My mother is suffering from dementia and interaction with her is becoming very difficult. Suggestions or advice please?
posted by LastOfHisKind to health & fitness (17 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
My mother, about to turn 80, is suffering from dementia and I'm losing the ability to help her peace of mind.
For background, my parents separated and divorced decades ago. Mom has, as near as I can tell, always been one of these people who operates on emotion rather than fact. As in, if something feels right then it must be true, regardless of facts. It is within that context that I spent decades having very little contact with her because you couldn't talk for more than ten or fifteen minutes without her launching into, for the bazillionth time, stories about how terrible a person my father was... which he wasn't. In later decades she would move regularly because she became convinced that my father, from across the country, was somehow spreading lies and making everybody dislike her.
Around the time that my father died, about four years ago now, she started to become physically impaired. She lost all vision in one eye and has very poor, circa 20/200, vision in the other. She also started having short-term memory problems. Her sister in law, Mary, began helping her with every day living since she could no longer drive or, because of her memory problems, manage her own bank accounts.
However, as soon as my father died, Mom apparently shifted from thinking that my father was ruining her life to thinking that her sister-in-law was doing so. Soon she became convinced they Mary was stealing money from her and event went so far as to close her bank account and send all of her money to me "to keep Mary from stealing it." Naturally, checks started bouncing. Soon she started calling at all hours, literally crying and begging my brother and I to come get her and bring her back to where we live. With Mary at the end of her rope we agreed to do so.
So now she lives about 20 minutes from me in a small 55+ apartment complex with dozens of people her own age. But it's the nature of where I live that you really need a car to get around and so she's basically trapped at the apartment complex when nobody is available to take her someplace. That said, she complains about being lonely and yet makes no effort to make friends and be social. She just watches TV in her apartment.
With that in mind, I've hired a living assistance company to help her out. Three times a week, for four hours, she has somebody to take her shopping, to get her hair done, and things like that. And it's a source of company and conversation. I manage her bank account, pay her bills, and so on.
In recent weeks, however, she has become very difficult to be with. She has become convinced that Mary, from across the country, is still trying to steal her money. In fact, she has become convinced that, in the small circle of friends and family she knows, most of us are trying to steal her money. Mary, her sister, my spouse, my cousin, and so on. Showing her bank statements that indicate that no money is missing doesn't help. She is convinced that people come into her apartment at night to steal her money, but showing that nobody can get in with the door deadbolted shut doesn't help. In fact, showing her these things, in an attempt to help, just makes her more upset. Which, in turn, makes me upset.
She's basically living in a fantasy world now. She calls me day and night enraged about something in her bank statements. She literally cannot seem to talk about anything else. If I sit with her, or listen on the phone, she will literally talk for hours and hours about how these people are doing these terrible things. I know that when she isn't on the phone she'll often sit at home crying about how terrible everything is. Plus, now she is insisting that we switch banks and that she move again to someplace where she can walk to the store and bank and stuff like that. She is clearly incapable of managing paperwork and I fear that, even if I could find a small town like that, she would wander off and get lost. Furthermore, I'm confident that changing banks, or changing residences, will just start the cycle over again since she's operating in an emotional environment, not a logical one. In other words, I'm sure her sister-in-law will, in my mother's mind, magically gain access to her bank account no matter where we have it.
I feel terrible for her because I know that she honestly feels that way and it must be terrible inside her head. At the same time, I often can't help but get angry at her for saying all these terrible things about people who are close to me, such as accusing my spouse of theft and for the way in which she is making my already difficult life almost impossible with the added burden of managing her long-screwed-up finances, endless insurance paperwork, and helping to personally care for her. She has no concept of how much I'm sacrificing to try and take care of her in the best way I can and that's frustrating too.
She is, by the way, on anti-depressants and a drug that is supposed to help slow the progression of alzheimer's disease.
I guess this is a bit of a vent, but I really would appreciate some advice from anybody in a similar situation. Difficult as she has been to me, I really do want to help her remaining time as nice as possible but it's difficult when she and I are in this situation. More and more frequently she'll call, upset about something, and in the process of trying to help her she'll get more upset, and then I'll get upset, and soon my day is ruined and she'll hang up on me and doubtlessly cry.