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Why can I never make my elderly mother happy?

My mother is nearly 80 and in independent living, and refuses to do anything to make her daily life more pleasant. She won't wear hearing aids, or cataract surgery which leaves her unable to watch TV, read or anything. She just says she wishes it was all over - that she would hurry up and die already. My 3 visits a week aren't "good enough" and she keeps comparing me to her neighbor's children who visit every day. I have elementary aged kids and work full time but she says that is an excuse to abandon her.
Status: Open    Dec 20, 2015 - 08:40 AM

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Jan 02, 2016 - 09:32 AM

There is nothing you can do to MAKE your mother happy any more than you can MAKE your children happy. (You know how well that goes, right?). All you can do is try to live your own life in relationship to her in such a way that when she is gone, you'll have few regrets (though there will always be some). One of the things my sister did when Mom was in assisted living (they were in the same city and she was the primary caregiver) when she couldn't visit often enough was to find other people to visit Mom, such as someone with the Stephens Ministry from Sis's church, or someone from an organization like Home Instead or Visiting Angels. Do you have any resources like that? Do they have activities for the elders in the assisted living center? Does she do them? If not, why not? Is there an activity director there, and if she, can you solicit her/his help in pairing Mom with an amenable friend? (Preferably someone else hard of hearing so they can shout at each other! ;-)

What does her doctor say about her depression? Is she willing to take meds for it?

Having said all that, you might be interested in Viktor Frankl's book, "Man's Search for Meaning." A Jewish psychiatrist who survived a WWII concentration camp, he practiced among the other prisoners and noticed that the ones who did NOT fling themselves into the electrified fences or give up in despair were those who were able to find meaning in their suffering. Because let's face it, at any age, losing your looks/health/sight/hearing would be depressing.

Would she be amenable, during your visits, to have you fill out with her one of those "Grandmother Remembers" books? One of the things elders want to do is pass their wisdom on to the next generation and having a book like that to work with will generate questions for her to think about and jog her memory. Ask questions yourself .... there will be a time when you won't be able to anymore.

Leaving her memories for her grandchildren may help your mother feel that there is still some meaning in her life and lift some of her depression. Who knows? It's worth a try. It's a difficult journey but it will be worth it all. I lost my mom in October 2014; I just had my first grandchild and there's not a day that goes by that I don't miss Mom something fierce, in spite of her paranoia, delusions, and overall dissatisfaction with her last years. Blessings to you.



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By kingsolnew on Jul 21, 2016 - 10:23 AM | Like (0)  |  Report

I am your mother's age and the fact is that people age the way they lived most of their lives.
Some people can grow old gracefully while others, like your mother, never developed the skills. And the trick to developing the skills is to start early. You can't teach an old dog tricks, and some old people don't want to learn new tricks to live. Those are people, not living, just surviving, and they survive by sucking the life out of you like a cancer.
She wishes that it were over and maybe that would be the greatest boon to you if she dies or just grows the hell up.
But if you offer to kill her, she'll just say you don't love her.
These people leech off us and they love it
You can't please her. Tell her that you don't like being abused and if she continues abusing you, you will stop talking to her, and follow through. If she says that she will behave, give her a time frame of a week. If she keeps on being a pain in the ass, don't tak to her. Stop complaining and start living. Cut out the cancer.

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Jan 02, 2016 - 09:41 AM

Been there, done that. Even though it is hurtful, I have come to understand that it is not about us, it is the situation and you are an easy target. To be truthfully honest, I would probably feel the same. I had to move my mom to the memory care unit for her own safety. She gets angry because she can no longer come & go as she pleases. When I visit once a week, I take her out for a couple of hours and when we return, she gets upset with me because I cannot bring her home. I don't have to tell you about the guilt. I just keep reminding myself that she is where she needs to be & it's me that needs to get over it. It does not get any easier, all we can do is the best we can.

