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I am an only child of an 85 year old dad and an 83 year old mom. Approx. 1 month ago, my father was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. My father has hearing aids, but still has a very hard time hearing. He has always seemed with it, but within these last weeks, he has seemed more confused and not quite remembering like he used to. My mother can hear better than my father, but sometimes misses things. Her memory is terrible. Believe me when I say I know they are both stresses and lost more than you know. I am trying not to stress them out more, in fact, I am trying to help them. My dad says, I am there ears, eyes and mouth, so I am trying to be that, however my mother is fighting me on everything. She is flying off the handle all the time (but it is only at me) and for ridiculous things.


Just for a quick explanation: we were at the hospital today, the dr gave us a drawing of what he did during the procedure to my dad, when we got back to the waiting room, I had a bag that I was carrying everything in, his teeth, his hearing aids, his glasses and a couple of items I had brought for my mother. I said let's put the papers in the bag so we can keep everything together, just in case you set it down and/or misplace it. I put them in there, about 5 minutes later she got up and went to my bag and I said what are you doing and she said I want that paper and I said Ok, I just thought we would keep everything together in one spot so we don't.., well she stopped me right there and went off, saying my name loudly and telling me she could not take this anymore, I am making her crazy and what I'm doing has to stop. I was like, I'm sorry mom what did I do, I was just trying to keep, "forget it, my name again, I just can not take this, I need you to stop. Now there was a coffee table like in between us, so I said under my breath, wow what did I do and again I guess it is all my fault and she went off again and then started crying. About 10 minutes later I went to her and hugged her and said mom we are going to be fine. Dad got through this today, he will get through it next week and she kinda pushed me and way and was like what are you talking about. She literally will fight me on anything. Our first appt at the oncologist when he was diagnosed, the dr explained all the stages and said my father was Stage 1, however it is a very aggressive surgery and it does kill. He also said at Stage 2 it has started to spread and Stage 3-4 it just continues to get worse. At Stage 1 they can do this surgery, after Stage 1 this surgery is not possible and we would have to move to plan b. I found out approx. a week later that my mother had been telling people my dad was at Stage 3. I told her that dad was only at Stage 1 and she said as she pointed to herself that when her and my dad were at that appt the dr told them Stage 3, I said mom, I was at that appt and he is at Stage 1, he can't do the surgery if dad is past Stage 1 and she was like I have no idea what you are talking about and she gets very angry.


Last week they had an appt and she said it was at the drs office, well no it was at the hospital and he wasn't supposed to eat or drink after midnight, she was certain and very serious that they had never told her that and that it was in fact at the drs office, until I told her for again and then she got so angry she gave the phone to my dad. This was approximately 8:00-8:30 am, that evening she did not remember this at all and said she must not have been there. She told my boyfriend of 16 years, that they love very much, that she was not leaving me the house or anything because I owed so much that they would probably come take the house and everything else. She was extremely angry with my dad for having me check their health insurance and making sure it's paid. She was also extremely angry at my dad for giving me his social security card. It is as if she is competing with me and/or thinks I am out to get them and steal from them. My cousin was there the other night with his wife and he said not once did she have any symptoms that would have made him think she was losing her mind. I said well it is obvious she doesn't like me, because everything I say or do is wrong and she is playing my father and I against each other. My father never hears my end of the phone conversations so she will tell him (cause I hear her yelling when she is passing the phone to him, "she is hysterical, she is going crazy about this drs appt tomorrow, I can't take it anymore, you deal with her". This is what my mom tells my dad.


So I am obviously the problem causer and I can't get anything right and I need to be much nicer to my mom". Well my cousin has witnessed this and he said I just need to grin and bear it, but today I almost missed the procedure because they gave me the wrong information. This is going to continue to get worse and I seriously do not know what to do, where to go. Thank you! This probably doesn't make sense

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It is such a change when the person you are talking to has dementia. Normal logic doesn't work. As suggested, stop "telling" and contradicting. The truth is no longer the accepted version of reality.

