Reaching out in Desperation!(19 Posts)
Hi everyone, I've reached a point in a very difficult situation where I just don't know what to do anymore. It's a long tale but I really would appreciate any advice / input that any one who reaches the end may have.
In February this year we nearly lost my wonderful Father to a ruptured aneurysm. He's 76, went into cardiac arrest twice in the ambulance, yet by some amazing miracle and the dedication of paramedics and surgeons he's still with us. This harrowing ordeal has lead to a devastating few months for the whole family.
Although I thank God Dad is still with us, he is now in a nursing home connected to a colostomy bag, a catheter, a tracheostomy and is tube fed in to his stomach. He's unable to speak due to the tracheostomy so all communication is lip reading.
Up to the point of Dad's illness, Mum & Dad have never been seperated. Mum was thrown into being at home on her own and understandably, went to.pieces. unfortunately I live about 4 hours drive away but have 3 siblings who live close to our parents. I dropped everything when Dad was first taken ill and stayed with Mum for a week. After that my brothers and sister took over and took Mum to see Dad when they could.
Several weeks followed of devastating phone conversations with my Mum. She felt let down by family nearby and would call me threatening to take her own life. She's been on Solpadol for years and it all came out eventually she's been abusing them for a long time and was horrendously addicted.
In April I then had a call.from my sister to say Mum had fallen at home and broken her hip. Mum was released after a week, but flatly refused any help on offer. In her mind, her family should look after her and she did not want strangers in her home. She was told to walk as much as possible to get her mobility back but insisted it was too painfull. She has basically reduced herself to using a wheelchair constantly now. She was sent home with a walking frame but later bought herself the wheelchair. We then faced weeks of phone calls (sometimes upwards of 15 a day) where Mum would be sobbing, saying she can't cope and why will no.one help her, asking why we've abandoned her. If we dare suggest carers for her own safety she would say she doesn't need carers. She would then call me regularly in the evening saying she hadn't eaten or had a drink all day as she can't carry anything from the kitchen.
Following another fall about 6 weeks ago, Mum very reluctantly moved into a retirement village. However things are still absolutely awful. She hates where she is. She will slate the staff for not 'keeping a check on her' or helping her, but will then say she doesn't want them in her room, that she still wants her independence.
I go up when I can and will take Mum to see Dad in the nursing home but it's always unbelievably distressing. Mum cannot understand Dad and will.lose patience very quickly. Dad is also profoundly deaf and can't hear Mum as she does mumble a lot. The visit will consist of me talking to Dad and Mum getting angry and sometimes quite abusive because they can't understand each other.
Dad is an amazing man I love dearly and life with Mum has never been easy. I obviously love Mum too, but she hasnt always been an easy personality to deal with. Over the years, she isolated herself and Dad and only had contact with direct family. Her behaviour in recent weeks has caused so much stress for my siblings living near her that they have now all backed off.
My relationship with my parents is now no contact with a Father I adore-other than extremely intense visits with my Mum when I can get up to see them. And daily conversations with my.Mum, convincing her not to take all her medication to 'end it all', as she sees no.point in living anymore.
I'm so sorry for the lengthy rant but if any of you did reach the end an advice would be extremely gratefully received. Best wishes to all x
I don't have much in the way of advice but I couldn't simply read and run.
I also have parents who are incredibly stubborn and resist absolutely any change.
What if sometimes you could visit your Dad without Mum? And your mother is issuing suicide threats. Does her GP know? What about your siblings - can you unite and show how very seriously you are taking this?
This must be so horribly difficult for you but like they tell people on planes - put your own breathing mask on first and only then attend to the child (or childish person) beside you.
Oh Ruth this is awful for you- can imagine everytime phone goes you have heart sink. Does your mother have capacity? Where I am we have a system where meds go into a locked box and carers attend to dispense. Is this something your mum would agree to? Although I'm guessing not. Do you think she has any actual intent to take an overdose or is it a means of controlling you?
Oh bless you! Another one here with no great advice or expertise but couldn't ignore.
Adjusting to big changes, which we don't have any control over is a huge challenge for anyone. I hate it at work when they decide to move the desks around and I am young and fit and should be adaptable! And your mum is faced with 100 x that amount of change. Coping with and supporting her from a distance is a huge job for you. 15 phone calls a day is big commitment for you - it's a part time job, but one that is enabling her to get from one day to the next at the moment, by the sound of it. Don't underestimate the help you are providing. And although she sounds stuck in a rut of anguish and self pity and confusion, you are doing the right thing by just being there. We cannot move forward emotionally until we have processed what is happening to us, and putting it into words - and tears - is an important way of making sense of what is happening.