Jan 02, 2016 - 10:09 AM

I am sorry your mother is unhappy, but that is her choice. I just moved my mother into assisted living because she has dementia. Prior to that, my husband and I considered moving her up to our property into a small home so we could keep an eye on her and care for her. She is 90, and has always been difficult to please. When I found out that she had dementia, and gave serious thought to caring for her full time, I decided against it. After my father died in 2010, I have been responsible for her, her bills, and after she quit driving (thankfully!) I took her to all her appointments and shopping, etc. I have picked one day a week to do these appointments and errands, and only occasionally do I see her another day of the week. It has been my responsibility to move her out of her home, find an assisted living community that her insurance would cover, and rent out her home. My mother has chosen to take care of herself with hearing aids and surgery for her eyes, and she has decided to participate in activites at the assisted living comunity. She also says she is ready to go. But it is not your responsibility to make your mother happy, it is hers. Biblically, we are to honor our parents, but that does not mean doing everything they want us to to make them happy. It means living our lives in an honorable way - there are some parents that just can't be pleased! As married adults with children, our spouses and children come before our parents. Of course, as far as it is up to us, we want to be able to get along with them, but sometimes that just can't be. You don't really know that your mother's neighbor's children visit every day. And there may be many of them, so it seems like someone is always there. And, she may be pleasant to visit, unlike your mother. You have NOT abandoned your mother, she has chosen what she will and won't do, and the is living out the consequences of her choices. She is trying to make you feel guilty with the comments she makes, please don't let her define you. You have a choice here, also, and how you allow your mother to define your life and your choices will also affect your family. You are very busy taking care of your family, providing for them, and elementary school aged kids have a lot of activities. To be blunt, your mother is selfish. Be truthful with yourself - have you abandoned her? No. Is she self-centered? Yes. Do you have time to be there 3 times a week, plus take care of your husband, children and home? No. Will she continue to complain? Yes. She has probably always been this way, think about it. And if dementia is involved, it can make an unpleasant person even more so. Please, please, for your own mental health, and that of your family, pick one time a week, maybe a Sunday afternoon, and visit a couple of hours and you will find in time that you have peace. I am sure others have told you the same thing, or close to what I am saying. Just because your mom says what she says, doesn't mean it is true. You sound like a very caring daughter, and you want to please her. If you are honest, you probably could never please her, even if you were there everyday! Please think honestly about this situation, and don't let your mother take your joy in your family away because she chooses to be unhappy!

Jan 03, 2016 - 08:10 AM

I know what you're going through. However, I live with my mother every day. I'm single and I just basically go to work and come home to take care of her. I actually think she thinks I'm her personal valet, the maid or an orderly. My mother is 89 and tries to be very independent. When she can't do something like open a jar or use a can opener she actually gets impatient and angry with me about it. She also refuses to get a hearing aid and gets an attitude with me everytime I mention it or lean in closer to her ear so she can actually hear what I'm saying. I think she'd rather ask repetitive silly questions and get angry with me because my response is not what she wants to hear.

I'm lucky that my mother had the cataract surgery in one eye, but the other one needs it too and she's resisting to get it. She'd rather read with lop-sided vision. As you can tell everything is very difficult because if I make a suggestion on anything she cops an attitude and does or wants to do the exact opposite. Unfortunately I don't have any children or any brothers or sisters. I do get tired sometimes of her asking me over and over what the news is on the TV when all she has to do is wear a hearing aid. I'm trying patience because when I do try to help, she gets angry and defensive and I become the evil person or (public enemy number one). It's hard, but I've thought several times about leaving and having peace of mind, but I figure she didn't give up on me as a kid, and I'm sure it wasn't easy because several times she tells me she didn't want to marry my father or have children with him.