My husband constantly tells me about his crazy delusions that he believes. I just say, "uh huh" and right and I guess so. If a delusion is making him unhappy, I will try to push him to accept the truth - that his daughter doesn't really hate him. That we are not yet on the edge of poverty. But if he believes he spent years living in a swamp before I rescued him, "Yeah, that's right."

This is very hard for me because I am devoted to (my version of) THE TRUTH. But he is my spiritual teacher, and I am learning that I HAVE TO go with the flow.

One statement that defuses lots of crises is this. "I promise I will always take care of you. I won't desert you, and I will make sure you're all right." This is not a promise to keep him home forever. It is a promise to do my best to make sure he is all right.
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coyotes, your mother sounds a lot like mine. My mother will argue the horns off a billy goat. It is only me she does it with, though. She is passive with everyone else.

What you mentioned about Stage 1 vs Stage 3 reminded me a lot of my mother. She has dementia and will pick up on scraps of information, then fill other information in. For example, we went to an oncologist when Dad had an inflamed open sore on his leg. The doctor pushed and saw it was pitting edema. I knew it was Dad's circulation. The doctor said it wasn't cancer and there was really nothing anyone could do about it. He and I both knew Dad was close to death.

Well, anyway, my mother began thinking that Dad had cancer and it was in his bones and there was nothing that could be done. How she put this together, I don't know. People with dementia can be very creative.

About your mother's combativeness -- I found the best thing is to walk away. There is no way to win an argument or talk reason. On the group we sometimes talk about having a helmet so we can bump our heads against the wall without hurting. Of course, I have my trusty finger pistol that helps to relieve stress. It's not loaded, so no harm done. I'm glad there are no hidden cameras in my bedroom! People would think me absolutely crazy. I do know what you're going through. When it is bad, just walk away. If your mother is like mine, her combativeness will pass in a few minutes... that is, unless I engage her. Then it can go on a long time.

I think it's a great idea to see if you can get the POAs for finances and healthcare. Also see if you can get a form from your father's doctor so information can be shared. It would be great if you could go to his appointments with him. That way you would know what his schedule is. Your mother tries, but it sounds like she is pretty disorganized. (My mother writes information on scraps of paper, too. I don't even try to organize that!)
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Coyote,
It makes perfect sense. You are pretty much describing the way my Mom behaved when my Step Dad was diagnosed with Cancer. As if I wanted to take over her "job". My Step Dad put his foot down. I don't think my Mom had a Dementia diagnoses at that point but she was certainly forgetful and became more so after Step Dad was diagnosed. Anyway Step Dad took me to bank and put me on all accounts. I was Medical and Financial Power of Attorney. He let the Doctors offices know I would be coordinating the appointments and handling all financial and insurance matters. It was too stressful for all three of us the way it was going before Step Dad put his foot down with Mom. I wasn't there for the "putting the foot down" conversation. But I guess hearing it from him was different than arguing with me. Maybe your Dad can help the situation, if he is up to it, to legally put you in charge, and explain it to your Mom. Good luck to the three of you. Take care of yourself.
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Coyotes05, Clearly the wife is not able to handle these visits and should be left at home. She also needs a sitter or some sedatives when you are gone with Dad. She may be on the edge of dementia or just stressed out or both. Have Dad make you health care proxy, sign the papers. Separately, take mom to her MD for a complete check up and some Rx for stress.
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I'm going to jump in here with something you may need to think about. I see a very similar dynamic between my sis and her sons. Sis can't seem to say anything to her boys without them reacting like your mom has to you, and the way I see it is because she is always TELLING them what to do or correcting what they say. They feel she treats them like children and that she is so busy thinking about what she thinks they should do she doesn't really listen to what they actually want/say. They end up angry and she ends up in tears.

