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Supporting mother when relationship is poor?

(4 Posts)
MarianneSolong Sun 27-Mar-16 12:35:09

My mother will be 90 this year and our relationship has been poor for a very long time. She is emotionally closer to my two brother than she is to me.

However, I think, my detachment means that I can sometimes 'see' issues that my other two brothers can't. Because they're almost too close/too accepting.

I can't really be companionable and affectionate towards my mother. But I would like to think that she has proper medical care, has the things she needs etc etc.

My recent visit to her distressed me a bit because I can see that her physical health is declining and her ability to make sensible decisions is also not great.

Two things. 1)She has a couple of very unsuitable chairs that my late father bought. They are kind of low and slouchy, and as she now has bad arthritis, she is struggling to get out of them. She's also shorter because of changes to her spine. She is well-off - money absolutely no problem - but she will not consider buying the kind of upright armchair with lumbar support, arm rests etc - that will be more comfortable and appropriate. Instead she has bought cheap booster cushions for every chair - which don't match or fit the chairs properly.

2) The osteoarthristis has resulted in a lot of pain swelling to her right knee. However, she will not take painkillers saying that certain over the counter ones upset her disgestion. She will not put her feet up - she's convinced that resting is laziness and that non-stop tidying is essential. She will not see her GP for advice about pain relief or possible treatment. She's always been interested in alternative medicine so instead she is paying to see someone who has studied Chinese medicine who is advising her to eat turmeric.

Any attempts on my part to advise her about asking the GP to look at her knee and or getting proper seating are firmly rejected. I feel if my brothers and I acted in unison we might achieve a bit more. But they don't really want to know or reject what I say. (For example my brother will say, 'Oh it's good she keeps active' rather than accepting that rest may be good for swollen joints.')

Should I let it go - or would you, in my shoes, feel obliged to keep trying?

Needmoresleep Sun 27-Mar-16 14:48:55

Marianne, none of this is unfamiliar, to me or to others on the board.

Its really common:

1. for sons to be put on a pedestal
2. for some family members to be in denial and unwilling to accept the obvious, ie that a parent needs intervention and help
3. for elderly people to be in denial, and here I have some sympathy as old age is grim and so must be difficult to accept.


1. You probably can't do much without your brothers on board, especially if your DM is more likely to listen to them. You might try either writing formally, though constructively, so you know you have at least got your concerns registered, or perhaps get your husband to talk to them. Because my DH does not have the family baggage he can often be heard better than me.
2. As long as she has the capacity to make decisions she has the capacity to make bad decisions.
3. You might have to wait for a crisis to force things. Awful as it should be unavoidable, but she may well need to have a fall or similar before everyone agrees intervention is necesscary.

Apart from waiting, and joining us on the longer thread, what you can do is look into things like Power of Attorney or third party access to her main bank account so there is money if needed quickly, local options for sheltered or nursing care, and perhaps encourage her to accept people coming in like a cleaner or carer. And if you get the right one, this person may be able to suggest things like chairs in a way family members can't. (Or try the men-in-uniform syndrome. Elderly mothers seem to take advice from men in uniform, including doctors and vicars.)

MarianneSolong Sun 27-Mar-16 15:21:34

Thanks so much for your reply Needmore. I shall read the main support thread later today, and am sure that I will find much that's of interest. It was very useful to have you put my situation into this broader context.

Just a couple of things. My mother, does not, I think have dementia- in that her memory seems broadly okay, and there doesn't seem to be any significant confusion in terms of everyday living.. (My father-in-law does have mixed dementia so I have already been down that road!) However, I think my mother's mental capacity is in some way deteriorating - in terms of decision-making.

I have just checked my paperwork and I do have Lasting Power of Attorney - both kinds. However, in her personal statement my brother is given as the first 'lead attorney' with me nominated as another 'lead attorney' who could step in if he is unable to. We can act jointly or individually except in one or two specific major instances - e.g. sale of property - in which case we have to act jointly.

So I think if she gets worse we'll have to start talking to each other. It might be a good idea to try talking to him in advance. Though knowing him he'll put me off and say there is absolutely no need, as our mother is fine!

Needmoresleep Sun 27-Mar-16 15:54:22

Do we have the same brother?!

All I can advise, after getting it very wrong, is to try to retain a cordial relationship with your brother. Hence my suggestion of raising it once and on paper or using an intermediary like a DH or other relative.

DB was in denial. I'm not exactly sure why. Maybe he did not want there to be a probem so decided there was not one, despite all the evidence to the contrary. But there was not much I could do to change his mind until my mum had a fall.

The POA is good. Otherwise it can take up to a year to get access to the money, perhaps needed for short term nursing care or whatever.

You might speak to your brother about when you might like to start using it and how any workload might be shared. Elderly people are targeted by all sorts of nasty types and it is not a bad idea to at least have internet access to her bank acocunts so you can spot any dodgy payments. Plus being on top of the admin is one less problem to worry about should there be a crisis.

Dementia may play a part in poor decision making by the elderly but I suspect as much is about denial. An unwillingness to acknowledge that life is going backwards and that changes have to be made. Plus the fact that the elderly inhabit a shrinking world.

If you can't do anything, try to compartmentalise it. You will need all the emotional strength you have if/when there is a crisis, so don't waste it now.

A further idea. It is a good thing to get a Social Services assessment, though this sounds scary. One argument is that should she end up in hospital staff can factor in more background when making discharge decisions. (This would have been very valuable in DMs case.) SS will look at her living arrangements and make suggestions for physical improvements, hand rails etc. They could well recommend suitable chairs. Their aim will be to help her stay at home. It is worth attending any such assessment so you know first hand what was said.

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