How to respond to my mom's "bad-mouthing" me behind my back? - AgingCare.com

How to respond to my mom's "bad-mouthing" me behind my back?

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As the sole live in caregiver for my 87 year old mom, I expect there to be conflicts and personality clashes. Certainly when you are with any one person 24/7 this is the case, but there seems to be more love/hate issues between mother and daughter. My mother has always talked to herself, for as long as I can remember. As she hates confrontations and is passive aggressive I can understand her venting like this and since it's a tactic she's engaged in for years and is also quite deaf, these "conversations" are more ongoing and louder. Now that I am a constant presence, it seems her topic of choice is me. I can hear her ranting in her room saying some pretty nasty things about me. Sometimes, it's so appalling I do confront her and tell her I can hear the bad things she is saying. Her response is always denial. I believe she doesn't know she is speaking out loud since this behavior has become so routine for her. It seems she is verbalizing what is in her mind and doesn't acknowledge that she is speaking these thoughts. I must add here that although she is becoming more forgetful, my mom does not have dementia and is sharp lucid and intelligent. She has never been a social person, and most of her friendships and socializing was always initiated by my father, who passed 17 years ago. Although I have encouraged her to engage with others more, she is not interested and has an aversion to many social interactions. She does enjoy company or family visiting in small groups. I enjoy cooking, so I will invite a couple neighbors over. My siblings live far, but do come visit for short stays. Which brings me to the next issue. She discusses me to others whenever possible. She will whisper about my being OCD, or my personal habits she doesn't like, or things I've supposedly said. Often I can tell the person she is telling is taken aback, especially when they are a close friend of mine, or even my son and niece, sisters and in laws. If she does have a visitor and I walk into the room, there is a noticeable hush and awkward change of subject. Many of the people she makes these comments to, mention things to me to indicate they take it lightly or feel bad. I just don't know how to deal with this. I have attempted to discuss having a more appropriate conversation with me regarding things that bother her. Mostly she will deny or she will tell me she appreciates what I do. But this contrary behavior continues and makes me feel like an evil child, or that she simply does not like me very much. It doesn't help that I become irritated because of this, which adds fuel to the fire. Should I just ignore this, and let it be her issue not mine, or how can I address it without embarrassing others as it's occurring ?

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Thank you all for your responses, sharing, and good advice. I know that the biggest problem is too much time alone together. Since my siblings are so far away, when they do visit and we live in Florida, it is vacation time and mode for them. Their frame of mind is totally different and mom treats them either like special guests or stays out of their way to give them free time. That's not really a respite for me, although I do get to enjoy their company. I will try affirmations more. I have in the past found them helpful and redirecting or refocusing my thoughts and mind in a positive direction has been a tool for me. I guess I find myself in a situation where that has been more difficult to do, since using them more has not been the case lately, when it should be.
I am now considering the fact that she is probably experiencing some cognitive decline as has been suggested. As it can be gradual, there are indications more subtle than totally obvious. This realization, thanks to your comments, does help me understand her quickness to anger and resentment towards me as she looses more of her independence and she may feel I am taking it from her. She does have good things to say about others, not so much me. A good friend suggested I have people over to engage her (and me) and interact with others since she has generally shut herself off from people. I did have a small dinner party which was a bit enlightening. She was comfortable with the people I invited and made it clear to them she was very grateful for their friendship as she told them that being in larger groups or with too many people around makes her fearful and panicked. That statement was quite telling huh? As an aside she complimented my neighbor over and over for his cooking skills and the delicious dinner, although he merely put the fish on the grill and I had done the meal. He commented several times in response, that it was her daughter that made this wonderful food, which she seemed to completely ignore. After all left she did notice I was quiet while cleaning up and she actually asked me if something was wrong. I told her, and said it really hurt my feelings. She genuinely seemed surprised and just went to her room and shut the door. Regardless, I felt pain but then much better since I identified a specific incident and my feelings to her and out loud for myself..
I am grateful that my family is supportive to some degree. Certainly, they are glad they are not dealing with this all on a daily basis. I can talk to my sisters ( not brothers though) about situations, like the above, and they do show some understanding, can relate to her personality and can usually make me laugh or lighten me up a bit. One of my sisters suggested I take one day a week as a work day and leave the house to have total me time for that day ( with my mom thinking I am actually at work for the day). Also, I have started a journal where every day I write the best moment of my day. It helps me channel into something positive.
Finding this site has been very helpful for me, cathartic, and also grateful at times since many have far more difficult issues to tackle. It allows me to listen, seek advice and also GIVE advice that may be helpful for others. 😘
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Have you considered that there is just too much of the two of you together? I sometimes find that when I'm with another person for too long, I start seeing faults, getting too picky about their behavior and maybe, just overwhelmed with their company. Is there some way you can take some time apart? Maybe, absence will make the heart grow fonder.  Being a constant presence sounds suffocating to me. 

Also, the symptoms you describe do indicate possible cognitive decline, based on what I have read. You may say no dementia, but, sometimes it happens gradually. I wouldn't rule that out, since she has memory loss, odd behavior, and some possible false allegations about you. I'd try to put it into perspective and get a thicker skin. 