Think about the way you and mom interact, think hard before you correct her or you jump in to take care of things before you are asked. Instead of saying 'no, mom, his cancer is stage 1", say "are you sure mom, I thought that they can't do the surgery unless it is at stage 1, let's re read my notes from the doctor's visit". Over simplified, but do you get what I'm saying?
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dutifulinmisery, never under estimate the amount of work you do for your Mom. What might be easy for you to do, for someone else it could be overwhelming and emotionally exhausting. So never stop complaining, we all learn from each other :)

Oh how I wished I would have found this forum years ago. I would have done so many things differently.
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coyotes- wow. Your post certainly brought back some painful memories for me. The situation about the papers in the bag and your mom going off saying "I just can't take this/ you have to stop" especially. I would be busting my butt and running myself ragged and I'd get reamed by my mother for my trouble. But the thing was - if it weren't for me, appointments would be missed, medication messed up etc. My mom would write things down on two different calendars and also write important information on half a dozen scraps of paper all around the apartment. One day - in the beginning- I attempted to gather up all the scraps of paper along with the calendars to organize the information. My mother nearly became hysterical and totally went off on me - especially when I tried to explain what and why I was doing it. There were similar situations that followed. If I'd thrown up my hands and walked away - like I was sooo tempted to do - the consequences would have been worse. There is good advice here - especially in what jeannegibbs, Churchmouse and sunny are saying. Eventually I learned to just do whatever I needed to do to make sure things happen. I tried to do it independently of whatever my mom thought or believed to be the situation- which was usually inaccurate- and regardless of whatever system she thought she had in place - leaving her tiny scraps of paper alone. And I only argued or insisted when absolutely necessary. At the time I was pretty frustrated and angry with my mom. But hindsight being 20/20 and all that - I know now my mom was advancing in dementia- that I didn't even realize she had. Mom was frighten and loosing control of her own life - and her mind - and to a certain extent, she recognized that. As others have said - I was there, I was "safe" and I was the one she took her anger and frustration out on. It's not fair and it hurts. But there's not much fair about getting old and loosing your independence and there's certainly nothing fair about dementia. I'm afraid the best advice I can give is - grow a thick skin and soilder on doing what you know to be right and in your parents best interest. Do what you need to do to make things happen as independently from your mother as possible. And yes, remind yourself often - it's not you and it's not your fault.
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Oh my goodness! After joining this site and writing a poor-me post, I started reading about the problems the rest of you have. I am embarrassed now because taking care of my mom is a piece of cake compared to what the rest of you are going through! I will read on, keep my whining mouth shut, and pray very hard for you strong, courageous caregivers.
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coyotes05, I had witnessed something similar with Mom right after my Dad had a heart attack. My Mom was in total denial of Dad's medical condition. She refused to be believe he had a heart attack. And any time someone mentioned Dad's heart attack she would say that didn't happen.

I think a lot of my Mom's denial was from the era she grew up in, Mom was in her early 90's at the time. When she was growing up the neighbors would talk that the wife wasn't giving good care to her husband if he had become ill.... [sigh]

Mom refused to have Dad go to stay at a rehab, she felt she could take care of him at home. Thus the physical therapist and nurse would come to the house. Believe me, the welcome wagon was NOT present. Mom would glare at the PT and the nurse, making it awkward. She didn't like the walker as it was making tire marks on the rug.

I never use to argue or raise my voice at my Mom, but several times I did when i said "Mom, this isn't all about you". Later I realized that Mom was scared. She found out that when Dad fell, she couldn't pick him up, and Dad fell a lot during his recovery because his legs were so weak. Mom did sleep on the sofa and Dad in his recliner until he got back his energy to climb stairs.
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The comments about not being able to convince your mom that you are right are true. There is no point. So, I'd prepare to agree with her, go along, let it be her way, while she is looking. Later, do things you know they should be done. I'd try to get Durable and Healthcare POA's for both your parents, now, because if your dad is no longer able to handle things, you'll need that document. And it sounds like your mom may also be progressing, if she has dementia. Her behavior does sound like dementia, but, I would rule out other causes. Will she see a doctor? This may be news that your dad isn't really ready to hear right now.