She sounds sooo my mum in many ways - I think it is a generational thing - women who were empowered in some ways yet very very dependent upon their men to validate their every decision. She is now swimming in a sea of uncertainty, with no idea how to function properly on her own.
As the pp said, protect yourself if you can, in order to help her. Can you develop mantras - key phrases which you can use to reassure her?
"I'm sorry you feel like that Mum. You know we all love you."
"It is very hard for you I know Mum. I wish we were able to do more to help"
"Don't rule out carers Mum. Just give them a chance. There are some nice people out there"
She will complain and cry to you, but with a drip feed of constant, gentle repetition, your words may take root. My folks are battling dementia, but I have been able to teach them some new ways of thinking (Mum got very depressed by rain. I have gradually taught her that it is watering her beloved garden for her, and now she quite likes it! Hadn't expected to get through to her, and it has taken a while but the message has lodged.)
I think you have to emotionally detach to survive. I was upset at first then got quite angry with her for being her, which doesn't help. Now I think I have moved to a state of accepting her but in a more detached way.
And of course, that's all about your mum. Maybe you have to accept that you can only love your Dad from afar at the moment - send him regular cards for his carers to read out to him, and reassure him that you are looking after mum for him, and thinking of him.
Very best of luck
Just thinking about your dad- is/was there speech and language therapy involved? Just wondering how much input there was to alternative communication methods? The stroke patients I've worked with have used various methods from pen&paper, symbol booklets to i pads/software.
Oh my goodness :-) As mentioned, I sat frantically typing last night out of desperation. I find sleep so hard as my mind tends to fixate on what I can do to help my Mum. Just the act of 'off loading ' on here helped with the abscence of anyone to talk to. I didn't expect such an amazing response from such lovely people. Thank you all so much.
On my last visit, I did hit upon the idea of visiting my Dad before I went to Mums. I was able to sit and hold his hands. You have to be so close to his face anyway to be able to lipread and for him to hear in return. It's just so heartbreaking walking away knowing we won't communicate again til I can next get up there. It sounds mad, but in this age of technology I hadn't even thought of mailing cards to him!! How mad is that? I will do that today :-)
With Mum, I can't just shut off like my siblings. I love her dearly but I am one of the first to admit she's been incredibly controlling and has emotional blackmail down to a fine art :-( As for the suicide threats, I am honestly not sure whether she would go through with it, but that slight doubt is enough to terrify me. I'm so aware her life has been ripped apart, she's scared and lonely and sees no hope for the future. I have tried reasoning on this with my brothers and sister but they just say that's no excuse for her behaviour. Mum flatly refuses to let the staff at the retirement home be involved with her medication and she is clearly over dosing on pain killers again.
After her first fall, I did have her here to live for 5 weeks. It was blatantly obvious within the first day she was ridiculously addicted to solpadol. There then ensued a long battle to get her off them! I refused to give in despite some quite awful abuse from Mum. By the time she left here the situation was under control and she seemed so happy telling everyone how we'd got through it together. Her Dr then prescribed Cocodamal instead. Since being in the retirement home, my sister has now told me Mum's got through almost 80 tablets in a week.
What scares me now is that Mum has gone from calling numerous times a day to me having to call her to check up on her. When I do she tells me she's too tired to speak but could I 'please call back soon to check she's still there'.
I'm so so sorry about another rambling post, but it was so nice to be able to communicate with other people over this matter. Take care all and thank you again xxx
Ok so you need to get tough with the suicide threats.
Right now she knows she can just use them as a weapon or as a manipulative tool with no consequences.
Change your reaction. Every single time she threatens it, ring the care home and inform them that your mother has informed you she is suicidal with imminent threat of action. Ask them to go into her and check on her.
After all, if a neighbour rang you and said it, you'd ring an ambulance, right?
The suicide threats may taper off if they get attention she doesn't want, as opposed to getting any power which is what they're getting her right now. In spades.
Also the home has a duty of care to guard against overdose. Please contact them with your concerns and ask them to check the dosage and see if it can be reduced by their doctor as the family have grave concerns. Put it in an email if possible so there is a paper trail.
If your mother is hiding more drugs in her room and self dosing, put that clearly in the email too. Hopefully they will be worried about future litigation and will sort it.
