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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.

Time40 Mon 18-Mar-19 18:05:58

My father is like this. I think that you just have to recognise that you can't make someone else happy, and I agree that the best you can do is to make sure they are comfortable and cared for. Your mum probably does appreciate the fact that you are there, on some level. I'd second the idea of taking something into the care home to do while you are there - take some knitting or sewing, if you do anything like that. Good luck - it's hard, I know. Just be kind to yourself, and keep telling yourself that you are doing everything you can, and your mum's unhappiness is absolutely not your fault. You have got to keep that guilt monster in its place!

Grace212 Mon 18-Mar-19 18:22:30

OP I really feel for you

it sounds like you are doing an amazing job, possibly too good really! How often do you see her?

SparkyBlue Mon 18-Mar-19 18:39:58

OP my heart goes out to you and you are doing a fabulous job. We had something similar with my mil. I used to dread visiting as it was so depressing. There was absolutely nothing we could do to make her happy. She had alienated herself from people ever before she became unwell and there was nothing we could do to help her. She refused to come out on day trips as she refused to be seen in public in a wheelchair.

ALargeGinPlease Mon 18-Mar-19 19:04:10

I have the same situation with my mother, so much so, i wondered if i had written your op.
I no longer take her out, as she really didn't seem to enjoy it. She used to like the idea of going out, but the reality never seemed to live up to her expectations.
In terms of visiting her, i now only pop in once a week for about half an hour or so. I find it difficult to find enough to talk about to fill any more time. She never joins in the conversation, so it is all one sided. The only topic she will join in with, is talking about herself and how strange she's finding it all, since her condition worsened. But even that topic is soon exhausted as i cannot offer a medical explanation and cure, which is what she is really asking for.
She wasn't the best mother and certainly never put herself out for me, so i am coming to terms with the fact that it is not my responsibility to make her happy. She has never been happy, so it's unlikely to change now.
I do feel, there is an element of reaping what she has sown, she has never made an effort to form friendships and now she is pretty much alone. She has no desire to join in any of the activities that are organised at the home, so she stays in her room, alone and depressed. It's very sad, but ultimately not my problem to solve.

flowersinthebedroom Mon 18-Mar-19 19:09:45

It's so hard, you have my sympathy. Things that have worked with MIL are painting her nails and hand massages, old photo albums and she has a bird feeder that we sit and watch together.

Iwantmychairback Mon 18-Mar-19 19:33:56

You are an amazing daughter.
I dread this happening, my mum and dad are both over 80, in their own home and fit enough to get out and about. I still sometime struggle to find things to talk about!

What I would suggest, as well as the dvds, is to take something along that YOU want to do. Do you have a hobby like knitting or sewing, or reading, or jigsaws? See this as me time, you can be actively doing your hobby, talking to your mum about it as you go along, or reading aloud to her if she likes that, TV on in the background. Your mum may become interested in what you’re doing and join in if possible.
Sometimes just being together watching a film is enough. xx

idlevice Mon 18-Mar-19 20:04:28

Would a trip to the cinema be an option for a change? Some do screenings with a cup of tea and biscuits for seniors & the smaller screens usually show a range of things, not just the blockbusters.

Podcasts? Some are only half an hour, you could have one on you might find of interest yourself when you are there doing a jigsaw or your own craft as a PP said.

Bring houseplants or something like a tomato plant you can watch grow, or a new unusual food/drink to try, just to make a little conversation at least.

My cat rescue take cats to visit homes so you would not need to be present if a dog could visit. It's really lovely if it could be arranged.

Have you got any old photos to sort out? Apparently there are lots of old videos on youtube of towns & things of yesteryear that might be diverting, at least temporarily. Most older people like to revisit the past.

Try to find the positives as you don't want to be blaming yourself, feeling guilty, thinking you could have done more, etc when she's no longer around. But you definitely have been doing great so far as everyone has said. Just being there is invaluable in itself.

NotGettingThisRight Mon 18-Mar-19 21:48:48

@ALargeGinPlease Reading your post was like reading what is in my own mind. Our situations are identical.

I visit her about 3 times a week for from 30 mins to two hours. I take her out about once a week if I can, usually for Sunday lunch.

I like the idea of taking in some sewing. She used to make quite a lot of things so maybe I can ask her advice, in as much as she can give it as I'm rubbish at sewing.

The podcasts option is also a good idea and one that I might use when she is here. I remember her listening to Desert Island Disc when I was a kid and there are loads online I could play her.

Grinchly Mon 18-Mar-19 21:52:43

idlevice imaginative and thoughtful suggestions but, when dealing with folk like my m and op's - largely hollow laugh. I am not getting at your kind thoughts, just posting for those with .... special parents.

Thé cinéma? Oh no.great drama and sulking getting there, any hitch spitefully thrown back in face, monumental sulking throughout.

Watching something grow? Oh no. It will make her sneeze/ block her view/ make a mess.

Photos of past times? Brahahahah. Unless they include her, and only her, not interested. There aren't that many anyway, as she didn't keep ones that didn't include her - the ones she considered flattering.

Not. Worth. It.

ALargeGinPlease Mon 18-Mar-19 23:22:51

NotGetting, you're doing better than me going 3 times a week. I used to try going as often as that, partly because I'd moved her near me, so I felt responsible, but I was very conflicted about how it was affecting me, in fact I asked on here about it, under a different username, and was given permission (by completely random, but lovely and wise MN's) to not visit as often and I feel so much better doing what I feel I can, which, like I say, is about half an hour once week. Sometimes I'll pop in twice a week, but I no longer feel guilty about not doing more.
Grinchly, so, so true about having all the lovely, well thought out gifts and ideas thrown back at you, especially the plant one. I took mine some flowers, when she'd hurt her arm after a fall, and she just complained about them for days, I think in the end I put them in the day room, so she didn't have to see them.
I will use the podcast idea though, thank you to whoever posted that, mine likes the radio, so I can play a Tony Hancock Half Hour or something.