I would be concerned if your mom is going to be in charge of dad's care though. Will he be able to monitor his own medications and not rely on mom? I wouldn't think she is up for that.

I'd also be concerned that mom is argumentative and frustrating with your father when you aren't around. He may not be willing to admit it though. I'd try to make sure she's not stressing him out.

Coming to this site is great for support, but, I would try to get others help to, like the cousin you mention. I recall how stressful it was when I was dealing with my loved one at a certain stage. It was exasperating. If you confirm that it is dementia, reading about the condition really does answer many questions and make bring you some comfort. Just know that it's not you and keep the faith.
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Imagine what your mother is feeling. Up to a month ago, there they were, ambling along through a happy retirement, and then whammo! Her rock and soul-mate is found to have a terrifying, often painful and potentially lethal disease.

Can you imagine her sense of panic, outrage, desperation? She needs to feel she can get back control and stop this nightmare happening.

She is not going to be a sweet little old soul to be around right now.

And you are right in the firing line.

Phew. The thing is, your father's diagnosis is not exactly going to be the best news that you've had all year either, is it - where does your fear and grief go for a bit of soothing?

First aid: get a good, stout notebook/diary. This is the Dad Bible. In it goes every piece of data - dates, medications, contact reports, appointments, everything. It lives in your parents' house, but where you can access it.

Be careful to pick your battles. Yes, keep an eye on administration; but if you don't need to do something right now and your mother's getting in a tizzy about it, then leave it.

When you can't back off, which sometimes you can't because, for example, you really had to be at that meeting and you really did have to keep all the paraphernalia together, then just let your mother be angry and rage and try to soak it up. Yes, do still hug and reassure her; but have minimal expectations of how she responds. Angry terrified people still need love and comfort.

And speaking of needing love and comfort, who's looking after you?
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Oh, your poor mother! What huge, major stress she is facing! She is angry and sad and mostly scared. Very inappropriately, but understandably, she focuses all this emotion on you. That is safe. You are going to continue to love her no matter what, right?

And your dad says you are their ears, eyes, and mouth. So what does that leave as your mother's role? Your dad is right, but what a bitter pill for Mom to swallow.

It really sounds like your mother's "memory" issues may be dementia, and that this huge stress is making things worse.

If at all possible, try not to argue with her. If she has dementia reasoning with her has no impact. And even if it isn't dementia, she is too stressed and scared right now to be reasonable. What does it really matter if she says the cancer is at stage 3 and you know it is stage 1? If she is passing the bad information on people who need to know, quietly give them the correct information. To her, just nod. Find out from more reliable sources when and where the appointments are. Don't argue with her about it.

Your mother's world has come unraveled. I watched my best friend go through this when her husband was diagnosed with cancer -- and my friend is more than ten years younger than your mother, with no signs of dementia.

All of this, of course, is Not Your Fault. (And your mother knows this in her heart. It is her head that isn't working correctly right now.) Try very hard to avoid confrontation with Mom. Do not take her accusations and resentment personally. You are just a handy, safe target for her overwhelming emotions.

Mom is going to need a lot of comforting and encouraging in the coming months. And, obviously, Dad needs your attention, too! Please come back often and share how this is going for you. We care!
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You should make sure that dad signs a HIPAA release for you so that you can be given medical information by the hospital and doctor.

When at a doctor's appointment, write down what the doctor says and review it at the end. ' So, the cancer is at stage one, and we need to schedule the surgery with the hospital, correct?".

When your mom gets murderously angry at you, just back away. Dont argue. I know this is easier said than done. It is most likely the dementia talking.
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It makes perfect sense.

It could be that your mom is deflecting her panic on to you. Or she could have a UTI ( they cause behavioral symptoms in the elderly). Or her dementia could be worsening. Or all three.

Can you get mom to her doctor for a physical, a urine test and a chat about with the doc? You can fax over a letter with a concise list of your concerns beforehand.
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