You also need to pick set times to ring her. Never ever ad hoc. Not exact times - more "I'll ring you between X and Y tomorrow" . She will try to control that - it won't suit etc etc. Then you respond "Oh that's a shame, well I'll talk to you the following day so".
Never deviate and never add an additional call.
My mother was vehemently opposed to change and was horrendously lonely. She was also emotionally manipulative. ( I still adored her, though)
You need some mantras, to keep repeating. She's prob depressed, scared about the future. I'm afraid that you need now to parent her, firm but kind. Agree telling the care home about what's going on, drugs and suicide attempts. See how they see her, does she join in?
And on the mail front, drop her a card too, I used to ring most evenings and send her a card most days so she had something tangible. Sometimes a funny card, often a post card. With a bit of news, even if only that I'd seen the first snowdrop or the autumn leaves were beautiful. It's a question of creating patterns she'll get used to.
Thank you for the advice on the phone calls :-) it has been very much ad hoc up to now. The retirement home are aware of Mum's situation and unfortunately see her ax a 'problem' resident! My sister has been told Mum is in breach of their terms and conditions and will be asked to leave if she continues. She doesn't join in anything and won't leave her room but then complains because she sees nobody.
I will definitely try the calling at certain times and sending some cards. It really is hard transitioning from the child to parent role isn't it?! Thanks again lovelies x
You are in a no-win situation with your mum. She says she wants independence, but that is not true. She wants to be able to depend on you and your brothers and sisters.
It is very hard to be resistant because you feel guilty and selfish. The truth is, you are neither. Your mum's age, personality and health mean that she is in a position where she cannot be helped. Whatever you do in these circumstance will not be enough. I can only advise you to focus on your health, make your dad a priority as his needs are greater. Also, as far as your mum is concerned, only do the things that help her the most like practical things. I am so sorry you are going through this. I know how draining it is.
My PIL have had a very similar situation occur this year - not as extreme - but I really sympathise with you.
Puts such a huge strain on all of the family.
DD sends her grandparents 'Touchnotes', on which she can include pictures of what she is up to. DS has also copied the idea, and started sending them to my Mum - normally photos of him having a drink after work etc!
Does your Mum have any on-going care from her GP - maybe she should be reviewed by the MH team?
Ruth- your mum's proficiency at emotional blackmail seems really quite advanced. I am a regular on the elderly board and this is one of the most advanced cases! Your mum is unhappy because she is old, cannot rely on your Dad to prop her up, which he probably did throughout their marriage. Her addiction to Solpadol suggests she finds reality hard to cope with. It's important for you to realise these facts are sad, but not your fault in any way. Making you are your siblings run around, and putting you in situations which will obviously stress you all out is not fair. You have the right to protect yourself. Take some distance. Indeed it is hard becoming the parent to one' s elderly parent, especially if the parent is not able to see other people's needs.
Thank you again for all your support and suggestions. I wasn't sure I would get a response to my original post and I am truly touched by the support so far.
Mum has been assessed by a GP with regard to mental health and deemed to be depressed but otherwise of sound mind. They are losing patience with her however, as she is requesting home visits constantly saying she is in unbearable pain. She has been admitted to hospital 4 times since her fall, but they can.find no reason for the pain she's describing.
It is helping to hear other people say I should concentrate on my own health and well being. The situation has really taken its toll on me and I have children I need to think of. My youngest is 7 and all her school holidays since February have been largely spent in hospitals, nursing homes or retirement homes.
I haven't spoken to Mum as yet today and will be calling her shortly.
Thank you all again for your very sensible and insightful words x
Adding my sympathy and emphasising the need to protect yourself and put your children's needs up the agenda. You are not responsible for your mum's happiness- but your children need you. Good luck- and lots of wisdom from wise mn'ers here.
Your mother sounds so much like mine and I've taken so much from this thread. As it happens, my sibling and I a few days ago decided to adopt a new approach to our mother's suicide threats and will be calling her GP in future.
Sorry. Should have said that I find some solace in these threads because one finds so many others going through similar things. The mutual understanding and support is so valuable.
from me too
Moaning and criticising is a way of feeling on top of things, so naturally tends to escalate when one is feeling out of sorts or insecure, as your mother seems to do.
I don't know, how about if you turn up and get in first with your moans about your own life, might that switch things a bit? But I have to admit that I've not experienced this kind of thing much, so feel not great at advice.
One thing - you mentioned how your Dad has a PEG in his stomach. How does he get on with it? I have never really encountered anyone with that, but it has been suggested for my mother who had advanced Parkinson's, lest her swallow gets worse.
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