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Dread spending time with my mum

(47 Posts)
NotGettingThisRight Mon 18-Mar-19 11:54:17

My mum is 85 and in a care home near me. I am an only child. She is also an only child and divorced. She has never, ever been one to make friends and I am literally the only person in the world she has.

The trouble is that we have never been particularly close. She has suffered from depression most of her life and has always had a negative mindset. When she divorced from my dad she never really got over it and I feel like I have been supporting her emotionally since I was 15 (I'm now almost 50). About 10 years ago she had a stroke which has affected her speech and I think she now also has dementia so her memory is poor.

About 18months ago I moved her from her home that was 200 miles away from me to a nursing home in my town, just 15 minutes from my house. This was because she was isolated, having falls, and needed 24 hour care, and each time she had a crisis I had to drop everything and go and see her which was really difficult with my job and my family here. The move was not what she wanted but she has done well at the care home. I'd say she is happy as she ever has been but I'm sure she misses her home but she never mentions it.

The thing is that I just can't communicate with her. She will greet me when I visit her and maybe ask how I am but beyond that it is me who does all the talking. If I didn't talk she would sit in silence. We end up just watching TV together which is fine on one level but also it isn't. She used to be an incredibly intelligent woman and I think she still is but she is literally locking the world out.

She is barely mobile now and I struggle to take her out as I need help getting her into her wheelchair from the car. She says that she wants to go out and about, but if I do take her for lunch / shopping she doesn't speak at all except to say she's cold (she's always been cold, all her life and yes, I do make sure she's wrapped up good and proper) and she looks abjectly miserable throughout the trip. I feel embarrassed to be wheeling this old lady who looks so utterly forlorn about the place as it looks like I'm making her do something she really doesn't want to be doing. If I ask her if she is enjoying herself she says she is but her face suggests otherwise, so I wonder if she is saying she's having a nice time because she thinks that's what I want to hear. When I bring her back to the care home she also looks miserable and does this awful fake crying thing to try and get me to stay.

I regularly bring her in books / DVDs of things that she enjoys (well, she used to enjoy), but she won't read the books and the DVDs mean she won't talk to me. She hates any kind of games. She has no interest in people, current affairs, or family. She has no interest in clothes, beauty, books. I'd say the only thing she likes is dogs but I don't have a dog because I'm really allergic to them so I can't even do that Borrow My Doggy thing.

Does anyone have any advice as to how to reach her better? I am finding that I am in tears most times I after leave her, because she drains me so much. I am now finding myself avoiding going and that makes me feel so guilty because she doesn't have anyone else. So I utterly dread going, I struggle when I'm with her and I feel guilty once I've left her. The care home say that she's always miserable unless she's watching TV, they don't take her out much at the moment because it's still cold. In the summer they do do trips to the garden centre but she always says she doesn't enjoy the group trips.

Can anyone suggest a way of how to make this situation better for her and for me?

Rhubarbisevil Mon 18-Mar-19 12:00:20

I can’t, I’m afraid, but you are doing AN AMAZING JOB!!

Give yourself some credit for being loyal and dutiful, if nothing else. I think your mother is beyond hope (in the happiness stakes) so try to move on from making her happy to making sure that she’s comfortable.

I can’t think of anything else. You are a star. Value yourself flowers

NotGettingThisRight Mon 18-Mar-19 12:27:23

Thank you Rhubarb.

I think she is comfortable, but just a deeply unhappy person.

It utterly terrifies me that I'll be like her. I am quite an upbeat person so hopefully not, but it still scares me.

Fortysix Mon 18-Mar-19 12:49:17

Is there a shopping mall sufficiently near the care home where you could take a wheel chair taxi ? Failing that is there a big supermarket? Pushing her up and down aisles might prevent pressure to chat. May cost £20 in fares so not every week but less of a phaff getting in and transferring to your car which adds to your stress.

Do you know any young people who want to train as doctors needing to put things on their CV for a UCAS application. You could phone the nearest school and offer the ‘opportunity’ grin as a 2 nd person helps when you are just a one girl visitor.
Wrapping up warm for outings - DM is always cold. The cold air that travels up through the legs and her hands seem to be worst. We put her in a packable long down coat which covers her bum and knees but doesn’t take up huge amounts of space as it is designed not to be stored . Then we weave several cheap fleece blankets around leg. She has a market stall tracker hat and a pair of children’s mitts. Hardly sartorial but targets problem cold spots.

NotGettingThisRight Mon 18-Mar-19 12:55:15

I taker her shopping to our local Sainsbury's to get her sherry and chocolate. She has never enjoyed shopping though.