Luckily, my mother doesn't talk about death. I try to see how she feels about getting older and sicker, and when I ask how she's doing she just gets quiet and ignores me. When anyone such as a neighbor comes to visit her, she treats me like I'm a teenager and talks around me to the other person like I'm not there or like this person is coming every day to take care of her when we both know it' a once in a while visit at best. I am not prepared for any of this. I tried Visiting Angels when she had the cataract surgery and all she did was try to show the nursing aide what she could do on her own. I felt like I wasted my money for the week. All I can do is suggest that you have your own solstice. Something you can do or somewhere you can go to make you feel better about the situation. It doesn't resolve the problem right away, but it does help to keep your sanity.
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By darlenebenauer on Jul 02, 2016 - 06:45 AM | Like (0)  |  Report

Actually the Visiting Angel was probably well spent. My dad takes care of my mom, who has decided that it was his turn to take care of her and she does nothing but sit because she is in pain and was told she has Parkinson, and when someone is there with them he does more in that couple of hours than he would have done without the witnesses either for his comfort from a fear of falling to his relief that someone will spend time with mom. It is a comfort having someone else with you that can take over if something should happen.

By trishad01 on Jul 02, 2016 - 09:50 AM | Like (0)  |  Report

Thank you for posting your story. My mom is 75. I moved in with her after my dad died in 2012. I'm an "only" with relatives that NEVER call or visit as they live 5 hours away. I'm the 55year old daughter that @ times feels as if I'm 2 b/c of the way my mom treats me. Her health has steadily declined since dad died. Most recently in Dec 27th of 2015 she fell outside of dialysis, hit her head in the concrete pavement, convulsed, etc. Long story short she suffered a TBI (1" skull fracture with a subackranoid hemotoma). She was in the hospital for 1 & 1/2 months. She came home with a combo of Vascular Dementia & Alzheimers Dementia. I was not prepared for this @ all. I'm her sole caretaker except on the 3 days she goes to dialysis for 4 hours. Those 4 hours I cram in errands, etc. I'm exhausted b/c unfortunately I've had Multiple Sclerosis for 32 years. Some days I want to throw my hands in the air & drive off. BUT, I never ever would because my mom has been with me thru thick & thin & I know she'd never leave IR give up on me. We all need support & an outlet and I'm so glad we have this forum to verify to ourselves we're not alone in this trial. Thank you

By jmrusso042012 on Jul 07, 2016 - 12:56 AM | Like (1)  |  Report

Hi, oh I was so pleases to hear im not the only one that feels age two at times. Especially when I have four grandchildren. Im a widow myself , im 55yr myself and have been taking care of my mom for the past four years. The day my dad died I moved in with her and basically took his place. She has dementia has fallen 8 or 9 times is extremely stubborn and doesnt listen to me and is a princess. At times I feel like im the only one in the house or talking to a wall. The minute I take a rest she is on the phone calling people and saying all kind of things and doesnt know what she is saying and cant remember anything correctly. Its like someone has let her out of a cage and she becomes bored when she is by her self. Always following me around the house copying me. Thismis of course after she gets up at noon. I have my ams to my self. She sits in her chair in the evenings and expects to be waited on, when she is cable, lazy and admitts it. I just got done with cancer treetment. Oh but its all about her.

