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Constant Negativity

(9 Posts)
NotMyName123 Wed 31-Dec-14 12:42:10

OK, my mother has plenty to be negative about, but it's really wearing me down. She used to be a feisty, positive woman, but all that changed around three years ago when she had a stroke three months after my dad died. It wasn't the worst stroke, but it left her with slightly odd speech, an inability to write or to deal with numbers, and slight foot drop. She has become less mobile, but I think that's for other reasons. She's 85.

After the stroke I was reasonably hopeful that she'd fight back - I thought she might quite enjoy speech therapy as in her youth she did a drama course, and found her a lovely therapist to help with that and her writing. However, when she found that it would need some work and practice on her part, she gave up on it. We've tried numerous options since then by way of support groups, volunteer visitors, activities etc but she finds a reason not to do any of them. We tried getting her a manual typewriter when she complained of being unable to write - she'd never cope with an electric one or computer - whereupon she proclaimed that she didn't want to write anything. She lives in sheltered flats where they regularly have film shows, talks, outings etc but she refuses to go to any of them. We arranged for the volunteer library service for housebound people to bring her books, taking some trouble to ensure they know the sort of books she likes, and they brought her some excellent selections, but she won't even try them. Once they brought her a book which I know she enjoyed 20 years ago, but she moaned about them bringing something she'd already read - even though she remembered little of the book and regularly re-reads her own books. And, despite rejecting every suggestion to improve matters, she constantly complains about how bored she is and how awful everything is.

When she reads positive news reports about people recovering even partially after strokes she gets really quite angry that, as she perceives it, they're minimising the effects. Though at least she does that less since we started pointing out that the people concerned worked hard to achieve their recovery and she might like to try it.

I know she's probably depressed and has reason to be depressed, and have thought about taking her to the doctor, but I just know she'd put on an act and tell the doctor there's nothing wrong. I think the doctor would be reluctant to prescribe anti-depressants anyway in case they made her woozy or unsteady on her feet. There's no way she'd ever contemplate anything like counselling. But for her own sake I feel we need to to something to get her out of this constant negativity. It can't be making her feel good, and although she gets quite a lot of visits from friends and family I'm concerned that she's putting everyone off. I have to admit it's got to the point for me where I visit purely out of duty and slightly dread each visit.

I'm now wondering whether to take the bull by the horns and go for some tough love - e.g. asking whether her constant moaning really makes her feel any better, pointing out that if my Dad could see her he'd be unimpressed, that it really can't hurt her at least to try some of the entertainments and activities on offer etc etc. I obviously don't want to make her feel worse, but being patient and trying to find other ways of cheering her up just aren't working so I'm wondering whether a firm approach would. Has anyone tried it with elderly relatives, or does anyone have any other suggestions?

holeinmyheart Wed 31-Dec-14 18:51:16

Mmm your DM has gone through a lot in a short time. I am torn between two approaches to your problem.
No. I approach.
It is no wonder that she feels as she does. I do think you are lovely trying to help but I think you are feeling too responsible for her happiness.
You are not her, and by thinking up and trying to implement things that would be 'good' for her, I think you are over doing it. So far she has resisted almost everything you have suggested, hasn't she?
I think you should try and relax and just let her moan about her lot without comment.
Or approach number two.
you could say to her ' Mother you have had a hard time and I do love you but your constant ' poor me' attitude is wearing me out and making me dread coming to visit you, and I suspect it will also eventually have the same effect on others. You could then mention that you think she is depressed and suggest treatment.
Be prepared to have your ideas totally rejected and for her to very indignant.

I have three irascible old folks on the go ATM who sound like your Mum. I have gone for the first option. Xx best of luck, post, as this situation sucks the life out of you, if you let it!

twentyten Wed 31-Dec-14 20:58:39

My sympathy to you. Great comments too- my dm is similarly negative but I try and remember I am not responsible for my mothers happiness. It is not easy. She has lost so much. Be kind to yourself.

iamthenewgirl Wed 31-Dec-14 21:10:17

Your efforts are admirable but you need to remember you can only lead a horse to water. You cannot make it drink.

I would be inclined to go with option 1.

bearwithspecs Wed 31-Dec-14 21:28:55

Been there twice. Antidepressants can make a huge difference- drag her to the Gp

StepAwayFromTheMincePies Thu 01-Jan-15 12:29:59

I would try second approach tbh. my DM is like this and sometimes I let her moan but I do dread ringing her when I am in a happy mood as I know unless she is in a happy moment too she will drag my mood down. sometimes I say now then stop all this mum we don't want you turning into a miserable old bugger do we... sometimes this works and she laughs at me and shows signs of how she used to be but then next day its back again. she is 86 and losing her marbles sadly and this is worrying her. She is also a bit wobbly on her feet so can't get out on her own any more, she is depressed but often forgets her pills and is clearly lonely, i ring every day but live 350 miles away so can't be there as often as she would like. My DB lives in the same town but although great at the practical stuff lacks the empathy to make her feel loved. sad the guilt is killing me.

NotMyName123 Sun 18-Jan-15 00:09:29

Thanks for the replies - sorry I haven't come back before now.

I don't think taking her to the doctor would work. She is capable of putting on an act, and I'm sure she would do that if I took her. Also I'm not sure that the doctor would prescribe anything. At one point when she complained of trouble sleeping I asked about a sedative and the doctor didn't want to prescribe anything in case it made her woozy and she had a fall. But am I wrong about that? Does anyone have experience of GPs being prepared to prescribe anti-depressants for people who are a bit unsteady?

I've been trying a bit of tough love - last time she was moaning I asked her whether it really made her feel any better constantly thinking what was wrong with her life rather than trying to do anything about it, but she basically blanked it. She can get herself into a state about anything: on one visit she couldn't find a particular plate she wanted - it was only at the bottom of the pile of plates rather than the top - and she got really upset, saying she couldn't cope and blaming her stroke, no matter how much I pointed out that we all lose things.

Back to see her today. I guess I'll grit my teeth and try to let it wash over me.

MarjorieMelon Sun 18-Jan-15 00:25:34

I'm not sure about the tough love approach. It might not go down well and at her age you don't want bad feeling between you both.

Just continue doing what you are doing it's up to her what she chooses to do. My mum (late 70s) is becoming quite negative and again she has experienced loss and sadness recently. When we talk on the phone she can be fairly negative about things and when I try to put a positive spin on things or tell her not to believe everything she reads in the rubbish right wing media she reads she gets annoyed. Perhaps some people want to get negative as they get older, maybe they don't want to go out on a high?

funnyperson Wed 28-Jan-15 00:32:27

My mum 83 is now always negative about everything and the attitude and verbalisation is killing me and my dad. It is soul destroying even if one tells oneself she is mentally ill:
I avoid her as much as I possibly can. I speak with them twice a day and see them twice weekly but have got to the stage when I cannot emotionally manage any more. I feel very sorry for both my mother and father.
Looking back we should have seen her depression developing a lot sooner and tried this prevent this terrible situation by organising good life experiences and ensuring she was on antidepressants and asking for a volunteer friend

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