My mother spent about 3 weeks in behavorial health where she was diagnosed with moderate dementia and a personality disorder. She moved into a nursing home 5 minutes from me because her doctor said she needs to be in a skilled nursing facility. She also is partially confined to a wheelchair with peripheal neuropathy and only walks short distances with a walker and much assistance. Otherwise she is healthy with no body system issues (heart, lungs, etc. all in good shape).

She is fairly clear some days, mean as can be others. It's like flipping a light switch. She has always had a cell phone until I took it recently. She calls and leaves me very hurtful, nasty messages and this past Sunday she had a complete meltdown, threatening to call the police on me and her sitter. That's when I took the cell phone. She also tells others that we're trying to kill her and are stealing her money. Now she's asking for her phone and I don't know what to say. Her doctor's PA said to tell her she's too confused to have a phone right now but I know if I say that she will go balistic! I'm an only child and she has always intimidated me some, but now it's a lot worse. Every time I try to stand up to her about anything she becomes meaner to me and trashes me to anybody that will listen. I am seeing a therapist and she has told me to limit my visits to only twice and week and for only 5 minutes at the time. I go and talk to nurses and peep at her if I don't actually visit. Her sitter is wonderful and keeps me informed, although gives me a little too much information sometimes. Meant to add I am her POA. Thanks for any ideas.

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What do you expect to gain from ”standing up” to her? Do you expect her to stop what she’s doing and start making “nice” phone calls?

She has dementia. Dementia means no fully functioning filters. Don’t “tell her” you’re discontinuing her phone service. If it makes you uncomfortable to listen to her, discontinue it, or don’t answer her calls, or answer her calls and quickly say you are too busy to talk or your door bell just rang or whatever.

As long as you are doing what is best for your mom and her welfare, you have absolutely NO REASON to care WHAT she says, since you know that it is NOT your mom but rather her dementia that is talking.

It is VERY difficult to hear the comments of someone who you dearly love speaking harshly of you. At such times you (and I) must focus on the memories of the good times and, in love, stay strong and not interact or be a part of the uncharacteristic hostility.

Dementia in any form is a dreadful cruel curse. There are times when the only thing we can do is circumvent it or rise above it.
I have never seen a single instance in which dementia responded positively to a challenge from a loved one.
Helpful Answer (15)

You could change your number in her phone to a strip club, then when she calls you to be ugly she gets the wrong number.

It is okay to tell her to stop being mean and nasty. Let her blow up, you hang up or walk away. Tell her you will talk to her when she can be civil. Then enforce that boundary.

You do not have to accept her abuse, you can protect yourself.
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pamzimmrrt Sep 2019
That is hysterical!! I love it!!
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I vote for not giving back the cell phone. The possible bad outcomes override the good overall; it could be outright stolen from her, she could give out sensitive information to an unscrupulous caller, and/or she could keep calling and harassing you, and you have to keep paying for that service, to boot! You're the boss, applesauce. I had an overbearing mother, as well. It was so shocking to see her deteriorate with the disease, and I was an only child as well.
She probably feels anxious and knows that she is loosing her faculties, so she lashes out at those closest. I'm sorry you're having to go through this stage. Soon, she won't be able to use a phone or even ask about it any longer. My mother passed away about a year ago and I'm still recovering from the entire experience. Please update us and let us know how you handled "the phone fury". Take care and know that you are not completely alone. It's great that this community exists.
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I have a different perspective, based perhaps on an overly cautious and documenting attitude.    I log all my calls, incoming and outgoing (just as I did when I worked for law firms)  including those that might be offensive.    Over the years, I've learned that some people can't be trusted and claim to have called when they didn't.   

I don't do this in the anticipation of battling anyone, but when someone claims they called and said x,y,z, I can check my records.  It's absolutely necessary when dealing with business issues, but very helpful for family relations as well.    And there have been times when I wished I'd never returned a call on my cell as I can't write while talking, as it gives me a neck ache, and ear plugs hurt my ears.  And I can only rely on memories of that particular explosive conversation.

But there have been times when I wished I had some way to record specific conversations for documenting purposes, especially when it's someone who changes his/her mind and later makes false claims.

In your particular case, I can understand the frustration of being verbally attacked, but I think there's also merit in documenting those calls, just in case....I can't think of anything that might arise from this, unless it's that someone unfamiliar with your mother's hostility becomes involved, thinks this is something new, and decides to take action.