Seniors can be challenging to care for. I've learned that from my parents who don't have dementia and are in pretty good health. Man, they have more banter with each other than I have ever heard. I bite my tongue a lot, because, come on.  I'm not going to change them.  I try to pick my battles, take deep breathes and get out of the house for a while.  I think that age can kind of make you cranky. lol
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Rox, is it just you or does she also tend to make negative comments about other people? Does she have a good word to say about anyone?
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I should mention that my mom is very easy to keep directed into a contented and happy direction. My sister's are in denial about the degree of her short term memory. I stay with my mom and care for her when she's having significant pain or other physical health problems. My sister's won't help me with respite and become secretive backbiters. When mom is doing better and I'm not there 24 7, they take selfies with her to show to her and extended family. The kicker is, they ostracize me. Mom doesn't have a clue that I had just been there caring and bathing her for months. My sister's get my mom riled up and saying things. I have no idea what they hope to achieve. I'm not looking for acknowledgement for the good care I give my mom. But I certainly am caught off guard when they pull the rug out from under me. It's toxic for sure. The biggest problem is they won't put the energy and effort into mom's care. Whatever is fastest and easiest, then they feel they have done their duty. I pick up the pieces...
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I have found that "letting it slide" doesn't address the deep hurt. To help counteract it I google and read positive affirmations, purpose fairy, mindfulness and the like. My big breakthrough as an adult was after losing a kind and sweet brother who took his own life. My family was put out, embarrassed and angry by what he did. I realized that if he didn't get that golden ring of approval and grace upon death, I was never going to get it.  I examined why their opinion mattered  so much to me because their views seemed mean.  Long story short the  affirmation that has really helped me is "their opinion doesn't define me".  The days I can wrap my head around that are the days my own light shines, I recognize the real me. It's an ongoing process and I still get caught off guard and crushed. I've sobbed while reading affirmations. I feel for you, rejection and bad mouthing from family can be devastating.  I hope that you are able to view it cognitively and replace it with good things. I have a suggestion to try with your mom.  View her as an individual more than your mom and make a decision when you see her that you have the strength to pursue aiming her thoughts into a good place ...repetition, redirection.  Ask questions about things you know were happy times.  Be the one who is very interested; what was the name of your pet pig? Sing part of an old tune...say how does the next line go? I dont remember.  What was the name of the street you grew up on?   I remember how pretty you looked on such and such occasion or in a certain outfit. Distraction with random questions that will boost her esteem.  Generally, childhood memories are best. If she's talking smack when you walk in... tru to share your sunshine with her, rise above smile "hello my beautiful mom" before she can retort go right into an old song or something.  Some days are easier than others. She doesn't define you. You are able to expand your own heart and exercise grace. If she's in good hands, take a sabbatical.
 I joined this site because I'm trying to figure out how to proceed with my sister's. I'm 52 yoa, the youngest and have been the current scapegoat for years. Parents divorced when I was 11.  I have a huge family history of alcoholism.  My 2 sister's are high functioning alcoholics (So like having 4 sisters...daytime and nighttime jekyl and hyde). One has been in aa for 1 year. Mom is a former HFA. Blackouts dont mean pass out, they are similar to the short term memory loss mom is experiencing. Most of my life I've been verbally abused (ugh, I actually wrote it). They don't have recall, so there's no addressing it. One sided love is normal to me, Ive assumed the other person loves me by default of family. Im revisiting this.  Only recently have I realized the magnitude of traits my sister's have developed to keep their drinking and negative feelings hidden so they can present themselves to the world a certain way. 
 Agh my fingers are numb from typing and I need to step away from this topic for a few hours. Writing is cathartic for me but it's always private and thrown away.  I really want to continue this bcuz it's desision time regarding poa legal matters.  For now, maybe the affirmation advice helps someone here. That and SNL's Stuart Smalleys advice!
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My mother does this, to an extent. Luckily, she has great hearing and so isn't shouting anything from the rooftops. But she "talks trash" about everyone--friends, family, whomever.
She lives with my brother, and lately has begun to target my angelic SIL who has graciously allowed mother (and daddy, until he passed) to live in their home, as they raised a large young family. (18 years!!) She's in a separate apt., and my mother thinks my SIL is her arch nemesis--since she stopped trying to clean mother's place. ( 4 years ago)
Well, it ISN'T sil's problem. It's us kids'! I try to clean when I visit, but like yesterday, a disaster as she has so many knick-knacks and junk all over--the whole place reeks of just too much stuff, poorly cleaned urine collection bags and diapers...why should my sil have to deal with this?? Mother refers to her as "my enemy"...and I call her on it every time she says it.
People who know mother and SIL, KNOW the truth, Likely the same is true for you. Also, likely your mother's "filter" is going and things she wouldn't have said out loud a year or two ago just get said--instead of just thought.
I DO call mother out if she is rude or inappropriate about SIL. (Or anyone else). She's rude to me and has had me on the naughty list so many times I can't count.
People are less judgmental and more aware than you're giving them credit for.
My sibs hear about all the other sibs when they visit. We all just let her put downs and comments slide. You HAVE to or you go crazy.
Having said that, I admit, I get crazy with her sometimes. I need to remember that I am just 26 years behind her in the aging dept.
You could definitely forewarn the people who come over that "mother's having a day" or just let them know she's becoming very inappropriate in her choice of topics--hurting people and talking behind their backs. A little warning may be all that's needed. I know I email the MIA sibs once a quarter to update them on Mother--her "inappropriate talk" being one of the subjects. If I am around and mother gets "nasty" I say "Hey, now, that's not what you told me. Let's not make it worse" or something. Said very calmly.
Yes, it's her issue, but it does affect you. Likely she isn't going to change (for the better) so best to find a way to deal with her now. Try talking to family and let them know that you know she does this, and perhaps, ask them to have your back. Not just to sit there and blindly accept insults as the truth. Being a united front to mom helps you feel you aren't terrible (likely your sibs don't believe that anyway!!) and once mom hears from all of them that they don't believe you're so awful--things could get better. Sounds like nobody really knows what to do/say when she gets this way. I feel for you!!
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