I don't really know anyone who could help as part of their training but I could ask around. I would worry about them taking her out and about though.

NotGettingThisRight Mon 18-Mar-19 12:56:36

Also I forgot to mention that she gets car sick and throws up even when she's had travel sickness medication if you drive over 25mph.

juneau Mon 18-Mar-19 12:57:05

Is she on antidepressants OP? If so, then she really shouldn't be so miserable unless her dosage is wrong (and that is something that can be adjusted), and if she isn't then why not?

As for the outings, winter is a tough time to take someone out who isn't mobile as it is still cold. I'd put that on the backburner for now unless you're taking her somewhere indoors and warm (a matinee film or theatre performance perhaps? A museum?).

Otherwise, to me it sounds like you're doing an amazing job. You can't MAKE her be happy simply by wishing it or running yourself ragged, so I would try and make your peace with her and what you are able to do for her. Does she have a religion and would she maybe enjoy a visit from the local priest/rabbi/imam? Would she do a jigsaw if you took one? What about an audio book? Seriously though, it's not up to you to 'fix' her or make her life happy. Some people are very good at making others feel responsible and guilty, but it sounds like you've done all you can really to make her comfortable and have her close by so you can support her. You sound like a kind and caring DD, which is really all you can be. flowers for you.

NotGettingThisRight Mon 18-Mar-19 13:00:15

Hi Juneau thanks for your suggestions. She is on antidepressants which obviously aren't working so we tried a different dose and a different brand. These just made her sleep all the time so they've gone back to what she was on.

Not into any religion. Has always been anti it, except for funerals.

NotGettingThisRight Mon 18-Mar-19 13:01:51

I don't think she can follow an audiobook. She won't listen to the radio.

She doesn't like jigsaws.

I'm beginning to sound like her now!! wink

Rhubarbisevil Mon 18-Mar-19 13:07:38

No you’re not! But it’s hard when people have given up on life. The only thing I can suggest is to save up your box set DVDs, the ones that you’ve been really looking forward to watching, and then take those to watch with her. You know she’ll moan about it anyway, say try and make it a bit more enjoyable for yourself.

ildaogden Mon 18-Mar-19 13:09:11

My heart goes out to you, I can relate. My mum was in a n'home due to Alzheimer's, it was very difficult communicating with her in last couple of years, nothing gave her joy it seemed but I'm pretty sure she liked me visiting, always got a nice greeting and she would grab me when I was going.
I used to waffle on about absolute nonsense sometimes, I struggle to talk non stop when getting nothing back. Things we tried, putting a bird feeder outside her room, could comment on all the visiting birds. Taking her into the communal lounges so we could talk to other residents and staff. I probably gave her far too many chocolates and cake but she took pleasure from that. I read the paper and made some small talk about local news.
Mum died nearly a year ago and sometimes I really miss visiting her even though I guiltily didn't want to go at the time. I wish you well, you're doing a good thing x

Fortysix Mon 18-Mar-19 13:14:49

I hear you. flowers

It's incredibly hard to be motivated and upbeat when your mum's resting face is a scowl and you've literally been as accommodating as you describe. Self preservation is important here. You sound wonderful Don't let her bring you down though so just go less often.

Or when you do bring a task that you can sit and do in her room for yourself while she watches. I literally mean bring your laptop and you and she sit in a quiet room and you get on with your work. Then pack up and go.

I think what I'm saying is that you have been amazing at trying to entertain her and she's just giving off negativity and dissing you. While some of this could be illness some might just be her personalty.

The time has come to change things to suit yourself. Don't beat yourself up. You are a great daughter but from next visit onward stop making her the focus.

Cosyjimjamsforautumn Mon 18-Mar-19 13:16:57

DM cannot talk following a major stroke and is paralysed right side. Her care home organises for pet therapy dogs (and cats) to come into the home every week and visit all those patients who love animals. Usually the pets belong to carers themselves - so bring yr dog to work day! DMs face lights up when the dogs jump on her bed for a 10 min fuss once a week. Could you speak to the home and see if theyd be interested in arrangingsomething similar for your mum if she likes dogs?

TwistedAnkle Mon 18-Mar-19 13:26:16

What a difficult situation for you! I wonder if you're asking the right question though. Instead of focusing on how you can make things better for her and what you can do to communicate with her, perhaps you should be thinking more about how you can best cope and come to terms with the situation you're faced with. You have taken responsibility for her emotional welfare for so long I can understand why it's hard for you step back now. Maybe consider why you have to keep her entertained if she wants to just sit in silence. Instead of trying to change what she does why not just sit with her watching tv and try to enjoy and accept it for what it is. You might even find you start to enjoy just being with her when there is no pressure on you to make it something it isn't. Good luck thanks

Grinchly Mon 18-Mar-19 13:29:51

My heart goes out to you OP, it really does.

