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My 89 year old mother lives alone - has extremely poor vision and hearing impaired. She absolutely insists on her independence.. grocery shopping, appointments, etc


Over the last week, she has been hinting (she will never be upfront and just ask) about going out for dinner, getting a burger delivered even though we just brought her to our house for dinner a few days ago... I went over to her house today when I knew she would be out (sadly) to snoop- I know what that sounds like .... and found no meat , 2 bags of rotten mushy carrots and only a loaf of bread in her freezer... she does have eggs, milk.. she is out at bingo


I have had the retirement home talk and then been given the silent treatment for a week, I have offered to set up a weekly grocery run with her (I work FT) but she likes to go when it suits her and not me... ie. weekends- I work every other weekend.


Delivery grocery services are " too much", she wants to pick out her own things, meal delivery services have been tried and given the boot too.


She has all her faculties.. and will not admit she is in need of help... I am at my wits end.

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Your description sounds very familiar. My MIL was just the same at that age. At first we talked her into having a helper come by for a few hours several days each week. She enjoyed the company and the helper ate the evening meal with her so she was not alone.

I will say that looking back ( 8 years later into dementia), I realize that her mental faculties were failing even then. When someone doesn’t recognize or admit they need help, things are already going awry in the brain.

Good luck. It can be a long journey.
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Now that I'm 72 and experiencing short-term memory impairment -- and still working -- I have much more understanding of my mom's mental process in her late 80s (20 years ago).

Mom was adamantly opposed to moving from her home of 30 years, no matter what condition she might eventually be in. She was steadfastly resistant to having someone live in until much later than we 'children' (all in 40s and 50s by then) thought appropriate. Because:

* having visited friends in nursing homes over long periods, she had an idea what that would really be like for herself;

* having watched good friends be forced into Assisted Living or even Retirement Communities by their well-meaning children, she had seen how well that didn't work out (the kids believed the ads, but the resident experience was always more disappointing than that, etc);

* having participated in the last days of several friends still living alone in their own houses, she had a pretty good idea how that would go -- and liked it!

At about age 85 she posted a typewritten sign on her front door that said essentially: Crotchety Old Lady lives here. Don't talk about me behind my back, don't pretend you know best for me. If I'm sleeping when you arrive, wake me up! I'm probably only sleeping because I got tired of reading.

At age 87 she allowed her youngest child to move in 'for a few weeks' after a brutal divorce. At age 89 she was still enjoying reading, TV, and email, but was finally letting him do all the cooking. During her last few months she occasionally needed help getting up in the middle of the night. During her last three weeks she needed someone asleep in the same room overnight.

Would she have lived longer in an Assisted Living place? Maybe. But she would have hated the whole thing, the whole time.

Now that I'm 72 and working in Hospice, I get to see various ways of ending up really old ... and I think someone 89 deserves to make her own choices.
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gdaughter Jun 11, 2019
Your lesson here is amazing and beautiful. And since I just learned this AM that this site is owned by A Place for Mom, I'm sure they won't be as happy LOL. I love the note idea. ALthough mine might have been far less wordy and more creative...maybe two words in glittered letters:-) LOL. Your mom was blessed to have some human resources and understanding family at that. We all want the right to make our own decisions, however bad or even dangerous others may see it. I've learned many lessons being in the elder business. This is the overriding one...thanks for sharing it!
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Raptor, consider yourself fortunate that mom wants to do what she can for herself, while she can.

Step back. Continue to offer to take her to the store. But, just let her do it. When you visit her just take a few things with you that you know she will enjoy.

My own refrigerator doesn't have eggs. I usually have yogurt milk juice cheese and pepperoncinis to have with my cottage cheese. I just do not need much. Will buy meat when I am going to eat it. Otherwise, it will not be in my fridge.
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Upstream Jun 16, 2019
For real! My mom threw her hands up in her early 70s and expects to be treated like a child. It's placed a huge burden on me. When my friend's mom turned into a big baby, he moved her to a nursing home. Giving up one's independence is a sad, sad deal!
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For several years I took my mom grocery shopping twice a week. She didn't have a walker back then, but held tight to the grocery cart. She was very disoriented at the store, but seemed to need to pick out her own food, even though I was doing most of the cooking for her. I had to learn the routine of the isles, because I shopped for myself at a different store. When she needed home care, they took her shopping for about a year longer. Eventually, she just got too tired to make it through the store, but would sit making a list for me or the care giver just about every day. I think she misses caring for a home, as she always wants to help in the kitchen at the assisted living place. I think this insistence on independence has to do feeling useful in the world. And I think I somewhat failed to keep my mom feeling useful, making too many decisions for her in my haste to get things done. Now that I have more time and not rushing about so much, I ask her opinion about things I do for her more. She often has no idea what I'm talking about, but states her opinion anyway.
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my2cents Jun 11, 2019
You nailed it, ArtistDaughter
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I am sorry but I think there is some cognitive problem here. At 89, she needs a full work up. Labs, testing and neurological.

She is losing her ability to reason.
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AT1234 Jun 11, 2019
Thanks JoAnn. I’m reading these comments and the elephant 🐘 n the room is she’s having some cognitive issues. And yes, you have a responsibility to look in her fridge.

