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How do I get help with my verbally abusive elderly mom?

We reluctantly moved my mom in with us a few months ago, because she ran out of her savings and only has Social Security left to live on, which isn't much. The trouble is that she has never been what you would call a loving grandparent, and for some reason, has never gotten along with my youngest child, now age 9. It has gotten much worse between them since she moved back in. My mom is very rude to my daughter, and often insults her. If I am home when it happens, I interfere, and then she gets mad at me, and starts insulting me, and later demands an apology and presents a list of demands. Sometimes my 19 yo son interferes, and it gets really ugly. I am done apologizing for defending my daughter, and am tired of her disrupting our home. I really want to put her in Senior Living, but she doesn't want that, and apparently I can't force her to go. So what are my options?
Status: Open    Sep 12, 2015 - 08:30 AM


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APFM Staff Answers

Dec 02, 2015 - 03:50 PM

Hi - I know you are in a difficult situation and that this is hard behavior to deal with. We do have an article on our blog called Verbal Abuse from Elderly Parents is Really Responsive Behavior that deals with verbal outbursts and difficult behavior in seniors. I hope this is helpful and wish you and your family the best.

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By dianelilac49 on Jul 16, 2016 - 06:52 PM | Like (0)  |  Report

My 92 yr old mother lives in her house alone. She can't care for the house or herself anymore. She does not want me and my kids moving in with her to help her, and she does not want us to help empty her house and sell it so we can move into a place together or put her in assisted living. She is a hoarder and has raccoons in the upper attic. A person can't movie a knicknack to dust or move anything or she explodes!!! I can't keep her in my small apt. I took care of her for 1 wk and I am exhausted. She is very picky and hard to please. I can't take the stress of this anymore and I'm ready for a nervous breakdown. She contantly complains and nothing I try to do for her pleases her. HELP!!!!!

By krgarner0 on Mar 11, 2017 - 03:43 PM | Like (0)  |  Report

I am the only child of an alcoholic abuser. He's worsened With age. Now 72. What do I do?

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Sep 15, 2015 - 10:00 AM

Does she she competent?

(If not my suggestion will not apply and looking for alternate living arrangements may be your only option.YOUR family comes first)

If you can sit down and have a discussion with her that she needs to respect you and your family and that this respect will go both ways.
You can start this conversation at a time when you are both calm then have a Family meeting and lay out ground rules for all involved.
If she continues to disrespect you or any member of your family you will have no choice but to look for alternate housing for her.
Give her probably the same talk she gave you when you were a teen and young adult living at home.
Give her time to adjust, this is a big change for all of you. But explain that after a period of time if things do not improve you will begin the search with her for a Senior Living facility where she will be happier.


Sep 15, 2015 - 10:25 AM

She refuses to cooperate or go to a Senior Living facility, which is why she lives with me, and I can't force her to go, unless I can prove her incompetant and get Power of Attorney. I don't know if I can accomplish that. My only other option is to evict her, which I can lawfully do. I'm just reluctant to do that.

Sep 20, 2015 - 07:30 AM

You might have to talk to a lawyer about this. I suggest one that is knowlegable in Elder Law.

Sep 20, 2015 - 08:22 AM

First, try to go through your mother's papers. She may have designated a power of attorney. Depending on the wording in the instrument, that person, who could be you, would have authority to place your mother in AL. Also look in your yellow pages or online for attorneys in your city who specialize in elder law. I would only visit an elder law attorney for this matter.

Visit the attorney and explain your situation. Bring any powers of attorney your mother may have created for the attorney to review and opine on. The attorney may recommend that you ask the court to appoint of a conservator and/or guardian for your mother. Appointment of a conservator and/or guardian is an arduous and expensive process, but that person would have legal authority to place your mother in AL.

Best of luck.

Sep 20, 2015 - 09:29 AM

A psychiatrist might be able to help. Medication, talk therapy, and perhaps a recommendation regarding her competence could be helpful to all of you. Seeing a professional counsellor could be one of your requirements for her staying at your house. If she rebuffs all suggestions and efforts, you will have to evict her. Otherwise your children will be adversely affected, and then you will have even more problems.

Source: Life experience.


Sep 20, 2015 - 10:40 AM

My husband refused to see the doctor but we took him anyway. My husband was combative and abusive and we finally stopped talking to him like he was rational and began to do and say what we needed to do to keep our sanity while getting him what he needed. I worked him through the medical systems until I got a diagnosis of "severe mental impairment and memory loss" then I had a direction and amumition. It was hellish and exhausting. Stop defending family members or trying to negotiate or reason with your Mom, just do what you have to do. It takes awhile to turn your head around and unlearn the respect for your Mom that will automatically kick in and start your verbal reasoning response to her behavior so you have to practice but just keep telling yourself this is not right and I will not subject my family to it, then get her started through medical channels.