I am in a v similar situation, except my mother is still just about managing at home with carer assistance. They sound very similar personality-wise too.

Go easy on yourself. Go less often. It's so very very draining. Do not feel guilty.

Conversation with mine was never easy as all she is interested in is herself, we've never got on, and old age and advancing dementia have not exactly improved matters.

You're not alone.


KismetJayn Mon 18-Mar-19 13:32:15

It doesn't sound as if she was happy when she was more mobile, though.

You are expecting yourself to be able to change her entire personality in her dotage.

Seeing as you have felt responsible for her since you were so long that's hardly surprising- but it's impossible. She has always been negative. She is now negative with wrinkles on.

You are doing what you can and that is more than enough.

NotGettingThisRight Mon 18-Mar-19 16:03:44

Thank you. You are all right and very kind to take time to give your views and advice. It is hugely appreciated.

I think I hoped that more regular contact between us once she was geographically closer might spark something between us but it's not the case and I do need to learn to just accept that.

To all of you who have faced or are facing similar, my heart goes out to you.

blitzen Mon 18-Mar-19 16:25:31

Hello OP, sorry to hear about your situation. I may be in a similar position in 15 years' time. Not sure where you live but in the NE there is a charity where volunteers become 'wag volunteers' and take their pets to care homes etc as therapy for people. Wondering if your mum could access something similar and you wouldn't need to be present with the dog there too. When my grandmother had dementia it was really hard but she always enjoyed getting her hair and nails done, and we started buying her craft kits, mainly kids type ones which were great in keeping her occupied and she did enjoy them. Can your mum knit or sew? X

Loopytiles Mon 18-Mar-19 16:30:42

That sounds really hard. Sounds like you have done and still are doing your very best for your mum.

Hope you have good support for yourself flowers

thesandwich Mon 18-Mar-19 16:39:49

Another one saying you are not responsible for your mothers happiness, however hard that is to believe.
Wonderful ideas here, but just be kind to yourself. You are not her, and sound so kind and thoughtful. 🌺🌺

anniehm Mon 18-Mar-19 16:40:22

It's really hard but it gets to the stage when you have to provide both sides of a conversation. Luckily nanna hasn't a clue what I'm wittering on about now so I tell her all the crap that's happened at work, free counselling! Take care, would love to say it gets easier but it doesn't, just go prepared to fill time.

Inforthelonghaul Mon 18-Mar-19 17:07:58

NotGetting I totally get you on this.

DM had a massive stroke nearly a decade ago and for the last 2 years has been totally unable to walk following a fall and a lengthy hospital stay. The stroke left her with severe aphasia and unable to write, use a keyboard or say more than the odd word.

She spends her days in bed in a care home watching tv. She hates being in a home and refuses any activity or interaction with anyone other than me or my siblings.

We take her out once a week, more when we can but because she can’t even stand to get in and out of her wheelchair without a turntable thing she has to pull up on, we have to use wheelchair taxis which are expensive and limited in availability. She has no interest in shopping or looking round places, we just go to a restaurant so she can eat nice food and talk at her because she can’t really interact. It’s miserable for her and us and I hate it more and more. Only the guilt of knowing that if we don’t do this she will never leave her room again keeps us going, she never ever looks as though she’s enjoying it though I think she’s forgotten what enjoying something feels like.

What she really wants is to live with one of us. This can’t happen. Physically it would be impossible to care for her 24/7 and raise our own families. She refuses to understand this and so frequently makes it known that’s what she wants then cries heartbreakingly when we say no.

The sad solution to this would be another stroke that she didn’t recover from but she’s actually in better physical health now than she has been for a long time. It’s so sad but it is what it is. Neither of us can can change the past so you just have to keep going. If watching tv is all you can do together so be it, be kind to yourself and acknowledge that you’re doing all you can.

HollowTalk Mon 18-Mar-19 17:41:11

I would just take a DVD (the library lends them if you need more choice and don't want to buy them) and a big bar of chocolate each and just sit and relax with her. She doesn't want to go out. She doesn't want to chat. She enjoys films and chocolate. Just do that and don't feel guilty about it!

HollowTalk Mon 18-Mar-19 17:41:23

And you sound NOTHING like her!

Singlenotsingle Mon 18-Mar-19 17:55:04

Tbh there really isn't anything you can do that would make her happy. Does she even recognize you when you visit, if she's had a stroke and dementia? Don't feel too bad if you just want to scale the visits back.

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