My mother is 91 and lives in an independent living. Because of trying to deal with her rudeness to others I hate taking her anywhere. Any suggestions?

Asked by

She is dealing with COPD, and macular degeneration, as well as congestive heart failure. My sister and I each visit her once a week or more bringing her groceries and taking her to doctor appointments. She loves her primary care doctor but is very rude to any other specialists or therapists. She is also very critical of family members and those around her. She can’t seem to accept her physical limitations but won’t try or follow through on suggestions given her to try to help. I think she is looking for a magic pill to cure all. Because of trying to deal with her rudeness to others I hate taking her anywhere. I would like to talk to a therapist about ways to cope but most resources I have looked into are for dealing with the elderly with some sort of dementia. This is not my case. I feel like my life is out of control. Does anyone have suggestions for me?

Answers 1 to 10 of 10
Top Answer
“Do I have as many WRINKLES as that lady?” Said very loudly in a small waiting room about an obviously younger woman. I just about DIED!!! I tried to distract, but then it came again, “No, I mean do I look as OLD as she does?” All I could do was offer a stunned look and mouth a small apology as the “old,” “wrinkled” lady quietly walked out of the room.

Little kids and little old people ... their filters are often not working at full capacity. Their blurts are embarrassing to us, but we hope that the rest of polite society will recognize their limitations and forgive them. An older person’s blurt, however, seems infinitely more embarrassing because “they should know better.” And Mom probably DID know better and kept her filter in good working condition for decades. She may be dealing with some dementia, as mentioned above. She may also just be tired. Chronic illness and chronic pain can wear a person down. Day to day life consists of managing symptoms, meeting your own basic needs, and (some days) just surviving. The pleasantries of cordial living become luxuries that just take too much mental and emotional energy. Is Mom taking anything for depression or anxiety??

If it really bothers you, have some business cards printed up. They could say something like, “Please excuse my mother’s inappropriate comment. Before her illness, she was kind and polite. I’m sure she would be mortified by her comment if she were her old self again. Have a nice day!” They are surprisingly inexpensive. You could keep them in your purse and hand them out discreetly whenever you felt it necessary.
"LOOK at him! He's left-handed!" [about her ophthalmologist]
"Mother, really! - and anyway left-handed people are often very creative."
"Well I don't want him getting creative with my cataract."

Fortunately I think our ophthalmologist had heard much, much worse in his time.

Depending on how long your mother has been dealing with her chronic conditions, I don't think you can assume that she is not suffering from some cognitive decline and quite possibly vascular dementia. The loss of inhibition and the negativity strike loud bells with me. Has this been investigated?

You must not feel responsible for your mother's behaviour, although you should avoid situations where she may cause hurt and offence to people who cannot reasonably be expected to suck it up. But any experienced health care professional who deals regularly with your mother's conditions will be inured to anything she can send their way, I promise you.

In our neck of the woods, we have an organisation called Dementia Friends - just ordinary members of the public who have signed up for basic training in assisting people with dementia. We have little lapel badges so that anyone who needs help, out and about in the ordinary way, knows we're approachable and will understand.

You may not have anything like that, and ours has only made a start on the issue; but believe me more people than you realise will understand and sympathise with what is going on.
Are you certain that your mom isn't dealing with "some" cognitive decline? CHF and COPD might both limit brain flow to the brain over time, leading to what is termed Vascular Dementia. Often, loss of filtering is present.

I would think any qualified therapist would be able to provide support to you.
At the AL the other day, as we were walking by another resident (in a very audible voice):
"Trixie has memory problems. She is starting to forget things. But that's okay, we understand people like her".

I'm hoping Trixie understands too.

I don't have any suggestions. Just know that you are not alone.
Countrymouse, I am intrigued by the organization of people who train as Dementia Friends in your area. We need just ordinary folk who just want to help in so many situations.
My mom, who is quite young- not yet 70, was rooming with a roommate in rehab last week. My mom has progressive supernuclear palsy.
She told me as she glanced at her curtain partition separating the beds:
“ she was up a lot last night and they thought she messed herself. They had to ask her, and she said she just farts a lot”.
😳 The woman was right there.
Mom thought she was whispering.
I think making some of the
“Pardon the offense” cards is a stellar idea!
Yay! - it's crossed the water :)

Here you go:
Is your mother's hearing OK? My hard-of-hearing mother sometimes says things in what she thinks is a very soft voice, but it's actually full volume.
As my daughter, RN, says she is old so is here brain. There has to be some age related decline.
CEP, as others say, you are dealing with dementia in word or spirit, so dig into those resources! Thanks for the link, cm! I steer my mom out of earshot of others as quickly and often as possible. When I went by yesterday morning before work, she told me I looked like sh$t (‘sorry, but yo do’) and my workplace should be ashamed if they let people come to work dressed like that! Had to share that with someone!!
CEP, I agree about the behavior that your mom is exhibiting. I realize that she's up there in years, but, I would really suspect that there is some degree of cognitive decline that would explain her inappropriate comments, rudeness and stubbornness. I was like you when I first started to see behavior like that with my LO. I was certain that it wasn't dementia. I just thought my LO was rude, ungrateful, stubborn and even mean. But, it was the early stages of dementia. She appeared that way before her memory went. You might discuss it with her doctor. 

If that is what it is, there is really not much you can do, except manage the behavior. I would keep an extra eye on her though. You may take it that she is refusing to accept some treatments, but, it may be that she is not CAPABLE of processing the information about the treatment and following through with it. The normal mental process is disturbed and she may not be capable of tending to her own needs any longer. I might spend a full day with her to see just how well she really is coping in her IL apt.

Share your answer

Please enter your Answer

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support