Sep 20, 2015 - 02:45 PM

Enlist the help of a Geriatric Care Manager who is experienced in family mediation. You need to be relieved of your current role which puts you directly at odds with your mom. A family mediator could help facilitate dialogue between all family members while also objectively looking at options/solutions.

Sep 21, 2015 - 07:57 AM

My heart goes out to you. My husband and I moved from Atlanta to Florida, sold our home and left good jobs to buy an older house in the county my mother lived in so that we could take care of her. Mom became verbally agressive within 6 months. She said horrible things to my grandchildren then 2 and 6 years of age. She treated my 14 year old like a criminal and called him a "druggie and a thug". My son was a clean cut kid in ROTC classes at school. My oldest daughter actually hid from her as she threw things at her , plastic chairs , food , dishes and phones. She cursed at my husband and called him "no Good" .After a year she bagan to call the police frequently reporting that there were " Hippies and drugs" in our home and accused my children of theft. Everytime my mother lost something she thought "we" stole it. It was an everyday occurance. I ask her about Assisted Living and said I thought she might be happier. That caused her to threaten a call to Elerly Services and report abuse by us if we tried to take her out of "her home".

I went to Senior Services ( Elder Services) in our county. I told a worker that we were now affraid to live with my mom as she was verbally agressive and physicaly abusive but now lived our home. The man said " be careful , we get these cases everyday. The rescuer always becomes the victim in these cases and you must protect yourself" He told me to buy a handheld recorder and record her verbal outbursts and cussing and screaming. He said photograph any damages , and video anything you can wthout her knowing. Hold onto them in case you need them. Well 5 months later my mother attacked my youngest daughter and scratched her face and shoulders. My daughter called me from a bathroom where she locked herself in with her three year old. The police came and saw the marks and removed my mother to be evaluated. Within 24 hours we had Adult Services investigationg us for Elder Abuse. My mother was telling them we were mean to her , abused her , and hit her with a refridgerator. ( my son once opened the refridgerator door as she came into the kitchen and it hit her shoulder). Elder services came with Child Services and they wanted to see the two youngest children in the house. All of us had to submit to drug testing and they checked every room in our house and looked in our refridgerator and then in hers in her efficiency apartment in our home. They told us we would go to jail if we abused her. Thank God I had taken the mans advise. I went and found my recordings and photos and played them for the investigator. She sat quietly and then said " Ok I see whats going on here now". Thirty days later they closed the case. During those thirty days , I lost 30% of my hair and stopped eating due to the stress .Three weeks after it started they decided to release my mom to go home. They said I had to go get her or they would make her a ward of the court and put her in a State Facility. My mom is grouchy , grumpy , abusive and down right mean , but I love her and was not allowing her to be sent away. She is still driving , cooking and takes care of herself. A nursing home would take away what life she has left. I went and got her , but I found her a subsidized apartment in town. I had to pay the full rent at 600.00 for three months but then they reduced it by her income to 179.00. I moved her in all by myself. My husband was long gone and moved away , the stress ruined our marriage. My daughter took her kids and moved out as did my son. I was alone with her suddenly. She has been there three years and now cannot live alone her health is declining. I am trying to find a place closer to me but not in my home.

The best advise I was given was " Protect yourself". It is a dangerous situation to be in. Make sure all your bases are covered at all times. Document outbursts by time of day , event and day. Remember this though, "It is not that they dont love us" Its that they are old and set in their ways. We are still children to them , not their guardians or caregivers. They will treat strangers better than they treat us. Its sad , but it is true in most cases. Go to Senior Services and get advise. Prayers for you and your family.

Sep 21, 2015 - 11:07 AM

This isn't about lack of love, but basic safety; staying safely in her room angryand spiteful would be a step forward.

This is an emotionally draining situation, not unlike the reverse of a parent having a grown child who is abusive and dangerous to the rest of the family as frequently happens in drug situations, or an estranged adult as often happens in custody situations. The same strategy needs to exist of protecting the family from a known threat by enforced separation. You CAN have her evicted.

In this case, the separation is making the individual a ward of the state. Find out what process is needed to make this happen, and the timeline for doing so. Then present it to her, along with a recording of her being abusive, and a list of your requirements for a safe and loving home for her to initial, item by item. Include anger-management counseling, at your expense.

The bottom line is, you are trying to raise your children to be respectful of others. If she can't be an adult role model and stop doing what's on the recording, then she needs to stay in her room; if she is unwilling to follow that rule, then she is disruptive to the household and will be evicted according to the process described in the "ward of the state" document. At this point, she is no longer your MOM, but a disruptive senior citizen with an anger-management problem and finances that are independent of yours.

Build in the understanding of both a backslide or two--this is a long-standing habit--and an immediate consequence. But be firm too. Maybe three checkboxes on the document; three strikes and you're on your own.
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