CYA can very often be a good approach; in these caregiving situations, one never knows what arises.   And there was one situation in which I was glad that I documented outsiders who I later realized seemed to be attempting to create a case for failure to properly care for my father.  

I thought their comments were peculiar at the time, then I began to see a pattern.   With all my records, I could read back and see how this developed, and that helped me realize that these people seemed to be laying the foundation for improper care (and their filing of guardianship/conservatorship to get at my father's funds.)

(This was also when they advised that, contrary to previous offers of support, they decided at that time that they would not offer any help inside the house.  This was a time when we needed help the most, and put a lot more pressure on me.)    I could just imagine $$$$ in their mindset.
Helpful Answer (12)

If it were me I'd choose no cell phone for your mom. Doesn't the facility provide a land-line in her room? That's what my MIL has. The only use for your mom's cell phone is apparently to call and torment you. Why put up with that? And pay for it, besides? It also opens up the possibility of scammers contacting her without your knowing it. Just tell her you are arranging to have a phone installed in her room (a land line). Then do not give out any numbers of people she will call and possibly also torment. Just your number, and you do not have to answer all her calls. You may eventually decide she doesn't really need a phone. My MIL no longer calls out because even though we've written our numbers on a whiteboard in her room, it just doesn't register in her mind to call us. When she first got into the facility she had her old address book and called everyone in it, several times a day because she couldn't remember she had already called them. Yikes. We only found out when her friends called us to let us know. I'm an only child too and I totally get how this is impacting you (except the intimidation by an 85-yr old thing). Eventually your mom will get over this hump. She doesn't control you unless you allow her. So, don't allow her. Be strong! Wishing you wisdom and peace in your heart over this decision.
Helpful Answer (11)

Sometimes peripheral neuropathy DOES happen out of the blue. BOTH of my parents, with no weight issues or diabetes, had (Dad passed in 2015) and have it, with no evident cause, and both of them wound up in wheelchairs as a result. Sometimes chemical exposure can cause nerve damage which leads to neuropathy.

I would tell mother her cell phone is broken and cannot be replaced. Lots of people in memory care communities are unable to have a phone anymore for obvious reasons. The POA is the one to determine if their loved one is capable enough to have a phone. In your mother's case, I'd say no. You can still stay connected to her, if you wish, by calling the community directly and asking to either speak directly to her, or, to get a report on how she's doing. If the visits are THAT toxic, I'd limit them to once a week (which is how often I visit my mother in memory care) and stay until the drama amps up and then leave.

Another option, of course, is to block her number and delete voice mails, but the temptation to listen to them might get too great. You are not 'isolating' your mother by taking away her cell phone, and you will not 'get into trouble' by doing so. MANY residents of NHs and Memory Care communities are without telephones for obvious reasons. My aunt, for instance, kept calling 911 saying Help Me and finally, my cousin had to take her phone out of her room in Assisted Living. I work in a Memory Care community where about 25% of the residents have a phone in their room; and the ones who do have landlines. As long as the facility has a phone, that's all you need.

Best of luck!
Helpful Answer (9)

Don't take your mother's cellphone away. Delete voicemails without listening to them - you can call her back, you don't need hear nasty messages meanwhile. Block her number if you like, and let other consenting adults do the same if they like. If the police and emergency services get too annoyed with her, THEY can take her phone away; but if you do it you're isolating her and that could conceivably get you into trouble.

Peripheral neuropathy does not happen out of the blue. Does your mother have any difficulties with diabetes, or perhaps with her weight?
Helpful Answer (8)

She's using the cell phone as a weapon, so yes, I'd consider removing it - without guilt!
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I see no reason for a Dementia patient in the stage your mother is in needing a cell phone or a landline. If she is harrassing you, she is harassing others. You don't need this added stress. Even if you ignore her calls, you know she has called.

And why a sitter? Mornings are usually busy thru lunch. If a good LTC, there should be afternoon activities to keep her busy. Then dinner and getting residents ready for bed.
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My option would be no to the cell phone. I am very glad you are seeing a therapist with this very wise advice. You will have to set boundaries and limits with your Mom or she will continue. You can in fact know that her sitter knows how to do this. It is much like having a two-year old. You would not let them run rampant with any old decision they want to make--right? Neither should you with an adult who is not in full command of her own faculties. I would use a therapeutic lie, such as some mentioned below. It is broken and they are attempting to fix it; it may not be fixable. We will see, it is being sent out to get fixed, and so on.
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