SpongeBobJudgeyPants Mon 18-Mar-19 23:36:33

Some really good advice here. Having read how often you see your mother, I wonder if you are visiting too much? If you scaled down the visits, it might feel a bit better for you.

Grace212 Tue 19-Mar-19 08:38:55

OP also wondering if that's too frequent

I foolishly thought I could move in with my mum....then wondered if I ought to move her nearer to me. Now I realise that's not a good plan.

AnnaMagnani Tue 19-Mar-19 09:34:29

The first thing that strikes me is that you think she has dementia as her memory is bad.

So she probably does have dementia.

One of the main features of many dementias is apathy and lack of concentration.

So it's not you, it's not her, it's the dementia - she just finds it very difficult to muster up an interest in books, audiobooks, DVDs, a new activity.

If you combine this with her personality already being a bit negative this is what you have.

You are doing amazing, you have found things she really likes - watching TV together, doing a bit of shopping. You are doing everything you can and more.

MrsChanningTatum Tue 19-Mar-19 09:43:40

If you think that she has problems with her memory then she may have dementia. This is of course a cognitive decline, which will have effected her intelligence. This may be why she is not as intelligent as she was in previous years.

It may help to think about what her likes, interests and hobbies were in the past. Change and adapt these for now and collaborate with her on these things. For example did she used to enjoy crosswords? If so she may enjoy doing simple word searches with you now.

Even though she is compromised by ill health, the essence of your mum is the same (negative unfortunately). But she will still enjoy doing the same things she enjoyed in the past.

Have a good think about what her life roles were and what her skills were, regarding low key activities you can do together. This will increase her confidence and self esteem.

HTH. My mom is not easy either !

ParoxetineQueen Tue 19-Mar-19 19:49:48

Thank you all for posting, I feel like the most callous daughter in the world at times but Mum has virtually no interests. She used to love gossiping with her friends but at 92 virtually all of them are no longer with us, I live 20 miles away so I don’t even see her neighbours. She used to like knitting and word searches but can no longer even hold a pen, the TV in her nursing home ‘sounds tinny’ so she rarely watches it. She hasn’t been out of bed since last summer. To their credit the nursing home made real efforts to get her up, dressed and into the communal area but she didn’t like that and stopped going. The conversation consists of she can’t understand the ‘forrin’ nurses and how she wishes they were all English (then wonders why they aren’t caring and, how often her incontinence pad is changed.
I feel bad because I couldn’t nurse her at (her) home, like she did my grandmother but there were too many differences in our situations and I had to choose the least worst option for everyone.
Thank you for letting me have a rant and being understanding

NicoAndTheNiners Tue 19-Mar-19 19:55:33

It does sound like you're doing a great job and she must appreciate it, which is why you get the crying when you leave. She likes having you there even if it comes across that she's miserable. Maybe stop trying to chat so much? Sit and watch tv with her, the odd little bit of conversation maybe but otherwise try and enjoy the tv/peace. It sounds like that's what she's happiest doing?

NotGettingThisRight Tue 19-Mar-19 19:55:42

Hugs (unmunsnetty ones though) to everyone in similar situations.

Moondancer73 Tue 19-Mar-19 20:11:22

It might be worth you speaking to the manager of the care home to see if they have volunteer visitors. I worked in a care home and we used to have people who came in regularly to visit.
The manager would send them to see people who she thought would benefit most from their visits so maybe speak to yours and see if that kind of thing is available to take a little pressure off of you.
It sounds like you are doing an amazing job to me so I really don't think you should beat yourself up.

Galanta Tue 19-Mar-19 20:24:30

Hi OP - just to add to the chorus of people who are telling you that you're doing a great job. You really, really are and you have persevered incredibly well. I am dealing with different but equally difficult situations with both elderly parents and, while I do my absolute best to support them, I try to remember their happiness or satisfaction with life is not my responsibility. Also if you are finding it a struggle, it's ok if you only go twice some weeks or stay for a shorter time sometimes. You're an amazing daughter and should have no regrets, now or later.

Inforthelonghaul Wed 20-Mar-19 07:29:26

We have tried to do things like Audio books, pictures, music etc but DM refuses all of it. Doesn’t want to change anything about her room to make it nicer even though she hates it. Everything that she used to love she has no interest in anymore, it’s almost like she’s trying make her life more miserable.

There is so little you can do to help someone else be happy if they are unable for whatever reason to do something for themselves. It’s easier to ignore the unspoken misery and do the bits you can.

OP you are already doing loads. We used to visit several times a week but it’s so draining and whatever you do it’s never enough so over time it’s reduced to what we can live with.

Hearhere Wed 27-Mar-19 10:58:11

I think I would take up knitting and sit there knitting whilst I try to make conversation, I feel as if the movement of your hands would make it easier to talk in some way?

Happynow001 Wed 27-Mar-19 17:11:49

Hi OP. Do you do anything just for yourself after you have visited her your DM? Eg a long walk, go for a run or swim, yoga or mindfulness/meditation to rebalance yourself afterwards. You are doing the very best you can for her but it must take it out of you mentally and perhaps doing something to recharge your energy? Don't forget to take care of yourself too.

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