What the heck is wrong with my mother?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This is LONG. Convenient summary in the last paragraph for those who want to skip the lengthy backstory.
My mom has always been a very sweet woman, but a bit of a pushover. When I was a teenager I learned very quickly how to push her buttons and how to get exactly what I wanted from her. We also had a lot of typical mother-daughter arguments. I feel like a jerk now for that, of course, and as I got older our relationship dynamic changed into a very pleasant, friendly one where we would talk on the phone for hours (we live in different cities and have since I was 19).
She and my father divorced when I was 4. 10 years ago, when I was 23, she remarried a man who we all thought was nice, if a bit bookish and shy. They seemed very happy. A few years ago, things changed quite a bit and in the past couple of years I have noticed some very worrying changes in her behavior. Examples:
1. She was very close to her mother as far back as I (or anyone else) can remember. My mother and grandmother used to talk on the phone twice a day and my mother would visit her 2-3x a week when they both lived in the same city. My mother said she would never move away while my grandmother was alive. Instead, my mother and her husband moved about 5 years ago to another city two hours away from my grandmother's home and stopped calling her as often. She now calls maybe once a week. The reason for fewer phone calls? Her husband doesn't want to pay the long distance charges. We have attempted to get them a $20/month unlimited long distance plan, even offering to pay for it, with no luck.
2. My grandmother had a stroke about 4 1/2 years ago. I lived in another state 7 hours away and my uncle (mom's brother) lived across the country, and we both dropped everything (jobs, family, personal obligations) to take turns sitting by her side while she was in the hospital. My mother didn't come up for two weeks and canceled her first scheduled visit because she "had a dentist's appointment". My mother and her husband are retired and have no personal obligations besides church choir once a week.
3. During a family reunion this summer, my mother argued with and yelled at my grandmother because she was moving slowly (grandma is in her 90s and was having stomach problems that morning). She also burst into a fit of rage when describing some kids misbehaving at her church - vein-popping, red-faced anger just from recounting a situation. She also used a racial epithet during another conversation that weekend. My mother has always been a very caring, compassionate, empathetic woman and has never displayed any prejudice before. My uncle's description of her behavior was that she was like a caricature of herself, which I would say is an accurate description.
4. Her handwriting has changed significantly, from tight cursive that went straight across unlined paper to loose, scrawling writing that tilts upwards. She has also started forgetting things very easily, which she chalks up to "senior moments" but I think are more worrisome than that - she forgets things that she has been told repeatedly, even when it is told to her in writing.
5. She had a seizure a year ago and neglected to tell me about it for several months. Based on the description of what happened, it sounds unusual for a seizure - she was "acting weird" for a couple of days, according to her husband, and she was "talking gibberish" a few hours before it happened. He left to go to the store and asked a neighbor to sit with her while he was out, and she collapsed during the time that he was at the store. She had been on Dilantin for 40 years and had tapered off it earlier that year, but her doctor put her back on it after the event and she has not had a recurrence.
Some of you have probably picked up the slight undertone of derision when I referred to my mother's husband above. In the years since they have been married, he has increasingly displayed his penchant for controlling every move that is made in his household. He refuses to get an unlimited long-distance plan even though it is cheaper than the per-minute plan they use. He controls when she can make the two hour trip to visit my grandmother. He stands behind her when she is on the phone with me, my grandmother, or my uncle and chimes in, and sometimes actually coaches her on what to say. He tried to put my grandmother in a nursing home after her stroke, before giving her a chance to recover, and fought my uncle on it - and to this day, will not speak to my uncle except through my mother, as he coaches her on what to say to him. He makes my mother pay for her own dinners when they go out to eat and has coerced my mother into making a play for some of my grandmother's money (she's not rich, but has a living trust that is to be divided between my mother and my uncle).
The reason I include that background is that I think it is affecting some of my mother's behavior. However, the handwriting changes, forgetfulness, and seizure make me feel like something neurological is at play. The problem is, I can't call her doctor and ask, and I can't ask her husband because I'm concerned that his controlling personality will not allow him to accept suggestions from others. And, I hate to say it, but I wouldn't put it past him to ignore symptoms and allow her to become ill to increase his control over her.
Summary: Mom's personality has changed significantly in the past few years. So has her handwriting, memory, and health. Her husband is a controlling dick, so it's difficult to approach him because he won't let anyone else get too close to her.
Questions: What the heck could be wrong with her? Is it just aging or does it seem like something neurologically wonky is going on? And how should I approach this - can I call her doctor and tell him I suspect that something is wrong or does even that overstep the bounds of confidentiality? Or should I try to approach her husband, and if so, how?