Don't expect her to tell you hey I’m having problems here.
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There are so many older women here (my mom’s neighbors) that treat going on their weekly grocery trip as a social event of the week. They wouldn’t miss it for anything short of a hurricane!

They’ll spend days planning their grocery lists and still spend what seems likes hours picking out things, talking about foods and recipes to anyone that happens to be nearby. Might your mother look at it in a similar way?

Some take the community bus together, some go with others and share a taxi or ride.. is that something your mother would enjoy?
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Libbby Jun 11, 2019
I wonder if you could get some home help to take her out for weekend food shopping? That way she would still get to choose her own items. The helper could also assist with putting things away and light housecleaning while they are there.
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People are creatures of habit and the older we get, the more adherence to routine. Keep in mind, your big goal is to keep her walking/moving/active/social. When those things stops - you have problems that may not be reversible. I like to pick out my own groceries, so understand that part. Some of the food delivery might have been booted because it didn't include your company in the meal. Sounds like her mind is still good and all the more reason to keep her out of the facility for as long as possible.

Give her a book type calendar - month at a glance - and mark on it the day you are available to go grocery shopping. Don't ask - set a date. Call that morning and tell her to be ready and give your arrival time. When you get back separate meat items into a meal portion and freeze. Look in frig before you go to determine what needs to be tossed-when you put fresh items away, bag up the old and take it with you. - Other appts are put in the calendar, too, to make it easier for both of you.

When you cook a meal at home, make double and prepare some frozen meals out of that. It's familiar food for her. You work FT, but is there other family who could drop by with a burger in mid week? What about her friends? How does she get to Bingo - perhaps on Bingo day, pay for lunch for person who takes her.

If she needs a little help with cleaning/washing - is there someone she knows that could help with these tasks and give her a little social time as well? Even if you need to pay on the side.

Trust me - you need to keep her doing what she is doing. Don't have facility conversations with someone who still has it pretty much together but just needs a few loose ends tied up. Change the conversation to things that can be done to help her stay in her home as long as possible.
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I am there too. You are concerned for her safety and her health. It breaks our heart to have the parent dismiss us . Even harder to have them expect to have you open to their time frame ( since they have all the time in the world and we do not) Also have my mother say no to food delivery and retirement home and anyone even coming to clean etc. Gets angry.
It is pride and fear. They are comfortable with the house they know. A new place confuses them even more if they have any small confusion issues. And the denial- I will never get old and incapacitated.
When you understand her motives you can approach things without taking it personally. Lots of practical advice here by people who have walked the path you are beginning.
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cherokeegrrl54 Jun 16, 2019
Perfectly stated!
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After my mother started having short term memory problems and was diagnosed with MCI, I used grocery shopping trips with Mom to "monitor" how well she was doing. She did very well shopping for her groceries until the store rearranged some things, then I had to help her find new locations for some things; food choices were very similar to her younger years, though the fridge was a little more cluttered. Since I lived across the street and cooked almost daily, I sent my parents an evening meal most days. Mom also allowed me to buy and ship straight to her house bulky stuff (toilet paper, detergent, soap, etc.) so we didn't have to bother with shopping for them on grocery days. When Mom came to live with me, she gave up grocery shopping without any complaint but she still wanted to be useful and help with the housework and cooking.

My mother was the primary caregiver for my father with vascular dementia and I was able to eventually talk her into allowing someone into her home 4-5 mornings a week to help with housework. One of the weekly tasks was cleaning out the fridge; Mom and Dad both like to keep "left overs" too long but didn't seem to mind when they went missing each week.

I recommend Healthy Choice Cafe Steamers as a quick and nutritious meal for an independent senior; sodium count is low enough even someone on a reduced sodium diet can eat them daily (at least once). Most of them only need 4-5 minutes in the microwave, are very tasty, and inexpensive at $2.50 to $3.00 each. My mother couldn't pull back the plastic so she cut it off with a small paring knife.

I think a lot of seniors start not eating as well because they are too tired to prepare the food. And then it's difficult to maintain good health when you're not eating well.

I would encourage you to approach your mother with the attitude that YOU NEED to know she is safe in her own home with all the comforts she is accustomed to having. It's normal to tire faster as you age and need a little help. You need to work and cannot help her nearly as much as you would like, so would she please accept hiring someone for a few hours each week to take her shopping and help with some of the housework you cannot? My experience was once you have someone in the door and a few weeks passes where your mother becomes accustomed to the help, expanding that help later is much easier than getting that first person/service through the door.
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My mother is 94, lives alone in the mountain area of NC, 700 miles from my brother & I. She refuses to move closer to us, she refuses to go into independent living, she refuses to do anything to make everyone's life easier. For 94 she is in good health and still drives...Yikees! I have hired people to assist her, when I leave she fires them, saying they are stealing from her...not so. Honestly, we have given up, we now sit and wait for the day to come, and it will, a rubber band only stretches so far before it breaks. If we bring anything up that she does not want to hear, she gets real nasty and tells us to F ourselves and that we are useless, at this point I really don't care, as she has been verbally abusive all her life and I have had enough.
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cherokeegrrl54 Jun 16, 2019
Please do not feel any guilt....she has driven you away with abuse, now she gets to live with the consequences....so glad you have boundaries to protect yourself....some people just do not want any help and so all we can do is let them be “ on their own”....and live with the choices they made....blessings to you!
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