the subject during phone calls. You can even provide an excuse as to why you can't stay on the phone....a little white lie...I've done it.

Therapist....don't let her get you riled because she knows that she is in control. Breathe, place the receiver down and let her talk. When she has finished her diatribe, pick it up and just say, I understand.

It has taken a lot of work on my part to do this with my Mom and siblings. I'm in my 60s and have guilt even doing these things that my therapist has suggested. I cry afterward and it takes about 2 days for me to get over my guilt for doing so.

You have to take control of your life as well as your sister does. You have the right to live your lives without your Mother's interference. Go on vacation, let the facility know that you're going to be away and that neither of you can be contacted so she's going to have to deal with them for awhile.

You'll NEVER EVER become desensitized. She is your Mother no matter what. Facts are that children who have been in an abusive relationship with parents are more likely to feel guilty because that is how you were raised.....brain washing. You're at fault for every thing that has happened in the world. I got that speech from my Mother not too long ago.

Have her doctor test for dementia. It is easier to handle knowing that she has this condition. She won't remember any thing. She won't remember calling you and what was said. I just let my Mom tell me the same thing over and over again. I just say 'really Mom, I didn't know'. Or just keep acknowledging her problems so she thinks you're listening....1 ear out the other.

Cry, scream, beat a pillow or just go to your happy place; warm bath, read a book or zen, that's my favorite thing to do as it brings down your blood pressure and heart rate. Also write a journal, I have about 6 of them over the past 7-8 years. It helps to express your thoughts on paper instead of expressing to someone who doesn't really want to hear about it. Take it with you when you see your therapist so he/she will have a better understanding of what has happened since your last session.

I even provided DVDs that my Father took home movies on film and transferred to my therapist to evaluate if things were just in my head or was I correct regarding my feelings of separation within the family as a child/have I carried these feelings with me my entire life. He sided with me and determined that I was indeed bi-polar due to the treatment I had from my entire immediate family.

It's a very tough row to hoe my friend and more so for women than men. Men don't see or have the maternal instincts that we face when it comes to caring for family; that's why women are Mothers, God wired us for that.

I truly hope that this may have helped you in some manner. I pray for you and your sister for the strength to see this through. If you believe in a higher authority, pray for guidance and patience. God always has an ear to listen to you and your problems.

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