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Jan 03, 2016 - 11:26 PM

I am wondering if your mother wanted to move into a senior community. If the move was against her will, and her mind is still good, though her body may be failing, that might be the cause of resentment and she may be trying to make you feel guilty. You obviously have a busy life, with children and full-time work, yet you manage to go visit her three times a week!!! That is wonderful!!! So many in facilities have no visitors or not frequent ones. Your mom may be grieving the loss of her total independence and need to live in a community. The word depression has negative connotations, almost as though depressed people can "snap out of it" or "get a grip" and DO SOMETHING to make themselves happier. Others' ideas of something another person can do to be busier or happier and pull out of depression usually doesn't actually work. Was she always a negative or complaining, or critical person? If someone is naturally like that, such negativity continues in older years, and manifests itself in a more focused way, because there are fewer factors in a more sedentary, non-active lifestyle. Many people need to just be ALLOWED to have their moods, as they are, and not be nudged to do something that they don't want to, just for the sake of doing something. Try not to let her make you feel guilty or push you away, either, because she most likely DOES enjoy your visits and would be terribly lonely and sadder without them. Sending others, such as in-home company caregivers, to spend time with her may not be meaningful to her, if she doesn't actually NEED their hands-on help. If she does not, I would suggest continuing or disconcinuing those visits, based entirely on what your mother says she wants, relative to that matter. I own a senior home care company, and it has been my experience that the only residents of senior communities who actually seem to benefit from companion/sitting services are those who need help with activities of daily living. Since you are going 3 times a week, that is probably enough. Noone wants to deal with visitors every day. Just being in a community, with non-family members around all of the time, can be intrusive. I would not hire a stranger to go, if it is against her wishes. She may long for solitude and peace. It can get old listening to other elders complain, talk about aches and pains or meds or doctors' appointments over and over, and that IS what independent living community residents usually talk about. She may say she wants it "over, because she is tired of having to deal with other people every day. I live alone, and would cringe if I had to have someone in my home or eating with me or expecting me to visit with them, every day. I crave solitude and peace and quiet, and always have, even as a youth. Try to determine, based on what she says and how she liked to spend her non-working time when she was middle aged, and see if her current situtation is so different that it may be the very thing that causes her to be unhappy about everything. Perhaps this can help you to observe differently and figure out what is the true source of her unhappiness. Sometimes family members make suggestions and urge older people to DO things that they wouldn't urge a younger person to do. Older adults should not be TOLD what they should do. I am 67, and am already seeing a change in how my younger sisters talk to me. They correct me sometimes and give unwanted advice, which was never done until I had heart surgery then a stroke 2 years ago. There is just something about younger adults dealing with elderly that makes them address the older adults almost as if they were children or not mentally sharp. And being patronizing or calling an older adult honey or sweetie, etc, is very distasteful by most. If you talk to your mom like you used to, and don't let her know that you are displeased by what she talks about or does or doesn't want to do, you may find her much more pleasant to be with. How you feel about her mood or disposition really doesn't matter. If she's unhappy, that may be the way she wants to be right now. Have you ever heard of someone who wants to feel sorry for herself. Maybe she needs to feel unhappiness and puts herself into those negative moods. How about reevaluating her and trying to understand if she really doesn't want to be happy. It sounds like that must be so. Let her be herself, would be my best suggestion. I hope you and she both find peace of mind and comfort of heart.
Nanny in Nashville.
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By jmrusso042012 on Jul 07, 2016 - 01:11 AM | Like (0)  |  Report

Thank you

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Mar 30, 2016 - 08:42 PM

I'm in the caregiver role for my mother who is 80. It wasn't by choice, but by necessity. There are other siblings but her relationship with all of her children is taxed by many years of selfish behavior on her part. She's always lived a life of entitlement and saw her children's role as her providers as she aged. To top this off, she contributed very little to her personal economy so the options for her care are very limited.

The reason I care for her is because she's vulnerable. Also, I don't want to stand in judgment of her life and deny another human being quality of life if I can be a resource and can still care for myself.

I don't have children, I'm divorced, and I am in a good profession so I don't consider it much of a sacrifice to help her. I did try having her live with me but she is an unhappy soul and tried to engulf my life in a very mean spirited and aggressive manner. It was too stressful and hurtful so I decided I could help her by relocating her to an independent living environment. A small segment of the family contributes as well.

Listen, we can be angry, hurt, even saddened by the treatment we receive from our elderly parent. It is one of our most important relationships in life. My mother has dementia but she was always a difficult person with all of her children. She lived a woefully unhappy life waiting for someone else to make it all better. Literally, she contributed very little to herself and as little as possible to others. Every sentence starts and ends with her wants and needs. But...

At the end of her life I hope she can take an honest look around her and say she was not abandoned, she was loved, and she was cared for by her family. Was she? Only she can answer that question. The question I will answer for me is "Did I do my best?" There will be times I recall where I had to recover, regroup, and re-cry but overall I will say yes, I did my best. Will I ever hear that from my mother...that is yet to be seen but what matters most is it is not necessary because I am doing what I am doing to keep her safe. And because as humans we should help each other. But most importantly because she's my mother and I do love her.
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By jmrusso042012 on Jul 07, 2016 - 01:14 AM | Like (0)  |  Report

I needed some good possitive healthy advise. Even though your mom doesn't live with you and that does make a difference your comments I will take into serious consideration, thank you.

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